The 2022 NHL Draft is just hours away, but instead of just waiting and being surprised by who the Minnesota Wild will take with each of their eight picks, we went ahead and did our best to project the prospect that Judd Brackett and his team will select this week.
And by “doing our best,” we clearly mean heading over to FCHockey and using their mock draft tool — so don’t blame us if players go way earlier in real life than we selected them here — to run through a simulation of all 225 draft picks and make the selections for our favorite hockey club.
Down below, is how exactly that went and who we nabbed with the picks.
Round 1 - 19th overall: C Rutger McGroarty
With the first-round pick that they received in part of the return for Kevin Fiala, our Mock Wild are selecting United States National Development Program forward Rutger McGroarty. Drafting a player that managed to score 35 goals in 54 games seems like a no-brainer, and despite some concerns over his skating from various scouts, his offensive zone awareness and ability to slyly create scoring chances with some pure instincts is enough to warrant the top-20 pick. The cherry-on-top is that McGroarty will be developing his craft at the University of Michigan next year, possibly the top program a player could head to.
With everything McGroarty does, it just screams Professional Hockey Player. His size, quickness, movement, and off-ice leadership that warranted his team’s captaincy, he just seems like a player that will turn into a very solid contributor. Could do a lot worse!
Round 1 - 24th overall: LW Jiri Kulich
If we want to try and dive into the mind of Judd Brackett and other Wild scouts, and try to determine what type of player they just love drafting; forward Jiri Kulich just seems like a fit and he was available. A strong two-way forward that has played at the top level of Czech hockey all season long, Kulich has an extremely high-floor in his development and can compliment just about any linemate.
Jiří Kulich is a projected first-round pick in the #2022NHLDraft.— Czech Prospects (@CZprospects) June 30, 2022
Dangerous shooter, strong on his skates, plays with energy and pace.
He had an outstanding U18 Worlds, where he was named MVP of the tournament.
Here are some of his best goals from the 2021-22 season. pic.twitter.com/6FKzDWLqa0
He can do everything very well, with nothing standing out as the best among his peers, but just everything is done with a precision that should warrant some excitement. He just feels like a very Minnesota-y pick and that’s fine by us.
Round 2 - 47th overall: D Mattias Havelid
Despite standing at 5-foot-9, the Wild’s projected third pick of the 2022 NHL Draft, defenseman Mattias Havelid, plays with a lot of defensive control and knows how to work his body around opposing forwards to prevent scoring chances. While the size might be an issue to some, scouts still praise Havelid for his ability to cleanly execute plays and not look like he’s scrambling with or without possession.
As a plus, he played 23 games in the SHL, which only the top prospects tend to do and it says a lot about his poise and mature game that coaches trust a teenager to be on the blue line in arguably the third-best league in the world. Offensive production didn’t come in the SHL, but in 29 junior games — Havelid played a lot of hockey this year — he scored 10 goals with his wicked wristshot and earned 19 points. An undersized, defensively-responsible blueliner is certainly an archetype the Wild like, and it seems to have worked out so far. Some size would be nice, and that’s coming up next.
Round 2 - 56th overall: D Sam Rinzel
You know we had to eventually tell a good story and with so many Minnesota prospects, there were enough opportunities to do so. Coming out of Chanhassan, 6-foot-3 right-handed defenseman Sam Rinzel was an easy pick at 56th overall. Not only is he heading to the University of Minnesota next season, but this is a pick made around the potential of what he could be, and considering that the Wild also took local lad Jack Peart around this range and he had the same amount of experience — split his season between high school hockey and USHL — Rinzel seems like a lanky version.
Rinzel will be a project, but since he will be staying local, we’ll be able to keep some tabs on him.
Round 3 - 89th overall: LW Adam Sykora
If there is one standout aspect among the top prospects this year, it is just how many damn players are coming out of central Europe. While Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec, and David Jiricek will not be Minnesota prospects, they can still benefit from the new surge and draft winger Adam Sykora in the third round, like we did in this mock draft.
Being teammates with Nemec, Sykora similarly appeared in the top level of Slovakian hockey this season and saw his ranking soar higher and higher as the year continued and more scouts would take the trip overseas to watch one of the best teams in the domestic league. Sykora is reportedly a hard-working winger that will not stop skating until the next whistle and is well-built for his 5-foot-10 stature. Also, his birthday should be noted here, since he is just days away from being eligible for the 2023 draft instead of this year and has time on his side for development.
Round 4 - 121st overall: RW Connor Kurth
Now we’re getting into the muddy waters of prospects that don’t have a lot written about them, but glancing at their stat sheet and watching some grainy highlights is enough to make the selection. So with the 121st overall pick, we’re drafting another Minnesota product in winger Connor Kurth.
Connor Kurth @fightingsaints (#14) gets his feet moving and doesn’t quit on the play, getting rewarded with a goal!— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) March 13, 2021
He now currently has 26 points (12G,14A) in 33 games#2021NHLDraft #USHL pic.twitter.com/midaD5WI9v
Kurth is heading to the University of Minnesota next season (predictably), and this season put up 81 points in 62 games for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, which ranked him second in the league among all Under-19 players. Of course, there is a risk drafting any overage player, but just on the surface, using a fourth-round pick to nab a local player that can skate like the wind, weaving through defenders, and has produced at a solid level, is enough to make it worth it.
Round 5 - 153rd overall: LW Brandon Lisowsky
Maybe we’re getting predictable and falling into some sort of winger archetype, but with the fifth-rounder the Wild have, we’re opting for short-but-stocky-and-powerful forward Brandon Lisowsky out of the WHL. Honestly, we’ve seen Lisowsky projected much higher than this and considering the Wild’s infatuation with WHL prospects, we wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up going a couple rounds sooner than this.
Lisowsky scored 33 goals and 58 points in 68 games for a Saskatoon Blades team that was just average this season. It might be a poor man’s Logan Stankoven type of pick, but there’s enough power and pop in Lisowsky’s game that can make any mid-round selection worth it.
Round 6 - 185th overall: C Dans Locmelis
With the very final pick of the Wild’s draft, we’re opting for Latvian center Dans Locmelis. The 6-foot forward played for Lulea’s junior team in the Swedish J20 Nationell this season, scoring 18 goals and 34 points in 44 games, which is good enough for a sixth-round pick and a sizeable center that might just be a nice long-term project to have.
Well, that’s it. If the Wild end up drafting at least three of these players, we should be credited as geniuses.