NHL Central Scouting has released their Mid-Term draft rankings for the 2022 NHL Draft, and the update contained some promising news for both current and future NCAA players.
Kingston’s Shane Wright maintained his spot as the top player in the North American skater rankings, but checking in at #2 on the North American skater list is NTDP forward Logan Cooley.
It’s an interesting situation here. Wright has been the number one overall prospect in this class seemingly from the womb. But the hype seems to be fading a bit on the former Exceptional Status prospect as the season progresses. That’s not necessarily an uncommon phenomenon for wunderkind draft prospects in their draft year. Scouts begin to nitpick in a draft year as the curve players get graded on gets much tougher. And for the media, writing the “Hey, some other guy might go #1” article is much easier and more exciting than writing the same “Yep, he’s still the guy” article every month of the draft year.
So take all this with some grain of salt. But Wright’s performance in the OHL this year has at least left the door open a crack. Albeit two different sources, but compare this September quote:
The Kingston Frontenacs’ centre is the unanimous No. 1 on TSN’s Pre-Season 2022 NHL Draft Rankings. Ten out of 10 scouts surveyed by TSN identified the 6-foot, 185-pound Burlington, Ont., native as the clear-cut choice.
And, until further notice, they say it’s not even close.
“No. 1 this year is his to lose,” said an NHL team head scout. “It would take him having an unusually poor year and someone else having a surprisingly good season for him to not be No. 1 [next July].”
To this quote in January:
“There was not consensus for the No. 1 ranking [in North America] for the 2022 draft class at midseason, but at this point Shane Wright does maintain the top spot,” director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. “Taking everything into account, Shane remains a desirable package of NHL talent and has proven he can carry the load and be the difference maker when it’s needed in game situations. He has both conducted and carried himself remarkably well amongst the many disruptions and distractions of the past year and a half.”
Cooley, who re-opened his NCAA recruiting this fall opting not to sign a Letter of Intent, no doubt raised some eyebrows when he earned a top-six center role on the US World Junior team. That tournament’s unfortunate cancellation kept him from making a big statement, though he may have shown enough in his little time there to at least pique the interest of whoever ends up with the first overall pick. If he continues at the pace he has played through the second half of the season, including the World U18s, there could end up being a very interesting conversation about the first overall pick.
Elsewhere, Northeastern’s Jack Hughes checks in at seventh on the North American list. I loved the way Hughes played at last year’s World U18s, and was a little surprised to see so many outlets had him as a fringe/outside first round candidate. Where Central Scouting ranks him may be towards his ceiling because I’m not sure how much of a scorer he’ll be, but I think he’s a really good, solid mid-first round pick.
In addition to Logan Cooley, Central Scouting was bullish overall on this year’s NTDP U18s. Nine players from the team ended up in the top-32. I don’t know enough about who else is out there to know if that number is too high or not, but they’re certainly having an excellent season.