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It is still the Shane Wright Draft.

For now, anyway.

To be clear, though, the Kingston Frontenac centre’s top-prospect status is by no means a sure thing – even if nine of 10 scouts ranked the Burlington, Ont., native first on TSN’s 2022 Mid-Season NHL Draft Rankings.

“I think [Wright’s] first half-performance has left the door open for someone to unseat him,” said one of the 10 scouts surveyed by TSN to determine consensus rankings aimed at projecting where in the draft players are likely to be chosen.

“[No. 1] is absolutely still up for grabs,” said another scout.

Bear in mind that these two scouts, while voicing some concerns, still currently have Wright atop their lists. But they would like to see more from him. And from the other contenders for No. 1, for that matter.

Two forces appear to be at work here — Wright’s so-so performance thus far this season combined with the other top prospects, who could conceivably challenge him for No. 1, not fully seizing the opportunity.

Wright’s game has been, to varying degrees, viewed as underwhelming, especially when weighed against the high expectations coming into the 2021-22 season. High expectations, one should add, that Wright created for himself by his outstanding play prior to this season.

It isn’t that Wright has been a bust or that scouts are skeptical of him as a high-end NHL prospect. He’s fully expected to be a good NHL player, but the scouts are looking for more great than good from the No. 1 overall pick. Wright’s game this season has lacked any sort of “wow” factor or “dynamic” aspect.

All of which has come as a rather notable surprise.

Wright was awarded exceptional player status by Hockey Canada in 2019, allowing him to enter the OHL as a 15-year-old for the 2019-20 OHL season. He didn’t disappoint either, scoring 39 goals and 66 points in 58 games as a rookie.

Wright didn’t play in the 2020-21 OHL season because the league was shut down by the pandemic, but he was able to play as an underage player in the 2021 Under-18 World Championship in Texas, where he was absolutely outstanding in helping to lead Canada to the gold medal.

All of that led to Wright being a unanimous 10-for-10 No. 1 in TSN’s pre-season draft rankings in late September, before the OHL 2021-22 season began. He went into this season being projected as a bona fide No. 1 NHL centre, though many scouts have since downgraded that projection to no better than a No. 2 NHL centre.

Wright’s numbers have been trending in the wrong direction this season. His .67 goals per game as a 15-year-old OHL rookie has dropped to .48 this season. His points per game have improved — 1.14 as a 15-year-old to 1.24 as a now 17-year-old — but so much more was expected in his draft year.

At the, albeit abbreviated, 2022 World Junior Championship, Wright was, at best, just okay in a really small sample size. Scouts were hoping Wright, and his 2022 draft challengers, would use the World Juniors to define and assert themselves. That didn’t happen. Wright’s play raised more questions than it answered.

Nevertheless, only one scout surveyed by TSN actually took the leap and dropped Wright from the No. 1 spot, putting Russian winger Ivan Miroshnichenko at the top of his mid-season rankings.

“[Wright] was great coming out of the U-18s last year but it was a really small sample size,” the scout said. “I have concerns for his lack of dominance this season. For me, Miroshnichenko has a higher ceiling.”

Here is a sampling of comments from some scouts who still have Wright at No. 1 but are expressing some reservations:

“His engagement has been good, his production underwhelming given the expectations,” one said. “Overall, I could say [Wright] is an above-average prospect but not where you would think a No. 1 overall pick should be.”

“He’s not played with enough urgency or determination,” said another scout. “He’s not been carrying his team or competitive enough in puck battles. He really needs to step it up in the second half.”

“Just alright in my viewings,” said a third scout.

“His performance has not been special in any way,” said a fourth scout, who anticipated Wright would, in fact, be special. “He does not have a lot of energy in his game right now.”

“He has not played with the vigour or passion to score as he has in years past,” said a fifth scout, who feels Wright could solidify No. 1 if he rediscovers his game. “If he plays the way he did [at the U-18] in Texas las year, he’ll run away with No. 1.”

No one doubts Wright has the tools to be a good NHL player, but if he’s going to be No. 1, he will have to demonstrate them on a more consistent basis. But he’s still at the top of the draft pile. Not every scout is sounding the alarm.

“I don’t have a big issue [with his game],” a sixth scout opined. “He is still over a point per game and the problem is a lot of people expect him to be at 2.5 points per game. He’s going to be a second-line centre in the NHL. He’ll be reliable and coaches will love his work ethic, tools and hockey sense.”

And many scouts still rave about his shot and conscientious commitment to play an all-around game, featuring maturity beyond his years when he doesn’t have the puck.

As for Wright’s competition for No. 1, there’s the rub. The feeling amongst scouts is that Wright’s challengers have yet to fully make their own case as a No. 1 overall.

Beyond Wright, or even including him for that matter, it’s not so much welcome to the (2022 draft) jungle as much as it welcome to the “jumble.” There is a wide divergence of opinion from the scouting community on who should be No. 2, as well as the ordering for the top 5 and top 10. It’s all over the hockey map, quite literally, in a heavily Euro-flavoured top 10.

The leading contender to knock Wright off the No. 1 perch is USA Under-18 forward Logan Cooley, a 5-foot-10 centre who is as savvy and skilled offensively as any prospect in the draft. All he appears to lack is being six feet or taller, which is the preferred size standard for an elite No. 1 pivot.

McKenzie: Wright still No. 1, but gap closing due to underwhelming season

Although nine of 10 scouts have Shane Wright as the projected No. 1 pick for the 2022 NHL Draft, as Bob McKenzie explains, some scouts believe the gap is closing because of his underwhelming season. Meanwhile, Craig Button explains why the best NHL comparable to Wright is Patrice Bergeron.

NHL Central Scouting Bureau director Dan Marr believes it’s a two-horse race for No. 1 between Wright and Cooley.

Cooley is No. 2 on TSN’s mid-season rankings. Four of 10 scouts surveyed by TSN had him in the spot immediately behind Wright.

“Cooley has been dynamic with the puck,” a scout said. “If he was over 6 feet tall, he’d probably be the [clear-cut] No. 1 guy right now.”

Still, scouts say Cooley plays hard and goes into heavy traffic and high-danger zones to make plays and score goals, elevating the players he plays alongside.

Sub 6-foot Finnish winger Joakim Kemell is No. 3 on TSN’s mid-season rankings but did not get any No. 2 consideration. Five scouts pegged him at No. 3 and two more at No. 4. Currently sidelined with a minor shoulder injury, Kemell hasn’t been scoring at the same pace he did to start the season in Finland’s top men’s league, but he’s still seen a skilled goal-scorer/playmaker who has an engine that revs high.

Winnipeg Ice 5-foot-9 Canadian centre Matt Savoie, who leads the WHL in scoring with 19 goals and 53 points in 35 games, is No. 4, while towering 6-foot-4 Slovak winger Juraj Slafkovsky is No. 5.

Savoie and Slafkovsky couldn’t be further apart on the size scale but each of them got two votes from scouts as the No. 2 prospect.

Savoie has high-end hockey sense, skill and competitiveness, more a playmaker than a goal scorer but a prolific dual threat every time he has the puck, despite his size.

Savoie shares NHLer who best represents his style of play, Oilers' fandom growing up

Canadian Matt Savoie, who Bob McKenzie has No. 4 in his mid-season prospect rankings, joins Glenn Schiiler to discuss his excitement for the 2022 NHL Draft, which NHL player represents the best comparable to his style of play, being a big Oilers fan growing up, getting a chance to meet Connor McDavid, and more.

Slafkovsky’s blend of speed, skill and most notably size is something of a rarity amongst forwards in the top 5 or even the top 10 of this draft.

Aside from Wright, 10 different players received votes in the top 5, and eight of those 10 received multiple top-5 votes.

That’s also true of the top 10 or 11.

Russian winger Miroshnichenko — who got the only other No. 1 vote besides Wright — is No. 6 on TSN’s list. Another scout, though, ranked him just outside the first round. No other top prospect had such a wide variance, although the other nine scouts had Miroshnichenko solidly in the top 10.

He’s a strong skater with a sturdy build and very good offensive instincts to go with an outstanding NHL-ready shot.

The top defenceman in this year’s draft, so far anyway, is 6-foot-3 blueliner David Jiricek, who recently underwent surgery for a knee injury suffered at the World Junior Championship. The prognosis is Jiricek will be out two to three months, but at this point scouts don’t seem overly concerned about the injury negatively impacting his draft status.

Jiricek, who is No. 7 on TSN’s mid-season ranking, is a two-way threat, who can play a punishing shutdown defender role but skilled enough to contribute on offence, too.

Jiricek received one No. 2 overall selection from a scout, as did Russian winger Danila Yurov, who checks in at No. 8 on the TSN list. Yurov has the speed and skill level to be a top-two line NHL winger though he’s a bit of a tougher read because he tends to play limited minutes against men in the KHL.

Slovak Simon Nemec, at No. 9, is a heady two-way blueliner, a savvy puck mover with some offensive flair. While not as big or physically punishing as Jiricek, Nemec still plays a solid game without the puck.

Nemec may be another poster boy for the wide divergence of opinion this year on top 10 prospects. Four of 10 scouts had Nemec in their top 5 but four also had him just outside their top 10.

TSN’s top 10 is rounded out by Winnipeg Ice forward Conor Geekie, a 6-foot-3 centre who can play a heavy, hard-driving game but also has a high skill level. Geekie’s skating is viewed as average, but his physical tools, competitiveness and above average skill level give him a legit chance to be a top 10 pick. Two scouts ranked him in their top 5.

The top 10 this year may actually be a top 11.

Finnish winger Brad Lambert — with deep Saskatchewan hockey roots (the nephew of former NHL player and current NHL coach Lane Lambert and the son of former WHL player Ross Lambert) — is a credible candidate to be taken in the top 10.

One scout voted him in the top 5 and nine of 10 had him in the top 11.

Lambert has blazing speed and while he struggled to put up numbers early in the Finnish elite league season, his playmaking and goal-scoring abilities are notable. He’s hoping a recent mid-season transfer from JYP to the Pelicans will pay dividends for him in the second half of the season.

Multiple players outside TSN’s top 11 got some consideration as top 10 picks. That group includes: No. 12-ranked Swedish winger Jonathan Lekkerimaki; No. 13-ranked U.S. U18 centre Cutter Gauthier; No. 16-ranked Saginaw Spirit defenceman Pavel Mintyukov; No. 17-ranked Austrian forward Marco Kasper; and No. 35-ranked Swiss defenceman Lian Bichsel.

Mintyukov, the Russian defenceman playing in Saginaw, is emerging as a red-hot commodity and rising draft star. He had three Top 10 votes, including one in the top five, but also had seven votes at No. 20 or lower.

Some other observations on TSN’s mid-season rankings:

— The top 10 is a veritable United Nations, including three Canadians, two Russians, two Slovaks, one American, one Finn and one Czech.

The remarkable part of that is Slovakia having three first-round prospects (Slafkovsky, Nemec and No. 22-ranked Filip Mesar) and Czechia having one (Jiricek) in the top 10. Czechia and Slovakia split up in 1993, but it’s amazing that the two smaller hockey countries have as many Top 10 prospects on this list as Canada.

— While the Americans have only Cooley in the top 10, there are a total of eight Americans in the TSN’s top 32 and seven of them play for the U.S. U18 National Team Development Program. The only exception is Northeastern University forward Jack Hughes — no relation to New Jersey Devil first overall pick and top centre Jack Hughes — who is not only No. 27 on the mid-season rankings but is also the son of new Montreal Canadiens general manager and former player agent Kent Hughes.

Button offers scouting report for Jack Hughes 2.0, the son of new Habs GM Kent Hughes

TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie shares what stands out to him about this year's group of global NHL prospects, while TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button offers a scouting report for Jack Hughes 2.0, who is the son of new Canadiens GM Kent Hughes, and is eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft.

— The nationality breakdown of the top 32 is as follows: Canada 9; USA 8; Russia 5; Slovakia 3; and two each for Sweden, Finland and Czechia. Austria rounds it out with one.

— If there is a bevy of prospects between 11 and 32 who are excellent candidates to break into the Top 10, there are multiple prospects ranked in TSN’s second round (Nos. 33 to 64) who could push their way well into the first round.

That list includes: No. 34-ranked North Bay Battalion defenceman Ty Nelson; No. 36-ranked Swift Current Bronco blueliner Owen Pickering and No. 37-ranked Mississauga Steelhead forward Luca Del Bel Belluz, who aside from having one of the best handles in this draft is rocketing up the draft charts.

— It’s not a banner draft year for goaltenders.

The top-ranked — in fact, the only ranked — goalie is Prince George Cougars netminder Tyler Brennan, who is No. 62. In the history of the NHL draft, the latest the first goaltender has ever been chosen is 60th overall.

The reality is Brennan is likely to be taken well before his 62nd TSN ranking. Because there’s a dearth of high-end goaltending talent in this year’s draft, a team looking to get the best goalie prospect in the draft could step up on him late in the first round and/or early in the second. Brennan did get some votes in the TSN top 32, but he was also ranked 80 or lower by multiple scouts.

— TSN’s final draft rankings for 2022 will be released in early July, in the week leading up to the draft, which is scheduled for July 7-8 in Montreal.

 

McKenzie's Draft Ranking: Jan. 20

 
RK Player Team POS HT WT GP G P
1 Shane Wright Kingston (OHL) C 6'0 185 25 12 31
2 Logan Cooley USA U-18 (USHL) C 5'10 174 25 15 35
3 Joakim Kemell JYP (SM Liiga) RW 5'11 ¾ 171 21 12 18
4 Matt Savoie Winnipeg (WHL) C/RW 5'9 179 35 19 53
5 Juraj Slafkovsky TPS (SM Liiga Jr.) C/LW 6'3 ½ 218 11 6 18
6 Ivan Miroshnichenko Omsk (VHL) LW 6'1 185 29 7 13
7 David Jiricek Plzen (CZE) D 6'3 189 29 5 11
8 Danila Yurov Magnitogorsk (MHL) RW 6'1 178 9 3 13
9 Simon Nemec Nitra (SVK) D 6'0 190 27 0 18
10 Conor Geekie Winnipeg (WHL) C 6'3 193 35 11 38
11 Brad Lambert Lahti (SM Liiga) RW 6'0 ½ 175 24 2 6
12 Jonathan Lakkerimaki Djurgardens (SWE J-20) RW 5'10 ½ 165 25 19 34
13 Cutter Gauthier USA U-18 (USHL) LW 6'2 189 33 20 32
14 Frank Nazar USA U-18 (USHL) C/RW 5'9 ¾ 175 33 15 38
15 Isaac Howard USA U-18 (USHL) LW 5'9 ¾ 182 33 15 39
16 Pavel Mintyukov Saginaw (OHL) D 6'1 ½ 192 31 6 23
17 Marco Kasper Rögle (SHL) C 6'1 183 27 4 6
18 Ryan Chesley USA U-18 (USHL) D 6'0 ¼ 187 32 2 7
19 Jimmy Snuggerud USA U-18 (USHL) RW 6'1 ¼ 186 33 16 38
20 Nathan Gaucher Quebec (QMJHL) C/RW 6'3 208 30 15 26
21 Tristan Luneau Gatineau (QMJHL) D 6'1 ½ 175 26 5 15
22 Filip Mesar Poprad (SVK) RW 5'10 167 21 5 10
23 Liam Öhgren Djurgardens (SWE J-20) LW 6'0 187 17 18 29
24 Alexander Perevalov Yaroslavl (MHL) LW 6'0 191 29 19 39
25 Kevin Korchinski Seattle (WHL) D 6'1 ¼ 185 32 4 28
26 Rutger McGroarty USA U-18 (USHL) C 6'0 ¾ 203 27 15 32
27 Jack Hughes Northeastern (NCAA) C 5'11 165 21 5 9
28 Maverick Lamoreux Drummondville (QMJHL) D 6'6 ¾ 196 30 3 11
29 Denton Mateychuk Moose Jaw (WHL) D 5'11 188 34 7 30
30 Matyas Sapovaliv Saginaw (OHL) C 6'3 178 29 10 25
31 Danny Zhilkin Guelph (OHL) C/LW 6'0 ½ 183 27 10 24
32 Adam Ingram Youngtown (USHL) C 6'2 ¼ 165 27 16 36
                 
33 Elias Salomonsson Skellefteå (SWE J-20) D 6'0 172 24 8 17
34 Ty Nelson North Bay (OHL) D 5'9 ½ 195 33 5 26
35 Lian Bichsel Leksands (SWE J-20) D 6'5 216 11 3 7
36 Owen Pickering Swift Current (WHL) D 6'3 ½ 179 34 6 21
37 Luca Del Bel Belluz Mississauga (OHL) C 6'0 ½ 178 33 18 45
38 Calle Odelius Djurgardens (SWE J-20) D 5'11 ¼ 185 28 4 21
39 Owen Beck Mississauga (OHL) C 5'11 190 33 13 29
40 Jiří  Kulich Karlovy (CZE) C 5'11 ½ 172 31 7 11
41 Matthew Poitras Guelph (OHL) C 5'11 173 28 9 22
42 Paul Ludwinski Kingston (OHL) LW 5'11 172 27 6 19
43 Bryce McConnell-Barker Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) C 6'1 187 34 11 23
44 Seamus Casey USA U-18 (USHL) D 5'9 ¾ 162 31 5 18
45 Filip Bystedt Linköping (SWE J-20) C 6'2 ½ 187 25 11 27
46 Mats Lindgren Kamloops (WHL) D 5'10 ¾ 173 34 2 21
47 Sam Rinzel Chaska High (USHS) D 6'4 ¼ 177 12 3 16
48 Devin Kaplan USA U-18 (USHL) RW 6'2 ¼ 199 29 5 16
49 Jani Nyman KOOVEE (Mestis) RW 6'2 ¾ 212 23 14 23
50 Jorian Donovan Hamilton (OHL) D 6'1 182 31 3 12
51 Noah Ostlund Djurgardens (SWE J-20) C 5'11 163 19 6 24
52 Rieger Lorenz Okotoks (AJHL) LW 6'1 ½ 184 42 27 65
53 Fraser Minten Kamloops (WHL) C 6'1 185 33 10 25
54 Tomas Hamara Tappara (SM Liiga Jr.) D 6'0 182 22 4 14
55 Isaiah George London (OHL) D 6'0 ¼ 195 29 1 10
56 Ryan Greene Green Bay (USHL) C 6'2 174 28 10 26
57 Topi Ronni Tappara (SM Liiga Jr.) C 6'2 187 21 7 18
58 Michael Buchinger Guelph (OHL) D 5'11 ¾ 178 28 0 15
59 Noah Warren Gatineau (QMJHL) D 6'4 ¾ 214 29 3 12
60 Hunter Haight Barrie (OHL) C/RW 5'10 ½ 173 23 7 13
61 Ruslan Gazizov London (OHL) RW 5'11 185 20 5 16
62 Tyler Brennan Prince George (WHL) G 6'4 180 19 3.36 .901
63 Aleksanteri Kaskimaki HIFK (SM Liiga Jr.) C 5'11 ½ 181 22 15 29
64 Gleb Trikozov Omsk (MHL) RW 6'1 185 16 8 14
                 
65 Alexander Suzdalev HV 71 (SWE J-20) LW 6'2 172 31 11 33
66 Otto Salin HIFK (SM Liiga Jr.) D 5'11 192 4 2 6
67 Jordan Gustafson Seattle (WHL) C/LW 5'10 ½ 178 29 13 31
68 Cameron Lund Green Bay (USHL) C 6'2 185 30 11 20
69 Matt Seminoff Kamloops (WHL) RW 5'10 ¾ 180 30 15 33
70 Artyom Duda Moskva (MHL) D 6'1 180 36 11 31
71 Kirill Dolzhenkov Moskva (MHL) LW 6'6 236 20 7 15
72 Lane Hutson USA U-18 (USHL) D 5'8 148 33 4 29
73 Cruz Lucius USA U-18 (USHL) RW 6'0 176 8 3 5
74 Pano Fimis Niagara (OHL) C 5'10 174 27 5 19
75 Spencer Sova Erie (OHL) D 6'0 185 30 2 12
76 Mattias Havelid Linkoping (SWE J-20) D 5'10 172 22 7 14
77 Simon Forsmark Orebro (SWE J-20) D 6'2 191 22 4 25
78 Marek Hejduk USA U-18 (USHL) C 6'0 181 30 9 14
79 Reid Schaefer Seattle (WHL) LW 6'3 214 31 14 24
80 Vinzenz Rohrer Ottawa (OHL) RW 5'11 168 30 9 23
                 
HM Brennan Ali Lincoln (USHL) C 6'1 194 2 0 0
HM Liam Arnsby North Bay (OHL) C 5'11 183 32 8 18
HM Angus Booth Shawinigan (QMJHL) D 6'0 ¼ 177 31 1 21
HM Jack Devine Denver (NCAA) RW 5'11 172 19 2 14
HM Lucas Edmonds Kingston (OHL) RW 5'11 185 29 18 54
HM Jackson Edward London (OHL) D 6'2 194 20 0 3
HM Jagger Firkus Moose Jaw (WHL) C 5'10 154 37 21 41
HM David Goyette Sudbury (OHL) C 5'10 ½ 172 32 12 30
HM Vladimir Grudinin Moskva (MHL) D 5'10 159 15 2 9
HM Gavin Hayes Flint (OHL) RW 6'1 176 30 8 17
HM Arseni Koromyslov St. Petersburg (MHL) D 6'3 180 22 0 8
HM Julian Lutz München (DEL) LW 6'1 ¾ 185 0 0 0
HM Miko Matikka Jokerit (SM Liiga Jr.) RW 6'3 187 13 6 9
HM Viktor Neuchev Yekaterinburg (MHL) LW 6'2 165 43 23 41
HM Colton Smith London (OHL) LW 6'2 ½ 207 28 12 17
HM Cole Spicer USA U-18 (USHL) RW 5'10 174 31 10 22