Alas, we come to the last installment of Championship Sports Media’s early 2022 NHL Draft Preview. The players in the 2022 NHL Draft will be fortunate to get full seasons playing in their respective leagues, something the class of 2021 did not have. So that means there will be more opportunities to showcase their talents, and more tape for scouts to analyze. Let’s dive in to the final 4 prospects we’ll be taking an early look at:
Position: Center, 6’, 205 lbs. Team: U.S. National Team Development Program. Shoots: Left
Rutger McGroarty split time during his first year in the USNTDP between the U17 and U18 teams. Though he shined in play with the U17’s (35 points in 34 games), McGroarty struggled with the U18’s and their tougher competition. He managed just 6 points in 19 games with the older squad. McGroarty is committed to play college hockey at Notre Dame.
McGroarty appears to have a deceptive shot that is accurate and takes goalies by surprise. He has a filled out frame, especially for his size, which allows him to play a power game down low. McGroarty has better than average hands, which allows him to beat defenders out of the corner. He also likes to use his size and strength to make power moves to the net, where he can shelf pucks from in tight. He does not appear to be an overly explosive skater, but he has power to fight off defenders. This may hinder McGroarty at higher levels, but it is something he can improve on. His hockey sense/vision seems fine enough to allow him to make the occasional stand out play or pass.
Position: Defense, 6’3”, 176 lbs. Team: HC Plzen, Czech Extraliga (Czech Republic). Shoots: Right
David Jiricek, another talented right-shot defenseman, spent last season playing against men in the Czech Republic’s top pro league. Though he only tallied 9 points in 34 games (still impressive for a 17 year old), Jiricek was a plus-13. I know plus/minus is a bit of a dated stat with the rise of analytics, it is still a very impressive feat for a young teenager in a professional league. Jiricek also represented the Czechs on the international stage, playing in both the World Juniors and the World Under-18 Championship. Though he didn’t put up huge offensive numbers (2 points in 9 games, both tournaments combined), he logged big minutes and was a driver of play at both ends of the ice.
When you start watching tape on Jiricek, the first thing that jumps out is his cannon of a shot. It comes in low and heavy from the point, as well as hard and deadly accurate as a one-timer. Jiricek also plays a heavy, physical game. He defends well with smart stick positioning, as well as closing gaps and delivering big hits. He is going to have to put more muscle on his lanky 6 foot, 3 inch frame to continue that play on the smaller North American ice. Jiricek has fine hockey sense that allows him to make smart plays on the break out, as well as in the offensive zone. His skating isn’t stand-out, but he gets around well enough to contribute offensively and not get caught out of position defensively.
Position: Left Wing, 5’10”, 176 lbs. Team: US National Team Development Program. Shoots: Left
Isaac Howard had an electric 2020-21 season, playing at both the U17 and U18 levels for the USNTDP and putting up elite numbers. Howard was other-worldly with the U17’s, putting up 54 points in just 34 games. He also produced 19 points in 17 games with the U18’s. Howard will be taking his talents to the University of Minnesota- Duluth in 2022-23.
Howard possesses an elite offensive toolkit. He has quick, soft hands that he uses to be defenders in tight spaces or 1-on-1. He’s also a creative play-maker, using those soft hands to dangle around the offensive zone and dish off to a teammate for an easy goal. Howard combines all this with tremendous edge work on his skates, which makes him more than most defenses can handle. He’s also not afraid to let it rip, using his quick and accurate shot to beat goalies from mid-range. While Howard’s edges are elite, he does not possess an explosive top gear that one would expect from an under-sized forward. He will also need to work on getting stronger and adding bulk to avoid getting pushed around against older competition.
Position: Defense, 5’10”, 161 lbs. Team: US National Team Development Program. Shoots: Right
We round out our early 2022 NHL Draft Preview with another player from the USNTDP, defenseman Seamus Casey. The diminutive Casey spent his 2020-21 season with the U17 program, where he led the team’s defensive corp with 36 points in 46 games. He also added 20 points in 30 games of USHL play. Though he has yet to represent the US in any significant International play, I expect Casey to make the U18 team for 2022. He is committed to Michigan for the 2023-24 season.
Seamus Casey is a wizard with the puck on his stick. He combines elite skating with top-end hands to make some truly exciting offensive plays. Casey also uses these skills to transition the puck out of the defensive zone, whether it be a smart break-out pass or out-skating the opposing forecheck. His hockey sense is high-end as well. Casey combines the hockey sense with his skating ability to defend well, using body positioning and a smart stick to thwart opposing offensive chances. He needs to add strength to his small frame, but Casey’s smarts and skating do a fantastic job to compensate for now.
Thanks for reading the early 2022 NHL Draft Preview series! Be sure to check out Championship Sports Media throughout the year for more prospect coverage. Also check out the rest of our hockey coverage!
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