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Draft 2022: The best international prospects

The 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held July 7-8 at the Bell Center in Montreal. Round 1 will take place July 7 (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN, ESPN, ESPN+), while rounds 2-7 will be held July 8 (11 a.m. ET; TVAS, SN, ESPN+, NHLN). As the session approaches, NHL.com is setting the stage with top prospect profiles and other articles. Today, an overview of the best international hopes.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki, who sits sixth in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings among international skaters, hopes to become the first Swedish-born player to be selected in the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft.

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Lekkerimaki (5-foot-10, 165 pounds), who missed four weeks of action in March due to mononucleosis, had nine points (seven goals, two assists) in 26 games while playing on the same trio than San Jose Sharks forward prospect William Eklund with Djurgarden in Sweden’s Elite League this season.

The 17-year-old right-winger finished first in the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with 15 points and 10 assists to help Sweden claim top honors. He notably had four points (one goal, three assists) in a 6-4 win against the United States in the championship game on May 1.

“I built my confidence playing against some of the best players in the world, which helped me in this tournament, as well as playing on a good line with left winger Liam Ohgren (eighth in the rankings Central Scouting International Skaters Final) and center Noah Ostlund (18th), Lekkerimaki said. I believe playing for another season or two in Sweden will be good for my development. I am still under contract for one year in Sweden.

“I need to add toughness to my game, but I want to be able to play like Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche). I think I’m a good scorer who has a good sense of the game and a good skate. »

Lekkerimaki is one of many international players expected to be selected in the first round of the 2022 Draft. Goran Stubb, European Director of NHL Central Scouting, helps us break down this crop of international prospects by answering five questions :

What sets left winger Juraj Slafkovsky (6-foot-4, 218 pounds), who is ranked No. feet 9 inches, 185 pounds), who is in second place?

“Slafkovsky is a junior-aged player in an adult body. He is big, fast and extremely talented. The role he was given with his team, TPS, was difficult for him because the team plays a very disciplined and defensive-oriented style, so he didn’t get as many points as when he played for his national team. He’s phenomenal when it comes to forechecking in the offensive zone. Kemell has had an incredible start to the season when he was the Liiga’s leading scorer in Finland at 17, but suffered a shoulder injury in October and missed around five or six weeks. Tried to return, played two games for Finland at the 2022 World Junior Championship, but his shoulder was in bad shape and he never got back to the player he was at the start of the season before the World Championship under-18, where he was again Finland’s leading scorer. Kemell is more of a finesse player, but he doesn’t shy away from the physical game. He is very good in front of the net. »

What allowed Lekkerimaki to move up three places from ninth place at mid-season in January to sixth in the final standings?

“Lekkerimaki played for Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League, as well as for Djurgarden in the Swedish Junior League. He had a difficult season because Djurgarden struggled the whole campaign, but Lekkerimaki was still one of the best strikers in the team. He is an excellent skater, a good scorer with very good offensive instincts who never stops skating. I like his determination when I watch him play. »

Defensemen Simon Nemec (6-foot-190; 3rd) and David Jiricek (6-foot-3, 189; 4th) both sit near the top of the international skater rankings. Does one of the two seem more ready to evolve in the NHL than the other, whether because of his skills, his size, or both?

“Jiricek suffered a serious knee injury at the World Junior Championship and missed two and a half months of action, returned to action, and to everyone’s surprise he played for the Czech national team at the World Championship. He is more imposing and his style is more suited to the professional ranks. Both players are explosive. Nemec is more of a playmaker and setter. He is sometimes guilty of betting too much on his talent as a passer. Jiricek likes to support the attack. If Nemec is above all a passer, Jiricek likes to shoot as often as possible. Both players are extremely talented. »

What do you think of Russia’s top prospects? Seventh-ranked Danila Yurov (6-foot-1, 178 pounds) of Magnitogorsk and No. 11-ranked Ivan Miroshnichenko (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) of Omsk. Where do you see these players being drafted? Do you expect NHL teams to be patient in the case?

“I’m afraid it’s an exercise in patience, which is a shame. Yurov is a classic Russian striker, extremely talented, fast, an excellent skater capable of scoring goals. He’s a good player, but the question will be what the NHL teams decide to do with the Russians. Miroshnichenko has been very ill this season (he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March). He’s been out since, and we still don’t know when he’ll be able to play again. He should be ready in time for the next season, but nobody really knows what will happen. At the moment, I believe there is a big question mark around all Russian players.

Center Brad Lambert (6-foot, 175 pounds; 10th) has dropped five spots since the midseason standings in January. Why did this happen and what stands out most about him?

“I am one of those who adore this player. I think it’s been a bit too hectic a year. He has changed teams very often in recent years. I don’t know who made those decisions, but he played with the Pelicans before suddenly playing in the junior ranks with HIFK’s under-20 team as a 16- and 17-year-old (in 2019-20 ). He then played for JYP before returning to the Pelicans (this season). I think he would have been in a better situation if he had stayed with his hometown team (the Pelicans). He is an explosive player, an exceptional skater. He seems to work very hard, he has a good attitude and he throws good shots. He didn’t have many points (10) in the Finnish league this year, but he showed what he could do in two games at the World Junior Championship with one goal and four assists. When he plays against his age group, he is excellent. »

Photo: International Ice Hockey Federation

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