Here’s a look at five of the best players to go undrafted at the 2022 NHL draft:
LHD Spencer Sova, Erie Otters (OHL)
After playing for the Canadian U-18 squad and wearing an “A”, it seemed like Sova was destined for a pick when the 2022 draft rolled around but that never happened. Sova is a strong skater and stout defender who has a willingness to use his size all over the ice. He never seemed to find a way to use his tools to their maximum potential which may ultimately be the reason he went undrafted but the skating, size, and puck skills of him were evident.
Sova excelled when he was able to collect the puck in the open ice and utilize his mobility but oftentimes when the Erie Otters seemed to not want their defensemen to activate on the rush. The Windsor, Ontario native could be prime candidate to be drafted as an overage player next year if he can put his tools together and show that he isn’t just raw skating ability and a physical presence.
LHD Jake Livanavage, Chicago Steel (USHL)
At just 5-foot-11, it wasn’t completely shocking that Livanavage went undrafted considering the fact that he leans towards the defensive side of the game. He is a very good defender who uses the full length of his reach to close gaps and disrupt play on the rush. Livanavage is agile on his feet from him and defends the way so many modern-day defenders are beginning to, with his skill and his stick work from him.
He showed capably in the offensive zone, activating from the blueline when he had the chance and identifying when and when not to do so. Livanavage is a precision passer as well, finding lanes and hitting targets in motion. The unfortunate thing for the Steel defender is that he isn’t a puck-dominant defender and his game of him is more of a compliment to the good players around him rather than the catalyst for offense in and of itself.
C Pano Fimis, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
Fimis is a highly skilled playmaker coming off a 44-point campaign in 54 games. Hardly barnburner numbers there, but he played on a Niagara team that struggled to create offense as it was. With teams betting on skill so often in the latter half of the draft, a bet on the skating and playmaking ability that Fimis bring to the table seemed like a bet worth making, but he was left unclaimed.
His shooting ability isn’t terrible by any means either, he just doesn’t create shots for himself as much as you’d like to see. He needed to really assert himself a bit more for the Ice Dogs though. Fimis rarely tried to take control of play and rather operated as a passenger who could help push play forward had there been a teammate that was able to drive the bus. With some maturity, Fimis could attract attention next year as a D+1 forward.
F Kasper Lundell, HIFK U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Kasper Lundell is the younger brother of Panthers rookie Anton, and although he has some of the two-way tendencies that his older brother exhibited, none of them were quite to the level that Anton had in his draft year. Still, Kasper understood positioning and displayed good spatial awareness at both ends of the ice and even flashed some decent shooting talent and passing ability.
The big knock on Kasper was the fact that his mobility was less than sub-par. He needed to come a step – or three – in the skating department if there was any hope of him carving out an NHL career. His defensive IQ from him and meat-and-potatoes offensive game can work at the Finnish junior level and even to an extent at the Liiga level but he will need to likely take the long road to the NHL at this point. Skating improvement and skill work would go a long way, even if his intelligence and instincts seemed like they’d be worth betting on late in the 2022 draft.
LW Ilya Kvochko, Magnitogorsk (MHL)
Despite his skill and his willingness to attack the net and play in the dirty areas, the 5-foot-9 Russian had a lot working against him. From size to politics, Kvochko wasn’t expected to go early, but many still believed he had a shot going overall. He was highly creative and played with excellent offensive instincts whether he was taking on the role of passer or shooter.
Kvochko protects the puck well, doing a nice job of establishing body position in board battles and driving the net front to generate scoring chances for himself. He had skill and translatable tools, but there was ultimately too much working against him.