NHL Draft winners and losers 2022: Sabres, Wild, Blue Jackets hit house runs; Shane Wright drops to No. 4 to Kraken

Round 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft is complete, as 32 players heard their name called on Thursday night, signaling the start of their careers in the NHL.

Not to be the sappy one, but every player that was called was a winner. Every family that had their son’s name called was filled with winners and every organization that was able to improve their club with their draft pick was also, you guessed it, a winner.

But there were certain teams and players that stood out during Day 1, there were some clubs and prospects that didn’t do as well.

Here is a look at the winners and losers from Round of the 2022 NHL Draft.

NHL DRAFT 2022: Results, grades from Round 1

Winner: Buffalo Sabers

The Sabers entered draft day with three first-round picks. General manager Kevyn Adams and his scouting crew clearly had one thing in mind: Skilled forward.

Buffalo drafted Matt Savoie at No. 9, Noah Ostlund at No. 16 and Jiri Kulich at No. 28, all three being extremely talented offensive forwards that possesses a ton of skill. It’s not often you hit on three picks in one round, but the Sabers didn’t reach or gamble on any of their picks. They took some of the best players available in their spot in the pecking order, and now a team that already possesses a deep prospect pool just got even stronger.

Loser: Shane Wright

The story of the night obviously was the fall of Shane Wright. The long-time projected No. 1 pick ended up not going to the Canadiens with the first selection, but rather the Kraken at No. 4.

Montreal had been debating on who to take for some time, but elected to go with Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky instead. The Devils, who did not need a center, went with Slovak defenseman Simon Nemec, while the Coyotes elected to take a different center in American Logan Cooley.

As Wright said after the selection by Seattle, it was still ‘a dream come true’ for him, getting called by an NHL club. But it was not the result people expected, including Wright who seemingly sent a glare to the Canadiens’ table.

Winner: Seattle Kraken

With Wright falling into their laps at No. 4, the Kraken walked away as a huge winner from the draft. They got a highly talented, two-way center that they likely thought would not be available in their position. However, now Seattle has two strong centers to build around in Wright and last year’s first-round selection Matty Beniers.

Loser: Ryan Chesley

Outside of Ryan Chesley, there really weren’t any players I was surprised didn’t go in the first round. The defenseman from the US National Program watched a number of his fellow teammates get their name called and walk across the stage, yet he will be forced to wait until Day 2.

I had Chesley ranked higher than fellow defensemen Sam Rinzel and Maveric Lamoureaux, who were both taken in the back end of the first round. ESPN’s Kevin Weekes was singing his praises of him, repeatedly saying that teams should take him, yet he went uncalled. It likely won’t take long tomorrow before Chesley is called.

Winner: Minnesota Wild

Another team that held multiple first-round picks and nailed both of them is the Wild. Judd Bracket, Minnesota’s director of amateur scouting, did a sensational job of identifying and taking two forwards in the first round to help a Wild prospect pool that is heavily loaded with defensemen.

With their first pick, the Wild took Liam Öhgren at No. 19, a Swedish winger who is a dangerous shooter. They then took Russian winger Danila Yurov at No. 24, who many considered a top-10 talent, but given the situation in Russia and the potential hassle of bringing them to the United States, Yurov fell outside the top-20. It’s two players that I think will make an impact with the Minnesota organization very shortly.

Loser: Maple Leafs

*insert joke about the Maple Leafs finally moving out of the first*

Toronto elected not to keep their No. 25 pick, instead sending it, along with goalie Petr Mrazek, to the Blackhawks for a 2022 second-round pick. It was a salary dump move, but it came at a cost, and the Maple Leafs did not make any draft selections on Day 1.

Per usual, any move that Toronto makes surely gets overanalyzed by any and all Maple Leafs fans (and haters), but having to package the first-round pick in order to get rid of a player is never great. If they’re able to use that money to sign a legit goalie, then it will pay off. But I can’t imagine Leafs fans were thrilled to sit through most of the first round, only to have their pick moved.

Winner: Columbus Blue Jackets

The other team I wanted to highlight that made excellent use of their two first-round picks is the Blue Jackets. Columbus went back-to-back defensemen at No. 6 and No. 12, taking David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk.

The Jiricek pick was a no-brainer. With the Flyers electing instead to take NTDP product Cutter Gauthier at No. 5, it opened the door for Columbus to address the blue line and take Jiricek. He and Simon Nemec were the clear-cut No. 1-2 defensive prospects in the draft class and Columbus smartly grabbed him at No. 6.

With Mateychuk, he’s a player I really liked, but didn’t think someone would take until after No. 15 or so. But Columbus stepped up and grabbed the smooth-skater defender at No. 12. It’s two picks that solve the Blue Jackets’ biggest problem, each bringing different tools and skillsets to the organization.

Loser: Maveric Lamoureux

Lamorureux was not expected to go in the first round, but the Coyotes selected him at No. 29, making his dreams come true a little earlier than expected.

That’s not why he’s a loser. The cameras caught his parents from him, um, celebrating their son getting drafted with a little French flair.

I would imagine that included in the hundreds of congratulatory texts sent to Lamoureux will be a few busting his chops over his parents’ PDA. Way to take the spotlight Mom and Dad.

Winner: Isaac Howard

While Howard slipped a bit more than anticipated in the first round, you couldn’t tell by his post-selection interview.

The forward, who was taken No. 31 by the Lightning, didn’t hold back his swagger, showing up to draft day dressed to the nines in a turtleneck, gold chain and American flag belt buckle. He ended it by proclaiming he was the “best-looking guy” at the draft.

You can’t teach confidence, and “The Ice Man” as he’s called certainly isn’t lacking any.

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