Today we look at each NHL team’s biggest need going into the 2022 NHL Draft.
Biggest need, in this context, doesn’t mean the immediate need on the big club’s roster. This is not about filling needs for the 2022-23 NHL season. The purpose of this from an NHL Draft perspective is to examine a club’s entire depth chart at the NHL and prospect level and project their needs over the next few years.
Anaheim Ducks: Defenseman
The Ducks have some excellent young defensemen in their system, with Jamie Drysdale on the path to becoming a top-flight player and Olen Zellweger looking great in junior. After dealing Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm though, there is a pressing need for more top-four defense talent on the team.
Arizona Coyotes: Center
Any look at the four centers the Coyotes were starting on any given night would probably lead you to the same conclusion: This organization needs more down the middle. I still like Barrett Hayton, but the Coyotes need a lot more around him. It helps there will probably be a very good center available at the No. 3 pick.
Boston Bruins: Defenseman
In terms of what the big club needs right now, I would lean toward a center, but the Bruins do at least have John Beecher coming and I think you could get some games out of Brett Harrison too. On defense, there’s very little on the way. Maybe you can turn Mason Lohrei into an NHL player, but it’s not a sure thing, and other than him there’s not much.
Buffalo Sabres: Center
The Sabres have a deep farm system so there’s no pressing, glaring need, but in a post-Jack Eichel world, center is the need I would single out — particularly another high-echelon center. They have a bunch of good pieces between Peyton Krebs, Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Cozens who could possibly be those solutions, but it couldn’t hurt to add more.
Calgary Flames: Defenseman
The Flames have used a lot of their high picks in recent years to add talented forwards such as Matt Coronato, Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier. They have some decent defense prospects but there is a glaring need for more talent at that position, especially given that Juuso Valimaki has yet to take that big step forward in his development.
Carolina Hurricanes: Center
Carolina has had a ton of draft picks over the last few years, so there’s no pressing need in their system. I highlighted center because while they have some good forward prospects, some of which are listed as centers, they realistically don’t have many prospects that project as legit top-three-line NHL centers and a lot of their listed centers may get pushed to the wing in the NHL.
Chicago Blackhawks: Defenseman
I could have gone in several directions for Chicago’s biggest need but chose defense. I did so because after trading Adam Boqvist and Henri Jokiharju, and after several of their other high defense picks in recent years not developing as planned, there’s very little coming from that position in the pipeline.
Colorado Avalanche: Goaltender
I was tempted to say defense here after Colorado traded Justin Barron and Drew Helleson at the deadline, but they still have Bowen Byram who will be a great NHL player, and Sean Behrens had a strong year in college. Their top goalie prospect is Justus Annunen who has good size but has been just okay as a pro, and they could realistically use another option in case he doesn’t pan out.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Defenseman
Columbus did a great job last year adding to a key need up front and particularly down the middle by taking Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger high in the draft. Now, the attention turns to the blue line. Columbus hasn’t used a top-two-round pick on a defenseman since Andrew Peeke in 2016, and it shows when you look through their reserve list.
Dallas Stars: Defenseman
I wouldn’t call this need for Dallas pressing — obviously they have Miro Heiskanen on the big club who’s still quite young, and I think Thomas Harley will be very good in time, too. This is a position they could use more depth at though because after those two there isn’t much on the way other than maybe Artem Grushnikov.
Detroit Red Wings: Center
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Wings fans. The Wings have done a very good job building up their blue line through the draft and adding a quality goalie in Sebastian Cossa, but given the so-so development of former top center pick Michael Rasmussen, this has become a clear position of need for the Wings to address.
Edmonton Oilers: Goaltender
The Oilers have a clear present need for a quality starting goalie, but that need won’t be addressed by this draft, given how long you’ll be waiting for even the best netminder. That said, their system also lacks a clear goalie of the future. Stuart Skinner held up well in a trial run, but he’s no sure thing, so adding more depth at this position seems like a priority for this organization.
Florida Panthers: Defenseman
Florida’s system isn’t that deep and they don’t have many picks, but they do have several good, young forwards and Spencer Knight in net. They have very little coming on the blue line. I like Evan Nause but they need a lot more than just him.
Los Angeles Kings: Goaltender
The Kings have a deep organization of young talent at most positions including premium positions of center and defense. The one they do lack is a clear goalie of the future. This may not be the draft class to address that, but it could be worth taking a swing on at least one goalie.
Minnesota Wild: Center
Minnesota has done well drafting premium positions of center, defense and goalie in recent years. After watching Jack McBain walk and seeing Marat Khusnutdinov re-sign with his KHL team, a little more depth down the middle would be nice to add to the organization.
Montreal Canadiens: Center
I think you could easily argue center or goalie for Montreal here. After the disappointing development of No. 3 pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling becoming a solid but not great player, they could use more quality depth down the middle.
Nashville Predators: Defenseman
After being known as a defense factory for years, Nashville has invested more of their draft capital recently at forward and in net. Their system has little coming on the blue line and you have to imagine this draft they look to address that.
New Jersey Devils: Goaltender
The Devils have had a ton of picks in recent years and have addressed a lot of critical needs in the draft, but the one position they still need to fill is a clear goalie of the future if Mackenzie Blackwood can’t be that guy. It’s possible Nico Daws or Akira Schmid could be, that but they’re not sure things.
New York Islanders: Defenseman
The Islanders have a lot of needs in their system so I could have gone in a bunch of different directions here. Noah Dobson looks great on the blue line, but after him it’s bleak. Maybe Robin Salo plays, but he’s not a guarantee.
New York Rangers: Center
The Rangers have picked often and high in recent years so their stable of young talent is in a good position with depth and quality. The one thing they could really use though is more depth down the middle. The positive playoffs from Filip Chytil is reassuring but there’s almost nothing coming from outside the NHL.
Ottawa Senators: Defenseman
Ottawa has a very good farm system and young players on the NHL club so I don’t really see a clear need at any one position. But if I had to pick one, it would be the blue line. The obvious caveat is Jake Sanderson is an elite defense prospect, and they have several other good defense prospects coming too. If I were to compare the young depth between the Sens forwards and blueliners, they could use one or two more quality blue-line prospects to play alongside Sanderson and Thomas Chabot. Lassi Thomson or Jacob Bernard-Docker could be that, but if they can’t, more depth doesn’t hurt.
Philadelphia Flyers: Center
The Flyers have several clear needs, but there are little answers in the current organization as to who their centers of the future are. In a post-Claude Giroux era, that is a position that needs a ton of help.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Defenseman
The Penguins have had few draft picks in recent years and the picks they have made haven’t developed all that well. I could have easily gone with center here, but the lack of defense prospects in their pipeline is striking.
St. Louis Blues: Defenseman
The Blues haven’t had or kept many high picks recently, but you have to like the progress of top forward picks Zachary Bolduc and Jake Neighbors, and obviously Robert Thomas has flourished on the big club. On the back end, there’s less quality depth coming, and so it should be an area they look to address.
San Jose Sharks: Goaltender
San Jose has some young players at defense, wing and center, especially if William Eklund can play the middle. I like Benjamin Gaudreau but he had a so-so season so it’s not clear if he, or anyone else in the pipeline, is the Sharks’ goalie of the future.
Seattle Kraken: Depth
Having gone through only one NHL Draft with only seven picks, Seattle’s farm system is quite thin. Matty Beniers is great, and both Ryker Evans and Ryan Winterton look like solid NHL prospects, but they just need a lot more players.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Scoring forwards
Tampa hasn’t picked much or high in recent seasons so the farm is understandably thin with various needs. I could have picked center here, but I do like Jack Finley enough to think he’ll play. Looking through their pipeline, Tampa has a lot of hard-working forwards, but there isn’t a ton of skill coming, nor guys who can project to score a lot as pros.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Center
Roni Hirvonen is a solid prospect who I think will play in the NHL. He’s played the middle before, but I don’t think he’s a lock to be an NHL pivot, and after him there isn’t a whole lot else coming up for Toronto down the middle.
Vancouver Canucks: Center
The Canucks haven’t had many high picks in the last two years so they have several needs, but if I had to pick one it would be center. Yes, they have some very good centers on the NHL team, but there’s no obvious next guy up in the scenario any of them need to be replaced.
Vegas Golden Knights: Center
Vegas has a couple of good wing and defense prospects, but they lack depth in goal and particularly down the middle unless Ivan Morozov really hits. I’m not ruling out Nolan Patrick turning it around to an extent, but regardless, they could use more quality depth at center in the pipeline.
Washington Capitals: Goaltender
Washington’s need for a goaltender was well documented after a team .899 save percentage on the season. There is a lack of a next clear guy coming from the system as well. It’s always possible Ilya Samsonov bounces back due to his age and talent, though.
Winnipeg Jets: Center
I picked center as the position of need for the Jets — however, if someone like a Chaz Lucius were to find a way to play the middle as a pro to go with David Gustafsson, then that would alleviate their needs to an extent. Barring that, getting more depth down the middle stands out as their biggest need going into the draft.
(Photo of Shane Wright: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via AP, File)