Entering the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights were hoping to stockpile their prospect cupboards, which, being frank, were very empty heading in. This is an organization that has craved immediate success since their inaugural season in 2017-18, resulting in them trading plenty of picks and prospects in exchange for top end players.
That was evident on Thursday, as Kelly McCrimmon and the rest of his management staff did not have a first-round selection, which they chose to give up when acquiring Jack Eichel. The team made six picks total (two of which were acquired in trades yesterday), with one pick in each of rounds two through seven.
With their first pick of the 2022 draft, the Golden Knights chose Matyas Sapovliv. Sapovliv spent the 2021-22 season playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for the Saginaw Spirit. The 18-year-old Czech forward had a solid rookie season in Saginaw, registering 18 goals and 52 points in 68 contests. Those totals likely would have been significantly higher had the Spirit been a more competitive team.
The first thing that stands out with Sapovliv is his size, as he stands at six-foot-three, 182 pounds. While neither his puck skills nor skating is considered to be at an elite level, he is a great playmaker with an extremely high hockey IQ. Thanks in large part to that hockey IQ, he is sound defensively and makes very few mistakes. Though he still needs plenty of work before getting to the NHL, there is a ton to like about this selection.
The Golden Knights chose to acquire a third-round pick (No. 79 overall) from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday in exchange for picks No. 95 and 135. With that 79th pick, they chose to select Jordan Gustafson of the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Gustafsson, 18, had a very solid season with the Thunderbirds, scoring 23 goals and 52 points in just 58 games. While his offense declined somewhat in the playoffs, he still managed four goals and 16 points in 25 outings. He is viewed as an extremely hard-working individual who doesn’t lose many puck battles, while also being good in front of the net.
Once again, the Golden Knights made a trade on Thursday that saw them obtain the 128th overall selection from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round pick. With it, they chose to grab Cameron Whitehead of the Lincoln Stars in the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Whitehead, 19, had an up and down rookie season in the USHL, compiling a 3.19 goals against average along with a .892 save percentage. That said, there is plenty to like about him as a prospect. First off, he covers a ton of net at six-foot-three, and is seen as a great puck tracker which helps him a ton with rebound control.
Up next was their fifth-round selection, where they chose to draft Patrick Guay at 145th overall. This is perhaps the most intriguing pick of the draft for the Golden Knights, as Guay has a ridiculous amount of offense talent, proven by his 55 goals and 104 points in just 68 games with the Charlottetown Islanders in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
One thing to note when it comes to Guay is that he is older than most of his fellow draftees after being passed over in each of the past two drafts. Nonetheless, he has great goal scoring ability, and will be an interesting prospect to keep tabs on in the coming years.
With their sixth-round selection at 177 overall, the Golden Knights selected Ben Hemmerling. The 18-year-old recently wrapped up his second season in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, scoring 10 goals and 47 points in 57 contests. He also had a strong playoff in which he compiled a goal and four points in six outings.
Size is a bit of an issue for Hemmerling, as he currently stands at just five-foot-ten, 159 pounds. That said, he is still very young and has plenty of time to fill into his frame. Similar to Sapovliv, he isn’t the most talented of his draft peers, but thinks the game at an extremely high level and is viewed as a very good playmaker.
For the Golden Knights final pick in the 2022 draft. which came at 209th overall in the seventh-round, they selected Abram Wiebe. The 18-year-old defenseman wasn’t very well known heading into this year’s draft due to the fact he chose to play tier II junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) rather than major junior. Nonetheless, he had himself a solid year for the Chilliwack Chiefs with 31 points in 54 outings.
Wiebe is a big body presence on the back end, standing at six-foot-three, 195 pounds. While his offensive skill is average at best, he is great in his own end, in large part thanks to his size. He is committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2022-23 season.
Exciting Times for Golden Knights
By no means are any of these prospects near NHL ready. In fact, it will likely be a number of years before we may get to see any of them suit up for their first game in the league. That said, there is plenty of promise in a number of these prospects, making them all players that fans should keep an eye on moving forward.
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