The 2022 Draft has come and gone, and there is no doubt in my mind that Cale Makar’s performance this year in the playoffs and the way Colorado won the Stanley Cup definitely impacted the way teams drafted this year.
It is evident now that in order to win in the NHL you need to have an elite puck-moving defenseman, that can be a game-changer offensively, but at the same time is reliable enough defensively to play against the top lines of other teams. All the top teams in the league now have an elite defenseman: Colorado has Makar, Tampa Bay has Hedman, the Rangers have Adam Fox, Florida has Ekblad, Pittsburgh has Letang, Washington has John Carlson, Nashville has Josi, Toronto has Morgan Rielly, and Boston has Charlie McAvoy. The point being, you need that top number 1 defenseman if you are to win in the playoffs now, and teams in the draft this year really set out to try and draft the next Cale Makar-type defenseman that can be a game-changer.
In the 1st round of the 2022 Draft, there was 9 defenseman drafted, including 5 defensemen within the first 12 picks. The second round was also defensemen heavy, of the 32 picks in the 2nd round, 11 were defensemen. Then in the fourth round, 12 of the 32 picks in that round were defensemen.
Of the 225 picks in the draft, a total of 73 defensemen were taken, and of the 73 defensemen taken, 48 of them were taken before or in the 4th round. All the evidence that you need of Makar’s impact on this draft can be found within the top 12 picks. Simon Nemec, David Jiricek, Kevin Korchinski, Pavel Mintyukov, and Denton Mateychuk; all are elite puck-moving defensemen, with high offensive upside and room to grow defensively. One thing these defensemen all have in common is their elite skating ability, and ability to jump up into the offensive attack and make life miserable for opposing defenders. If we look beyond the top 12 picks, it seems as though the teams picking in the latter half of the 1st round choose to go for big defensemen, rather than skilled forwards. Lian Bichsel, Owen Pickering, Sam Rinzel, and Maveric Lamoreux all went way higher than they were projected to go before the draft, and were taken ahead of Brad Lambert and Isaac Howard, two players who were consistently ranked top 15 before the draft.
The New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and Arizona Coyotes choose to go D-heavy in this draft; New Jersey drafted 5 Defensemen, Ottawa drafted 4 defensemen, while Arizona also drafted 5 defensemen. New Jersey stands out the most because not only did they use their second-overall pick to select Simon Nemec, but they used their 2nd round pick to select another elite puck-moving defenseman, and powerplay specialist, Seamus Casey. They were not don’t selecting a defenseman, as they would select two defensemen in the 4th round and another in the 7th. Arizona also picks a defenseman in the first round, Maveric Lamoureux, then selected Russian defenseman Artem Duda in the second round. The Coyotes drafted three defensemen in a row with their second pick in the 3rd round, their 5th round pick, and their 6th round pick. Ottawa selected defenseman Filip Nordberg in the 2nd round then Tomas Hamara in the 3rd round. Jorian Donovan was selected in the 5th round and Theo Wallberg in the 6th round. Although Columbus only selected two defensemen in the draft, they used the two picks they had in the 1st round to select David Jiricek (6th ovr) and Denton Mateychuk (12th ovr).
A Strategic reason why teams selected defenseman early in the draft this year is that the 2023 draft is full of elite offensive talent, and teams might not want to miss out on that offensive talent because they need to draft defense due to the lack of defensive talent in their prospect pool. I thought it was smart for teams to load up on defensemen since this draft was a very deep draft pool for defensive prospects this year was as deep as it’s ever been.
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