The Pacific Division has been one of the divisions with the most parity over the last five years or so. It feels like almost every team within the division has had an opportunity to win in that time frame. This year, the division belonged to the Calgary Flames, who beat out the Edmonton Oilers for the top spot. The high-powered Vegas Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time, and the Seattle Kraken, in their inaugural season, went through significant growing pains. This division has the potential to look significantly different based on moves made this offseason.
The Anaheim Ducks finished the 2021-22 season in the bottom half of the Western Conference. While they did not see success in the standings, the Ducks took a step forward in many people’s eyes. This is due primarily to the breakout seasons from many youngsters such as Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and Troy Terry. The Ducks enter the 2022 Draft with eight picks, two of which land in the first round. Anaheim also boasts one of the best prospect systems in the NHL, with promising players such as Mason McTavish and Olen Zellweger. While the Ducks have several high-level prospects in their system, the 2022 NHL Draft can be an opportunity to add depth to a system that will likely be graduating several players in the next season or two. With picks No. 10 and No. 22, the Ducks will surely add some blue-chips prospects. A few names to keep in mind for Ducks fans would be Swede Jonathan Lekkerimaki and Finnish product Brad Lambert, who could be selected in these ranges.
The Calgary Flames enter the NHL offseason after exiting the playoffs in the second round in the Battle of Alberta against the Edmonton Oilers. The Flames have only three picks in this upcoming draft, none of which will be on night one. The Flames have one of the more shallow prospect pools entering this draft, which makes sense considering the team’s success in the league recently, leading to lower selections. Some of their most notable prospects include former first-round picks Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, and Matthew Coronato, as well as late-round steal, goaltender Dustin Wolf. The Flames enter this draft needing to restock the prospect cupboard, especially on defence. I would expect to see the Flames move around on draft day to accumulate more picks to accomplish restocking the pool.
The Edmonton Oilers are coming off a deep playoff run, ultimately losing in the Conference Finals to the Colorado Avalanche. The Oilers enter the offseason with the best player in hockey, Connor McDavid, on the roster and a team around him that has shown it has the tools to compete for the Cup going forward. Every Stanley Cup championship team generally features a young player or two on an entry-level deal. The 2022 NHL Draft is Edmonton’s opportunity to find players that will contribute in the future on teams where McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will be in their prime. Edmonton has four total picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, including a first-round selection. The Oilers system currently includes players like Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg, who both made their NHL debuts this past season. Edmonton picks at 29th in the first round. Some players to look out for at the 29th selection are Calle Odelius, a Swedish defenseman, and Rutger McGroarty, the captain of the USA U-18 team.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings were the surprise team of the season for many this year. A team who had been picking in the top 10 in the NHL Draft the past few seasons took a jump, making the playoffs and winning 44 games this season. They were bounced in seven games in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Following their improved season, the Kings entered the offseason with a stacked prospect pool and a strong roster. On Wednesday, Los Angeles traded for Kevin Fiala, the highly skilled winger from the Minnesota Wild. In the deal, the Kings gave up their 2022 first-round pick, as well as Brock Faber, their top defensive prospect. This trade left Los Angeles with five picks overall, none of which will be in the first round. As I mentioned before, the Kings prospect pool is overflowing with talent, including former top-10 picks Alex Turcotte, Quinton Byfield, and Brandt Clarke. Adding players with high upside later in the draft, as well as taking a shot at the goalie pool, would be worthwhile for Los Angeles, who has just about everything in a prospect system an organization could want.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks finished the season with 77 points, which landed them 12th in the Western Conference. San Jose enters the 2022 offseason in a difficult position. Their roster is built to win now, with veterans and players on long-term deals. However, the on-ice product is not translating to wins, as San Jose missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season. The Sharks recently hired Mike Grier to fill their General Manager role. Grier is the first Black General Manager in NHL history. The draft will be a fantastic building block for his first season as the lead decision maker. Grier comes from the New York Rangers organization, for fans wondering what a roster constructed under his leadership could look like. With that being said, the Sharks enter the 2022 NHL Entry Draft with nine total picks, just one of those being a first round selection. The San Jose farm system consists of high-end prospects such as William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau, who both saw a handful of NHL action during the 21-22 season. The Sharks own the 11th overall pick in the upcoming draft. With that selection, San Jose could look to target players such as highly skilled Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Kevin Korchinski, or American forward Frank Nazar, who has massive upside in many scouts’ eyes.
The Seattle Kraken approached the 2021-22 season with probably the highest expectations for an expansion team in decades. This was largely due to the Vegas Golden Knights spectacular transition into the NHL. While the Kraken did not live up to the lofty expectations set before them, they did perform at the average for an expansion team not named Vegas. Brandon Tanev was a bright spot for the Kraken before sustaining a season-ending injury, while young players like Jared McCann and Ryan Donato had career years, showing some promise for the near future. The prospect pool for the Kraken is still just starting to fill, but 2021 first-round pick Matthew Beniers showed why he was selected second overall, putting up 10 points in nine games after finishing up a Frozen Four appearance with the high-powered Michigan Wolverines. Ryker Evans, a 2021 second-rounder, is the top prospect on the backend for the Kraken. Seattle enters the 2022 NHL Draft with 12 total picks, one in the first round. The Kraken will look to continue adding to their prospect pool, giving Seattle fans a glimmer of hope for the future. A few names to look out for when the Kraken select at fourth in the first round are Czechia defenseman David Jiricek, and a pair of American forwards, Logan Cooley and Cutter Gauthier, all of whom are expected to be taken in this range.
The Vancouver Canucks finished the 2021-22 season with 92 points, just five short of Nashville for the final playoff spot in the West. The Canucks have a young core led by players such as Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Bo Horvat. Vancouver has fallen short of the playoffs six of the last seven seasons. Last offseason, the Canucks went through a retool, bringing in players such as Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to try and give them the push to make the playoffs. Vancouver enters this offseason with six picks in the 2022 NHL Draft. The Canucks are set to make their first first-round selection since 2019, when they selected Vasily Podkolzin 10th overall. Podkolzin, who just completed his first full NHL season, along with 2021 second-round pick Danila Klimovich, lead the young prospect pool for Vancouver. Heading into this year’s draft, the Canucks need to take advantage of the six picks they have to add quality depth to this prospect system, which is one that severely lacks depth. At pick No. 15, expect Vancouver to keep in mind players like Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Denton Mateychuk and Swedish forward Liam Ohgren.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights, in 2021-22, missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. After making the blockbuster Jack Eichel trade with the Buffalo Sabres, the Golden Knights are also left without their first-round pick. Following an injury-riddled season, Vegas fired head coach Peter DeBoer and hired former Boston Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy. The Golden Knights are the most successful franchise of the modern era after immediately expanding, always being aggressive to compete from year one. In recent years, they have also been able to do well bringing in quality prospects to sustain the organization long-term. Their prospect pool includes two former first-round picks in forwards Brendan Brisson and Zach Dean. The Golden Knights possess an average prospect system, with more depth to it than other teams who have been in the playoffs for the same amount of years as they have. Vegas will select first in the middle of the second round. Luckily for them, in this year’s draft, the group of players from the end of the first round to the mid-second doesn’t drop off in quality all that much.
The Pacific Division is shaping up to be one of the most interesting to watch in the coming years. The division with the most change year-after-year looks primed for another unpredictable season. From Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to the Los Angeles Kings and their stacked farm system to the Vegas Golden Knights potential at full strength, the Pacific Division could look drastically different by the end of next year.