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KITCHENER, ONTARIO - MARCH 23: Shane Wright #51 of Team Red skates against Team White in the 2022 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on March 23, 2022 in Kitchener, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)

A new wave of future NHL stars will realize a dream when they hear their names called at the 2022 entry draft in Montreal this week. Thirty-two youngsters will earn the right to call themselves first-round draft picks on Thursday night at Bell Centre, while Rounds 2 through 7 will be held at the arena the following day.

This year’s class of incoming players isn’t considered to be the strongest we’ve seen in recent years, but what it lacks in hype it makes up for in mystery. Shane Wright was once considered to be the consensus No. 1 overall pick, but that belief certainty has waned in recent months. Now, there’s some healthy debate about who should be taken off the board first.

While I don’t have all the answers, what I can provide is a useful primer to help get you ready for Thursday’s action. So here’s a little draft cheat sheet featuring some key info, names you might hear early and some rumors that are keeping the stove toasty.

Who’s picking first?

The top overall pick belongs to the Montreal Canadiens, who will have the honor of making that selection in their own arena as draft hosts. One year removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, the Habs finished dead last in the standings with just 55 points in 2021-22.

What’s the full first-round draft order?

Pick Team
1 Montreal Canadiens
2 New Jersey Devils
3 Arizona Coyotes
4 Seattle Kraken
5 Philadelphia Flyers
6 Columbus Blue Jackets (from Chicago)
7 Ottawa Senators
8 Detroit Red Wings
9 Buffalo Sabres
10 Anaheim Ducks
11 San Jose Sharks
12 Columbus Blue Jackets
13 New York Islanders
14 Winnipeg Jets
15 Vancouver Canucks
16 Buffalo Sabres (from Vegas)
17 Nashville Predators
18 Dallas Stars
19 Minnesota Wild (from Los Angeles)
20 Washington Capitals
21 Pittsburgh Penguins
22 Anaheim Ducks (from Boston)
23 St. Louis Blues
24 Minnesota Wild
25 Toronto Maple Leafs
26 Montreal Canadiens (from Calgary)
27 Arizona Coyotes (from Carolina via Montreal)
28 Buffalo Sabres (from Florida)
29 Edmonton Oilers
30 Winnipeg Jets (from N.Y. Rangers)
31 Tampa Bay Lightning
32 Arizona Coyotes (from Colorado)

Who are the top draft prospects?

Here are a handful of the most talked-about names:

Shane Wright, center (Canada): Wright was projected to be the top pick for a while and may very well still earn those honors, but the 18-year-old isn’t necessarily a lock or a generational superstar in the making. He’s viewed as a smart, complete player who projects to be a top center that delivers in all three zones. However, if you’re in the market for a sensational offensive highlight-reel machine that is going to become a face of the league, he may not be the guy for you.

Juraj Slafkovsky, left wing (Slovakia): Slafkovsky has picked up steam as a potential star in the making, and he’s managed to impress while playing with older players. At 17 years old, he led Slovakia to the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics and was named tournament MVP. He also had a strong showing at the World Championships and held his own playing last season in the Finnish Liiga. He’s a big winger (6-foot-4) who brings a desirable combo of skill and physicality but isn’t the most reliable defensively.

Logan Cooley, center (USA): Cooley may not be as well-rounded as Wright, but his high-tier skill, speed and playmaking ability have him in the mix at the top of the board. At 5-10, he’s on the smaller side for a center, but he’s a high-octane player who has a fearlessness that can help erase doubts about his physical stature.

David Jiricek, defenseman (Czech): Jiricek is an offensive defenseman with pretty appealing size (6-3) and physicality, but he’s ranked this high because of his ability to move and shoot the puck. He has a booming slapper that helped earn him plenty of attention while playing in the Czech pro league and on the international stage. He’s not quite as heralded in his own end of the ice but is still seen by many as the best defenseman in this class.

Simon Nemec, defenseman (Slovakia): Nemec is smaller and not quite as offensively gifted as Jiricek, but he’s seen as more of a reliable two-way defenseman. That’s why there’s been some debate as to who is the better option on the blue line. Playing big minutes against older competition in the Slovakia pro league, he was very steady and produced at an impressive rate, racking up 26 points in 39 games.

Should we expect any big trades?

It’s always tough to predict how wild things will get on the first night of the draft, but there are always rumors of names on the trading block floating around. Sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire, but sometimes the drama falls short.

Here are some rumblings worth monitoring:

  • The Winnipeg Jets have two first-round picks and might be looking to make a significant shakeup to their core. Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Pierre-Luc Dubois have all come up as possible trade targets this summer.
  • J.T. Miller is once again the subject of trade rumors in Vancouver, and there seems to be plenty of interest in his services as he heads into the final year of his current contract.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks continue to evaluate their future, as there are big question marks surrounding Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (both heading into the final year of their matching deals), but the most likely trade target this week is Alex DeBrincat. Trading DeBrincat would most likely help the Blackhawks replace the first-round pick they gave to Columbus in the Seth Jones trade last summer.
  • It seems inevitable at this point that the Edmonton Oilers will trade Jesse Puljujarvi this summer. The questions at this point are 1) what the return might look like and 2) when they decide to pull the trigger.

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