With the second overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, the New Jersey Devils have a slew of players that would be justifiable to select. Assuming Montreal selects Shane Wright, Logan Cooley should be around the top of the list for the New Jersey Devils when they make their final decision on who to draft.
Who is Logan Cooley?
Logan Cooley was born on May 4, 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a left-handed shooting center, standing at 5’10” and weighing in at 174 pounds. He is a small center, but among the top producers for this year’s draft. Here are his stats going back to 2018, from Elite Prospects.
Cooley has pretty good production from the United States Developmental Program, but certainly not the best Devils fans have seen from that league. By comparison, Jack Hughes had 112 points in 50 games for the U.S. National U18 Team in his draft year. Considering how much Hughes struggled to make the jump from the national program to the NHL, I think it’s probable that Logan Cooley continues his development at the University of Minnesota before progressing to the NHL.
This is not a knock on Cooley, as this draft does not seem particularly heavy with production. The assumed first overall pick, Shane Wright, did not outclass Logan Cooley in the OHL. According to Byron Bader’s NHLe comparison tool, Logan Cooley had a roughly equivalent production in the U.S. U18 National Program to Shane Wright’s production in the OHL. Bader’s forecasting, which assigns prospects an “NHLer Probability” (likelihood of playing 200 games) and a “Star Probability” (likelihood of scoring over 0.7 points per game in the NHL) has Cooley about even with Wright.
Bader’s model takes age into account, so Cooley is undoubtedly put in a more favorable position by having a May birthday - late for NHL Draft standards. As a younger player, this may have offset the fact that Cooley played for the USDP - which is generally considered a weaker place for prospects to grow than Major Junior leagues in Canada, if only based on historical reputation. That trend has been shifting since 2019, though - and we have gotten to the point I do not value OHL production much higher than I do production for the U.S. U18 team.
Where is Logan Cooley Ranked?
Logan Cooley is largely ranked as the second best player in the NHL Draft, with just a couple dissenters among the early rankers that put him at third or fourth best. You can see where he was ranked below:
- Ranked #2 by Consolidated Ranking
- Ranked #2 by FC Hockey
- Ranked #2 by TSN/Bob McKenzie
- Ranked #2 by TSN/Craig Button
- Ranked #2 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
- Ranked #2 by Sportsnet
- Ranked #2 by Smaht Scouting
- Ranked #2 by The Puck Authority
- Ranked #3 by Elite Prospects
- Ranked #3 by Dobber Prospects
- Ranked #4 by McKeen’s Hockey
What Others Say About Logan Cooley
At Last Word on Sports, Ben Kerr wrote a glowing piece on Logan Cooley. In his profile, Kerr compared Cooley to Brayden Point stylistically and noted that he is near-NHL ready with his all-around game. On the offensive side, Kerr wrote,
Cooley marries his outstanding skating with excellent puckhandling ability. This allows him to control the puck and make plays off the rush and at top speed. He also is able to control the puck in the offensive zone, speeding up the play or slowing it down as necessary. His patience and poise are combined with outstanding vision. He is able to wait for his teammates to get open and then feather a tape-to-tape pass through a tight passing lane to set up a scoring chance. His lateral mobility and his quick hands also allow Cooley to make quick moves to open up those passing lanes. Cooley’s vision and high-end IQ, allow him to quarterback the powerplay from the half boards.
For Smaht Scouting, Paul Zuk wrote a report on Cooley. He also noted, like Kerr, that Cooley is capable of quarterbacking the power play from the point and from the half-wall (which, as an aside, is something I’ve wanted the Devils to try with Jack Hughes). Zuk raves about Cooley’s two-way ability, saying that it could be the best in the 2022 Draft. On his defensive game, Zuk writes that Cooley is “excellent” at switching and covering for defensemen who are out of position - showing an ability to both puck handle from the point and presumably defend from a traditional defenseman’s spot. Zuk continues,
Cooley is also quite good pinching down to assist his defensemen in their own zone when hemmed in by the attacking forwards. He’s more than willing to use his aggressiveness and physicality to muscle someone off the puck and can be quite strong on his stick to jar the puck loose from the attacker. This aspect of his game also aids his ability to retrieve pucks along the boards in the offensive zone and start the transition game, which is a strong suit of his game. Cooley is able to either deliver a pass to a teammate bursting out of the zone or get the puck off the boards/glass and out of danger, where his line can either forecheck or make a much-needed line change.
The Devils currently have one such center who this reminds me of in Nico Hischier. The question for whether Fitzgerald should go with Cooley or someone else relies on this point: would he rather lock down the center position for good, with one of Cooley or Mercer getting the chance to play wing, or are there other positions with players as good as Cooley? Cooley stands at only 174 pounds, and I’m not eager to see another undersized forward. However, if Cooley plays defense like Paul Zuk says he does - then there will not be a problem for him with the Devils or in the NHL.
Video of Cooley
First up, from the House of Hockey, is a simple highlight video for Logan Cooley. You can watch below:
Something I notice from the initial highlights is how much of a nose for the net Cooley seems to have. Most of his movement in the offensive zone seems directed at attacking the net or creating chances for his teammates - he does not circle the zone very long before he makes a move to create a scoring chance. He certainly has the speed and elusiveness to play a style more resembling the patient evade-and-shoot that Hughes and Bratt have employed for the Devils - but Cooley seems to prefer a more direct approach.
Next, we look to Emerald City Hockey for their scouting video on Logan Cooley. This video focuses largely on Cooley’s offensive ability - his blazing speed, the surprising accuracy and life to his shot, and his ability to either snap a shot from the forehand or flip up a backhander at full speed on the breakaway. At 4:50, the video turns to defense. Cooley is noted to hang out around the upper parts of the defensive zone, looking for the puck to turn it the other way. I can see why this defensive playmaking and transition mindset excited other scouts, but I agree with Emerald City Hockey in that Cooley is going to have to learn to play lower as a center in the NHL. For this reason, his lack of size may not have been exposed as much as it will be in the NHL, as he plays a more immature game that works for the league he has dominated but will not work against professionals.
Last, but not least, we have a video from Will at Scouching.
This video starts with some tracking data, which shows that Logan Cooley is exceptional at transitional playmaking compared to other players his age. This is not surprising with his shiftiness, speed, and passing ability. However, Will argues that he needs to be more involved defensively and less reliant on his wingers for gaining the offensive zone. Cooley does take the helm at leaving the defensive zone, but since he looks for the pass out so often he does not take it through all three zones often. I do not have a problem with this, as that’s a good way to get crunched in the NHL. Unfortunately, Will continued the trend of scouts who focus on video not loving his off-puck play. At 5:27, he says:
But without the puck, I found Logan Cooley to be far more inconsistent at both ends of the ice. And I found that he often seems to struggle sufficiently challenging puck carriers on defensive rushes, which for a center might be a bit of an issue down the line. And sometimes in the defensive zone I found the feet stop moving at really inopportune times, which I think got exacerbated in the NCAA games I saw him play in. And another thing to be aware of as a center in my view is to be aware of potential passing lanes and where opponents are behind you in the defensive zone, and I found that Cooley could get caught puck-watching and drawn out of position.
Will qualifies this by mentioning that once Cooley does create a turnover, his movement toward the offensive zone and his ability to tilt the ice takes effect immediately. On the video, you can see Cooley drift around the low slot - and the Devils are already trying to coach this out of other players. However, it does seem apparent that the good mostly outweighs the bad - and if Cooley tunes up his positioning work in the NCAA he could be an incredibly efficient defensive and three-zone transition player. I’m not entirely sure I agree with Will at Scouching that his puck awareness is so much of an issue, but watching Cooley makes it seem like the legs disconnect from the brain for a moment - leading him into a passive drift that takes him out of position. Therefore, his defensive problems might be more an issue of keeping his skating work up rather than keeping him aware of the puck - at least when he’s covering a puck carrier and trying to close a gap. Both issues - defensive skating and areal awareness - seem to flare up in conjunction when he plays defensively away from the puck.
It’s a real shame that Team United States did not see it fit to take a guy like Logan Cooley to the IIHF World Championships. While European nations had no problem to give guys like Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec, and David Jiricek the spotlight, we did not see Team USA or Team Canada give spots to 2022-eligible Draft prospects. It is also a shame that the rescheduled World Juniors is slated for after the Draft! Personally, I am not very happy that World Juniors is so late in the summer and will not give us the opportunity to compare guys like Slafkovsky to Cooley immediately leading up to the selection.
We all know the BPA debate. We all know the need debate. I look at it like this: the Devils need someone everywhere. By picking the “best player available”, you are still filling a need - but you’re putting your shoes on before you get the destination. Sounds great, but then we get to the next problem: is Cooley the best pick available? Can anyone get to the point where they are the undisputed best pick available? Without being able to compare them in World Juniors, that seems impossible at this point. But as far as I am concerned, the Devils only have their top two centers nailed down. The third and fourth line remains an open question. I liked what I saw from Jesper Boqvist at the end of the season, but that does not mean I would be unwilling to select a guy who could be another game changer.
While Tom Fitzgerald sometimes gets mocked for his focus on making the Devils a bigger team - one that is “tougher to play against” - I sympathize with his concerns. I would be concerned about putting another small center behind Hischier and Hughes - but I would also argue that is exactly what they were planning on doing with Dawson Mercer before they realized he might be better suited for the wing. It feels crazy that if Logan Cooley was just a few inches taller and a few pounds heavier, I would be much closer to slating him for the second overall selection than I am now. On one level, I am purely uncertain whether the Devils would consider selecting another small center. But thinking about it, I too am concerned about whether opposing teams will just bully the Devils’ forwards if they continue to build using small, skilled players.
But having watched those videos on Logan Cooley, I could not tell you to be angry if the Devils selected him. I would be happy. I am not sure if he - or anyone - would make me “happiest” on Draft Night: but Cooley is a hell of a talent to watch. His skating is undeniable, and he seems to be able to pick corners with his shots from all reaches of the ice - and he’s not one-dimensional with an ability to roof backhand shots on the rush. He is capable of putting a few feet of separation between him and trailing defensemen just traveling from one blueline to the other - and if he continues to create that separation at the next level he will have the time he needs to be a playmaker. But as he progresses to the college level, he will have to contend with better reach abilities, better gap control, and better skating from opposing defensemen. A good sign for Cooley is that the Scouching video showed him willing and able to engage physically - but he does not seem like he is trying to achieve anything more than a momentary shove, enough to strip the puck away from the boards so he can continue stickhandling as he looks for a shot or pass. He might need to add weight so he can play with more edge in those areas, but for now the willingness to engage is a good sign.
On that note, I think Cooley showed signs of being in need of another season before reaching the NHL. He may certainly be capable of putting up 20 or 30 points - or more for a better team - but if the Devils draft him I would rather take him coming off a year at the University of Minnesota. Cooley needs to add at least 10 pounds before he reaches the NHL - and it would be preferable if he could reach the 190s as a 5’10” forward (he currently sits at 174). There are also a few technical skills that Cooley has not mastered, and he would be exploited for these flaws if he made the jump from the USDP to the NHL. If he does not keep his feet moving in the defensive zone, he will be caught flat-footed by passing and skating superior to what he has been facing. If he does not engage players in the slot physically, he needs to be more sure of passing lanes and deflect passes away from the danger zone. Finally, Cooley needs to be more aggressive and decisive when following puck carriers. As a center, he needs to be careful not to puck watch and not to be drawn out of position - so if he starts following a puck carrier to the boards, he needs to act quickly to cut down the carrier’s options to move the puck so his team is not suddenly defending the slot area without their center.
These flaws are few, and once Logan Cooley solves them I have little doubt in my mind that he is going to be an impact player. I am not sure how much his speedy flair will translate to the NHL - he certainly will not have as many breakaway opportunities. However, his shot and passing ability should keep him productive in the offensive zone - and his ability to quickly move the puck from the defensive zone up the ice will be a welcome addition to any team once he cleans up his defensive game. If he just focuses on that his first year at college before coming to the NHL, I think he could be a 20-goal, 60-point center for an extended period of time with a ceiling of 30 goals and 70 points at his peak. I do not think he is as much of a passer in mindset as he is a shooter, though I have not had the luxury of watching a full game tape from him. But given what I saw in his scouting videos, it seems like he will generate assists from his transition play leaving the defensive zone - especially when he passes for his wingers to gain the zone ahead. But when Cooley skates and dances up the ice - a sight to behold when he makes people miss - he moves with cutting precision as he moves into whatever position he can gain to shoot on goal. He is an electric, dynamic ice-tilter when he gets going - and I would be pleased if the Devils selected him.
What do you think of Logan Cooley? Do you think he would be a good selection for Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils? Do you think he would have benefitted from a better-scheduled World Juniors? How do you feel about using the selection to solidify the center position? Do you think he would be wasted as a 3C, or are the Devils so injury prone that it doesn’t matter? Between Cooley and Mercer, who would you rather see be the 3C? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.