As is tradition here at SB Nation, the site managers of the 32 team blogs were called upon for a mock draft of the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft ahead of the end of the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals. Which ended last night; congratulations to the Colorado Avalanche, whom has set a model for teams to follow for years to come. Players have been and will be picked. Trades could happen - thankfully not in the top 5 so I can include the SBN Mock in my Mock Draft Roundup that will be posted before the draft. Managers were reminded to make said picks. The New Jersey Devils were up early and so this pick was made way back in the morning of June 23. Shane Wright went first. As you can see from the headline, the choice for the New Jersey Devils was Logan Cooley, center from the United States National Team Development Program.
I can already predict that a number of you, the People Who Matter, have rushed to the comments to ask why it was not Juraj Slafkovsky. Allow me to go over the decision-making process for this year’s mock draft first.
To make this pick, I took what our writers have selected by that time. In the near future (July 5), we will post up an AAtJ Roundtable listing who each of us would take at second overall and answer some common questions ahead of the draft. In the case of any ties, I stated that I and/or Brian would make the final call. It turned out that we did have a tie. The tie was between Thanks to serendipity, Lady Luck, and fate, both me and Brian picked Cooley at 2. Based on my own decree, Cooley was the pick for the SBN Mock Draft.
Why was Logan Cooley Picked?
Chris profiled Logan Cooley back on May 31. I highly recommend you read that to learn about what kind of player Cooley is and what he could become. In the time between that post and this one, Cooley has been very much in the discussion for being a top-three pick in this draft. Elite Prospects may have ranked him fourth in their own rankings, but their consolidated ranking has him at seco’nd overall with plenty of #2s from the likes of Sportsnet, Recruit Scouting, Smaht Scouting, FC Hockey, and McKeen’s. In fact, back on June 15, Arpon Basu of The Athletic ($$) wrote an article titled “Logan Cooley deserves to be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick.” This is not a case of a bunch of enthusiasts just getting behind a guy for X or Y reason. Cooley is a legitimate top prospect for this year’s draft. When the mock draft round up is posted on July 6, expect to see Cooley’s name a lot in the top five of the mock drafts I find for that post.
Brian and the others who picked Cooley will explain their reasoning in the Roundtable. For this post, I will explain my own reasons. First, Cooley is an exceptional offensive talent. He has the tools of what any dynamic forward should have in today’s game. We have the evidence to back that up, as best presented by Will Scouch. Cooley is excellent at reading defenses, making passes into choice locations for shots, transitioning the puck into the offensive zone with possession, and taking shots. He can attack in multiple ways. I understand that Tom Fitzgerald spoke about not wanting too many of the same type of player. I counter by stating that you cannot have too many players who have this level of offensive skill. It is far easier (and cheaper) to get them in the draft when you can.
Second, Cooley is an exceptional skater. No matter what the role or position or the upside, being a good skater is always a positive. Being able to get to Point A to Point B efficiently will greatly help someone make at the NHL level. Being able to maneuver around defending players will make it possible to use those offensive skills. Being able to just burst away makes him able to join or create rushes - something the Devils have aimed for (to a fault) over the past two seasons. I cannot stress enough how valuable a good skater can be for a team and Cooley is arguably one of the best skaters in this entire draft class.
Third, as Chris specifically highlighted, Cooley is more than an offensive forward. He can and does come back on defense. He can and does help in his own zone. He can and does steal pucks, which creates quick transitions. He can and did kill penalties for the USNTDP. Yes, he is not a large player. He commits on defense and that is way more meaningful than just being large. Just as being a good skater is important in today’s game, many of the best players contribute in all three zones. Cooley has done that so far for the USNTDP and he could in the future.
Those three points combined yield a prospect who could end up being one of the best players, if not the best, of the entire draft class. If you have a shot at taking the best in the draft class, then just take him. I do not worry about the position. Zach Parise was drafted as a center and played left wing his entire time in NJ. Same for Patrik Elias until the Devils needed him to play center. Dawson Mercer was picked as a center and spent plenty of productive time at wing last season. Cooley just needs to be on the ice with others who can make things happen on offense; the potential for magical hockey to be made is real. Let the Devils coaching staff worry about that.
I will also point out that Cooley being picked does address a need in the pool. It is light on centers at the moment. Granted, Pavel Zacha, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Dawson Mercer jumped relatively quickly into the NHL. It is not a position with a lot of age on the squad. Still, the team has just Aarne Talvitie signed and a bunch of at least somewhat long shots in the system in Patrick Moynihan, Samu Salminen, Artem Shlaine, Jaromir Pytlik (who needs to be signed by 2024, not this year. My bad on that), and Nikola Pasic. Adding a listed center would not hurt the pool.
Why Cooley Over Slafkovsky?
Of course, these are all points in favor of Cooley. The question has to be answered: Why did you pick him over Slafkovsky? Again, this is my answer. The other writers can chime in with their own take if they feel they want to do so. For those unaware of Slafkovsky, check out Brian’s profile of the player from a few weeks ago.
I will state up front that I believe the New Jersey Devils in real life will likely pick Slafkovsky over Cooley. Fitzgerald has a thing for larger players (see: Mukhamadullin) and players who can conceivably play with “energy” (see: Stillman). His statement about not wanting too many of the same kind of player has been interpreted as wanting a larger, more physical player for the top six. Slafkovsky would fit all of that - while also possessing an actual skill set that has the potential of becoming a force on a wing for a top two line. For me personally, I would be fine with a Slafkovsky pick. I would welcome it. I would appreciate it. I would even be glad about it. I might even clap at a TV screen when it happens. There’s a lot to like about the player. I think his tools are going to have him thrive in the NHL. Yet, I have two concerns about Slafkovsky that I do not have with Cooley.
The first is the mobility. In years past, prospects like Slafkovsky get lauded for being “power forward” types that can be “difficult and heavy” to play against at the next level. A lot of them do not meet that, if they make it at all. That has tended to happen for two reasons. One, the prospect power forward learns the hard way that pro players are not as easily moved as players in their age group or other leagues. Two, the prospect power forward is not able to move as well as to keep up in pro hockey. Slafkovsky is different as his game does not have him just dominate players physically. He can and does more with his stick handling, puck protection, and vision. But the skating is not as exceptional. He is not slow, but he is not particularly mobile. As Josh Tessler wrote about him in a Smaht Scouting profile, his skating is average. In a smaller rink and against faster competition, that could be a growing pain at best and a limitation to what he can become at worst. Cooley does not have this issue.
The second is the development. In recent years, I have come to learn and accept that a prospect’s development is not solely on the prospect. The organization who picks the player is responsible for giving them the right feedback, suggestions for improvement, and preparing the player for the future. Cooley is the kind of player the Devils have arguably developed well in recent years. If you want to credit the Fitzgerald-Ruff regime for anything, then it is with the growth of Hischier, Bratt, Hughes, and Mercer. At a minimum, we can say the Devils have not hindered their development. If the Devils pick Cooley, they can have him follow their lead - which are some great examples to follow. Would they be able to do the same with Slafkovsky? I worry that the Devils (and other teams) see a 6’4”, 218 pound 18 year old player and have him focus solely on being physical and playing in tight places. I have no doubts that Slafkovsky can do all that and do it well. But I think to get the most out of his potential, he needs to be more than just a big man going hard to the dirty areas. The right organization can make that possible. Is that the Devils? I am uncertain. Again, Cooley does not have this issue.
This is all to explain why I favor Cooley over Slafkovsky. Other have their own takes and I respect it. Others (more?) will disagree and I will understand it. Again, I fully expect the Devils in the actual 2022 NHL Draft to pick Slafkovsky over Cooley on July 7. And I will be glad with that. It is just that if it was my choice to make, then it would be for Cooley. And as the voting broke down among us, Cooley got the edge of a tiebreaker. That is why he is the SBN Mock Draft pick.
Other Options at #2 in the 2022 SBN Mock Draft
This was not a simple choice to make. It was a literal tie among us. Plus, at second overall, the other options consisted of Everyone Not Named Shane Wright. Here are some legitimate options that could happen on July 7.
- Juraj Slafkovsky - I already explained why it could be him. Moving on.
- Simon Nemec (profiled here by Stephen) - There is an argument to be made that you cannot have too many right-sided defensemen with talent. Nemec would absolutely fit that bill. He is arguably the top-rated defenseman in this year’s draft class and could crack the Wright-Slafkovsky-Cooley trio on July 7. I personally would not pick the defender over Cooley over Slafkovsky. But if the decision to go on defense, then this is the guy I would want.
- David Jiricek (check the site tomorrow for his profile) - Jiricek was a highly touted defender. Right-shooting defender defense with a nasty streak and a lot of activity in all three zones. His skating was also a big plus. However, The issue is that he suffered a significant left knee injury that required surgery on his ligaments. It is unclear if he shown enough at the end of 2021-22 that he has fully recovered and can return to his previous form. The injury is enough to scare me off of him at #2 - and definitely rate Nemec ahead of him. Still, he has his fans (looking at you, Elite Prospects).
The rest of the field has some talented names and interesting prospects, but not players I would want the Devils to go and take at second overall. I like Matthew Savoie and Frank Nazar III, but not at #2. Ditto for a Joakim Kemell or even someone like Cutter Gauthier. This year’s class has a group of five that is above the rest of the bunch in my view and those five are Wright, Cooley, Slafkovsky, Nemec, and Jiricek. And if anyone had to drop from those five, then I would move down Jiricek to the field.
Again, I can totally understand if you disagree and you think the mock draft pick should have been Slafkovsky (or Nemec or Jiricek?). I am of the belief that Logan Cooley would be a fantastic selection at second overall. He has been touted as one of the top forwards available in this draft class for a reason, he is one of the draft’s best skaters, and he has the skillset that comes at a premium and can elevate an team for years to come. I am not alone in this; again, it was a tie between Cooley and Slafkovsky on our end.
I encourage you to give us your take on our mock draft pick for SBN. Who would you have picked at second overall? Would you have also picked Logan Cooley? Would you have picked Juraj Slafkovsky instead? Or even Simon Nemec or David Jiricek? Or perhaps someone else entirely? More importantly: Why? Please let us know in the comments and/or even vote in our poll for our SBN Mock Draft pick. Please also check out SB Nations’ page for the 2022 mock draft for the other picks. Thank you for reading.
Our pick in the 2022 SBN NHL Mock Draft is Logan Cooley. Do you agree with our pick?
This poll is closed
No, it should have been Slafkovsky.
No, it should have been Nemec.
No, it should have been Jiricek.
No, it should have been someone else (specified in the comments)