The Detroit Red Wings need help at center. Captain Dylan Larkin has cemented himself as a quality top-line center who would be an elite second-line center if the Red Wings found someone who could slot in above him. Therein lies the problem, since the Red Wings have been unable to find another top-six center, with young pros like Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen emerging as NHL contributors but not as top-six centermen.
In hopes of finding the Red Wings’ next center, I’ve looked at the best options the organization is likely to find in each phase of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and will offer a player who is likely to be available when the Red Wings are on the board, with 10 draft selections.
Of course, Detroit would never select 10 centers, but it is a significant need for the team that I wanted to consider the highest upside centermen throughout the draft. There are plenty of excellent wingers, defensemen, and goalies available when the Red Wings select, but center is a premium position. I’ll start with the eighth overall selection and make my way down to the 212th overall pick, so prepare to hear some brand-new names as we get deeper into the draft.
8th overall: Matthew Savoie – Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Rankings: Central Scouting (CS): 4th (NA Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: 6th
While there are arguments to be made for a different center to be selected at eighth overall such as Brad Lambert or Marco Kasper, Matthew Savoie is the best fit for the Red Wings and has an incredibly high upside as a dynamic offensive player. Savoie led all first-year eligible Western Hockey League (WHL) players in scoring with an impressive 90 points in 65 games.
The top-end of the 2022 Draft lacks some dynamic offensive skill, and the only player who gives Savoie a run for his money is Logan Cooley, who is a lock for the top five and is most likely to be drafted third overall. Savoie’s playmaking and stickhandling would immediately make him the best prospect in the Red Wings’ pipeline, provided Simon Edvinsson officially graduates from prospect to NHL player next season.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Despite his smaller stature (5-foot-9), Savoie’s excellent speed and agility make him an incredibly elusive skater. His ability to drive play and frustrate opposing checkers reminds me of Vancouver Canucks winger Connor Garland. Savoie drives play at an excellent level and is an absolute pest on the forecheck, which gives me a lot of hope that he will succeed in the NHL as a center despite lacking the ideal size for the NHL. He would be an absolute home run for the Red Wings at eighth overall.
40th overall: David Goyette – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Rankings: CS: 13th (NA Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: 39th
Though he might be gone by the time pick 40 comes around, David Goyette would be an excellent option for the Red Wings should he remain on the draft board. Goyette impressed in his first Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season last year when he scored 73 points in 66 games, the most by an OHL rookie.
Excellent offensive production is a huge part of what makes Goyette such a polarizing prospect, so what aspect of his game is preventing him from being drafted in the top half of the first round? His defensive effort and consistency are the biggest factors, but he can also be a bit too reliant on his own skill sometimes, which shows up in a relatively high number of turnovers.
Goyette is what many call a “raw prospect” since he already possesses the offensive skills and general athleticism to become an effective second-line center in the NHL, but his decision-making and consistency of effort leave something to be desired. Considering that he is only 18 years old, there is a good chance he can pull it all together and become an impactful middle-six center, at least, and if the Red Wings’ amateur scouting staff agrees, then Goyette could be an excellent option with their 40th pick.
52nd overall: Bryce McConnell-Barker – Soo Greyhounds (OHL)
Rankings: CS: 34th (NA Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: 43rd
After beginning the season with some first-round buzz, Bryce McConnell-Barker got off to a rather rough start which saw his draft stock plummet to the point where he was rarely in the second-round conversation. With this being his first season in the OHL, it took McConnell-Barker some time to adjust to a new level of competition, but once he did, his potential showed itself.
McConnell-Barker’s play in the second half of the season was greatly improved, showing off his solid two-way play as well as his ability to produce consistent offense at even-strength. His work ethic was never in question as he is always giving it his all as soon as he touches the ice, causing turnovers and consistently competing in physical puck battles against much larger opponents. The only concern with McConnell-Barker is that his ultimate offensive potential might not be quite enough to earn him a top-six role in the NHL, though he will have lots of time to prove that wrong.
73rd overall: Topi Rönni, – Tappara (Liiga)
Rankings: CS: 31st (EU Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: 71st
Topi Rönni is an excellent two-way center who excelled in the Finnish U20 league, where he scored 29 points in 30 games while dictating the pace of play on both ends of the ice. He spent 18 games in Liiga, Finland’s top professional men’s league, where he scored four points as a 17-year-old. Tappara, his Liiga team, had championship aspirations, which meant that their young players earned very few minutes playing depth roles.
Rönni is set to return to Liiga next season and will likely be given a bit more responsibility early in the season as a chance to prove himself to his coaching staff. It would be an impressive feat if he can earn a larger role on such a good professional team in his age-18 season and produce offense at a higher level.
While his offensive game seems unlikely to wow anyone at the NHL level, Rönni’s two-way game translated well in Liiga last season and could turn him into an excellent match-up center in the NHL in a few years. Rönni’s speed, work ethic, and defensive positioning are all above-average, which gives him a real chance at playing a meaningful role in the NHL despite his lack of flashy offensive numbers.
105th overall: Servac Petrovsky – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Rankings: CS: 58th (NA Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: 99th
Servac Petrovsky has been a highly-touted center prospect in Slovakia for a few years now, though his draft stock took a bit of a hit this year while he adjusted his game to North American ice in the OHL. In the 2020-21 season, Petrovsky played in the second-tier Slovakian professional league as a member of the U18 Slovakian national team, where he scored 32 points in 26 games against men. He was also a member of the U20 Slovakian National team that competed in the COVID-shortened 2022 World Junior Championships, where he played in two matches before the tournament was postponed.
After working through some growing pains, Petrovsky showed well toward the end of the season as a goal-scoring center who can do a bit of everything on both ends of the ice. The only gripe about his game is a lack of offensive consistency, as he had several pointless streaks of four or five games this season. If he is able to nail down a few of the nuances of playing in North America, then Petrovsky projects as a do-it-all two-way center who can provide solid scoring depth while playing in the middle-six.
113th overall: Cole Spicer – United States National Training Development Program (USHL)
Rankings: CS: 121st (NA Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: 134th
It’s not often that you hear a 5-foot-10 center described as being a formidable net-front presence, but Cole Spicer is an exception. While his stout frame (174 pounds) allows him to play bigger than he is, the main reason that Spicer is so effective in front of the net is his high effort level and great vision, which often lands him in the right place at the right time when the goalie allows a rebound.
Spicer is rarely the most skilled player on the ice, but that doesn’t make him any less effective, as his smooth skating and high-end work ethic make him an impactful player in all situations. He could become a hard-working center in the NHL who is at his best when paired with electric offensive talents that he can play off of and stabilize, which could be a possibility considering the excellent offensive wingers that the Red Wings have on their roster and in their prospect pipeline.
129th overall: Ben King – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Rankings: CS: 96th (NA Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: Unranked
What would you say if I told you that in the fourth or fifth rounds of the 2022 Draft, the Red Wings have a real chance at drafting a 6-foot-3 center who led the WHL in goal scoring and was second in total points? You would probably say, “What’s the catch?” Because that sounds like the profile of a top-10 pick.
The catch with Ben King is that he is a double-overaged player who was first eligible for the 2020 Draft and has gone undrafted in the two most recent drafts. In fact, he is the first of three consecutive overagers on this list who the Red Wings would benefit from taking a chance on. However, King’s offensive results and size will certainly be too tantalizing for him to go undrafted again, and I hope that the Red Wings are the team that selects him.
Again, he led the WHL in goals with 52 (one more than 2023 first-overall candidate Connor Bedard) and was second in total points with 105 in 68 games, behind his linemate and fellow undrafted player Arshdeep Bains, who recently signed an entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks. King looks like he will either dominate the WHL again next season or be a meaningful player in the AHL, and I would love to see him playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins.
137th overall: Logan Morrison – Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Rankings: CS: Unranked, THW – Baracchini Ranking: 115th
The second of the undrafted trio is Logan Morrison, who was a relatively unknown commodity coming into this season after playing zero competitive games in 2020-21 because the OHL season never got off the ground. He showed decent offensive potential before the shutdown, putting up 79 points in 106 OHL games from 2018-2020, though his defensive game left much to be desired.
The year off allowed Morrison to develop his two-way game to the point that it became a strength rather than a weakness, and he exploded offensively while putting in a much more reliable defensive effort. He ended the season with 100 points in 60 OHL games, but that wasn’t enough for him to earn a spot in the 2022 Draft, according to most talent evaluators. His playoff performance was absolutely incredible and provided a significant enough boost to his draft stock that Morrison seems more likely to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round than the sixth or seventh. He scored an astounding 39 points in 19 playoff games as the Hamilton Bulldogs won the OHL Championship before scoring eight more points in five games at the Memorial Cup, where the Bulldogs placed second.
201st overall: Stephen Halliday – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
Rankings: CS: 161st (NA Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: 142nd
Stephen Halliday is another overaged player who was first eligible for the 2020 Draft, rounding out the trio. This season, Halliday led the United States Hockey League (USHL) in scoring with an impressive 95 points in 62 games. He is a decent skater for his size (6-foot-4, 209 pounds), and as a result, he is very difficult to stop when he gets moving quickly in a straight line.
His success last season in the USHL is partly due to his physical maturity, which is well above league-average, though the improvements that he has made to his skating and shooting are likely the biggest reasons for the remarkable year-over-year improvement in his game. He projects as a depth forward who can provide scoring and a physical edge when needed.
212th overall: Samu Bau – HIFK U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Rankings: CS: 67th (EU Skaters), THW – Baracchini Ranking: Unranked
Samu Bau is a big center (6-foot-4) and an excellent skater for his size. He played in the top Finnish junior league last season, where he scored 18 points in 36, though his offensive game shone a lot brighter than his point total did. He often played up and down the lineup, wherever his coach needed him to be, which shows the level of trust that his coach had in him.
Bau is set to play for Ilves in Liiga next season, where he hopes to earn a regular role on one of the best teams in the league as an 18-year-old. If he can manage to stay in Liiga all season, rather than being sent back to the U20 league, then he can show just how high his offensive potential is with stronger teammates. Since his skating is above average, and he has such a big, strong body, I expect him to fit in well at the professional level, with the only major learning curve coming on offense as he adapts to the better defensive structures of his opponents.
Plenty of Intriguing Center Options
The Red Wings will have many opportunities to work on filling out their center depth when the draft begins in Montreal this Thursday. From the first round to the seventh, there are excellent center prospects who will be available at every stage of the 2022 Draft.
Which of these center prospects do you think the Red Wings will select? Do you think the Red Wings should pick Savoie at 8th overall or should they look to the larger centers like Kasper? What are your thoughts on drafting overaged players? How many centers do you predict that the Red Wings will select on draft day? Sound off in the comments below.
Logan is a sports writer for the Detroit Red Wings as a member of The Hockey Writers team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing. Logan also writes about more general hockey topics on his blog https://www.crashthecrease.blog.