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2022 NHL draft: Scouting the North American forwards the Flyers could target at pick No. 5

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 5/20/2022 Olivia Reiner, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Heading into the 2022 NHL draft, which is scheduled for July 7 and 8 in Montréal, the Flyers hold the fifth-overall pick, the team’s highest selection since Chuck Fletcher took over as general manager in 2018.

If the Flyers decide to stay put, Fletcher will have his pick of players, and the organization is not set on drafting a particular position at that spot.

Scouting the top European forwards the Flyers could target at pick No. 5

Here’s a look at three of the top North American forwards in this year’s draft, outside of the top two (Shane Wright and Logan Cooley). This is part two of a three-part series highlighting players who may be available to the Flyers at No. 5. The first part highlighted the top available European forwards, and the third part will focus on a few of the top defensemen in the 2022 draft class.

Matthew Savoie

Age: 18

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 179 lbs.

Position: Center

Shoots: Right

Club: Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

Overview

Savoie spent his first full major junior season in the WHL with the dominant Winnipeg Ice, who finished atop the Eastern Conference (53-10-3) and are gearing up for the conference finals against the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Savoie led the Ice in scoring with 90 points (35 goals, 55 assists) in 65 games, finishing nine points ahead of 2020 Flyers sixth-round pick Connor McClennon (43 goals, 38 assists). Savoie notched 34 of those points (12 goals, 22 assists) on the Ice’s power play, which was the best in the WHL (27.4%). He was seventh in the WHL in scoring and ranked No. 1 among rookies.

The Ice selected Savoie No. 1 overall in the 2019 WHL bantam draft and took Conor Geekie, another 2022 NHL draft-eligible prospect expected to go high, with the No. 2 pick. Savoie applied for exceptional status before getting drafted, which would have granted him the ability to play in the WHL for the full 2019-20 season at just 15 years old, but he was denied by Hockey Canada. Ultimately, Savoie was able to play 22 games that season as an underage player, registering seven assists.

Strengths

As his statistics suggest, Savoie is a gifted scorer who also possesses elite passing capabilities. Not only is he “super skilled,” according to Daily Faceoff NHL draft and prospects analyst Chris Peters, Savoie plays hard and doesn’t look for shortcuts. Savoie is undersize, and Peters said his success at the NHL level will hinge on his ability to maintain the competitiveness he displayed in the WHL.

“I see a player that has a lot of ability and skill and excitement and skating and all these different things,” Peters said. “But, it still comes back to will the way he plays work at the next level? And I think for him, that competitive drive is really what leads me to believe that yeah, it will. He’ll be an NHL player.”

Areas of improvement

One of Savoie’s biggest knocks has been his skating, although Peters said he thinks it’s better than he’s given credit for. Regardless, there aren’t many 5-foot-9 centers in the NHL, and Savoie may need to move to the wing to have a productive NHL career. Additionally, Peters noted that Savoie faded in and out of games at times, perhaps because of how talented the Ice were this season.

“Sometimes he was very effective and sometimes you didn’t necessarily notice he was out there,” Peters added.

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Cutter Gauthier

Age: 18

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 194 lbs.

Position: Center/left wing

Shoots: Left

Club: U.S. U18 (National Team Development Program)

Overview

In 54 games with the U.S. NTDP this season, Gauthier joined elite company, including Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Jack Eichel, by scoring more than 30 goals in a season with the program. Gauthier finished second on the team in goals with 34 and had 31 assists for 65 points. He showcased his ability to play center or left wing and also killed penalties and starred on the power play.

Gauthier also put together an impressive U18 World Championship for the U.S., scoring three goals and dishing out six assists in six games to help the team earn silver. He registered at least a point in each of Team USA’s games and tied for third on the team in scoring.

Next season, Gauthier plans to play at Boston College. His father, Sean Gauthier, a goalie, was drafted No. 181 overall in 1991 by the Winnipeg Jets and spent 14 years playing professional hockey in North America and Sweden, where Cutter was born.

Strengths

Gauthier is a goal scorer with size, power, and strength, traits that project well to the NHL level. He is strong on the puck and has a “rocket” of a shot. Peters said Gauthier has top-line scoring upside, and he just began to tap into his potential only this season. In his post-draft lottery mock draft, Peters had Gauthier going to the Flyers at No. 5, hypothetically supplying the franchise with much-needed size, skill, and scoring ability.

“All I’ve been hearing for the last couple of weeks and even through the under-18 World Championship is Gauthier [is] too low on the public lists,” Peters said. “He’s too low. NHL teams have him way higher. There are teams that have him in their top three.”

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Areas of improvement

For Gauthier to take the next step in his career, Peters would like to see him improve his skating.

“If he can get that little bit of separation speed, that explosiveness, that can make the biggest difference for him,” Peters said. “I’m not super concerned about it or anything like that, like I don’t think that it’s going to hold him back, because I think he thinks the game at a pretty high level as well.”

Jimmy Snuggerud

Age: 17

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 185 lbs.

Position: Forward

Shoots: Right

Club: U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Overview

After posting 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 45 games with the U17 NTDP team in 2020-21, Snuggerud continued to grow his game in his second season with the program. In 59 games, he registered 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points, good for sixth on the team.

Snuggerud also competed for the U.S. at the U18 World Championship, notching three goals and four assists in six games.

He is committed to the University of Minnesota next season. His father, Dave, played four years in the NHL, including 14 games for the Flyers during the 1992-93 season.

Strengths

Snuggerud has the size and the strength to win puck battles and be difficult to play against below the face-off dots and in the corners. He also has a good shot, and Peters said he could pan out as a 20-goal scorer in the NHL. But he doesn’t have a dynamic skill set outside of his shot, setting him up to be more of a two-way, middle-six forward.

“Secondary scoring, he’s hard on the forecheck,” Peters said. “He might play on your PK. I think he has tremendous competitiveness and then he uses his frame extremely well. So I think that versatility in his game in why he’s a valuable prospect.”

Areas of improvement

According to Peters, Snuggerud doesn’t have dynamic hands — “He’s got good hands” — and his work ethic is what he has going for him.

“He’s not winning a lot of those one-on-one battles where you’re trying to take a defender on and creating that extra space,” Peters said. “That’s usually done for him by some of his linemates.”

©2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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