The NHL Draft is this Thursday and Friday in Montreal – round 1 on Thursday and rounds 2-7 on Friday – and typically it has been a blow-over for Michigan State.
Incoming freshman defenseman Viktor Hurtig was drafted in the sixth-round by the New Jersey Devils last year, but that was well before last week when he was added to the roster. Forward Josh Nodler was a fifth-round pick by the Calgary Flames in 2019, but departed this spring for UMass.
That leaves the Krygier twins, Christian and Cole, as the others who have been drafted into the NHL. Both defensemen, who will return this fall for a fifth season, were selected five spots away from each other in the seventh round of the 2018 draft. For comparison's sake, Michigan had four players selected in the top-five of last summer’s draft.
That could change this week as MSU could have two defensemen picked in the 2022 draft: David Gucciardi and Jack Sparkes.
Gucciardi is the more recognizable name, given he has actually played one season for the Spartans. Sparkes committed to Michigan State in November and is expected to join the team in one year. Perhaps coincidentally, they are both Toronto natives.
Round three and beyond is where it gets murky and quite unpredictable. Gucciardi is at No. 57 in ESPN’s prospect rankings, indicating he could go as early as the second round. On the other hand, The Athletic doesn’t have Gucciardi ranked at all in the 131-player big board. The vice versa is true for Sparkes, who is ranked No. 72 by The Athletic, but unranked by ESPN. It’s possible that neither player has his name called.
If Sparkes were to be drafted, it could be pointed to one key attribute: his size. He’s a 6-foot-8, 234 pound, 18-year old behemoth. Sparkes played last winter for the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, accumulating five goals and seven assists in 37 games. Sparkes makes sense as an intriguing late-round prospect on his sheer size and potential to improve his skills once he arrives at MSU.
Gucciardi flashed as a freshman in 2021-22, particularly in the December Great Lakes Invitational. In the two-game tournament, he scored three of Michigan State’s four goals, including the overtime winner versus a very strong Michigan Tech team. His play dipped a bit in the second half as the team struggled, but he finished with five goals and six assists, leading the freshman class in goals.
Adding two more NHL draftees could do wonders for new head coach Adam Nightingale as he attempts to lift the Spartans from the Big Ten basement. The program, finally, has the necessary Munn Ice Arena renovations, and adding a couple NHL logos to the line chart will only help Michigan State.
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