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The first round of the NHL Draft took place on Friday night and the winner seemed to be the University of Michigan as they had three players go in the top-five as well as Luke Hughes, who went fourth and is committed to be a Wolverine next season.
Here is the first round of the 2021 Draft:
1. Buffalo - Owen Power (D)
Power was 17 when he started his college hockey career at the University of Michigan last season and he didn’t look out of place. He’s a smart defenseman with two-way capabilities that every NHL team is looking for at all times. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, which always helps a player’s draft stock. The 18-year-old got to play some important minutes on a Michigan team that featured other very good NHL prospects. He was second on the team in scoring by a defenseman, with three goals and 16 points in 26 games (only Flyers first-rounder Cam York picked up more points on the blue line for Michigan last season). Power didn’t play for Canada at the World Juniors this year, but he picked up three assists during his country’s run to the World Hockey Championship gold medal last spring. Although Power might need longer to develop than what some are used to for a first overall pick and it's entirely possible he won't play in the NHL next season, the Sabres are getting a blueliner with top pairing potential. Between Power and Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo should have an ideal one-two combo in a few years.
2. Seattle - Matthew Beniers (C)
The Kraken get a much-needed first line center in their inaugural season, something that every team in the NHL covets. The 2020-21 season, as a whole, was very good for Berniers' draft stock. Not only did he pick up 10 goals and 24 points during his freshman year at the University of Michigan, he also starred for Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Even though he was the youngest player on the roster, Berniers stood out for all the right reasons and he helped his team come away with a gold medal. The 18-year-old has a nice combination of size, skill, hockey IQ and compete, that every NHL team craves. It'll be interesting to see how quickly he can make the leap to the NHL, but he can quickly become a quality NHLer in the right situation. There's a good chance that he will play on a first line at the highest level down the road but he is leaning towards returning to Michigan for his sophomore season in 2021-22.
3. Anaheim - Mason McTavish (C)
McTavish was forced to spend the 2020-21 season in Switzerland with Olten (second division) because the Ontario Hockey League didn’t have a season. The Swiss-born forward put up some impressive numbers there, as he had nine goals and 11 points in 13 games. As his numbers from last season would indicate, McTavish has a really good shot and he isn’t afraid to get it off. He also has some good size, as he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. That combination of scoring and size is something every team in the NHL covets. He collected five goals and six assists in seven games with Canada at the U-18 World Junior Hockey Championship. He certainly has top-line center upside.
4. New Jersey - Luke Hughes (D)
Hughes will be united with his older brother Jack Hughes in New Jersey. He's also the brother of Canucks defenseman Quinn. Despite being bigger than both his brothers, at six-feet, two inches and 175 pounds, Hughes still has the ability to skate a high level and carry the puck with ease. He picked up 34 points in 38 games with the U.S. National Development Program last season and he’s going to be taking his talents to the University of Michigan next season. Hughes still has some work to do on his defensive game, but he’s already started making small improvements in that area. While he might not play with the Devils next season, he has all the skills necessary to eventually become a top-pairing blueliner.
5. Columbus - Kent Johnson (C)
That is three Michigan players in the top-five picks and possibly four if Luke Hughes goes there next season as anticipated. Johnson is as skilled as anyone in the draft. He’s never too shy to attempt a slick move in practice or in a game, but will he be able to get away with those fancy moves at the NHL level? That’s the big question. The 18-year-old had nine goals and 18 assists in 26 games as a freshman last season and he had a ridiculous 101 points in 52 games the previous year with the Trail Smoke Eaters in the BCHL. No one can question his offensive ability. His career will be determined by whether or not he adds a few more layers to his game. But his potential is undeniable.
6. Detroit - Simon Edvinsson (D)
The 18-year-old got his first taste of Swedish Hockey League action this year, while suiting up in 10 games for Frolunda and he registered one assist during that stretch. With minutes being hard to come by on that team, he was loaned out to Vasteras IK in the Swedish second division and he managed to put up five points in 14 contests. Edvinsson is a big body (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) and he plays with a bit of an edge. He’s also comfortable with the puck on his stick and he can skate well for a bigger body. The young Swede accumulated four points and eight penalty minutes in seven games at the Under-18 World Hockey Championship and his team came away with a bronze medal. Edvinsson has top-pairing upside, but he will need some time to reach his ceiling.
7. San Jose - William Eklund (C)
The Sharks are getting one of the smartest players in the entire draft class and his qualities at both ends of the ice are obvious when you watch him play. Eklund played an important role on Frolunda last season, as he picked up 11 goals and 12 assists in 40 games this season. Like many prospects his size (5-foot-10, 172 pounds), there will be questions about his stature, but his skill-set should allow him to flourish in some capacity at the NHL level. It’ll be interesting to see how his offense translates to the NHL level. He’ll probably have to spend at least one or two more years in Sweden before attempting to join San Jose. The Sharks are getting one of the smartest players in the entire draft class and his qualities at both ends of the ice are obvious when you watch him play. Eklund played an important role on Frolunda last season, as he picked up 11 goals and 12 assists in 40 games this season. Like many prospects his size (5-foot-10, 172 pounds), there will be questions about his stature, but his skill-set should allow him to flourish in some capacity at the NHL level. It’ll be interesting to see how his offense translates to the NHL level. He’ll probably have to spend at least one or two more years in Sweden before attempting to join San Jose.
8. Los Angeles - Brandt Clarke (D)
The Kings already had the deepest farm system in the NHL and they just got deeper with the pick of Clarke. Because the Ontario Hockey League didn’t have a season in 2020-21, Clarke was unable to suit up for the Barrie Colts. Instead, he went over to the Slovakian League to play for Nove Zamky. Only three defensemen on the team picked up more points than Clarke as he had six goals and 13 points in 26 games, but they all played plenty more than the young Clarke. The 18-year-old didn’t look out of place at the professional level. His talent and smarts were on full display. In order for Clarke to reach his full potential at the NHL level, he’ll need to work on his overall game and more importantly, his skating. He has the ability to develop into a slick top-four defenseman at the highest level.
9. Arizona – Dylan Guenther (RW)
The Coyotes received the draft choice as part of Friday's trade with Vancouver that sent Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Canucks. If there’s one thing Guenther does at an exception rate, it’s score goals. In 2019-20, during his first full season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he managed to find the back of the net a respectable 26 times in 58 games. He followed that up by scoring 12 times in 12 contests in 2020-21. The 18-year-old’s overall game still needs some work, but he’s improved in that area already and he’s become a bit more of a complete offensive weapon. With a little more time, he could become an impact player at the highest level. He added four goals and three assists in seven games while helping Canada win gold at this year’s Under-18 World Hockey Championship tournament. Don’t be surprised if he ends up becoming a 35-plus goal-scorer at the NHL level.
10. Ottawa – Tyler Boucher (RW)
This is something of a surprise pick by Ottawa, but there was no census for this stage of the draft. Boucher is the son of former NHL goaltender Brian Boucher. The 18-year-old plays a mean game and he isn’t shy about throwing his weight around all over the ice. He’s a power-forward who can put the puck in the net, too. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is one of the most physical players in the draft and if he can improve his overall game, he might have a nice future ahead of him. He had three goals and two assists in five games with the U.S. National Development Program last season. He might be a bit of project, but the Senators are getting a player who is hard-nosed. Where he plays in the Senators' lineup will depend on his offensive development over the next few years.
11. Arizona – No Pick
The pick was forfeited as a result of Arizona violating the NHL’s Combine Testing Policy by conducting physical tests on 2020 draft-eligible players prior to the Combine in 2020. The penalty was announced on August 26, 2020 and the Coyotes also lost their second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft as part of the penalty in addition to their first-rounder this season.
12. Columbus – Cole Sillinger (C)
The Blue Jackets took Sillinger with their second of three first round picks as they acquired this one earlier in the day from Chicago in the Seth Jones trade. Sillinger is the son of long-time NHL center, Mike Sillinger. He spent the 2019-20 season with Medicine Hat in the Western Hockey League, but the delayed start of the season forced him to suit up for Sioux Falls in the USHL where he picked up 24 goals and 22 assists in only 31 contests. The 18-year-old is a finisher. That’s what he does very, very well. His shot is great and he isn’t shy about going to the dirty areas of the ice. He needs to show a little more consistency with his effort and like a lot of prospects his age, his skating could use some work. If he’s able to put it all together, he won’t move around the NHL as much as his father did. He has all the tools to become a 25-plus goal-scorer at the highest level.
13. Calgary – Matthew Coronato (RW)
Coronato put up some impressive numbers with the USHL’s Chicago Steel last season, as he had 48 goals and 85 points in 51 games. He has good hockey IQ and he obviously knows how to create offense, but whether or not he can take his game to another level before he hits the professional ranks remains to be seen. He isn’t overly big either, as he’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds. The 18-year-old will play college hockey at Harvard next season. If he’s able to put it all together, he could develop into a useful top-six winger in the NHL.
14. Buffalo – Isak Rosen (RW)
The Sabres acquired this pick from the Philadelphia Flyers as part of the Rasmus Ristolainen trade. Rosen is a little light, as he’s listed at 5-foot-11, 156 pounds, but he still has time to add some muscle. He’s skilled, he moves well on the ice and he’s capable of making plays all over the ice. He had just one assist in 22 games with Leksand in the Swedish First Division last season, which isn’t surprising given his age and size. He had seven goals and two assists in seven games at the U-18 World Hockey Championship. The 18-year-old is talented enough to play in with the Flyers, but if he doesn’t get bigger and stronger, there’s no way he’s going to make it at the highest level. He has middle-six forward upside.
15. Detroit – Sebastian Cossa (G)
The Red Wings picked the first netminder in the draft after a trade with Dallas as Detroit gave up picks 23, 48 and 138 in this year's draft. Like a lot of the quality netminders in the NHL, Cossa is blessed with great size. He’s listed at 6-foot-6, 212 pounds and, as you’d imagine, he covers a lot of the net and opposing players have to work hard to beat him. The 18-year-old had a 17-1-1 record with a 1.57 goals-against-average and a .941 save percentage on a very good Edmonton Oil Kings team. The other thing he does very well is play the puck, which is a nice bonus and something that his Detroit teammates will appreciate. Like many goalies his age, all he needs is more game-action. But he has the size and ability to become a solid number one goalie in the NHL in a few years.
16. New York Rangers – Brendan Othmann (LW)
Othmann spent the 2020-21 season in the second division over in Switzerland with Olten. There, he had seven goals and nine assists in 34 games which isn’t terrible for a teenager playing against much older competition. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of numbers he puts up at the pro level because the rest of his game is relatively solid. He’s able to get under the opposition’s skin and he isn’t shy about mixing it up before and after whistles. There’s a chance he could develop into a middle-six forward, but if the offense doesn’t translate at the next level, he could just be a good third-line player.
17. St. Louis – Zachary Bolduc (C)
With Quebec League teammate Alexis Lafreniere off with the New York Rangers in 2020-21, Bolduc became the big man on campus with the Rimouski Oceanic last season. The 18-year-old managed to finish first on the team in scoring (29 points in 27 games) and he was one of three players on his team to hit double figures in goals (he scored 10 times). Bolduc is a smart player with good offensive instincts, but the points seem to come and go over the course of a season. He has good size (six-foot-one, 180 pounds) and a nice shot, but he needs to prove that he can be more consistent. He has the tools to become a second-line center for the Blues down the road, but he has a lot to prove before he gets there.
18. Winnipeg – Chaz Lucius (RW)
Lucius is a smart player with good offensive instincts. Despite missing the start of the U.S. National Development Program’s season because of knee surgery, he was able to come back and not miss a beat. He managed to accumulate 13 goals and five assists in 12 games and he didn’t appear to be rusty at all. Lucius has been able to find the back of the net at every level he’s played and that will hopefully continue in the NHL. He'll play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth next year where he’ll need to improve his skating in a big way. He's at a couple of seasons away from contributing at the highest level.
19. Nashville – Fedor Svechkov (C)
Svechkov is a very talented prospect with good awareness and hockey IQ for his age. The 18-year-old has the ability to pick up points, but he’s also pretty responsible all over the ice. After playing in the Russian second division and junior league last season, he went on to pick up an impressive four goals and 10 points in seven games for Russia at the U-18 World Junior Hockey Championship. Svechkov has all the tools to be a solid regular at the NHL level, but it’ll be interesting to see how well his offense abilities translate to the North American game. He projects as a two-way second-line center in the NHL down the road.
20. Minnesota – Jesper Wallstedt (G)
This pick belonged to the Edmonton Oilers, but they traded the 20th pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for the 22nd and 90th selections. Despite the fact that he’s still only 18 years old, Wallstedt managed to put up solid numbers at Lulea’s starter in the Swedish League last season. He had a 12-10-0 record with a 2.23 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage in 2020-21. He also played in two games for Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championship, which is a competition that typically has players that are a year or two older than he was last winter. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder moves well and he always seems to be in control between the pipes. It takes time for goalies to reach their full potential, but Wallstedt has the ability to become a clear-cut starting netminder for the Wild in a few years.
21. Boston – Fabian Lysell (RW)
There’s no denying Lysell’s offensive abilities. The young Swede knows how to create offensive opportunities and he isn’t shy about putting the puck in the net. The 18-year-old’s numbers in the Swedish League were nothing to write home about, as he collected two goals and one assist in 26 games, but that isn’t abnormal for a teenager in one of the top leagues in Europe. Lysell put up an impressive three goals and nine points in seven games for Sweden at the U-18 World Junior Hockey Championship. Despite his obvious talent, there are questions surrounding Lysell’s lack of maturity.
22. Edmonton – Xavier Bourgault (C)
The Oilers traded down from the 20th pick with Minnesota and selected Bourgault. He has put up some good numbers in his second and third seasons in the Quebec League. He had 71 points in 63 games during the 2019-20 season and 40 points in 29 games last season. The 18-year-old is clearly blessed with offensive talent and creativity, but his overall game needs some work. His play without the puck is a question mark and his skating needs to improve if he’s going to become an important part of an NHL team’s roster down the road. Bourgault has one year remaining in the QMJHL and he’ll likely spend some time in the AHL once he’s done in the junior ranks. If he’s able to put it all together, he can become a top-six forward at the highest level.
23. Dallas – Wyatt Johnston (C)
Johnston is a smart, two-way center, who does a lot of things right at both ends of the ice. The issue is that he didn’t play much competitive hockey during the 2020-21 season. He had a solid 30 points in 53 games with OHL Windsor in 2019-20, but unlike a lot of other OHL prospects, he didn’t go over to Europe when the league failed to start up again because of the pandemic. Thankfully, the 18-year-old made Team Canada’s U-18 squad and he produced two goals and two assists in seven tournament games. He still has two full years of junior eligibility remaining and he’s good enough to make huge improvements to his game in the near future. His offensive game at the pro level will determine whether or not he can be a second-line center for the Stars down the road.
24. Florida – Mackie Samoskevich (C)
Samoskevich is blessed with high-end offensive talent that tends to pop up here and there, but he’s going to have to be way more consistent if he’s going to make a dent at the NHL level. The 18-year-old had a decent year with USHL Chicago, as he collected 37 points in 36 games in 2020-21 but those numbers don’t do his upside justice. He moves well on the ice, he’s a smart player and he’s able to play with skill. He’ll continue to work on his game at the University of Michigan next season. Samoskevich will need time in the NCAA and in the AHL before he makes the leap to the Panthers.
25. Columbus – Corson Ceulemans (D)
This is Columbus' third selection of the first round. The pick was acquired in the trade that sent Nick Foligno to Toronto. It’s hard to get a read on a prospect playing in the Alberta Junior A League, but Ceulemans looked pretty good when he suited up for Canada at this year’s U-18 World Junior Hockey Championship. The 18-year-old managed to pick up a goal and seven assists in six tournament games and he clearly looked like he belonged. His offensive ability is undeniable, as he skates well, he’s comfortable with the puck on his stuck and he has good size and strength (he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds already). Ceulemans will have to work on his overall game before he makes a dent in the NHL, but he’s got plenty of time to develop in that area. He’s headed to the University of Wisconsin next season.
26. Minnesota – Carson Lambos (D)
This pick originally belonged to the Pittsburgh Penguins and went to Carolina as part of the Jason Zucker trade. With a delayed start to the Western Hockey League season, Lambos decided to head over to Finland to continue his development. He suited up for JyP HT Jyvaskyla’s U-18, U-20 and senior teams before returning to Canada to play in the WHL bubble with the Winnipeg Ice. Lambos’ WHL season lasted just two games, as he needed surgery on an undisclosed injury. The 18-year-old isn’t shy about jumping up into the rush and he’s capable of putting up points from the blue-line when healthy. His overall game still needs a little bit of work, but that’s not uncommon for players his age. Don’t be surprised if he's serving as a top-four defenseman with the Wild in a few years.
27. Nashville – Zachary L'Heureux (LW)
Nashville moved up to take L'Heureux, giving up the 40th and 51st picks in the 2021 Draft with the Hurricanes. L'Heureux was traded from Moncton to Halifax before the start of the Quebec League season and he did reasonably well with his new team. He was second on the Mooseheads in goals and points with 19 and 39 respectively in just 33 games. He’s capable of producing offensively while playing with an edge. The problem is that he needs to find a way to control his emotions during games, as he received 47 minutes in penalties and he served multiple suspensions during the 2020-21 campaign. Overall, he’s a talented player with some bite and that is something that Nashville could use. He projects as a middle-six forward for the Predators.
28. Colorado – Oskar Olausson (RW)
Olausson is a talented winger with good hockey IQ, smooth hands and a slick skating stride. The 18-year-old had a quiet World Junior Hockey Championship for Sweden (no points in four games), but the tournament is usually dominated by 19-year-old players. He put up three goals and one assist in 16 games in the Swedish first division, he added three goals and three helpers in 11 games in the second division and he picked up 14 goals and 13 assists in 16 games in the Junior League last year. Olausson still has a lot of developing to do before he reaches the NHL level, but he has all the tools to become a top-six forward down the road.
29. New Jersey – Chase Stillman (RW)
Stillman is the son of Cory Stillman and the brother of the Chicago Blackhawks' Riley Stillman. Chase is a gritty, intense forward who has a similar playstyle Zach Hyman. Like Hyman, he can develop into a great complimentary piece on the first or second line. The Devils got this pick from the Islanders as part of the trade that sent Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to New York.
30. Vegas – Zach Dean (C)
Dean isn’t the flashiest of players, but he managed to put up a respectable 10 goals and 10 assists in 23 games with a mediocre Gatineau squad in the Quebec League last season. The 18-year-old is blessed with a good amount of skill, but like many players his age, his consistency is lacking when it comes to production and overall effort. It would be nice to see him take a big step forward in his third junior season. Dean is listed at 6-feet, 175 pounds and he isn’t shy about using his body to make a play. He projects as more of a second or third line center at the NHL level.
31. Montreal – Logan Mailloux (D)
This is a controversial pick after Mailloux renounced himself from the 2021 NHL Draft. The decision came after he paid a fine for an offense in Sweden last year and teams were saying that they were not going to select him. He showed a photo to a teammates via Snapchat of him and a woman engaged in a sexual act, which was taken without her consent. There’s no denying Mailloux’s combination of size and skill on the blue line. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and he’s able to carry the puck with ease. Unfortunately for NHL talent evaluators, they haven’t seen him play games at a high level just yet. He racked up 68 points in 48 games with London’s Junior B team in 2019-20 and he added 15 points in 19 games with Lejon in Sweden’s third division last season (there was no OHL season). Mailloux still needs a lot of time to develop, but he could still eventually become a top-four defenseman at the NHL level. There’s still so much scouts don’t know about this player and that makes him a classic boom-or-bust pick.
32. Chicago – Nolan Allan (D)
Allan is a big, stay-at-home defenseman who plays an intense game. He had a goal and an assist in 16 WHL contests last season. He projects to eventually be a third-pairing defenseman for Chicago, who should be a good penalty killer.