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With four teams left in the playoffs and the bulk of the 2021 NHL Draft order set it is officially the start of ‘Mock Draft’ season. The McKeen’s scouting team has done a tremendous job this season pulling together its analysis. While a lucky few got into a rink this season, most were reliant on video in a way they have not been before. Drawing on their experience, and previous live viewings of the top prospects, they have produced some outstanding content on the site. All of that work has culminated in our final ranking for the 2021 NHL Draft just released yesterday. The top 32 can be found on our home page for free: https://www.mckeenshockey.com/ and our subscribers can see the entire 223 player list along with some honorable mentions here: https://www.mckeenshockey.com/draft/rankings/
We are busy finishing up our McKeen’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide and will be releasing by the end of the month. This year we are excited to be offering a print edition at $24.99 CDN (Approx. $20 USD) plus shipping and will be offering a 20% discount on pre-orders in the coming days. In the meantime, there are 100’s of reports and feature articles for subscribers to get their draft fix.
We have asked team member Chapin Landvogt to pull together a possible scenario for draft day for the readers of the NBC Edge Prospect Report. These are always fun, and we will have more mock drafts on the way from other team members, including one in our draft guide. Given the season it has been, expect a wide divergence of opinion and some surprises. We can expect no less on July 23rd and 24th from the actual NHL GMs. Enjoy.
2021 NHL MOCK DRAFT
BY CHAPIN LANDVOGT
If you felt the 2020 NHL Draft was extremely unique, you haven’t seen anything yet!
The 2021 NHL Draft will pose a whole new world of challenges for NHL scouting staffs. After all, many players eligible for this year’s talent drawing played little to no hockey this season. Others made use of this past winter to get a few games in here or there at some level of pro play across Europe, pitting their stuff against grown men in a completely new and different environment. Still others who may have been off the beaten scouting path heading into the season ended up having a full slate of games and perhaps an appearance with one of the national junior teams along the way, turning themselves into a prospect to watch for the scouting community.
But will this prove to have been by default?
We can say for certain that the realm of possibilities is as wide open as we’ve ever seen it in this century. The unique reality established by the worldwide pandemic is leading to as little consensus Rounds 1-7 as you may have ever encountered.
With that being said, we’re producing this Mock Draft assuming that teams will stay right where they are scheduled to select (which is the rarely the case:-)) and that our selections for the current final four draft picks in the first round will look as we predict, regardless of who is picking in whichever order 28th-31st.
1) Buffalo Sabres - D Owen Power - Michigan (B1G)
You may hear a lot of chatter about Buffalo possibly going any number of directions with this pick for any number of reasons. Don’t invest too much into it. Young Owen Power is a huge specimen who not only put his highly desirable wares on display over an entire season at Michigan, but also concluded it all by being a first pairing defenseman for gold-medal-winning Canada’s men’s team at the IIHF World Championships, a team that didn’t take flight until it started giving Power more and more responsibility.
2) Seattle Kraken - C Matthew Beniers - Michigan (B1G)
Sure, with the season he had as a freshman at Michigan and at the WJC, much less several points with Team USA’s men’s team at the World Championships, it’s not hard to understand why Beniers is rather universally seen as the draft’s top center and a surefire top 5 pick. But now he’ll be Hall-of-Fame center Ron Francis’ first pick for the NHL’s latest franchise and who knows more about what a successful, all-round NHL center needs to have to be successful than Francis?
3. Anaheim Ducks - D Brandt Clarke - Barrie (OHL)
Clarke is a right shot defenseman who brings size, mobility, and an above-average desire to score to the table. His stint in Slovakia’s top men’s league proved highly successful and Clarke gave scouts a lot to fawn over at the U18 Worlds. Look for Anaheim to take him earlier than some might suspect, because there’s good reason to believe he could be this draft’s best player in 7-10 years’ time.
4. New Jersey Devils - D Luke Hughes - USN U18 (USDP)
We’re certainly not going off the beaten track here, but there is plenty of reason to believe that New Jersey would be all over the youngest Hughes brother if he’s available at this spot. Aside from simply being one the three or four best defensemen in this draft, and one of the top 10 players overall, the feel-good synergy that could be established by bringing in franchise player Jack’s younger brother is one of those things a team rarely gets to do and probably shouldn’t skip out on. Oh, and did we mention that the Devils’ system is just aching to give Ty Smith a future stud to work with?
5. Columbus Blue Jackets - G Jesper Wallstedt - Lulea (SHL)
It’s almost an exercise in futility to try and presume to know what’s going on in Jarmo Kekalainen’s mind, but we’ve all been learning to expect the unexpected. Despite the fact that arguably three of his system’s Top 10 prospects are goalies, there’s something about using the first of three first rounders on a goaltender that would top them all and change the team’s cupboard of assets immensely. Whether he’d be adding his team’s starter for the next ten years - which for all intents and purposes is what will be expected of Wallstedt, an SHL goaltender who we’ve talked about for years - or simply loading up with system ammunition, the tactics underlying this pick would be part of the plan in skipping out on players such as William Eklund and Simon Edvinsson.
6. Detroit Red Wings - C Kent Johnson - Michigan (B1G)
Sure, many see a Swede going at this juncture and who better to take one than a Red Wings organization that has a long tradition of selecting players from the Nordic countries? Alas, we’re talking about Steve Yzerman here. We’re talking about a GM who doesn’t just do what the consensus suspects. Looking at a Red Wings prospect bin that has enjoyed four straight drafts of 10 or more picks, and 12 in store this summer with five coming in the first two rounds, we’re thinking the Red Wings will remain right in their backyard and go with Michigan forward Johnson, an excellent producer with many warts, but the potential to be about the most offensively productive player in this draft over time. And the Red Wings will have plenty of time and hands on deck to get him there.
7. San Jose Sharks - D Simon Edvinsson - Frolunda (Swe J20)
The Sharks won’t need to think twice. Edvinsson has his flaws but offers a size/skill package that doesn’t grow on trees. The Sharks haven’t done a whole lot of picking in recent years and the cupboard isn’t exactly full when it comes to promising defensemen in the system. There’d definitely be a spot for a top four defenseman over the next 3-4 seasons and having Karlsson around sure wouldn’t hurt in getting Simon settled in.
8. Los Angeles Kings - LW William Eklund - Djurgardens (SHL)
The rich get richer. Then again, at spot #8, it’s happening one way or another. Eklund is a play-driving forward who just had an excellent draft year season in the SHL. He has quite a motor and despite not being the biggest guy, he navigates very well in greasy areas. Alas, even for those who are the most enthralled with him as a player, there is reasonable doubt about just how high his offensive upside is. But there’s no doubt that he’ll one day be taking a regular shift in a top nine position in the NHL and that’s just what the Kings need to add the most in light of their embarrassment of high-end prospect riches.
9. Vancouver Canucks - C Mason McTavish - Peterborough (OHL)
Having played pro hockey for a good chunk of the season in Switzerland where he clipped at a PPG pace, McTavish had one of the more exciting seasons for a player who should have been making a name for himself in the OHL. Good size, lots of snarl, and a wicked shot surely has Vancouver management viewing him as another Horvat type, one of the handful of players they may not be able to continue to afford in the coming years. There’s really no losing out by adding McTavish to your organization.
10. Ottawa Senators - RW Dylan Guenther - Edmonton (WHL)
In a draft where circumstances are making it so doggone difficult to determine who the best players available are, there’s much indicating that Guenther is a BPA at just about any juncture in the Top 10. His entire package has few doubting that he’ll be an NHLer who can impact the game offensively. With Ottawa being another team, whose stockpile of prospects is already chock full, there’s little reason to have any strategy other than to just grab the BPA (best player available) that drops to this spot. To some people’s surprise, that guy will be Guenther come draft day.
11. Chicago Blackhawks - C Chaz Lucius - USN U18 (USDP)
Here’s another example of a kid whose draft year was cut short by an injury and teams will now be assessing what they’ve seen of him over parts of several seasons as opposed to what they saw all season long from most of the kids who’ll be picked ahead of him. Nonetheless, Lucius is a real sniper who is a sneaky smart player. Strong on his stick, he’s very good at playing within his confines and knows how to excel despite perceived skating deficiencies. Having entered the season being seen as a possible Top 5 pick, Chicago will be happy to call his name and then call it a day.
12. Calgary Flames - G Sebastian Cossa - Edmonton (WHL)
Wait. We’re a dozen picks in and we’re already seeing the second goalie get taken? There is plenty of reason to question Cossa’s astronomically good numbers in this shortened WHL season, but he was already making a nice name for himself last season and there’s size here that just can’t be taught. It would be a bit of an embellishment to think picking a guy from a strong Edmonton Oil Kings outfit would be a jab at one’s archrival, but the Flames are a team that needs an heir apparent in goal in its organization while having taken a nice mix of forwards and defensemen over the past three drafts. Whoever takes this kid is going to be taking a gamble on outstandingly good numbers against shaky competition, but the Flames are a franchise that is going to need to take that chance at some point, so expect it now.
13. Philadelphia Flyers - C/LW Cole Sillinger - Sioux Falls (USHL)
One need look no further than Travis Konecny or Joel Farabee to understand that taking Sillinger here would be such a Flyers thing to do. This kid oozes future pro and has the bloodlines to boot. In addition, he’s a real competitor with a solid shot and offensive instincts, understanding fully well what an average skating player needs to do to be a successful NHLer. There’s too much all-round certainty combined with perhaps more offensive acumen than meets the eye for the Flyers to skip over him.
14. Dallas Stars - D Corson Ceulemans - Brooks (AJHL)
The U18 WC star didn’t see a lot of action this winter, but then smoothly put up eight points and a +11 rating for Canada in earning gold on the international stage. Dallas will have some choices to make on the blueline in the years to come and it will help a lot to have Ceulemans joining Harley as the heir apparents for a team that takes great pride in its solid blueline crew.
15. New York Rangers - RW Matthew Coronato - Chicago (USHL)
The New York native and Harvard commit was the USHL’s top goal scorer, collecting 48 tallies for the league’s top team. Although a bit on the smaller side, this hasn’t shown to deter him at any point yet and for the first time in a while, the Rangers will not be entering this draft expecting to go home with a guy who’ll suit up for them the next season. Instead, Coronato will be one they can happily wait upon as he molds his craft at college. Secretly though, got to think they’d be hoping his college to WJC to NHL story won’t be all that different to that of, say, Cole Caufield.
16. St. Louis Blues - C Fedor Svechkov - Lada Togliatti (VHL)
He wasn’t the top scorer at any station this past season, but whether in the Russian MHL or VHL, or busy earning a silver medal for Team Russia at the U18s, Svechkov did nothing but compete, chip in, and succeed all winter long. Decently sized, Svechkov understands the game very well and plays it in all three zones. And this certainly wouldn’t be the first time the Blues select a highly skilled Russian at this juncture of the draft.
17. Winnipeg Jets - D Carson Lambos - Winnipeg (WHL)
Playing abroad in Finland’s junior league, the Winnipeg native didn’t have a season where he was really able to show what he’s made of, especially when an injury prevented him from being a part of Team Canada at the U18s. But this will be to the benefit of his hometown Jets, who’ll be thrilled to add this feel-good story to a growing stock of defensemen, a position that was seen as a serious system weakness not too long ago. Solid size, a great skater, and a readiness to get rough and tumble, his small sample size this past winter has made him a prospect for which there isn’t a whole lot of consensus when it comes to rankings.
18. Nashville Predators - C Xavier Bourgault - Shawinigan (QMJHL)
With goaltending certainly no longer a system issue, and defense never really having been a system issue, Nashville will use this pick to add something few expect at this juncture, an average-sized offensive generator from the QMJHL. A righty shot, Bourgault is all about offensive flash and dash, having proved that he can generate even when top-flight linemates are not available. He’s been a hot commodity in the province of Quebec for several years now and some may have forgotten him a bit in a year where QMJHLers were not part of the Canadian U18 equation, but there’s offensive hockey sense and skills here that are not easily found.
19. Edmonton Oilers - D Aidan Hreschuk - USN U18 (USDP)
In this very solid defenseman, the Oilers add a piece their system is in great need of. After going strictly with forwards last fall and having taken four in six picks the year before that, the team now adds an all-round, all-situations defenseman who has proven to be able to pair up supremely well with a “star”. After several years in a row of terribly disappointing, and downright unexplainable, first round playoff exits despite the league’s two most effective offensive generators and a host of notable contributors, soul-searching questions abound in Edmonton. Hreschuk will be one of the answers.
20. Boston Bruins - C Francesco Pinelli - Kitchener (OHL)
There comes a time in the first round when teams start focusing on adding specific qualities to their stockpile of assets. Here, Boston gets the crafty punch down the middle that it’ll soon be craving with several top nine vets getting long in the tooth. Boston grabbing Pinelli will end up being one of those moves where several years down the line, everyone will be wondering how they got this guy 19th overall. His sample size was minute this past season, but he impressed heavily in both Slovenia and at the U18s. Good reason to believe Pinelli will be for Boston what a player like Anthony Cirelli is for Tampa in just a few years’ time.
21. Minnesota Wild - C/RW Fabian Lysell - Lulea (SHL)
The Wild are a team on the upswing and have a strong system that already includes a little bit of everything. They’re now sitting pretty with picks 21 and 25 in this draft, able to take risks on some of the kids with undeniable talent, but a few question marks. Sample one, Fabian Lysell. We saw a producer at the U18, and some would say he was even more impressive in the puck-carrying and competitiveness sectors when playing against men back home in the SHL, even if production was low. Some wonder a bit about his mentality and motivation, but that’s something the Wild won’t care about here, simply very happy to add another Nordic talent to the stockpile with some real home run potential.
22. Detroit Red Wings (from Washington) - LW Sascha Pastujov - USN U18 (USDP)
Say it ain’t so! Could the Red Wings really stick to their own backyard for the second time in the first round? Don’t put it past Yzerman, who will have plenty of reason to snap up the USNTDP’s top producer this past season, a player from a big hockey family who spent several years with the Detroit Compuware program. There won’t be much worry about what took place at the U18 or Pastujov’s less than ideal skating to date; he’ll have several years to work on deficiencies and hone his craft at Notre Dame, which fits in just fine with Detroit’s current plans.
23. Florida Panthers - D Sean Behrens - USN U18 (USDP)
Florida has done a lot of things right the past few seasons and the Panthers are coming off a very promising 20-21 season. There are many forward options in the system, so this draft will pose an excellent opportunity to grab one of several enticing defensive prospects, with Behrens being the surprise pick. We’ve known about him for a few years now and he first really started strutting his stuff this season when Luke Hughes was out with injury, but Florida won’t be shy about his size in light of his top-flight skating and excellent two-way play. He’ll be going earlier than many may expect, but a team that boasts Florida’s prospect bin can afford to simply get a guy it wants and believes in over the long run, fanboy rankings be damned.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Toronto) - RW Nikita Chibrikov - SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
As if Columbus would take a Russian with pick 24 two years in a row, right? Chibrikov will be no surprise at this stage of the draft though, as an excellent U18 tournament that followed strong showings in the MHL, VHL, and even KHL have him fairly strongly entrenched as a first round option. For Columbus, the winger will fit the organization’s needs to a T and his feisty competitiveness is well-suited for a market that is regularly seen as an underdog. This is a franchise that continues to retool and Chibrikov has a lot of tools to work with.
25. Minnesota Wild (from Pittsburgh) - C Aatu Raty - Karpat (Fin)
Not too long ago, Raty was all the rage as a potential top three candidate in this draft, looking like the likely #1 overall at one point. He had a very mediocre year in Liiga play and wasn’t part of what ended up being a very strong WJC outfit. Now, these things shouldn’t necessarily mean a drop to the bottom sixth of the first round, but other players have become more pertinent for other teams along the way, and Raty becomes the next joker to fall into Minnesota’s hands in the latter third of the draft. There are plenty of players with a ton to prove in this organization, so Raty will be right at home.
26. Carolina Hurricanes - RW Samu Tuomaala - Karpat (Fin U20)
It would be fair for you to see this pick and think “Well, that’s a cliché!”, but there’s no denying that Tuomaala has proven to be highly effective everywhere he’s played in recent years and seems to possess a winner’s pedigree. Whoever he’s played for is a contender and he’s been right in the thick of things. Sounds about right for a Carolina team which has been on a steady path of ascension in the NHL due to, well, a steady diet of drafting players like Tuomaala.
27. Colorado Avalanche - RW Oskar Olausson - HV 71 (SHL)
What does a team that has every imaginable asset look for at this stage of the first round? Olausson brings a lot to the table in several aspects of the game and has already proven capable of impacting play at the pro level in Sweden. For a team that has watched similarly sized Andre Burakovsky bloom before their eyes for several seasons now, Olausson is an offensively gifted player they can get very excited about.
New Jersey Devils (from New York Islanders) - RW Isak Rosen
It would be no surprise to see the Devils use their second pick on a forward that had perhaps dropped further down in the pecking order than some might suspect. And if Rosen is the guy there, expect the Devils to continue their belief in Swedish wingers by going with the SHL-experienced skill player who really opened some eyes at the U18s. Heck, he’d probably have been the Islanders’ pick at this juncture as well.:-)
Montreal Canadiens - C Zachary Bolduc - Rimouski (QMJHL)
Bolduc is a good-sized center who can do both the offensive thing and defensive thing, is well-rounded in all three zones, a team player, can be very chippy, AND comes from Quebec. Throw in his “average” production due to injury and this kid has “Hab” written all over him. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
Vegas Golden Knights - D Daniil Chayka - CSKA (KHL)
It’s the end of the first round and you really have no pressure, because you’ve basically been doing everything imaginable right since Day 1 of your existence. Then you see a good-sized kid at this spot who many thought of as a top 10 possibility entering the season and he just happens to play a position you could really use some system depth at. If there, he’s got to be one of Vegas’ top options and may end up being a huge boon as time passes by.
Columbus Blue Jackets (from Tampa Bay Lightning) - D Aleksi Heimosalmi - Assat Pori (Fin U20)
There he is - the reason the Blue Jackets skipped out on Edvinsson all the way back at pick number 5. Certainly, everyone knew one first round surprise wouldn’t be enough for a Columbus team that hasn’t had a whole lot of picks in recent years. The U18 tourney’s top-scoring defenseman is a prototypical modern defender who is rumored to have a wonderful head on his shoulders while being a coach’s dream. And what GM would know that better about this young Finn?
Several other names that you shouldn’t be surprised to see taken in the first round include Brennan Othmann, Simon Robertsson, Jack Peart, Logan Stankoven, Mackie Samoskevich, Stanislav Svozil, Zach L'Heureux, Prokhor Poltapov, and Ville Koivunen.