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Kyle Woodlief, the publisher for Red Line Report, provides scouting reports on the players taken in the first round of the 2021 NHL draft.
1. Buffalo Sabres - D Owen Power, University of Michigan
Humongous and highly mobile rearguard is a fast and agile skater at 6-6. Has rare physical gifts, exceptional size/strength, a long, smooth stride, outstanding puckhandling skill, and 4-way mobility. Has a high hockey IQ and plays with confidence in all three zones. Makes excellent decisions handling the puck. Snaps off hard seam passes breaking out of his own end, or will carry it end-to-end and lead the rush.
NO. 1 OVERALL: Buffalo Sabres select Michigan defenseman Owen Power
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2. Seattle Kraken: C Matthew Beniers, University of Michigan
One of the best pure skaters in the draft is an absolute blazer who makes plays at top gear. Plays forcefully and makes an impact in every game. Tenacious in all areas of the ice. Relentless on the forecheck, causing numerous turnovers by getting in so fast on defenders in puck retrieval they have no chance to spot outlets. Comes back hard in the neutral zone to lift sticks and steal pucks from behind. Outstanding vision and anticipation. High hockey IQ and plays a solid 200-foot game
3. Anaheim Ducks: C Mason McTavish, Oltens (Switzerland)
Really strong and hard on the puck – wins every battle. Powerful with an unrelenting desire to get to net. Just drives through defenders at will and takes up residence anywhere he wants to go on the ice. Fantastic feel for the puck on both sides of the blade. Makes such crisp, hard passes they’re almost like shots.
4. New Jersey Devils: D Luke Hughes, U.S. National Development Team Program
One of this year’s youngest draft eligible players resembles his oldest brother, Quinn, in terms of style and substance, but he’s bigger with a long, lanky frame that has room to fill out. A dynamic skater who can accelerate to top speed in just a few explosive strides and shows off tremendous agility to slip away from forecheckers and skate pucks out of the zone himself. Skates with his head up and is a human breakout machine. He'll join brother Jack, in New Jersey.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: C Kent Johnson, University of Michigan
Highly creative playmaking center is calm under pressure in the scoring areas - makes the best play at all times showing excellent decision-making. Everything he does looks smooth. Cerebral and able to out-think defenders - sees situations developing and plays two steps ahead. Masterful passing touch off both sides of the blade, and deceptively looks off defenders. Makes smart little chip passes out front in prime areas. Works give and goes regularly. Shows outstanding vision in transition to find imaginative passing lanes
6: Detroit Red Wings: D Simon Edvinsson, Frolunda (Sweden)
Tower of strength on the blue line. He does everything: hit, defend, make brilliant outlets with superb vision, skate the puck out on his own, generate offence at the other end. All while playing about 30 minutes per night in all key situations. Outstanding all-around game. Spectacular puck skills, unbelievably calm demeanour under constant pressure, and great hockey sense
7: San Jose Sharks: LW William Eklund, Djurgardens (Sweden)
Smallish, but surprisingly strong on the puck. Flits around the ice and has terrific speed. Handles the puck well at top gear, never slowing down to make a variety of slick moves. Has an exceptionally quick stick, both for stickhandling and intercepting passes. Flips soft backhand saucer passes with touch, dropping them down right on the tape. Runs the power play from the half-wall and attacks the slot, penetrating the defensive box, drawing defenders towards him, then dishing to open mates in the space he has created. Tough to catch or get a clean hit on, and backs defenders off the blue line to gain the zone easily.
8. Los Angeles Kings: D Brandt Clarke, Barrie (OHL)
Came back from his stint competing against men in Europe playing at a different level. Long, lean, rangy defender shows a fast, active stick while closing gaps. Outstanding at handling the puck with poise in his own end, never panicking and always getting pucks to the right spots. Makes tight turns to easily weave through traffic. Soft hands for both giving and receiving passes. Sturdy frame with an easy skating stride. Willing shot blocker.
9. Arizona Coyotes: RW Dylan Guenther, Edmonton (WHL)
Lightning fast big forward. Fantastic navigation in open ice, shifting through lanes at top speed. Pressures opposing defenders with outstanding body positioning. Hides his release point well in traffic. Constantly wins the puck back for his team.
10. Ottawa Senators: RW Tyler Boucher, U.S. National Development Team Program
Big-bodied power winger unfortunately lost most of his season to injuries, only appearing in three games since the start of the new year. Surprisingly quick and nimble for his size; will rope-a-dope defenders out of their gaps as he comes at them, then blaze by with a few rapid, powerful strides to get to the outside or cut inside to the middle of the ice. Hard, powerful shot that he gets off quickly with impressive accuracy.
11: Forfeited by Arizona Coyotes
12: Columbus Blue Jackets, C-LW Cole Sillinger, Sioux Falls (USHL)
Dynamic player is a bull on skates; thick and extremely strong on his feet, able to drive through contact and get to the net at will. Quick and fast. Loves to initiate physical contact and has the hands/shot to score at any level.
13. Calgary Flames: RW Matthew Coronato, Chicago (USHL)
Put his game together in a hurry, and didn’t look back. There was never any question he could put the puck in the net and create offense. Continued to work on the details and improved away from the puck in all three zones. His pace and ability with the puck and quick thinking allow him to create offense off the rush.
14. Buffalo Sabres: RW Isak Rosen, Leksands (Sweden)
Has one of the highest-end skillsets in the entire draft, and yet we dislike him intensely. Has tremendous speed and scored seven (sometimes spectacular) goals at the World U-18s. And yet, there is no jump or bite to his game. The moment he faces any resistance, he’s done. Tries to do too much on his own.
15. Detroit Red Wings: G Sebastian Cossa, Edmonton (WHL)
One of the best goalie prospects out of the Western Hockey League in years. Huge netminder who plays with sound techniques. Compresses his lower body making himself as wide as possible for first shots. Massively wide stance and goes from from post-to-post in one step - no sliding necessary. Great at freezing pucks to his frame preventing rebounds. Doesn’t let in soft goals, you have to beat him straight up. Able to make multiple saves by reading the play well and recovering quickly to get back in position for second shots.
16. New York Rangers: LW Brennan Othmann, Oltens (Switzerland)
Brought along slowly last year, but his high-end skills are obvious. Not big, but plays a heavy game and bulldozes men off pucks all game down low. Always willing to pay the price - takes big hits in order to get pucks to his linemates in scoring territory. Buries hard wristers from the hashmarks. Makes dynamic cuts at top flight with the puck, forcing goalies to over-slide the net. Shakes off attempted hooks. Fires rocket backhand passes.
17. St. Louis Blues: C Zachary Bolduc, Rimouski (QMJHL)
Had a disjointed season. Recovered from slow start and began to look like the most purely skilled offensive draft eligible in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – which he is. Just when he kicked it into high gear, suffered a season ending injury. Had early trouble going from a supporting piece on last year’s strong squad (featuring Alexis Lafreniere) to being “the man” on a young, rebuilding team. Very smart and anticipates puck movement. Fast and fluid skater drives hard in and out of turns.
18. Winnipeg Jets: C Chaz Lucius, U.S. National Development Team Program
One of the best pure scorers in the draft. Not a speedster and first steps need work, but has a long, loping stride and shows impressive agility, especially in small areas. Smart and creative. Sees the ice and handles the puck well in tight spaces - able to slither through heavy traffic and get to the dirty areas because he’s got very good balance on his edges.
19. Nashville Predators: C Fedor Svechkov, Togliatti Jr. (Russia)
One of the best defensive center in the draft, and also has plenty of offense. Has a good-sized frame with plenty of room to fill out and add strength, and already wins battles along the walls. Shows excellent hand/eye coordination on neat deflections around the net. Has a heavy shot with a great release, and they look to set him up on the power play. Has a powerful stride with balance and is tough to knock off the puck.
20. Minnesota Wild, G Jesper Wallstedt, Lulea (Sweden)
Super touted Swedish goaltender has been on the radar since he was 14. Had a really solid season going up against men in the Swedish Hockey Leauge, starting 22 games and posting decent numbers. Competes hard and never gives up on the puck. Not the flashy type, more of a solid technician who plays quiet in net and stays square to shooters. Reads the game very well and is seldom out of position.
21. Boston Bruins: RW Fabian Lysell, Lulea (Sweden)
The game-breaking winger plays with great speed and pace, putting pressure on the defense and creating chances. Lots of sharp cuts and turns, always in motion. Very dangerous on the rush where he drives hard to the net. Unpredictable and slippery - draws penalties. Despite smallish size, has a strong, compact body. Extremely elusive - hard to get a clean hit on him. Competes hard and loves to score goals.
22. Edmonton Oilers: C Xavier Bourgault, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Smooth, fluid skater is very deceptive with the puck on his stick. Excellent speed and puckhandling ability. Soft hands for both giving and receiving passes. He’s a finisher from the circles in – accurate shot and doesn’t need much time or space. Can beat defenders off the rush with slick moves that he makes at top gear. Thinking man’s attacker beats defenders more with his brain and finesse than strength.
23. Dallas Stars: C Wyatt Johnston, Windsor (OHL)
We were tremendously impressed by how strong a two-way game he played in every single game of the world under-18 championships. Showed quickness, creativity and a higher level of puck skill than we thought he possessed. His speed and edging are among the best in this draft, and he sees the ice extremely well. Makes imaginative set-ups at high speed. Has a sneaky wrister that he should use more.
24. Florida Panthers: RW Mackie Samoskevich, Chicago (USHL)
Extended injury absence dropped him in our rankings, but since returning, he’s reminded everyone why he’s a legitimate NHL prospect with his speed, skill and pace - he’s a demon on the forecheck and will make opponents pay when they don’t take care of the puck around him or fail to account for his anticipation and quickness. Playmaker who moves the puck accurately and efficiently. Dictates the pace of play with the puck on his stick.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets D Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL)
Heavy shooter can score from a standstill at long distance. Makes pro-style passes with no effort at all. Standout skater with fantastic edging – moves with precise control in any direction and shows great range in open ice. Uses a shorter stick for added control in tight areas. Gets back quickly in puck retrieval and easily skates pucks out of defensive zone to safety. Smooth pivots and lateral movement. Heavy player down low, stapling forwards to the boards and preventing them from escaping.
26. Minnesota Wild: D Carson Lambos, Winnipeg (WHL)
Forceful defender positions himself very well in the defensive zone, and is able to jump up when needed. Gets stick into passing lanes quickly to breakup dangerous cross-ice passes. Bounces off checks and never loses a board battle. Relentless physicality in own zone, bullying forwards off the puck.
27. Nashville Predators: LW Zachary L'Heureux, Halifax (QMJHL)
Fiery battler is a hyper competitive bulldog who attacks aggressively all over the ice and is relentless in puck pursuit. Not huge but thickly built, very strong on skates and hits with an impact. There’s a lot more to his game than just physicality; he’s highly skilled and plays the game at a very high pace.
28. Colorado Avalanche: RW Oscar Olausson, HV 71 (Sweden)
Powerful winger shows soft, quick hands and dangles through traffic – has very slick moves. Has swagger and great touch, marvelous vision and a powerful release. Always willing to try new moves on the rush, and beats defenders 1-on-1 often. Love his combination of size, skill, and power, but needs to compete harder and more consistently - goes to sleep for stretches.
29. New Jersey Devils: RW Chase Stillman, Sudbury (OHL)
His father, Cory, was a longtime NHLer, and it shows in his natural hockey sense. Creates havoc when he doesn’t have the puck, rolling from one forechecking assignment to the next. Determined puck hound is always in pursuit. Sneaky opportunist around the net. Creates great screens, timing them perfectly as teammates are shooting from distance.
30. Vegas Golden Knights: C Zach Dean, Gatineau (QMJHL)
Plays the game at an up-tempo pace. Has both speed in open ice and quickness in tight spaces. Keeps his feet churning through containment and bounces off contact. Always has the speed to turn a corner and can walk down defenders. Highly instinctive around the offensive zone and always dangerous. Great at finding loose pucks in traffic.
31. Montreal Canadiens, D Logan Mailloux, London (OHL)
Editor's note: Mailloux had asked teams not to draft him after an earlier incident came to light. Mailloux was fined in Sweden last year for sharing, without consent, an explicit photo of a woman performing a sex act. But he remained eligible and was taken by GM Marc Bergevin.
Big, burly defenseman has one of the highest ceilings in this draft, but comes with some off-ice question marks. Has trouble with his conditioning and keeping weight down, but when he’s in shape, shows big upside. Outstanding glide for his size with a long stride that eats up open ice. Contributes all over the ice. Rifles passes to the opposite side of the rink right through tiny gaps, right on the money. Instinctively fills open lanes moving up ice. Phenomenal coordination for his size at this age — it’s extremely rare for a big defender like this to be able to contribute in so many ways for entire shifts. Even works complex passing plays allowing forwards to walk into the middle. Flawless positioning despite playing aggressively up ice all shift. Uses reach to snatch up misplaced passes with ease.
32. Chicago Blackhawks: D Nolan Allan, Prince Albert (WHL)
Perplexing defender was an elite talent growing up, but seems to just be spinning his wheels now. Reads opponents’ passes well, regularly stepping up on soft or misplaced passes to intercept. Jumps up as a 4th forward on the rush. Keeps shots low and sneaks them through traffic. Scans the offensive zone well from the blue line, processing multiple options. Good four-way movement with plus balance, but is not fast or elusive enough to evade when carrying the puck. Willing shot blocker on the PK.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL draft 2021: First-round picks, scouting reports for all players