The draft order for the 2021 NHL Draft is set and later this week — and for the first time ever — 32 teams will draft the next wave of NHL hopefuls.
On July 23 and 24, 223 prospects will hear their name called and begin their hopeful journey to becoming NHL regulars and stars. However, as it approaches, there are numerous questions around who will go where.
The questions start with the No. 1 selection. The Sabres hold the first overall pick and who they are selecting still seems to be a big mystery. The likely choice is University of Michigan standout Owen Power. However, William Eklund and Luke Hughes look to be in that conversation as well. That first selection will likely dictate the second — the inaugural pick from the Seattle Kraken. With Power the likely player off the board, Eklund, Hughes, and Matthew Beniers could be the main contenders for the NHL’s newest franchise.
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The remainder of the top-10 should fall into place after that, and the top three picks will dictate how those selections go. From the 12th pick down, however, expect some surprises. One of the other big questions from the first round will be where the goaltenders fall. It seems likely that both Jesper Wallstedt and Sebastian Cossa will be selected in the first round and look to be potential top-20 picks. While the pair look to be top prospects in the class, it’s always hard to predict where goalies will go. Based on fit, they could both be gone by the 12th selection; however, teams could be hesitant to bite and they could slide further than expected.
This draft has long been referred to as wide-open, and it’ll likely start to see that come to fruition in the 10 to 20 range. But, no matter what happens in the draft, it’s gearing up to be an unpredictable, exciting draft. For the last time this season, here’s how the top-32 could shape up in just a few days.
NHL Mock Draft 2021, version 3.0
1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
FCHockey rank: 1
While there are rumours that the Sabres might go another way, it’s likely just that — a rumour. With Power’s size and skill, there’s no questioning just how much NHL teams value what the defender brings. There may be some prospects that fans would rather scoop up at this spot as there are flashier options out there, but Power will be a piece that should help solidify Buffalo’s blue line for years to come. It looks like this will be a busy summer for the Sabres, and adding Power is a strong first step.
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2. Seattle Kraken: William Eklund, LW/C, Djurgardens (SHL)
FCHockey rank: 5
It seems like the common choice here is Beniers, but considering that the Kraken are just starting to build their prospect pool, Eklund fits the mold here best. The forward might just own the highest-ceiling among prospects in the draft. He excelled in the SHL this season playing serious minutes and impressing game-in and game-out despite undergoing an appendectomy and a bout with COVID-19. Beniers and Hughes are strong considerations here as well, but Eklund’s potential might just be too good to pass up.
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3. Anaheim Ducks: Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
FCHockey rank: 4
The Ducks have Beniers fall into their laps here. Having seen what the one-two punch of Trevor Zegras and Beniers can do at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship en route to a gold medal, the Ducks should be champing at the bit to select the promising two-way centerman. Beniers’ competitiveness, two-way ability and well-rounded game make him a great fit to help lead the Ducks back to contention. After taking Jamie Drysdale with their first selection last year, the Ducks prospect pool is looking excellent.
4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP (USHL)
FCHockey rank: 3
This selection comes down to who is already gone. In all likelihood, Power and Beniers are both off the board. Then, it appears to be one of Eklund, Hughes, or Dylan Guenther for that third selection. Given how the top three picks play out here, Hughes is the best option for the Devils. Uniting Hughes with his brother Jack, the 2019 first-overall pick, New Jersey instantly gets a boost in team chemistry. The younger Hughes is arguably the highest-ceiling defender in the class, with impressive skating and intelligence. The Devils have some strong forwards in the system and the new Hughes will help boost the back end.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (SHL)
FCHockey rank: 7
With the Blue Jackets on the board for the first of three potential selections, and barring any of the above slipping, the pick looks to be one of the two top-defenders left, Brandt Clarke and Edvinsson. By picking Edvinsson, Columbus is landing a potential No. 1 defender that has size and mobility. He’s already proven himself against men in Sweden and Columbus should be ecstatic to land him here.
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6. Detroit Red Wings: Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
FCHockey rank: 10
The Wallstedt-Red Wings connection seems very real, but one should expect the unexpected with general manager Steve Yzerman. After standing out in Switzerland, and a strong 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship, McTavish seems to have cemented himself as a top-10 option. The strong pivot will likely be a second-line center at the NHL level, and with Dylan Larkin as the top guy, McTavish would give the Red Wings an exceptional 1-2 punch.
7. San Jose Sharks: Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL)
FCHockey rank: 2
This pick is fairly easy, as the Sharks will likely take whoever’s left of the top-four defenders. At the same time, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sharks take one of the next two forwards or Wallstedt. San Jose will have their pick of what’s left and that’s why it’s a big-time wild card. They could use top-end skill at every position, but with who is remaining here, Clarke has the most potential and the highest ceiling. He’ll need to work on elements of his skating but the rest of his package is exceptional.
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8. Los Angeles Kings: Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
FCHockey rank: 6
Of all the prospects in the top-10, Guenther appears to have the widest range of where he could go — anywhere from the second spot to No. 10. He’s one of the harder players to predict. The winger is a strong forward that is highly competitive and has high-end offensive instincts. The Kings already have a pretty terrifying prospect pool, and imagining Guenther with Quinton Byfield or Alex Turcotte in the future only adds to the depth and talent that is the envy of the league.
9. Vancouver Canucks: Kent Johnson, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
FCHockey rank: 9
The Canucks will take whichever of the top-nine skaters is left to them, and in this case, it’s the most creative player in the class in Johnson. He has the best hands in the draft and oozes offensive skill. The Canucks have some key, young pieces right now and Johnson will add to that, bringing a high level of skill to the West Coast. After watching how Johnson transitioned from the BCHL to the NCAA, Canucks fans should be very excited about what the future holds.
10. Ottawa Senators: Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF (SHL)
FCHockey rank: 8
Similar to the Canucks, the Senators play a waiting game to see who falls. Granted, there’s a chance they go for a skater in Cole Sillinger or Chaz Lucius, but looking at their pool, landing the top goaltender in this class is a big win for the Senators. Wallstedt has done what few have done before him in his draft year: playing in the SHL all season and taking a starting role. While the Senators have a large number of goalie prospects in the system, none are at Wallstedt’s level.
11. Arizona Coyotes: Pick forfeited
The Arizona Coyotes’ first-round selection in the 2021 NHL Draft has been forfeited due to the organization breaking the NHL’s combine protocol.
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12. Chicago Blackhawks: Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
FCHockey rank: 15
This is where it could get interesting. Last season, the connection between the Blackhawks and Yaroslav Askarov made a great deal of sense. He just didn’t make it to their pick. But this year, with two high-end netminders to choose from, Chicago should be able to land their goalie of the future. Cossa has even been considered equal to Wallstedt in the public sphere but with Cossa the only one left here, the choice is easy. The Blackhawks have strong young guns at forward and defense, so the goaltender could be the last piece they need to get back into contention.
13. Calgary Flames: Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
FCHockey rank: 13
The Flames can bet on skill here and take a player that could very well surprise as a top-10 selection on draft day. Sillinger is one of the highest-skilled players available in the class, and this pick could very well be considered a steal down the line. Calgary does lack a great deal of high-end talent in their prospect pool, and Sillinger would be an instant injection of that. They could also look as Lucius and Fabian Lysell here for that skill.
14. Philadelphia Flyers: Chaz Lucius, C, USNTDP (USHL)
FCHockey rank: 14
If he didn’t have injury issues this season, it’s very likely that Lucius would be a top-10 pick. In the shortened season he had, he did show what he brings to the table with a plethora of skills and a knack for putting up points. The Flyers have a strong collection of U23 players right now, and Lucius could be the best finisher of the bunch. With how hard he works on and off the ice, he might not be that far from hitting the ice in Philadelphia.
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15. Dallas Stars: Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
FCHockey rank: 22
The Stars have some strong, young defenders in their pool, so building on offense will be key to start off their draft. In Othmann, they land a player that is almost a combination of a power forward and a sniper. He can throw big hits, has one of the best shots in the class and plays hard. It’s not hard to imagine him becoming a fan favorite in Texas, either.
16. New York Rangers: Zach Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
FCHockey rank: 23
Like Lucius, Dean’s season was shortened due to injury. Had he played a full season, it’s very likely that he would be the unquestioned top prospect coming out of the QMJHL. Dean is like glue to the net-front, having a strong nose for finding the lanes. He also has some of the best hands in the draft. The Rangers seem to have all the pieces in place and betting on skill is the next step.
17. St. Louis Blues: Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea (SHL)
FCHockey rank: 11
Many in the public sphere would have had Fabian Lysell go in the top-10 and he has the skill to justify it; however, there are also questions around his game and he looks to be a candidate that could slide. He has exceptional hands and impressive speed, and the Blues could use an injection of that skill in their pool and lineup. Blues’ fans should be extremely happy to land the Swedish prospect here.
18. Winnipeg Jets: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
FCHockey rank: 12
While the Carson Lambos connection is there (he’s from Winnipeg and plays in the city with the WHL’s Ice), Ceulemans looks to have the higher ceiling. The Jets need to restock their prospect pool nearly across the board and adding a defender here is a great first step. Ville Heinola looks extremely promising and the two of them together in the future would be an excellent duo. Ceulemans is a polarizing prospect, but his size, mobility, and physical presence make him an attractive selection.
19. Nashville Predators: Isak Rosen, LW, Leksands (SHL)
FCHockey rank: 16
The Predators are easy to connect with taking a defender, seeing how they’ve become known as a defensive team and how they develop blueliners. However, at some point, they need some more offensive skill. With Rosen, they get that in spades; he rose up many draft boards after his performance at the Under-18s, putting to rest many questions about his game and ability. They have some strong pieces in the system and just need to continue to fill that out. Adding Rosen would be a big boost to this pool.
20. Edmonton Oilers: Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
FCHockey rank: 20
Coronato could be gone at this point, as one of the most impressive risers through the season. This should be as low as he gets, and Edmonton is an excellent fit for the USHL star. He’s one of the most competitive players in the class who loves to drive the net. There’s some question about how much of his game will translate to the NHL, but with his level of drive, it’s hard to imagine him not getting there and not excelling.
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21. Boston Bruins: Fyodor Svechkov, C, Lada Togliatti (VHL)
FCHockey rank: 18
Another player that could be selected higher than this spot, Svechkov continued to impress more and more all season, capped off with his strong Under-18s performance. This seems like another easy fit, with the Bruins’ attraction to defensive-minded forwards and Svechkov as one of the best in this class. The pivot has excellent defensive awareness but can also show up big in the offensive end. Svechkov is a candidate to shoot up into the top-15 on draft day.
22. Minnesota Wild: Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
FCHockey rank: 21
After taking another SKA player last season in Marat Khusnutdinov, the Wild look back to Russia here with Chibrikov. Being the first of two selections in the first round, the Wild add a well-rounded, skilled forward that is a leader on the ice. He can show up big when his team needs it and he brings strong firing power and strong skating ability.
23. Detroit Red Wings (via WSH): Olen Zellweger, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
FCHockey rank: 26
With the Red Wings taking McTavish at No. 6, they could look to their defensive prospect pool for their second selection. And what a pick it is. While he only played in a shortened WHL season and the Under-18s, Zellweger impressed every time he hit the ice and charged into first-round consideration. An extremely intelligent defenseman, Zellweger would be an excellent complement to top prospect Moritz Seider down the line.
24. Florida Panthers: Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
FCHockey rank: 24
While the Panthers might lean towards a defender like Lambos here, Bourgault is too good to pass up. The center is an intelligent offensive weapon. He has no problem driving to the middle of the ice and has the creativity to create lanes to get there. At this point, count Bourgault as a steal, as he plays a very mature game. After taking two-way center Anton Lundell last year, Bourgault would help build up the Panthers’ prospect pool down the middle for the foreseeable future.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (via TOR): Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Liiga)
FCHockey rank: 17
After being considered the top prospect in the class entering the season, Raty’s stock has fallen drastically. He’s still a likely first-round pick, though, and it seems likely that a team with multiple first-round picks is the one to bite. With the Blue Jackets having three (and already landing Clarke), getting Raty with another pick to come is a big add for Columbus. If he reaches anywhere close to his ceiling, this is an absolute steal. It’s worth the gamble.
26. Minnesota Wild (via PIT): Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
FCHockey rank: 29
After taking a forward just a few selections ago, the Wild could look to the back end and land a player that was once considered a No. 1 contender. Lambos entered the season as one of the top defenders in the class and headed to Finland while the WHL was delayed. His game overseas raised more questions than confirming his ranking, causing him to drop significantly. With the Wild having two picks, betting on Lambos could be worth the risk.
27. Carolina Hurricanes: Jack Peart, D, Fargo Force (USHL)
FCHockey rank: 34
Carolina has a way of landing players that the public sphere is high on. With the Hurricanes needing to add some defensive prospects to their system, Peart is an excellent option. Named Mr. Hockey as Minnesota’s top high school player, Peart fits the Hurricanes’ mold well as Carolina is where they are by betting on skill — and Peart has that in bunches. From his intelligence to his vision on the ice, Peart would be an excellent addition.
28. Colorado Avalanche: Oskar Olausson, RW, HV71 (SHL)
FCHockey rank: 38
The Avalanche has a strong pool down the middle and on the back end, so adding to the wings looks to be the next step. Olausson seems to be a polarizing prospect in the scouting community, but he would be an excellent fit for Colorado. He’s very confident with the puck on his stick, having no issues driving it into the zone and towards the net. While not likely a top-line option, he would help to build out their future secondary scoring.
29. New Jersey Devils (via NYI): Logan Stankoven, C/RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
FCHockey rank: 19
After looking to the defense with their first pick, the Devils could switch their focus to the forward corps. New Jersey is in a very interesting position: they likely have their top-three centers of the future with Hughes; they have their top-two defenders; Mackenzie Blackwood is the goalie; they have sharpshooters in Nolan Foote and Alexander Holtz. One thing they’re missing is someone to drive into the corners and win battles for the puck. That is very much Stankoven, who would easily become a fan favourite in New Jersey.
30. Vegas Golden Knights: Daniil Chayka, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
FCHockey rank: 28
Chayka looked extremely promising coming into the 2020-21 season. He showed strong two-way play in his OHL rookie season but his game struggled after heading back to Russia while the season was delayed (and then cancelled). Although there are questions about his consistency and overall ceiling, the potential is there. He’s a mobile, rangy defender that has shown what he can do in the past, he just needs to be more consistent in his play. If he reaches his ceiling, this will be an excellent selection.
31. Montreal Canadiens: Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
FCHockey rank: 31
The Canadiens have strong prospects at every position, so they are able to just go with the best player available here. Pinelli has some mixed reviews, but his offensive awareness is strong and he’s a great option to continue to build Montreal’s prospect pool. He’s a strong playmaker that knows how to create opportunities for teammates and often finds himself in the right place at the right time and that’s not an accident. He’s an intelligent player that could one day be a top-six forward.
32. Columbus Blue Jackets (via TBL): Sasha Pastujov, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
FCHockey rank: 39
With the final pick of the first round, the Blue Jackets bet on skill in Pastujov. Yes, his skating needs some work, but he’s one of the more intelligent players in the class. His brain works so fast and his hands match with excellent puckhandling. If he can get his feet to match, he could be one of the better prospects to come out of the class. With their first three selections, the Blue Jackets have drastically added to their prospect pool.
Josh Bell is a scout and the director of content for FCHockey.
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