2021 NHL Draft: Top prospects to watch
With the lottery order now set, Chris Peters picks out the top talents you should look out for in the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft.
The NHL held the 2021 Draft Lottery on Wednesday night, helping set the order for the 15 teams that missed out on the Stanley Cup playoffs. The lottery also included the Seattle Kraken, the expansion team that will enter the league next season, marking their first official NHL event. Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes were in the lottery, but ineligible to receive a pick as they forfeited their first-rounder in 2021 after being sanctioned by the NHL for improper testing of draft prospects last season.
Here is how the lottery order shook out:
- Buffalo Sabres
- Seattle Kraken
- Anaheim Ducks
- New Jersey Devils
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Detroit Red Wings
- San Jose Sharks
- Los Angeles Kings
- Vancouver Canucks
- Ottawa Senators
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Calgary Flames
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Dallas Stars
- New York Rangers
The lottery is really the first step in preparation for the NHL Draft, for which players born before September 15, 2003 are eligible to be selected. This was a strange year with the pandemic, not just for the NHL but for hockey across the globe. It made the job especially challenging for NHL scouting staffs that could not move as freely as they normally would. In a few leagues’ cases, they never started at all, leaving many players scrambling to find a place to play to showcase their talents for this draft.
Although the season is different, plenty of leagues had enough games for NHL scouts to make strong enough evaluations. There was also the 2021 IIHF World Men’s Championship that featured a large number of top draft-eligible talents.
Here are some of the names you should know for the NHL Draft, which will be held virtually over July 23 and 24:
Owen Power | D | University of Michigan
Power is currently playing for Canada at the Men's World Championship in Latvia and showcasing why many believe he is the best prospect in this draft. He is a 6ft 5in defenseman with tremendous hockey sense and mobility. Some scouts have compared him to Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Matty Beniers | C | University of Michigan
It’s very possible that teammates go No. 1 and No. 2 in this draft as Beniers is getting a lot of buzz. He is also at the Men’s World Championship, playing for Team USA, but sustained an injury in the quarter-finals and may miss the rest of the tournament. Beniers is a two-way center that is especially quick and competitive. He’s said in the past that he models his game after Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and it’s easy to see some of those similarities.
Luke Hughes | D | U.S. National Under-18 Team
The youngest of the three Hughes brothers, Luke looks poised to follow brother Quinn of the Vancouver Canucks and Jack of the New Jersey Devils in being a top 10 pick in the draft. That would be a first for an American family. Luke is a 6ft 2in defenseman, making him the tallest Hughes. He plays very similarly to Quinn and is one of, if not the best overall skater in this draft with tremendous edge work and excellent two-way ability.
William Eklund | LW | Djugardens
The rookie of the year in Sweden’s elite league, Eklund was a top line player for Djugardens despite his young age. He is a gifted scorer and playmaker and had a knack for scoring big goals for his team this year. An injury kept him off of Sweden’s roster for both the Men’s World Championship and the World Junior Championship. When he’s on his game, though, he has the skating and the skill to be a game-breaker.
Dylan Guenther | RW | Edmonton Oil Kings
One of the most dynamic offensive talents in the draft, Guenther had 24 points in just 12 games in the shortened Western Hockey League season. He also stood out for Canada at the World Men’s Under-18 Championship.
Jesper Wallstedt | G | Lulea
The top goalie in the draft is a bit of a wildcard. It’s hard to know where he’ll end up, but there also hasn’t been much precedent for an 18-year-old goalie starting as many games as he did this season in Lulea. Goaltender can be the toughest position to evaluate and draft because there’s a lot that can happen in a goalie’s development, but Wallstedt is a technically sound, talented netminder who should be the first goalie off the board come July.
Simon Edvinsson | D | Frolunda
To be a 6ft 5in defenseman with hands like his is pretty rare. Edvinsson has great puck skills, can evade pressure and makes plays up the ice. There’s still a rawness to his game, which suggests some good coaching and added strength could give him one of the highest ceilings of any player in the draft coming up. He should be one of the early defensemen taken. He looks a bit like a taller John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars.
Brandt Clarke | D | Nove Zamky
A Canadian defenseman who chose to move to Slovakia to play there when the Ontario Hockey League was shut down. He performed at an especially high level, putting together one of the most productive seasons in Slovakian pro history for a teenage defenseman. Then he went to the Men’s World U18 Championship and helped Canada roll to the gold medal. He’s one of those guys that a lot of teams are excited about because of his higher-end offensive skill. He’s not quite at the same level, but Adam Fox seems like a pretty reasonable comparable for him.
Mason McTavish | C | Olten
Another Canadian who went overseas to get games in, McTavish played in Switzerland’s second pro division. After Beniers, he is considered the best center in this draft. McTavish has a good blend of toughness and skill that teams tend to fall head over heels for. His playmaking ability is also a high-end trait, going along with good hockey smarts that allows him to make up for average skating ability. He reminds me a bit of Paul Stastny of the Winnipeg Jets.