NHL Mock Draft – OwnersBox
Thursday June 24th
By: Andrew Boyer
With the Stanley Cup playoffs in the midst of the conference finals, and my Edmonton Oilers a distant playoff memory, it is time to begin looking forward to the yearly consolation prize, the glimmer of hope for the future, the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. This draft promises to be amongst the most unique and controversial in NHL history.
The 2021 NHL Entry Draft is scheduled to take place virtually on July 23rd/24th 2021. The draft was delayed due to domino effect of the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the start of the 2021 NHL season. This will be a unusual draft not only because the draft will take place virtually for the second year in a row, but also because the draft will be conducted based on limited scouting information on the prospects.
With the pandemic cancelling the OHL season, and cutting the WHL season to 24 games, many draft eligible prospects weren’t given a chance to show their skills in their draft year. Additionally because of international and local travel restrictions due to the pandemic, scouts were unable to view many of the games that were played. Scouts are viewing prospects off of film and production from 17-year-old seasons, meaning many picks will basically be a shot in the dark compared to past drafts. The lack of information and in person viewing means that really any player could go at any pick after the top 3 prospects as teams will have vastly different opinions on each player.
Moreover, this draft perhaps one of weakest since the infamous 2012 draft (Yakupov, Murray, Galchenyuk), as there is not many prospects with elite franchise player ceilings. That being said there are a bunch of awesome prospects that will make an impact in the NHL so let’s get into it and predict where the prospects will land in the top 20:
1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, University of Michigan
After his competent showing representing Canada at the Men’s World Championships, Owen Power is a lock to go first overall to Buffalo. This is a such an easy pick for the Sabres to make, as the big body puck moving defenseman will trade in the Blue and Yellow of Michigan for the Blue and Yellow of the Sabres, but not after possibly returning to Michigan for one more season. Power and Dahlen give the Sabres a defending duo to build their franchise around even if they trade away Eichel this summer.
2. Seattle Kraken: Matthew Beniers, C/LW, University of Michigan
The second overall pick is wide open in this draft as there is no clear second best prospect. My guess is that the Kraken grab Matthew Beniers with their first pick in franchise history. Beniers was a top contributor all over the ice for the USA on their way to winning gold at the World Junior Championship this year. He is a complete player, tough competitor, and a future captain for the Seattle Kraken to build their new franchise around.
3. Anaheim Ducks: Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts
Brandt Clarke brings top-end skating along with an all-round defensive game. Clarke is a swiss army knife with the ability to kill penalties and anchor a powerplay, and while he is not the most dynamic defender, Clarke will be solid second pairing defender which is highly sought after in the NHL. Brandt Clarke is a safe pick and just fits so well within the Ducks rebuilding plans as a defensive prospect to pair with Drysdale and one of the best prospect pipeline’s in the NHL. Plus, with the Ducks potentially losing Josh Mahura to Seattle in the expansion draft, Brandt Clarke can help shore up the Ducks blue line depth.
4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes, D, University of Michigan
It’s a family reunion for the Devils as Luke Hughes joins his brother Jack in Newark. Luke is a play-creating offensive defenseman, but not the most complete prospect in this draft class. The Devils make this pick because of Jack Hughes’s public recruiting of his brother and the Devil’s need for a offensive defenseman prospect in their pipeline. The Devils need something to brand the team around and the brothers Hughes will be an awesome way to market the Devils outside their home market in New Jersey. Additionally, the arrival of Luke Hughes in New Jersey would help replace the likely loss of Subban to the Kraken in the expansion draft.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Simon Edvinsson, D, SHL
This year’s Philip Broberg, Edvinsson is big-bodied puck-moving Swedish defensemen with a raw game and buckets of potential – he is this year’s Broberg. With Seth Jones likely on the way out of Ohio this summer, the Blue Jackets need to stock the cupboards with defensive prospects, and with the Blue Jackets in a position to be patient as they rebuild, Edvinsson could develop into a top pairing stalwart for Columbus for years to come.
6. Detroit Red Wings: William Eklund, C/LW, SHL
Let’s be real here – the Red Wings and head scout Hakan Andersson love drafting out of Sweden. William Eklund has elite vision, skating, and his among the most skilled forwards in this class. Eklund could begin contributing for the Red Wings sooner rather than later as Eklund looks nearly NHL ready and the Wings are in desperate need of forward depth. Could also see the Red Wings going with Swedish goalie Jesper Walldstedt here.
7. San Jose Sharks: Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes
McTavish is a gritty power forward center with a big shot and the size to create space on offense and to also shut down the opposition on defence. McTavish arrived on the scene with a dominant performance at the U18s for Canada and a great showing playing in the Swiss League this past season while the OHL was cancelled. Mason McTavish has been flying up draft board recently and may not make it to the Sharks pick, but if he does he would be a great fit for the Sharks team in need of some size and skill (and hope) at the center position behind Couture.
8. Los Angeles Kings: Jesper Wallstedt, G, SHL
One of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s class lands with the Los Angeles Kings. Jesper Wallstedt is being pegged as the next great Swedish goaltender and he could be the first goalie selected in the top 10 since Carey Price. Scouts disagree on how high Wallstedt should go, but one thing is certain, his combination of size and agility is tantalizing. All four starting goaltenders left in the Stanley Cup playoffs are former first round picks: Price, Fleury, Vasilevskiy, Varlamov. You can’t win the cup without an elite goaltender.
The Kings have the best prospect pipeline by a mile: Byfield, Turcotte, Bjornfot, Vilardi, Fagemo, Kupari, Andersson, Anderson-Dolan, Akil Thomas – wow. It’s scary that the Kings are going to add a top 8 prospect to this already loaded prospect pool. The one thing missing in the Kings organization is an elite goaltending prospect, an heir-apparent to Jonathan Quick for the Kings’ crease. Wallstedt immediately fills that void, and cements the Kings’ status as a future NHL dynasty.
9. Vancouver Canucks: Kent Johnson, C, University of Michigan
Kent Johnson is the third member of the big three prospects from the University of Michigan. A skilled playing-making center that lit up the BJHL before attending Michigan. At Michigan he was on a dangerous line with Matt Beniers that terrorized the NCAA. Kent Johnson can be the perfect piece to complement the Canucks top 6 as a second line scoring threat, and his hometown BC native that would quickly develop into a fan favourite.
10. Ottawa Senators: Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton Oil Kings
Scoring at a pace of 2.0 points per game for the Oil Kings in 2021, Dylan Guenther is a pure offensive weapon. Guenther has a great combination of sniping and playmaking to add secondary scoring to any franchise. Guenther is one of the more NHL ready prospects in the draft along with Eklund; Ottawa is a team in need of scoring, Guenther can be a top 6 winger and powerplay specialist for the Senators that racks up points in bunches.
11. Arizona Coyotes: Pick Forfeited!
The Coyotes forfeit this pick as punishment for the scouting scandal. John Chayka was a complete disaster at GM for the Coyotes franchise.
12. Calgary Flames: Cole Sillinger, C, Medicine Hat Tigers
Ugghhhhh the Flames. Are they a real NHL team? I’m not sure. They should blow it all up and rebuild from the ground up and drafting Cole Sillinger would be a great place to start. I’m big on Cole Sillinger. He is a pure sniper with an elite shot, and also has some size as he’s over 6-feet-tall; Sillinger reminds me of David Pastrnak, and it would be unfortunate to see him scoring goals in the Battle of Alberta against my Oilers in the future.
13. Chicago Blackhawks: Fabian Lysell, RW, SHL
Another polarizing prospect out of Sweden, Fabian Lysell is perhaps the most talented offensive player in this draft. Elite skating and puck skills are Lysell’s hallmarks – but he comes with some risk of inconsistent play and perhaps some off-ice concerns. The Blackhawks are in a position to take the best player available and at 13 overall Lysell would be the best player available, and a great offensive prospect for the Hawks’ pipeline.
14. Philadelphia Flyers: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice
Carson Lambos is one of the safest picks in this draft. Although he is coming off an injury, Lambos is a dynamic offensive defenseman that is also responsible on defence. Lambos projects as a powerplay specialist and a second pairing puck mover. Toss in a little grit, and Lambos is the type of player that fits perfectly into the Flyers mold.
15. Dallas Stars: Aatu Raty, C, LIIGA
Raty was heralded as a probable top 5 pick coming into 2021 but his subpar offensive showing with Karpat in LIIGA this year has him slipping down draft boards. To me, Aatu Raty just screams Dallas Stars. Maybe it is because the Stars have bunch of Fins with Heiskanen, Hintz, Liddell, Kiviranta. Maybe its because Raty is all round center like Seguin, Hanzal, Fask, Hintz. Or maybe it is because he doesn’t stand out in any facet of the game, but is competent at both ends of the ice. Raty has size, and can contribute a bunch offensively, and would be a great fit in the Stars’ system.
16. New York Rangers: Chaz Lucius, C, USHL
Chaz Lucius belongs on the Rangers. He has a frat guy name – Chaz Lucius, it doesn’t get better, or more Rangers than that. Chaz is a pure goal scorer, and a great compliment to the recent playmaking wingers the Rangers have drafted in Lafreniere and Kravtsov.
17. St. Louis Blues: Zachary L’Heureux, C, Halifax Mooseheads
L’Heureux is the classic power forward: he brings goal scoring, size and tons of aggression. The Blues are a tough team and L’Heureux would fit right in. L’Heureux will be a fan favourite in Missouri but will be hated by every other player and every other fanbase, like the next Tom Wilson.
18. Winnipeg Jets: Daniil Chayka, D, Guelph Storm
The Winnipeg Jets desperately need defenseman. I know you do not draft for immediate need, but the Jets are so thin on defence that another prospect couldn’t hurt the problem. Chayka brings size, defensive skills, and more size. The Jets have Ville Heinola as a smaller dynamic offensive defenseman, and Chayka can be the perfect pairing as huge defensive defenseman in the Chara mold.
19. Nashville Predators: Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel, USHL
Coronato has exploded offensively this season with 85 points in 51 games for the Chicago Steel. Matthew lacks size but he has speed, and an unquestionable knack for creating scoring chances of offense. Coronato is a great fit for the Predators as a secondary scorer.
20. Edmonton Oilers: Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings
The Oilers need a homegrown elite goaltender and Cossa is the perfect fit. Cossa brings tremendous size and agility and would be the answer the Oilers’ problems in goal. Hailing from my hometown of Fort McMurray, Alberta, and playing for the Oil Kings of the WHL, Cossa grew up in the heart of Oil Country. As mentioned with Wallstedt, the last four teams left in the playoffs have first round pick goaltenders. I really hope Cossa makes it to the Oilers pick at 20 because he would be a slam dunk selection that would lay the foundation of Oilers transforming from pretender to contender.