The 2021 NHL Draft has some uncertainty around it. When it will take place is becoming clearer, but how it will look is still very much up in the air at this point given the state of the hockey world.
However, with the NHL season rolling on and most teams’ schedule halfway complete, fans of clubs near the bottom of the standings are understandably starting to keep a close eye on the NHL Entry Draft and the prospects eligible.
Some of the bottom dwellers are surprises, while others were expected to languish amidst rebuilding efforts. Whatever the reason, it’s time to start looking at the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s important to note that there are only 31 selections here, as the Arizona Coyotes had to forfeit their 2021 first-rounder due to NHL Combine violations last season. This is the second year the team lost a draft pick. The 2021 draft is also the first official one for the Seattle Kraken, who will be looking to build out their prospect pool and future.
Here’s how the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft could shake out.
NHL Mock Draft 2021, version 1.0
1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
The Sabres need an influx of talent in their club, which they’ve been working on over the past three drafts landing Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn. Adding a 6-6 mobile defenseman that can take over plays? That seems like an excellent start. The Sabres have some promising pieces up front, but the future backend leaves fans wanting more. Power could be an excellent answer for that.
2. Detroit Red Wings: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (SHL)
If the 2020 NHL Draft taught us anything about the Red Wings, it’s that they love their Swedes. They also love Frolunda, taking Lucas Raymond and Theodor Niederbach with two of their first three picks. Edvinsson is an extremely mobile defender who loves to jump up in the play. Down the line, he could be the perfect complement to 2019 selection Mortiz Seider.
3. Seattle Kraken: Luke Hughes, D, US-NTDP (USHL)
With the first-ever selection for the Kraken, why not take the defender who may be a little raw still but could just have the highest upside of this class. Just six days away from being eligible in 2022, Hughes could be the perfect core prospect that the new NHL team needs to build around as they begin constructing the team.
4. Ottawa Senators: William Eklund, C, Djurgardens (SHL)
After grabbing Tim Stützle and Jake Sanderson with their two top-five picks last year, the Senators have one of the best pools in the league. What they could add though, is some potential star power up front. The offensively dynamic Eklund would fit that bill and could very well end up being the Senators No. 1 center down the line. Even if he’s a No. 2, Eklund is a well-rounded prospect already playing professionally. He might not be that far off from the NHL and that screams Senators selection at this point in the rebuild.
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5. Anaheim Ducks: Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
After taking defenseman Jamie Drysdale and winger Jacob Perreault in 2020, looking towards the middle of the ice might be the best option for the Ducks. Beniers might just be the biggest riser of the season, despite being promising for the last few years. Arguably the best two-way forward in the class, a future one-two punch of Americans Trevor Zegras and Beniers is extremely realistic; especially after that’s exactly what Team USA had at the 2021 World Junior Championship en route to the gold medal.
6. New Jersey Devils: Kent Johnson, LW, University of Michigan (NCAA)
A line of Johnson, Jack Hughes and Alexander Holtz. Is more explanation needed? Johnson could be the most creative prospect in this class, Hughes brings the overall offensive talent and Holtz is the finisher. This trio could be one of the most dominant lines in the NHL one day and Devils fans should be drooling over this idea. Johnson has had a stellar start to his NCAA career and could be one of the final pieces to the Devils roster.
7. Vancouver Canucks: Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL) on loan with HC Nove Zamky (Slovakia)
A strong contender to be the first-overall selection in this class, Clarke falling to No. 7 could be extremely realistic as the first tier of this draft is about 10 prospects wide rather than the typical one or two players. The defender might be the strongest rearguard in this class in the offensive zone and imagining a future power play with Quinn Hughes and Clarke could be something that every NHL fan needs in their life.
8. San Jose Sharks: Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF (SHL)
Teams tend to be reluctant to take goaltenders in the top-10 — or the first round for that matter — but after Spencer Knight (No. 13 in 2019) and Yaroslav Askarov (No. 11 in 2020) were right on the edge, Wallstedt should be a lock for a top-10 pick in 2021. The Sharks look like a rebuild is on the horizon and landing a potential No. 1 goaltender of the future would be an excellent way to kickstart that process. Wallstedt has been dominant in the SHL as a rookie, something unheard of for draft-eligibles.
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9. Nashville Predators: Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
After taking Askarov in 2020, it’s time to look back up front and the Predators to take one of the two top forwards available. Guenther gets the edge here, as he already looks dominant in the WHL and his offensive awareness is through the roof. While the WHL delay has kept him from earning much discussion for the No. 1 spot, hitting the ice now could see him shoot up draft boards. If he’s available at this point, the Predators should jump at the left winger.
10. Dallas Stars: Fabian Lysell, LW, Lulea HF (SHL)
Lysell is practically falling into the lap of the Stars here. Along with Johnson, Lysell looks to be one of the most creative prospects in this class. He’s had strong showings in the SHL and on top of his offensive skill, he brings a solid two-way game. The Stars have some promising pieces in their system right now and Lysell would easily come in as the top forward prospect.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets: Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL) on loan with EHC Olten (Swiss League)
The Blue Jackets have surprised in recent selections (see 2020’s Yegor Chinakhov) but this pick might just be a perfect fit for Columbus. McTavish’s 2020-21 season was delayed along with the OHL season, but he’s recently hit the ice in Switzerland and has been quickly impressing. He has a strong shot, excellent vision, and he’s shown early on that he can handle the physical demands of a professional league.
12. Calgary Flames: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Lambos came into the season as a strong contender for the first-overall selection, or at the very least a top-five pick. With some struggles adjusting to the European game, he has slid down draft boards; however, Lambos still has one of the highest upsides among defenders in this class. He’s strong on his feet and has a strong transition game, and in past seasons has shown very strong offensive skill. If he gets back to that development curve, this could be an early steal of the draft.
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13. New York Rangers: Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Liiga)
Once a strong contender for No. 1, Raty could very well be a steal at 13th overall. He started the 2020-21 season a little rough, but has continued to improve and really find his game as the season has progressed. Combining 2019’s No. 2 Kaapo Kakko, 2020’s No. 1 Alexis Lafrenière and Raty could be a very intriguing option for the Rangers. His high-end playmaking and puckhandling could be too good to pass up.
14. Los Angeles Kings: Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL) on loan with EHC Olten (Swiss League)
Playing alongside McTavish with EHC Olten, Othmann has proven that he’s a top forward in this class. With arguably the best shot in the draft, he has been earning his time in Switzerland with impressive competitiveness, strong skating, and excellent offensive awareness. As the draft draws closer, Othmann could be a name to keep an eye on to push the top-10.
15. Minnesota Wild (via PIT): Cole Sillinger, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) transferred to Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
It seems almost unfair to leave Sillinger here for the Wild to take with the first of their two first-round picks as he may be the most deadly offensive talent in this class. With improved skating, he would be a lock for the top-10. After landing Marco Rossi last year, Sillinger would continue to restock the Wild’s cupboard with high ceiling, electric prospects.
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16. Edmonton Oilers: Chaz Lucius, C, US-NTDP (USHL)
While OHL and WHL players have lost most of their seasons due to the league delays, Lucius has missed the majority of his season due to an injury. However, his 2019-20 season and early 2021 impressions have done more than enough to warrant him a high pick. Imaging Lucius’ impressive shot being fed by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisitl, or even 2020 pick Dylan Holloway, should be enough to get Oilers’ fans excited.
17. Chicago Blackhawks: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
After taking Kirby Dach and Lukas Reichel in the first round of the last two drafts, the Blackhawks would be wise to look to the backend and AJHL star Ceulemans would be the easy choice at this point. He’s physical, stellar in the offensive end and while his defensive zone play is a work in progress, he’ll have time to work on that with the University of Wisconsin starting next season.
18. Montreal Canadiens: Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Selecting Kaiden Guhle last year will allow the Canadiens to turn their attention back to the forward corps — and land the top Russian in this class. Chibrikov has turned out strong performances at every level in Russia and landing him at this spot could practically be a steal. There’s always a hesitancy over drafting Russians as they may spend some extra years home, but Chibrikov could very much be worth the wait.
19. Minnesota Wild: Stanislav Svozil, D, HC Kometa Brno (Czech)
Svozil is a name that has been on the radar for the 2021 draft for years thanks to his international play. Practically a theme for the defensemen in this class, Svozil is a mobile defenseman who excels in the offensive end. He reads the play well and plays a very smart game. After going for the high-skill forward with their first pick, looking to the back end is the smart choice here.
20. Philadelphia Flyers: Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) on loan with HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)
Pinelli is another player who could see a late push up draft boards. His strong start in the AlpsHL combined with his OHL rookie season has continued to see his stock rise. He’s a dynamic, offensive threat that is capable of threading defensive units on his way to the net. The Flyers seem to land some sneakily good players in drafts and Pinelli may be the cream of the crop in that sense. If there’s no OHL season and Pinelli is still on the board here, this is a steal of a pick.
21. St. Louis Blues: Zachary L’Heureux, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
With a number of graduates in recent years, the Blues prospect pool is lacking offensive skill and some grit. L’Heureux could fill both of those voids. His style of play would complement the other forwards in the system extremely well while providing a bit of that needed grit. Along with 2020 selection Jake Neighbours, the cupboard would be starting to look restocked.
22. Colorado Avalanche: Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
After selecting highly-skilled defenders and forwards in recent years, landing a defensive forward who is a strong two-way forward but still knows how to bury the puck could be an excellent fit. Likely a middle-six player down the line, Bolduc could be a solid all-situations pivot to complement the offensively-minded players that the team has been adding.
23. Winnipeg Jets: Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea J20 (J20 Nationell)
A high-octane force, Robertsson never seems to take his foot off the gas when he steps onto the ice. The Jets have some interesting pieces on defense in their prospect pool and after landing Cole Perfetti last season, Robertsson would be an excellent addition to this system. The idea of the pair one day working together has the makings of a dynamic duo all over it.
24. Boston Bruins: Logan Stankoven, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Stankoven is another player who hasn’t received the attention he deserves this season thanks to the WHL delay. He’s a high-energy forward that oozes offense and the Bruins prospect pool is significantly lacking right now, especially with Jack Studnicka on the verge of graduating. Stankoven could step in as the top prospect and with him still yet to hit the ice this season, there’s no telling just how far he’d come with a year of development.
25. Washington Capitals: Daniil Chayka, D, Guelph Storm (OHL) on loan with CSKA Moskva (KHL)
The Capitals drafting a Russian player may be a little played out at this point but Chayka might be the right fit after selecting Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre the last two years. Adding a player who has had a rough season on loan in Russia, but showed very promising tools in the OHL in 2019-20, may be a bit of a gamble but it could pay off in a big way.
26. Florida Panthers: Oskar Olausson, RW, HV71 (SHL)
With the selection of two-way center Anton Lundell last year, the Panthers would add offense with a significant punch with Olausson. A player that has shot up draft boards this season, he is a strong skater, excellent shooter and has high-end vision. He’s shown what he can do at the SHL level and made Sweden’s world junior entry as a draft-eligible.
27. Carolina Hurricanes: Isak Rosen, Leksands (SHL)
The Hurricanes have a way of drafting players that the public sphere raves about — enter Rosen. The Swedish forward seems to have taken a backseat to Eklund and Lysell, but he could be close to their level. His two-way play has been on display in the SHL, even though it’s likely it’s his offensive game that will see him succeed. He’s an explosive skater who’s always finding a path to the net.
28. New York Islanders: Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Looking at the future of the Islanders, who will be the second-line center behind Mat Barzal? Bourgault could very well be the answer. He’s a strong offensive presence and while he doesn’t get as much attention as L’Heureux or Bolduc, he could be the best prospect to come out of the QMJHL in this class. The Islanders’ forward prospect pool is looking a little shallow right now, but Bourgault would be a big addition.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs: Artyom Grushnikov, D, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
There was a big public push for the Maple Leafs to draft the defensive-minded Braden Schneider at 15th overall in 2021, but that was just too high to reach. This year though, it’s looking like Toronto could end up near the bottom of the first — right where Grushnikov will be ripe for the picking. The Russian defender has been in limbo this season waiting for the OHL to start, but even last year in the MHL, he was an extremely strong presence in his own end.
30. Tampa Bay Lightning: Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
The Chicago Steel has put together one of the best development programs in junior hockey. After Brendan Brisson got the call in the first round last year, Coronato looks to be a strong contender to make that a pattern. The pedal is always to the metal with him and he’s absolutely fearless. While his skill level doesn’t scream elite, his effort and attitude — along with the massive step forward he’s taken this season — makes him an attractive target at the end of the first.
31. Vegas Golden Knights: Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
This might be one of the best fits in this mock draft. It’s rare to see a goaltender in the first round — it’s even rarer to see two. But, this could be the year it happens. The Golden Knights have done well building their prospect pool, but they lack a potential goaltender of the future. Cossa’s calm, he’s athletic, he’s technically sound and he’s 6-6. This might even be too low for the netminder.
Josh Bell is a scout and the director of content for FCHockey.