The hockey season is still young, but that hasn’t stopped eyes drifting to the offseason and the 2021 NHL Draft.
While the draft dates of July 23-24 are seeming less and less likely by the day, NHL teams and scouts are diligently working in preparation — and this year, teams have their work cut out for them more than usual.
Some players have yet to play a single game. Those that are suiting up have seen regular stoppages to their season. And in many cases, scouts aren’t even allowed in the rinks. That’s one obstacle. Another is simply making sense of this draft class. Unlike past years, there is no consensus No. 1 overall pick. There isn’t even a consensus top-10. Add it all up and it’ll lead up to a very intriguing draft day, whereas many as ten prospects could be the one to hear their name called first.
At FCHockey, scouts poured over tapes to build out how they would rank the top prospects in the 2021 NHL Draft.
NHL Draft 2021: Big board, player rankings
1. Luke Hughes, D, US-NTDP (USHL)
The third Hughes brother could very well be the second of the trio to hear his name called first overall. The left-handed defenseman is extremely mobile with strong puck skills. One of the draft’s youngest, Jack and Quinn’s brother is just six days shy of being eligible for 2022.
2. Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (SHL)
While this class has been referred to as the “draft of the defender,” don’t sleep on this year’s goaltenders. Wallstedt, leading that charge, has taken on a starting role in the SHL and is putting up some of the best numbers in the league. His textbook skill matched with his poise put him in a class with Panthers prospect Spencer Knight and Predators future netminder Yaroslav Askarov.
3. Owen Power, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
When you combine Power’s 6-5, 214-pound size with his surprisingly powerful skating, you get a player that will be hard to pass up. A Hobey Baker nominee, he has had a strong freshman campaign for the Wolverines.
4. Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (SHL)
Like Power, Edvinsson is a tower on the back end, standing at 6-4, 185-pounds. He’s also a fluid skater that is agile on his feet. His vision of the ice and movement of the puck should see him as a strong, puck-moving defender at the next level.
5. William Eklund, C, Djurgardens (SHL)
Not only has Eklund carved out a top-six role with Djurgardens, but he’s been a consistent producer on the team. His team play, offensive instincts and vision have thrust him into the conversation as a top-3 player in this class.
6. Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL) on loan with HC Nove Zamky (Slovakia)
With the uncertainty surrounding the OHL season, Clarke has taken his talents overseas to Slovakia where he’s been settling in nicely against professional competition. Yet another smooth-skating defenseman with an ability to move the puck up the ice in a hurry, Clarke’s right-hand shot should be highly coveted come draft day.
7. Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
Beniers has been one of the hottest names when it comes to the 2021 draft. He’s exploded out of the gates in his NCAA career and helped Team USA to a gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. His elite competitiveness and two-way play have shot him to the top of this class.
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8. Kent Johnson, LW, University of Michigan (NCAA)
The most creative player in this class, Johnson is yet another Michigan Wolverine that has been capturing scouts’ attention. His ability to move through traffic and create space for himself is second to none in this group and should go a long way to ensure his top-10 selection.
9. Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) on loan with Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)
While some OHL and WHL players have found other countries to play in, Guenther stayed home in Canada and has played just four games this season in the AJHL. Still, his strength, skating, and overall play make him one of the safest bets in the draft.
10. Fabian Lysell, LW, Leksands (SHL)
If there’s someone in this class to challenge Johnson when it comes to creativity, it’s Lysell. He never gives up on a play and is constantly pushing the pace. Lysell is able to create space for himself and his teammates and, on top of that his two-way game, is sneakily underrated.
11. Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Liiga)
While Raty hasn’t held on to the No. 1 consideration that he had entering the season, the center is still one of the best forwards in this class. His playmaking and puckhandling are high-end, and he’s also had some looks at the Liiga level. Seeing how his development hasn’t progressed as expected has caused some pause, but there are still a few intriguing tools in his box.
12. Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL) on loan with EHC Olten (Swiss League)
McTavish has only just hit the ice overseas after waiting for the OHL season to begin, but the young prospect showed enough last season to showcase real potential. He never takes his foot off the gas, has quick edges and impressive puck skills. Once he gets settled into his new surroundings, McTavish should start to show his talent.
13. Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Bolduc’s patience on the ice could be a big reason why he gets drafted higher than expected once draft day rolls around. He exudes confidence, with good speed and a two-way ability to match. The centerman can find his way through defenses and stop offenses, making him a strong candidate for the top prospects out of the QMJHL.
14. Zachary L’Heureux, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
L’Heureux is a power forward through and through, who can utilize his strength to win battles and protect the puck. He has surprisingly soft hands for his style of play and a finishing ability that will catch attention. He’s got a bit of a mean streak that has led to two suspensions this season, but he could prove to be a serviceable forward at the next level.
15. Chaz Lucius, C, US-NTDP (USHL)
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been the main reason for most players to not skate thus far, Lucius has been dealing with a lower-body injury that has kept him out of the lineup. Similar to McTavish, his previous seasons largely weigh in on his ranking. Highlighted by arguably the best shot in this class, Lucius is an intelligent player who knows how to get to the net and get the puck over the goal line.
16. Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL) on loan with JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
Another prospect that has gone overseas for ice time, Lambos hasn’t had the easiest of adjustments to European play but he’s been getting increased opportunities — including playing in the Liiga. He’s a well-rounded rearguard that is very strong on his feet.
17. Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
Making the AJHL must-watch hockey for NHL scouts, Ceulemans hasn’t hit the ice a whole lot due to the league not being able to get going. He’s played just two games this season, but between those and last year, there’s no questioning that he’s a man amongst boys. His physical presence and offensive prowess put him head and shoulders above the competition.
18. Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL) on loan with EHC Olten (Swiss League)
Playing with McTavish in Switzerland, Othmann arrived with EHC Olten earlier than his OHL peer, allowing him time to settle in and excel in the league against men. His excellent shot is complementary to his competitiveness and fearlessness making him not an easy player to play against.
19. Cole Sillinger, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) transferred to Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Sillinger stayed in North America and simply headed south to the USHL to get in some game action. He’s quickly shown why he’s such a dangerous player, showing off an elite shot, dangerous playmaking and skill with the puck. He’s one of the most offensively dynamic prospects in this class.
MORE: Hughes, Sillinger among top 10 draft-eligible prospects in January
20. Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA-1946 (MHL)
Seeing games in the MHL, VHL, and KHL this season, Chibrikov has catapulted over his countrymen as the top Russian prospect in the class of 2021. A very strong skater with high-end playmaking, Chibrikov is relentless on the puck carrier and always looking to get it to his team.
21. Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
An older player in this class, Bourgault has the confidence in his game to take control offensively, something that’s been paying off for him in his three seasons in the QMJHL. He has a natural offensive ability with an impressive shot and the skill to dish it out making his continued development promising.
22. Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) on loan with HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)
Another OHL overseas loan, Pinelli is still getting situated in Slovenia. Between last season and his brief ice time this year, he’s shown that he’s a skilled, intelligent playmaker that has room to continue to improve. Light on his feet, he plays a very calm game with quick processing. In a normal year, it’s not hard to imagine Pinelli shooting up draft boards.
23. Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL) on loan with KOOVEE U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
When Harrison is on the ice, his feet seem to never stop moving as he drives the offensive or is racing to backcheck. He’s adjusting well to his Finnish league, playing at over a point-per-game pace. He has a physical edge to his game, but the hands and skill to be a threat in all situations.
24. Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea J20 (J20 Nationell)
From his high-end motor to his three-zone awareness, Robertsson has the adaptability to be effective no matter how he’s utilized. He’s hard on the forecheck, agile on his feet, and an overall intelligent player, which explains how he got his first taste of the SHL at just 16 years old.
25. Stanislav Svozil, D, HC Kometa Brno (Czech)
Svozil has been making a name for himself in recent years at the international thanks to his fluid footwork and ability to read the play. If given an opening, Svozil can burn defenses — an ability that he put on display at the 2021 World Juniors. He fits the mould of the new-age, mobile defender extremely well.
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26. Isak Rosen, RW, Leksands (SHL)
Getting a long look at the SHL level this season, Rosen has taken this opportunity and run with it. An explosive skater, Rosen can blow past men in one of the best leagues of the world. Despite his smaller frame, there’s no fear in his game, and he’s always in the mix of things. He has promising ability in all three zones, which should translate well to the next level.
27. Vladislav Lukashevich, D, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Playing in the MHL, Lukashevich displays a uniquely advanced and mature game for his age. His defensive game is extremely impressive, yet he’s not afraid to jump up in the rush to create an offensive chance. He may not have one trait that stands out as elite, but he’s a high-end, all-situations rearguard.
28. Logan Stankoven, RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Another player that has yet to play a game this season, Stankoven’s 2019-20 season is enough to keep scouts excited. From his strong shot to his deceptive mobility, the Blazers forward is a play-driver. Seeing the strides that he’s taken in the past year will be important to properly peg his projection down, but from what we’ve seen of Stankoven, he’s a prospect with a lot to like.
29. Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Gaudreau is extremely athletic, and his rebound control and glove hand stand out as strengths. He always seems calm and collected between the pipes. Seeing multiple goaltenders hear their name called in the first round is rare, but if there’s a year to do it, it’s 2021.
30. Oskar Olausson, LW, HV71 (SHL)
With some strong showings in the SHL this season, Olausson has continued to rise up draft boards and garnered first-round discussion. He’s a strong skater, utilizing crossovers to navigate the neutral zone and enter the offensive zone. He oozes offensive talent — from his passing to his shot and his ability to create space for him and his team.
31. Matt Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
If there is one player in this class, so far, who has done everything they need to do to put themselves on the map, Coronato takes the cake. His point production leads the league, and he’s done it with a high-tempo game, excellent positioning and impressive team support.
MORE: Coronato’s point streak longest in USHL history
32. Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton (WHL)
A third goalie in 2021? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Cossa has yet to suit up this season but was one of the WHL’s best in 2019-20 with just six regulation losses on his resume. He’s an imposing netminder who commands his crease and displays dynamic lateral movement.
For FCHockey’s full list of the top 100, click here.
Josh Bell is a scout and the director of content for FCHockey.