The 2021 NHL Draft is lastly right here.
For the primary time ever, 32 common managers will take to the digital podium and name the names of the subsequent 223 NHL prospects due to the introduction of the Seattle Kraken. (Notice: There are formally 224 slots the Coyotes needed to forfeit their first-round decide.)
In one of the crucial unsure hockey seasons so far, the draft has quite a few query marks surrounding it. Maybe much more than normal given the impression of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hockey world.
MORE: watch the 2021 NHL Draft
What is going to the Buffalo Sabres do with the first-overall decide? How will the Kraken start to form their prospect pool? Ought to we count on some draft-day transactions? Who slides and who rises within the first spherical and past? How will the Ontario Hockey League season cancellation impression the draft? There are lots of unknowns getting into the annual occasion. Fortunately, these questions will quickly be answered.
With the primary spherical kicking off on Friday at Eight p.m. ET and Rounds 2-7 happening Saturday, listed below are 10 of the most important storylines to comply with because the 2021 NHL Draft will get underway.
Prime 10 storylines on the 2021 NHL Draft
Who do the Sabres take at No. 1?
Greater than another yr, the first-overall decide has been lengthy mentioned about this draft. Coming into the season, Finnish ahead Aatu Raty was broadly thought of the highest prospect. Nonetheless, all through 2020-21, it’s been a revolving door of names to be thought of with the highest spot. Relying on the listing, you might discover certainly one of Matthew Beniers, Brandt Clarke, Simon Edvinsson, William Eklund, Dylan Guenther, Luke Hughes, Kent Johnson, Carson Lambos, Fabian Lysell, Owen Energy, or Jesper Wallstedt on the high. That’s a variety of gamers.
So, what is going to the Sabres do with their second No. 1 decide in 4 years? All indications level to Energy being the man right here. A duo of Rasmus Dahlin and Energy may simply be too good to go up, and after Energy’s efficiency on the 2021 IIHF Males’s World Championship, it appears as if he’s grow to be the consensus choice.
Nonetheless, the rumours across the doable/eventual commerce of Jack Eichel makes this fascinating. May they chunk on Beniers or Eklund within the hopes of rebuilding their future down the center? Or, do they worth one of many different defenders extra? Clarke and Hughes appear to be the subsequent two to contemplate they usually might even have increased ceilings than Energy. For now, Energy stays the frontrunner to listen to his title referred to as first.
Prediction: The Sabres choose Owen Energy with the first-overall decide.
MOCK DRAFT, FINAL EDITION: Sabres add Energy, Kraken make first decide
Who turns into the Kraken’s first-ever draft decide?
We don’t have to attend lengthy for the subsequent huge query mark of the draft. If we assume Energy goes first general, then the entire different gamers talked about above are nonetheless in play. Beniers appears to be the possible reply right here. He’s broadly thought of the highest ahead prospect within the class, pushed very carefully by Eklund. Nonetheless, don’t depend them out from deciding on a defenseman as nicely. Hughes, Clarke, and Edvinsson all have related positional projections and ceilings proper now.
The projection of gamers issues right here. In all probability, Beniers is a second-line middle. Hughes, Clarke and Edvinsson possible received’t be number-one blueliners however may very well be top-pairing or top-four defenders. That leaves Eklund. After entering into the SHL, taking part in vital minutes, and making an impression evening in and evening out, Eklund’s ceiling may very well be extraordinarily excessive. His ability may make him a top-line ahead. For a group seeking to construct its prospect pool from scratch, Eklund may very nicely be the only option right here.
Prediction: The Seattle Kraken choose William Eklund with the second-overall decide.
Wallstedt or Cossa — which goalie goes first? Will they (each) crack the top-10?
Wallstedt has been on the radar for years already, at all times taking part in above his age group and at all times impressing. That continued this season along with his entering into the SHL and taking on because the starter for some time. In 22 video games, he went 12-10-Zero with a .908 save proportion. What’s most spectacular is simply how uncommon it’s for a draft-eligible to play within the SHL of their draft-eligible yr. It is extraordinarily uncommon. All bets are that he’ll pan out as a starter within the NHL.
One other netminder has climbed up draft boards as nicely, in Sebastian Cossa. As a rookie within the WHL, the Edmonton Oil Kings stopper went 21-6-Three with a .921 save proportion. He adopted that up in 2021 by going 17-1-1 with a .941 save proportion. He’s been completely dominant and groups have taken discover. Both one may very nicely be the highest goaltender taken within the 2021 draft.
Nonetheless, contemplating the extent of the leagues, Wallstedt is the perfect guess to go first within the draft. The SHL is a way more tough league to play in and given the rarity of what he’s achieved, he’s earned the highest spot, however don’t count on Cossa to be too far behind him.
Prediction: Wallstedt goes top-10 and Cossa within the top-20.
NHL DRAFT PICKS: Full order | Group by group
How the mighty have fallen — how far will Raty fall?
Getting into the season, Raty was the projected No. 1 decide within the 2021 draft. After constantly taking part in towards older competitors and standing out in worldwide competitions, it appeared just like the first-overall spot was his to lose. However then he misplaced it.
Raty struggled out of the gate this season, beginning within the U20 SM-sarja moderately than the Liiga as was anticipated. He didn’t make Finland’s entry for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship — regardless of making it in 2020 — and appeared unable to place all of it collectively within the first half of the season. This has led to a moderately outstanding tumble within the rankings and a few severe questions as to the place he’ll be chosen on draft day.
Raty nonetheless has an opportunity to show it round and this previous season may very well be a one-off. However that received’t cease the hesitancy round deciding on him. It’s very doable that he may slide out of the primary spherical altogether. With quite a few groups having a number of first-round picks although, that appears unlikely. A group just like the Columbus Blue Jackets, with three first-rounders, may take a flyer on the Finnish prospect as they’ve the picks to take that likelihood. He may not be the highest prospect within the class, however there’s nonetheless potential within the younger middle.
Prediction: Raty is chosen within the 25-30 vary.
Which first-round prospect is poised for the most important slide?
Raty isn’t the one prospect within the first spherical that may slide down the board. Two different high contenders are Lysell and Lambos. Each have been thought of top-10 picks within the public sphere at one level or one other this season.
Lysell has an amazing quantity of ability, from his velocity and agility to his fast palms and his playmaking means. Nonetheless, there are some questions round how he’ll translate to the NHL stage and his coachability that would impression his draft inventory considerably. This seems to be a participant that the general public sphere and NHL groups worth very otherwise and for that, he’s a robust candidate to slip.
Lambos was a sufferer of the WHL season being delayed and appeared abroad to hit the ice. He laced them up with JYP U18 and U20 SM-sarja, even getting two video games in on the Liiga stage. Whereas some prospects that headed abroad to play elevated their video games, Lambos struggled to seek out his recreation and didn’t take the step ahead from his D-1 season that many had hoped. Upon returning, Lambos acquired simply two video games in for the Winnipeg Ice earlier than his season was ended as a result of a reported medical situation. This can be a trigger for concern for some groups.
Prediction: Lysell is chosen within the 20-25 vary. Lambos goes between 25 and 30.
NHL DRAFT: 5 overagers | 10 candidates for No. 1 | 5 sleepers
Will we see a shock title within the first spherical?
With the 21st choice within the 2020 NHL Draft, the Blue Jackets chosen … Yegor Chinakhov?
This choice was a giant shock to just about anybody who covers the NHL Draft. Usually, there are surprises which have the general public scratching their heads. In 2021, this must be anticipated however the names can be arduous to peg down prior.
At the moment, within the public sphere, there are just a few in first-round rankings that go towards the consensus that may very well be a type of surprises. Ahead Tyler Boucher and defenders Jack Peart, Shai Buium, Scott Morrow and Aleksi Heimosalmi may all be gamers that groups worth extremely. FCHockey’s scouts additionally named Cole Jordan, Ville Koivunen, Danila Klimovich and Wyatt Johnston as names that would pop up within the top-32.
Lastly, it was reported earlier this yr the Russian overager Ilya Safonov was being thought of a high decide to go in Rounds 1-3 by a minimum of two NHL groups. After seeing Chinakhov chosen excessive final yr, don’t be shocked to see a reputation like Safonov’s pop up within the first spherical.
Prediction: There can be two “off the board” choices within the first spherical.
As soon as mentioned because the ‘yr of the defender’ — what number of go within the first spherical?
Getting into the 2020-21 season and, due to this fact, the 2021 NHL Draft season, the numbers of high-end defenders on this class appeared extraordinarily promising. On high of the large 4 of Clarke, Edvinsson, Hughes and Energy, there was pleasure with Lambos, Sean Behrens, Corson Ceulemans, Daniil Chayka, Stanislav Svozil too. It was main as much as be the yr of the defender.
Nonetheless, because the yr has gone on, a few of these defensemen didn’t take the anticipated steps ahead, some had their video games take a little bit of a dive and a few had been merely handed by some spectacular forwards.
This query is introduced up yearly. So, compared, right here is the variety of defenders taken within the first spherical within the final 5 drafts:
- 2020: 6
- 2019: 10
- 2018: 14
- 2017: 9
- 2016: 9
Looking at these numbers, and the general public rankings and mock drafts within the public sphere, it seems as if there’ll truly be a below-average variety of defensemen taken in 2021. The large 4 are seemingly locks, with Chayka, Ceulemans and Lambos possible candidates as nicely. There may very well be a few surprises, but it surely seems to be a reasonably low quantity this yr in comparison with current drafts.
Prediction: Eight defenders are chosen within the first spherical.
NHL DRAFT 2021: Last rating of high 32 | FCHockey ranks high 300
How will the OHL season cancellation impression the NHL Draft?
One of the fascinating storylines to comply with on this draft can be how the cancelled OHL season impacts the league. The OHL is a major supply for drafted prospects into the NHL however with its 2020-21 season cancelled, a variety of prospects didn’t get to hit the ice and couldn’t present NHL groups the worth that they’d convey. Whereas groups had entry to 2019-20 video footage, prospects missed out on exhibiting the expansion of their recreation.
This draft seems poised to see a document low of gamers drafted from the OHL.
For reference, right here’s how the final 5 drafts have been impacted by the OHL within the first spherical and full draft.
- 2020: 7 within the first spherical, 31 complete (14.four % of all picks)
- 2019: four within the first spherical, 32 complete (14.7)
- 2018: 7 within the first spherical, 43 complete (19.8)
- 2017: 5 within the first spherical, 47 complete (21.6)
- 2016: 9 within the first spherical, 52 complete (24.6)
For comparability, in FCHockey’s top-300 rating, there are solely 23 OHL prospects ranked, with six coming within the first spherical. These prospects are Chayka, Clarke, Benjamin Gaudreau, Mason McTavish, Brennan Othmann and Francesco Pinelli. One other title that has been popping up is Wyatt Johnston after a robust efficiency on the 2021 IIHF World Below-18 Hockey Championship.
In actuality, it’s unlikely that the entire above go within the first spherical. What’s extra possible is we see a document low variety of OHL prospects chosen within the 2021 draft general.
Prediction: 5 OHL prospects are drafted within the first spherical and fewer than 30 are chosen in your complete draft.
Who’s the primary overager chosen?
One other query that’s requested earlier than each draft, who would be the first re-entry off the board? This yr appears to have a number of contenders, together with Ethan Cardwell, Josh Doan, James Hardie, Simon Knak, Janis Moser, Xavier Simoneau and Pavel Tyutnev.
At FCHockey, Doan is ranked the very best out of this group at No. 72 and appears to have the perfect likelihood to be the primary off the board. The Chicago Metal winger took an enormous step ahead this season, choosing up 70 factors (31 objectives, 39 assists) in as many video games en path to the Clark Cup as USHL Champions. Watching his enchancment over the previous yr must be sufficient to earn him the title as the primary overager off the board.
Prediction: Doan would be the first overager drafted.
Ought to we count on groups to commerce first-round draft picks?
Completely. Each season, we see NHL groups make draft-day trades inside the first spherical. This yr, given the dearth of the franchise expertise on the high of the category and the wide-open nature from virtually the top-down, there are possible just a few groups open to transferring down within the draft. Maybe the larger query can be who needs to maneuver up?
The Blue Jackets must be a group to regulate for positive. With three first-round picks, together with fifth general, they’ll be a goal for anybody seeking to achieve a first-round decide. At the moment, the Arizona Coyotes, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals don’t have a first-rounder and may very well be prime candidates. As may the Kraken, who wish to construct out their prospect pool from the bottom up. The Blue Jackets No. 25 and No. 32 choices may very well be good targets for these groups.
NHL TRADE TRACKER: Listing of offers accomplished through the 2021 offseason
If any of those groups wish to transfer up a little bit increased, the New York Rangers’ No. 16 decide looks like a first-rate goal. The Rangers have had a remarkably quick rebuild and look set to ascend the standings. Transferring their draft decide for a chunk that helps now may very well be an possibility. May it’s part of a bundle for Jack Eichel? It’s very doable.
What can be fascinating to see is that if any group pulls a Brad Treliving. Final yr, the Flames common supervisor got here into the draft with the No. 19 decide, buying and selling it to the Rangers for No. 22 and No. 72, then transferring the No. 22 for the No. 24 and No. 80. He turned one decide into Connor Zary, Jeremie Poirier, and Jake Boltmann. If there was a candidate to do that once more this yr, look to the Minnesota Wild or Detroit Pink Wings as they restock their cabinets and look so as to add as many draft picks as doable.
Prediction: The Blue Jackets transfer certainly one of their two decrease picks and the Rangers transfer theirs.
Josh Bell is a scout and the director of content material for FCHockey.