Thu. Aug 5th, 2021

By Sean Patrick Ryan

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It has been a long and exhausting year scouting prospects from all over the world. I started with the Oilers prospects who went overseas during Covid, then OHL players who did the same, then a ton of European hockey for the 2021 draft eligibles, back to the QMJHL which kept stopping and starting, then the WHL & it’s abbreviated season and so on. I tried to cover as many U.S. players I could and circled back again to the European players while still tracking all the Oilers prospects – thanks in great part to InStat. Then of course, the WJC & U18’s were an important part of the process. Once it was all said and done, I’d say I’m still not nearly as prepared or confident as years past and I almost gave up altogether. But alas, we made it.

This was originally supposed to be a video version where I broke down each prospect’s game technically but honestly, life got in the way I just didn’t have the time to do everything I wanted to. But, I managed to get tape on as many prospects as I could to form a strong opinion and consolidated list of the 31 Prospects I feel will be the best in the NHL. THIS IS NOT A MOCK DRAFT. I have no interest in trying to predict who 32 GM’s are going to draft and where. This list is who I think will be the best prospects looking back 10 years from now.

As usual, my rankings consist of a lot of critical analysis and are based on NHL translatable skills and red flags. I don’t care where anyone has any of these kids ranked – I start with a blank sheet and go from there. So you’re going to see quite a variance I imagine than the “consensus” which is basically a bunch of people just copying each other’s list while shuffling a few names up and down to appear original. Look no further than last year where I was like the only one who had Jamie Drysdale as the #1 OHL prospect and ranked #2 overall (rankings I still stand by). I don’t do this to be different, I do it without outside interference or influence – hence the disparity. I’ll also document why I rank them the way I do to add context. Any rankings without that are just fluff in my opinion.

So without further adieu, here are the 31 Best Prospects in this year’s NHL Draft in order based on how I see their games translating to the NHL. Enjoy.

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Top 31 Prospects

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#1. Luke Hughes

Not going to lie, My Top 3 hasn’t changed in months. Luke Hughes was a favourite of mine right from the beginning of the season. The fact he got hurt does nothing to sway me away from the fact he is the best prospect in this draft and will have the greatest impact in the NHL one day.

Simply put, Luke Hughes is a bigger version of his brother Quinn, who is an outstanding NHL defenseman in his own right. In fact, some of the weaknesses Quinn has (lack of strength, physicality, doesn’t PK) aren’t really concerns with Luke, PLUS Luke has the terrific offensive upside as well. I don’t know if people are comparing Luke to Cale Makar or not, but he sure looks like him to me. If he was born a week later, Hughes wouldn’t even have been eligible till 2022 so he’s super young too which is a bonus.

Hughes strengths are plentiful but skating is his number one trait. He’s a fabulous skater who has elite speed & acceleration and an effortless stride. He’s absolutely deadly in transition and has a lot of confidence rushing the puck while maintaining control. On breakouts, he is a dual threat as a puck mover to either skate it out quickly or make a good first pass and out. That’s all going to translate well to the NHL and puts him above Power, Clarke & Edvinsson for me. Once he gains entry, Hughes is just a master in the offensive zone. He has elite offensive instincts and has a big shot from the point. He’s real good at faking out defenders and changing shot angles like Evan Bouchard likes to do – but at faster speeds. He’s makes a lot of smart plays keeping pucks in plays alive. His shot and release are very strong and quick. His vision and passing are high end. He is more than capable baiting defenders as he threads the needle to a teammate with a precision pass. Hughes checks every box you would want in a premier offensive defenseman prospect.

Defensively, Hughes game can be described as a work in progress. Puck moving and zone exits are his strength, though he can be guilty of not always being patient and forcing a quick pass which can lead to a turnover. He uses his stick effectively & consistently to break up plays and take away passing lanes. He’s real good challenging at the blueline but can be caught over-pursuing at times as he attempts to steal the puck for a transition play, instead of just playing the man. His defensive intensity can be too casual at times and he’s not overly physical. His gap control, puck retrievals, slot coverage etc… still need some work too but that is common for a majority of young offensive defensemen. Overall, Hughes is not as far along as Edvinsson but not that far behind Power and Clarke either. He’s got the size & speed to compete, he likes to penalty kill and is the youngest of the group by 5 months.

Final Thought:

I’ve read Owen Power is the consensus #1 player in this draft but for me, Hughes is EASILY the more dynamic player with the bigger upside. Yes, he needs to get stronger and shore things up in his own zone, but Hughes’ offense projects to be among the NHL’s elite offensive defensemen like Fox, Makar, Q. Hughes etc… and is a legit #1 dman prospect. He’d be my choice if I was picking 1st overall.

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#2. Dylan Guenther

The second best player I watched this year was Dylan Guenther. He was absolutely dominant in the WHL averaging 2 points a game and look every bit a top prospect in this draft. He scored 12 goals (only 2 on the PP) and 24 points total in 12 games. In fact, he’s torched every league he has played in since he was 15. Even last year as a 16 yr old WHL rookie he had 26 goals & 59 points in 58 GP. While he didn’t put up massive numbers at the U18’s (7 points in 7 GP), I was impressed with his attention to detail and strong team play.

When I watch Guenther, I see a lot of the same elite traits that Alexis Lafreniere possessed last season. Guenther is not going to dangle like Laf and doesn’t really bring that physical element either. But he has that elite vision and hockey sense. He’s great at anticipating the play, changing gears, manipulating defenders to open passing lanes – real high end stuff not too many prospects do consistently. He’s also equally dangerous as both a shooter and playmaker. His one-time shot is elite and his wrister & release are also extremely hard & quick. He’s no slouch as a skater either. Like Laf, he isn’t a burner but is he has a nice blend of speed & power that when he accelerates, makes him tough to stop. His puck control is also very impressive and separates him from most prospects. It’s like he has the puck on a string with the ability to move it quickly and precisely. While Guenther isn’t your prototypical driver of possession, he flashes it periodically but prefers more of a patient, playmaking role typically. Great off puck awareness.

I was also very impressed with Guenther’s 200 foot game and commitment to defense. He does a real good job at puck support in all 3 zones and knows how to get open for an outlet pass. Very strong and smart positionally. He also plays on the penalty kill often. He has a strong work ethic and makes a lot of good decisions. He just has terrific instincts and looks like a complete forward who can be relied on in any situation. No real weaknesses other than physicality maybe.

Final Thought:

It’s pretty clear to me that Guenther has more elite skill and traits than any other forward in this draft despite his average showing at the U18’s. He’s not a huge driver of possession, but is capable of making a play a variety of different ways with his high end skill-set. His hockey sense and instincts are outstanding, his shot is near elite, and he exhibits a complete all-round game. One of the best shooters in the draft easily, Guenther is just a real smart player who skates real well and knows how to score. That’s going to translate well to the NHL. Best forward in this draft for me.

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#3. Matty Beniers

Matty Beniers is probably the hardest working player in this draft. Some think that means he is destined to be more of a bottom 6 player or 2nd line center at best. I’m not capping his ceiling at that because he has a lot of skill on top of the work ethic – which is a deadly combination.

A few things jump out at you when you watch Beniers. First, the guy is a relentless puck pursuer and puck carrier. He’s extremely aggressive on the forecheck and creates a lot of turnovers with his speed & pressure. He’s also very strong in possession. He has a wide skating style so he can skate through stick checks with ease with that strong base, and is great in puck protection along the perimeter. The guy’s motor never stops as he keeps so many pucks in and plays alive just with sheer determination. It really is a treat to watch.

Beniers skating is also a real strength & it is amplified by his high motor. He skates real hard, can cut back on a dime, and weave in and out of lanes easily. He flies through the neutral zone and is a zone entry machine with his agility and elusiveness. That’s all going to translate well to the NHL. His skating stride isn’t as smooth as a guy like Barzal but kind of the same idea. Can circle all around the zone while maintaining possession constantly surveying the defense for an open passing lane.

Beniers is also a highly skilled centerman who might not get enough respect as an offensive playmaker as he should. He has real soft hands in and around the net. His vision and hockey IQ seem to be really high and he can be so creative in setting up his teammates – all while doing it at full speed. With that motor, he generates a lot of 2nd and 3rd chances too.

I have heard a few knocks that Beniers holds the puck too long and should distribute sooner – which does show up on tape. However, the guy is a possession monster it’s not like he’s rushing it and turning it over, which is way worse. His puck control is excellent, his passing is precise. The issue for some might be that he isn’t the greatest finisher. I do think he does the right things in terms of generating chances, so things like shot power will come over time. People said the same thing about Doug Weight who averaged less than 20 goals a season in his 19 year career but finished with over 1000 points in the NHL. Beniers is definitely more of a driver and playmaker than scorer at this point.

Final thought:

Beniers is the top center in this class and looks like a potential #1 centerman to me. His work ethic is top notch. He hustles in all 3 zones on every shift. He’s responsible and reliable. I’m not sure if he has elite skill but is such a workhorse he’ll get his points in a variety of ways with the talented skill-set he does possess. He reminds me a lot of Doug Weight from back in the day. Very active, creative and underrated offensively.

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#4. Nikita Chibrikov

While Fyodor Svechkov is widely regarded as the #1 Russian prospect in this draft, Chibrikov is the most explosive with the highest ceiling which is why he is ranked here. In a draft loaded with “maybe” prospects, he is a top 10 talent easily for me and Top 5 in this draft. I got to watch him in the both in the VHL & MHL a few times while tracking Oilers prospects & I thought he was outstanding. Then, he was terrific again at the U18‘s for Russia where he was team captain and finished with the most points for a 2021 draft eligible in the tourney, while looking very much like a bonafide NHL prospect with his playmaking ability.

Chibrikov has terrific pucks skills along with dynamic skating, and a high motor to go with it. He can fly through the neutral zone showing great puck control in transition and excels at zone entries. His shot & release are dangerous weapons & his puck skills are elite. He can really dangle while maintaining control. He plays a real chippy game too in front of the net and in puck battles which I like. Chibrikov is not very big but is not afraid to deliver or take a hit to make a play. Always seems like he’s buzzing around the net & has great hands in tight. He loves to use his speed & circle the perimeter waiting for the defense to break down and a seem to open up.

The reasons why I have Chibrikov ranked ahead of William Eklund are as follows: I think Chibrikov has more natural high-end skill and is more of a driver of the play where Eklund is more of a complimentary forward who needs good teammates around him in order to score. Both are really good in possession and Eklund is the clearly the better defensive player, but I think Chibrikov scores more in the NHL.

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Defensively, Chibrikov is a work in progress as he just doesn’t always show the same intensity as he does in the offensive zone. Usually for me that causes players like him to drop. But his skating, shot & creativity are just too good – plus just about everyone has flaws in this draft so I’m banking on his skill. As mentioned, he has a great motor he just chooses to not waste much energy in the d-zone. In the neutral zone on the backcheck he does a much better job so it’s just about consistency and commitment which is coachable. I also thought he was much better in the U18’s. Even still, there is a bit of bust potential since he does need to work on his 200 foot game. But he’s a homerun if he makes it. Top line NHL talent.

Final thought:

I’m going with my gut on this one despite a bit of a red flag defensively. Chibrikov & Eklund were neck and neck for me for the longest time, but I gave the Russian the slight edge as he has more natural offensive ability. The fact he reminds me so much of Artemi Panarin (who’s not much defensively either) probably has a lot to do with the ranking too. In typical Russian fashion, Chibrikov is a left shot right winger who needs to get stronger. 2 years away at least but worth the wait. Likely won’t get draft nearly as high as this but he is as skilled as anyone in this draft.

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#5. Jesper Wallstedt

Jesper Wallstedt is a highly regarded goaltending prospect that would be above Askarov for me if it was last year. While Askarov is clearly the more dynamic player in net, Wallstedt is just so fundamentally sound it seems like he is rarely rattled or out of position. His glove is outstanding and probably better than Askarov’s too. He’s also a terrific puck handler.

Wallstedt’s rebound control is what I notice the most about him. He just eats that puck up and never seems to get rattled. He makes himself so big while fronting the shooter it is very reminiscent of Andrei Vasilevskiy. He also doesn’t take a lot of chances or get overaggressive on shots or angles, he typically stays back in his crease so he’s rarely out of position. Here’s a great Youtube video from Recrutes Hockey:

Wallstedt is technically sound, he moves the puck extremely well, and he has a ton of experience against top level competition. Tough to find any glaring holes in his game other than his athleticism which is very good but not elite.

Final Thought:

Look, this is a weaker draft and I’m not seeing a lot of sure-fire Top line players, and a lot of these highly touted defensemen after Hughes give me pause. Wallstedt however, projects to be a legit #1 netminder which is extremely valuable. I could easily see him being a bonafide starter which means he makes this Top 5 list. He looks an awful lot like Andrei Vasilevskiy to me.

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#6. Matt Coronato

Matt Coronato is so intelligent (he’s committed to Harvard), he has a relentless motor and he can score a pile of goals (he scored 48 goals in 51 games). Why is he not a Top 10 talent again? Because he’s “small”? This kid put up massive numbers this season in the USHL playing for the powerhouse Chicago Steel but is just as responsible for his huge output as anyone else on his team.

Coronato is a very active and determined player who is incredibly smart and who plays like a pro. He doesn’t give up on plays and he just knows how to get open. He makes all those small but subtle plays you look for that often separates the stars from the rest. He loves to drive possession and doesn’t back down from physical battles. Plus he’s very consistent. But his shot & release are elite and are what will get him to the NHL especially since he has the high hockey sense & work ethic to go with it. His hands are dynamite and he knows how to put the puck in the net.

As far as his skating goes, he’s not a burner or real flashy, but he’s very shifty and good in short bursts. His top end speed seems fine too but he doesn’t always play a high octane game, he tends to change his pace a lot but still maintains pressure. Plus, he just knows how to create and find open space. He’s real hard on the puck and strong in protecting it. He’s good in all 3 zones. He’s versatile; he can play center or wing, PP or PK.

Coronato is ranked this high because for me, he is a high hockey IQ along with a great work ethic who knows how to score, and already plays a pro style game. He’s better than the sum of his parts and his game will translate very well to the NHL. If he adds a bit more speed & explosiveness to his repertoire the next couple years – he’ll be a star.

Final thought:

Chibrikov, Coronato and Eklund were all close for me. While Coronato is the best pure finisher of the group, I think his overall game lacks a certain dynamic quality. I also think his production has to be taken in context a bit playing for Chicago. He doesn’t get by on pure skill, he gets by on smarts and hustle much like Eklund does. He’s capable of driving the play and might ultimately be a center at the next level. Either way, he knows how to create and put the puck in the net. He looks very much like Joe Pavelski 2.0 to me.

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#7. William Eklund

William Eklund is the 2nd rated player out of Sweden this year for me. He is a smaller kid but very talented and hard working. However, I wouldn’t rank him higher than Holtz or Raymond last year which speaks to the lack of big time talent in this draft. He was more productive than both those players in his draft year, but I’m not sure his production will translate to the NHL as much as people think.

The best part of Eklund’s game are his work ethic & 200 foot game. He’s a buzzsaw out there always hustling in all 3 zones which I love. He thinks the game at a very high level; manipulating defenders with fakes & misdirection. He also has a very good shot and one-timer and be extremely creative in the offensive zone keeping plays alive. He’s always battling and he’s always around the net it seems. He doesn’t get knocked down a lot for a smaller guy (except along the boards), he has a real strong base and lower center of gravity. Hard to hit. Battles hard.

Eklund isn’t super fast but it doesn’t take long to realize he has terrific edges and is extremely elusive with his agility and quick of change of direction. He’s a possession monster but tends to hold it too long and seems to struggle shaking defenders which can lead to turnovers. He’s better at getting open without the puck then with it I found which makes him more of a complimentary forward at the pro level. His forte seems to be on the forecheck and cycle more than off the rush.

Eklund started the SHL season on fire, but didn’t look great down the stretch as his production (and confidence it seemed) really fell off. He didn’t get to showcase his talents at the World Juniors due to Covid either, so it’s hard for me to rank him any higher than this. I like a lot about his game and I think he is a much more surefire NHL’er than Chibrikov, but not quite the natural ability and offensive ceiling hence the ranking.

Final thought:

There’s a lot to like about Eklund, but if this was last year’s draft he likely wouldn’t have been in my Top 10. But, it’s a weaker draft this year so he is. I like him a lot but he’s one of the oldest prospects in this draft, and I think he’s not as good a shooter as Holtz or playmaker as Raymond. But he does have the elite hockey IQ and work ethic. How will that translate? Probably pretty well. Eklund reminds an awful lot of Viktor Arvidsson though a bit more dynamic. Smart, hard-working overachiever who doesn’t necessarily have elite skills but has great hockey sense and a high motor. Low risk to be anything less than a decent NHL’er at a minimum.

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8. Cole Sillinger

Cole Sillinger is the son of longtime NHL’er Mike Sillinger. He put up 53 points in 48 games in the WHL as a 16 year old, then he scored 24 goals & 46 points in 31 games in the USHL this past season. He missed a bunch of games including the U18 tournament for Canada due to Covid. He plans to return to the WHL next season.

Sillinger might have the best shot & release in the draft. The puck just explodes off his stick. He doesn’t need much room either as he can easily shoot through defenders and can score from just about anywhere. That’s going to translate real well to the NHL. He also has a knack for fighting for space and ability to find open ice. He’s strong and hard on the puck making him very difficult for defenders to handle. Great offensive instincts and quick hands around the net. Sneaky good playmaker too. He is very creative and capable of faking a shot while making some high-end passes which makes him a true dual threat.

The only real drawback for Sillinger is his lack of top end speed & acceleration. It takes him a bit to get going and his stride isn’t very fluid. Once he enters the offensive zone he’s fine since he’s a dangerous shooting threat from anywhere. But in transition, he can be a step or two behind, so that will be an area he is going to need to work on to make it as a pro.

Away from the puck, Sillinger shows good hustle on the backcheck and good awareness in the d-zone. He battles in all 3 zones and is defensively responsible. He plays a very pro style game similar to Matthew Coronato, though Coronato has the better hockey IQ. Sillinger can be a little careless with the puck at times & can be turnover prone trying to do too much.

Final thought:

Sillinger and Mason McTavish are really close for me in terms of talent & skill-sets. Both have that power forward mentality built around strength, determination and a big shot. McTavish is a bit better skater but Sillinger has the better playmaking and hands. Both have elite shot & releases. A real battler who isn’t afraid to go hard to the net, Sillinger reminds me so much of Brady Tkachuk (who has a very underrated shot & release).

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#9. Mason McTavish

No OHL player improved his stock more off of one tournament than Mason McTavish. It really was his “he’s arrived” moment as a prospect at the U18’s, and his draft position should reflect that. Everyone knew he could shoot the puck, but he looked much stronger and quicker on his skates compared to last season in the OHL, and his 200 foot game looked much improved though it was a short sample. He finished tied with Francesco Pinelli for 3rd in points with 11 points in 7 games.

McTavish’s biggest assets are his shot and his strength. He’s got an NHL shot & release and is a natural goal scorer. He loves to use his big body to crash the net, and has quick hands to clean up the rebounds. The playmaking looks better too but isn’t really his forte. He’s best at finding open space and shooting the puck which should translate well to the NHL. He should be able to dominate along the boards and on the cycle too as he does a great job fighting thru checks and protecting the puck.

The rest of McTavish’s game left a lot to be desired last season, but he has made strides in every area he appears. He played center for Team Canada and was real strong in faceoffs, but I think I still like him better on the wing with that size and skill-set. He also had great command of the ice and was very active in all 3 zones. I’m still not a huge fan of his decision making but he got away with it at that tourney too against inferior competition. He also took a couple of undisciplined penalties which I didn’t love, but overall it was a very impressive showing & the improvements in his game were significant.

Final thought:

McTavish has a good chance to be the best prototypical power forward type from this class. Still not sure his playmaking & 200 foot game are great, but he should be a force in the NHL eventually. Little cautious that the U18 performance is being a bit overhyped but the guy looks like a legit NHL sniper regardless. Definitely see some similarities between he and a young Jamie Benn for sure.

#10. Sebastian Cossa

Sebastian Cossa had a monster draft year for the Oil Kings. He finished with an outstanding stat line: 17-1-41.57 GAA.941 SV%. However, it should be noted that he really only faced his own division during the season. Plus, with a November birthdate he is one of the older goalie prospects in this draft. So in terms of context and judging objectively, I look at what he did in 2019-20 and compare it to similar goaltenders from the WHL like Carey Price & Carter Hart (both two of the youngest goalies in their draft years). To account for age, I compare Cossa’s stats from his draft-1 year to both their actual draft years and it still comes out very favourably:

Now if you compare Cossa’s stats in his draft year it’s no wonder why he is so highly touted. But this isn’t just all about his stats even though they pass the test.

In terms of his skillset, Cossa is a 6’6″ butterfly goalie who has terrific athleticism, good fundamentals and a quick glove. His movement both post to post and up and down are very impressive, and he’s almost always square to the shooter. He’s an imposing figure in net & a terrific athlete. He doesn’t challenge the shooters by coming out of his crease as much as a lot of goalies do, but that’s clearly by design as he doesn’t lack confidence.

Rebound control is a bit of an issue and he could track pucks a bit better, but based on everything I’ve seen he looks like a legit goaltending prospect and future

Final thought:

There haven’t been 2 goalies taken in the First round of an NHL draft since 2012 (Vasilevskiy & M. Subban). This year, Wallstedt and Cossa will change that. In many ways, Cossa reminds me of Dallas 1st round pick Jake Oettinger (minus the terrific puck handling). Big, athletic kid who kind of checks all the boxes. Heard a lot of reports of what a great leader and high character he is too which is just gravy at this point. He looks very much like a top end #1 goaltender long-term. Carey Price & Carter Hart were in the NHL in their draft+3 years and there is no reason to think Cossa won’t be either.

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#11. Owen Power

Owen Power is a defenseman who played for Michigan this past season, registering 3 goals, 16 points in 26 games. He also helped Canada win Gold at the World Championships.

The reason why so many people love Owen Power is because he is a big, mobile defenseman who he is solid in every area. He excels at retrievals and breakouts, and is very good at gap control with that long reach of his. He makes a good first pass and likes to jump up in the rush. He makes a lot of good decisions, and he plays on the penalty kill and powerplay while eating up a ton of minutes. There a lot to like about the 6’5″, 214 lb d-man. He’s about as balanced as you’re going to get as far as defensemen go in this draft and is very consistent.

The problem is, I don’t see a lot of ELITE qualities in Power’s game. His shot is decent but not great. His speed & puck rushing ability is good but not great. He’s not overly physical or aggressive and he’s not going to wow you with skill. if you go back over the last several drafts, big mobile guys like Ekblad, Werenski, Sergachev, Dobson were all better shooters and goal scorers than Power in their draft years.

So why is Power the consensus #1 in this draft?

Because he’s big, he’s mobile for his size and he plays a consistent and reliable game. People see that and think he’s the “safe” choice for #1. And of course, Victor Hedman comparisons get tossed around like they do every year for big mobile defenseman and boom – consensus #1. Don’t get me wrong, I like Power a lot and I do think he can be a solid, reliable 2 way d-man. But no way I’m taking him first overall. This is a weak draft so he’s still borderline Top 10, but he might not have made my Top 20 if this was the 2018 draft. I just don’t see the offensive upside, and he lacks that physical quality to be a true shutdown defenseman.

Final thought:

I totally get the appeal with Power. Who wouldn’t want a big defenseman like him who can skate like he can? But, I don’t think Power’s offensive upside is even close to Luke Hughes who is much more dynamic as a puck rusher, and will contribute more offensively at the NHL level. I think back to Zach Werenski‘s draft year in 2015 (he also played at Michigan) and I would take him over Power for sure. Just about every pundit appears to have Power at #1 but I’m just not seeing him as the best prospect from this class. I see him being a real good, all-round defender one day possible playing Top pair, but far from a guarantee. Think he’s closer to Jamie Oleksiak than Victor Hedman.

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12. Francesco Pinelli

Francesco Pinelli played a bit in the Alps hockey league this past season while the OHL status was still up in the air. While he scored 11 points in 13 games in a rather pedestrian league, it was more about getting into game shape than anything else. He then proceeded to play for Team Canada at the U18’s where he was excellent – registering 4 goals, 11 points in 7 games centering mainly the 3rd line. But while McTavish benefitted the most from the U18 tournament among OHL’ers, I think Pinelli’s draft stock took a hit in the eyes of most. He was benched partially through a game versus Latvia and although he responded with a hat trick the next game, I think in some people’s eyes that was a bit of a red flag. Not mine.

Before that, Pinelli played for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL in the 2019-20 season. There, he led all 16 yr old OHL rookie forwards in assists with 23 and had an impressive +15. He played primarily on the wing that season and proved to be equally dangerous as a puck distributor or trigger man. He finished with a very respectable 18 goals, 41 points as a rookie.

Pinelli is one of the best dual threat forwards in this draft. He has a heavy wrist shot and release and a real good one timer. He also has sneaky good hands where he can dangle you if you’re not careful. On top of that, he is an excellent playmaker who’s always looking for his teammates and is capable of threading the needle in the tiniest of windows. That is backed by his high quick hands and high end vision that I think people are underestimating. He reads the ice so well and has great anticipation to get into a shooting position or bait defenders before he dishes the puck. I could easily see him be a shooting winger who scores 25-30 goals a year, or a playmaking center who gets 60-70 points. He has the talent to do either.

The only thing truly holding Pinelli back as a top prospect is his overall lack of explosiveness or agility as a skater. He does skate a little heavy and will need to work on being more explosive & cleaning up his stride. But, he is a strong straight line skater with a good top gear and is so smart he finds those open areas on the ice to create for himself and his teammates. Plus his work ethic is usually top notch. He rarely gives up on a shift and will take a hit to make a play. Pinelli is the type of player who makes a lot of those smart but subtle plays that don’t always get noticed at first unless you watch him consistently. He’s so smart and so skilled.

Final thought:

Tyson Foerster had a lot of the same traits and intangibles that Pinelli has, including poor skating technique which he improved dramatically. I expect the same from Pinelli. Not a great skater yet, but versatile, smart, works hard and is a very good shooter for a playmaker. Also oozes leadership. He can play a variety of roles including center or wing and has some real upside if he can refine his skating technique. Pinelli’s game reminds me so much of Logan Couture‘s back in the day.

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13. Oskar Olausson

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Olausson was the first European prospect I really scouted this year and I was extremely impressed. He was playing in a league he was clearly too good for (J20 Nationell) as he was just toying with opponents. After putting up 14 goals, 27 points in 16 games, he was promoted to the Allsvenskan league and then eventually the SHL. He also represented Sweden at the World Juniors. It was a busy year for him and may be part of the reason he looked so out of sync by the end of the year.

Olausson has a real exciting skill-set. He is a fabolous skater with a beautiful stride. It’s powerful and he is great at changing directions while completely faking out defenders. He can be quite a handful for defenders when he gains speed through the neutral zone as he has the ability to just make them look silly with his excellent puck handling. He has the ability to beat you wide with speed and power, or dangle you and take a free lane to the slot. There are not many players in this draft that can do what he can.

In addition to that, Olausson has a cannon for a shot. He can shoot from anywhere and is equally dangerous with either his wrist shot or slapper. He’s even real good with his backhand. In terms of passing, it’s probably not as strong as the other facets of his game as he does like to carry and shoot the puck more than give it up. That was probably the most noticeable flaw in his game watching him in the SHL.

The rest of Olausson’s game is pretty decent. His work ethic is good. he’s always moving his feet. He comes back defensively though isn’t always sure about his assignments. He could use some more strength for sure. The hockey IQ is pretty good though you could tell he struggled positionally at the higher levels and didn’t always make the read. He seemed to be a bit overwhelmed at times in the SHL I noticed probably over-thinking things, which can happen when some of the kids play at 3 different levels in a 3 month span.

Overall, it’s not hard to project what kind of player Olausson projects to be at the NHL level. A fast, dangerous player off the rush and on the powerplay, who loves to shoot and can score from anywhere.

Final thought:

Olausson didn’t necessarily finish the season how he started it, but I think a lot had to do with him bouncing around teams in 3 different leagues while also participating in the World Juniors. He didn’t look nearly as confident as he did earlier in the year, so I chalk some of that up to lack of chemistry & consistent teammates. There’s no doubt though that this kid is loaded with talent. If he can regain his confidence at higher levels and up his work rate, the sky is the limit for this kid. He might take a bit longer than most ranked this high, but I’m betting on skill with this ranking. There are similarities between Olausson and Filip Forsberg for sure though he’s not nearly there yet away from the puck.

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14. Zachary Bolduc

Zachary Bolduc is a centerman who also played wing this year for Rimouski of the QMJHL. He was banged up a couple times but was on fire down the stretch (18 points in 11 games) till he got hurt again. When healthy though, he looked like the best player in the QMJHL by my eye. He finished with 29 points in 27 games.

Bolduc is an offensively gifted forward who has good size, speed, & scoring ability. He’s more of a shooter than playmaker as indicated by his 120 SOG’s in 27 games, but has great puck skills and quick hands. He’s real aggressive in the offensive zone on the forecheck, and likes to play a bit of physical game to try and create turnovers. He also likes to attempt risky plays that sometimes backfire into turnovers. Can be a little too casual with the puck at times. But there’s no denying his skill and puck control. He is very capable of some highlight reel material. His speed is not elite but he is a very good skater with no glaring weaknesses.

Defensively, Bolduc’s game is a bit sloppy and lazy. He’s usually fine positionally and isn’t a total liability, but he doesn’t bring nearly the same intensity as he does in the O-zone. Quite often he either peels the zone early for a stretch pass, or attempts a stretch pass of his own instead of just making the safe play on a zone exit. This leads to some bad turnovers and icings. He’s thinking offense even from the d-zone so I don’t consider it a red flag, but definitely an area to clean up.

Overall, Bolduc is a pretty reliable and versatile forward who flashes some high end skill and likes to shoot the puck. He generates 2nd and 3rd chances with this aggressive attack offensively and has the hands to bury them. He’s very similar to Pinelli in that he can play either center or the wing. He’s a better skater than Pinelli but not nearly the playmaker, and defensively he can be a bit of a mess at times. Which means he probably ends up on the wing at the pro level. But the skill is legit so he is an ideal mid 1st round pick talent wise.

Final thought:

Bolduc’s abrasive style & injury history concern me a bit that his game will struggle to translate to the NHL. He does play a bit of a risky game too where he can be a bit too careless with the puck. He’ll need to clean that up and also get stronger but if he does, there is enough talent here for him to be a very good NHL’er. I like the tools and upside. He kind of reminds me of Ryan Strome stylistically.

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#15. Brandt Clarke

Not going to lie, this was the toughest report to write and I revised it many times. There is no doubt that Brandt Clarke is as talented a player as any in this draft but if I’m being honest, I’m really torn with him. Why? His game has a real “Junior” feel to it. I was excited watching him in the OHL in 2019-20 playing with Tyson Foerster in Barrie. His terrific offensive instincts were apparent, but I was also quick to point out his skating deficiencies. The agility and edges were great, the stride and top speed were shaky. Then, when he went to play in the Slovak league and I tracked him for several games there. I LOVED certain things in his game, and was shaking my head about others. It’s not too often you see a 18 yr old rookie defenseman peel the zone early and attempt a 1 on 3 in a Men’s league, but that’s exactly what I saw from Clarke which was – interesting.

I watched Clarke a lot this year and his strengths are plenty. Despite the knock kneed skating style, he is still moves around the ice extremely well. He’s very agile and has great edges that allow him to cut quickly and weave in and out of lanes. He also has terrific offensive instincts and is like a 4th forward out there. He has the vision to make on the tape seam passes and loves to get the puck on net. His shot and release are strong and he can dangle with the puck. He’s also a natural on the powerplay and exhibits all the high end traits you look for in a true PP Quarterback (passing, vision, keeping pucks in, walking the line, shots through traffic etc…)

Defensively, he’s very aggressive at the blueline challenging zone entries and has a very active stick. He’s a good defender positionally and appears to excel at closing gaps on attackers. He’s got a bit of physicality on his game too which I also like. He engages in front of the net and is very cognizant of tying up opponents sticks. Breakouts are another strength as he moves the puck extremely well or is very capable of carrying it out himself altogether. He’s deadly in transition and loves to carry the puck through the neutral zone and attacking zone entries.

However, with Clarke’s aggressive offensive approach, he puts a lot of pressure on his forwards to cover for him. He pinches a lot and doesn’t have great recovery speed. He can get away with that in Junior but in the NHL that’s an issue. He also has a tendency to hold the puck too long and runs out of time and space so will just throw it to the net. That can also be a problem at the pro level. The other thing that I’m sure people don’t mention, is he REALLY wants the puck and REALLY wants to win – almost too much. That is quite apparent on the ice. Watching him in Slovakia & Team Canada, it seemed he always needed to be the guy that made the play when he was on the ice. He taps his stick & calls for the puck more than any prospect I can think of in a long time. He can be guilty of peeling the zone early (which is rare for D-men) and can be too impatient at times while trying to do it all by himself. Clearly he has a lot of confidence in himself and a real passion for the game but I worry about how losing potentially affects a player like that.

Right now, I see Clarke as a a potential highly productive offensive defenseman who plays on the PP, but gets exposed 5 on 5 with his over aggressive offensive style, and lack of quality skating defensively.

Final thought:

I can honestly see Clarke being both a boom or bust. If the skating doesn’t improve much and he doesn’t pick his spots better, he’ll get beat a lot and turn over the puck a lot in the O-zone. An organization will rush him, confidence will become an issue and it will unravel from there. I can also envision Clarke pushing himself and improving his skating to the point where it’s not an issue and he becomes a legit Offensive defenseman in the league. That’s the beauty of scouting. You can never really know for sure which way a prospect is going to go, you can just evaluate based on their current array of NHL translatable skills and red flags. So I’m going to acknowledge both and hedge my bet with this ranking.

I think there are going to be some real growing pains with Clarke as he becomes a pro and his game is dissected, but his natural ability is so high. I’ll probably end up getting roasted for this ranking but I would be afraid to draft him in the Top 10 if I were an NHL GM. Too high a risk for me. So while he has more offensive upside than Owen Power, Power is the safer choice so is ranked ahead of him. Clarke is a combination of Drew Doughty and Ryan Merkley for me – hence the hesitation.

16. Ayrton Martino

Ayrton Martino is intriguing prospect who kind of came out of nowhere. He played in the OJHL in 2019-20 where he was an All-star and 3rd leading scorer as a 17 yr old. Then he headed to Omaha of the USHL this past season and registered 56 points in 38 games for 3rd most pts/game in the league (Matt Coronato was #2).

Martino is lightning fast and probably one of the quickest in this draft. His speed & acceleration are top notch and he is a legit breakaway threat. He’s exceptional carrying the puck through the neutral zone and is a zone entry machine. Loves to attack and drive possession with that speed. He’s real aggressive on the forecheck too creating a lot of turnovers.

Martino is also a terrific playmaker with elite hockey vision. He can toy with opponents as he sets up a teammate for a give and go or bounces off the boards as he skates around a defender. Love his hockey awareness. Usually speedsters like him have trouble in space, but he’s so smart & has terrific puck skills that he is equally dangerous even when you think you have him bogged down. His shot and release aren’t elite but still pretty good though he tends to dust off the puck or second guess it at times.

Defensively, Martino likes to cheat for offense there’s no doubt about it. Could be a product of the Omaha system I didn’t watch enough of them closely to tell for sure, but he has some bad habits that really need to be cleaned up. More defensive structure and commitment to a 200 foot game is needed and the only real downside to the player.

Final thought:

I was really tempted to put Martino even higher in this list. From an NHL translatable skill standpoint, he checks all the boxes. He’s an extremely talented playmaker and has NHL speed. His hockey IQ appears to very high & he is a real driver of possession. However, he’s one of the oldest prospects in this draft and he does play a bit of undisciplined, junior style game with not a lot of structure. There’s no denying the tools are there though if the right organization can harness that he could turn out to be a real steal.

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17. Isak Rosen

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Isak Rosen played 12 games in the J20 Nationell (like Olausson) in Sweden and was simply too good for that league (7 goals, 12 points in 12 games), so was promoted to the SHL where he didn’t get a ton of ice time & looked overwhelmed at times. He then represented Sweden at the World Juniors and was outstanding – leading the team in goals (7) and tied in points (9) in 7 games.

I have Rosen ahead of Fabian Lysell for a couple reasons. For one, I thought Rosen looked like the better prospect at the WJC when they were on the ice together. I was expecting Lysell to blow me away but Rosen completely caught me by surprise. He is incredibly dynamic in his own right and can really shoot the puck. Plus, I love how he reads the play and controls the pace, as opposed to Lysell who seems to rush everything. That’s going to translate to the NHL.

Second, while Lysell is the faster more dynamic player (not by a lot) I think Rosen is the smarter player who makes much better decisions and is the better finisher. Too often I found Lysell had so much speed to burn but he didn’t know what to do with it. If he didn’t have open ice he turned over the puck. That’s a big red flag for me when trying to determine how his game translates to the NHL level especially on smaller ice. Rosen on the other hand, showed great patience and poise with the puck. Plays with better pace. Gets a lot of pucks on net. Not quite as good defensively, but a bigger offensive threat.

Rosen’s lack of size and strength is a bit of a concern (he’s listed at 161 lbs) and really the only drawback as a prospect. No other real glaring weaknesses other than he can be outmuscled and knocked down easily.

Final thought:

Much like Oskar Olausson who struggled at times in the SHL, Rosen bounced around a lot and looked a bit tentative in Sweden’s top league. However, with more confidence and maturity along with a lot less certainty surrounding where he’s going to play, I expect Rosen to excel next season. He doesn’t have quite the natural skill-set of Olausson but he’s not too far behind either. I see him having a great offensive impact in the NHL over his another Swede in Lysell.

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18. Logan Stankoven

Logan Stankoven only played 6 games in the WHL this season, but he was the best player on the ice for all of them. He scored 7 goals and 10 points in those 6 games. He then represented Canada at the U18’s and put up another 4 goals and 8 points in 7 games.

Stankoven is an undersized but highly driven scoring machine. He is the type of player every team wants. He is noticeable on every shift. He shot release might be the best in this class and he is a high volume shooter (over 5 shots a game). He has lightning quick hands and can score off the rush, from bad angles or even off-balanced. Great shot power and accuracy. He’s not afraid to attack the center of the ice and he isn’t afraid to get physical to make a play. You won’t find a player more determined than this ball of energy. Real shooting threat on the powerplay too.

Stankoven is also a very good 200 foot player and all the tools to be an excellent penalty killer at the next level. He hustles back hard on the backcheck and shows great anticipation in breaking up plays in the d-zone. He’s a real smart, savvy player who is good in all 3 zones. High hockey IQ and great in transition.

The downside to Stankoven is while he never stops moving his feet, his skating is choppy and needs improvement. He’s shifty and elusive but could be more fluid. He’s also a shoot first player that shows some nice playmaking ability but needs to get better in that area too. Sometimes shoots too much. Like most prospects, he could use to get stronger though he already has a strong base and good balance on his skates.

Final thought:

Stankoven is the type of player some people will bet against because of his size and lack of ideal skating stride, but will overcome that because of his skill and determination. Yes, his stride needs work but I wouldn’t bet against this kid. He’s too talented and such a hard worker that he will improve in that area. He should be a surefire 1st round pick but he’s likely going to slip in the draft and be a steal for someone. For the older folks in the back row, Stankoven looks so much like a 2021 version of Theoren Fleury. An added bonus: his nickname of “Stanky” might be one of the best ever. LOL.

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19. Alexander Kisakov

18 year old Alexander Kisakov played solely in the MHL this season (Russia’s version of the CHL), and he destroyed it offensively with 36 goals & 73 points in 61 games. To put that in perspective, Yegor Chinakov (Columbus 1st rd pick, 2020) had 27 goals, 69 points in 56 games in the same league last year – as a 19 yr old. For Kisakov to be a year younger and match that – it has to catch your eye.

Yes he scored a pile of goals but above all else, I really like Kisakov’s poise and puck control. He’s so good at baiting defenders to overcommit as he dangles around them or passes through them. He’s great at misdirection and catching defenders off-balance as he toe drags to perfection. He really makes things looks easy and has a great feel for the game. Kisakov looks very much a like a seasoned pro with the puck. Part of that is playing in the MHL where he is clearly too good. But his offensive instincts are just so high end I feel like that’s going to translate in any league. Definitely reminds me a lot of Elias Pettersson in that regard.

Of course, you don’t put up those kind of numbers without having great hands and quick release and Kisakov has both of those. His slapshot isn’t great but his has an excellent wrister with pinpoint accuracy. He’s always looking to make a deceptive pass to setup up teammate too which makes him a dual threat. On the powerplay, he’s just deadly with that skill & poise combination.

The biggest concerns with Kisakov is his skating style isn’t ideal, and he is 141 lbs. Now the weight he can put on but how much that will impact his skating is another question. It could give him more power in his legs and make him a stronger skater but it could negatively impact him. His speed overall is solid but not great. He tries to make up for it with his agility and edgework which works in the MHL but likely won’t in the NHL. He especially likes that 10-2 Mohawk style to evade contact in the offensive zone. Those two things alone are reasons why he might not make it all, but the upside is too much to ignore.

Final thought:

Kisakov is a dynamic offensive talent. He’s definitely going to boom or bust as a Top 6 NHL forward. The skill and hockey sense are extremely high so I’m leaning towards boom. But, it’s going to take time as he adds mass and hopefully improves his skating. Will play in Russia 2 years at least then we’ll see what happens. Top 10 skill in this draft without question.

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20. Brennan Othmann

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Brennan Othmann played in the Swiss league this past season where he scored 7 goals, 16 points in 34 games. He also represented Canada as the U18’s and tallied 3 goals, 6 points in 7 games. He plays for Flint in the OHL and previously played for the Don Mills Flyers where he was a teammate of Shane Wright and Brandt Clarke.

Othmann’s game is relatively simple: Play an aggressive, abrasive style and gets shot on net. For me, that pretty much sums up who is he as a prospect.

He loves to get pucks deep and get on the forecheck. He battles along the boards and finishes his checks. He has no problems going hard to the net and will fight for space. Lots of Brendan Gallagher in Othmann’s game in that way.

What really makes Othmann an intriguing prospect though his shot and hands. He’s got a terrific shot and release and silky mitts. He can score a variety of ways (off the rush, on the PP, or banging away in front) and his relentless offensive attack creates a lot of turnovers and 2nd chances. I consider him a decent playmaker with solid speed but he has more of that gritty, shooter mentality than anything.

Where Othmann struggles is when he tries to get too cute with the puck or do too much. His puck skills aren’t great and he’s not going to blow by defenders with speed. As mentioned, he plays a very simple but effective game. He competes hard and loves to shoot the puck which gives him a chance to be a real good NHL’er one day.

Final thought:

Othmann is a battler who looks more like a complimentary mid 6 winger who can score than anything. There are some Gallagher similarities for sure in his game. I’ve seen others compare him to Brendan Morrow. Either way, he is an intriguing prospect who has a history of scoring a lot of goals wherever he goes. If he can add a bit more speed & strength the next couple years – look out.

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21. Evan Nause

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Evan Nause played for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, where he registered 4 goals, 22 points in 32 games. Prior to that in 2019-20, he played for Sioux Falls in the USHL where he scored 3 goals, 17 points in 44 games.

Nause is a real solid 2-way defenceman. He’s a smooth skater with a fluid stride and quick edges. He’s real good at misdirection and escaping pressure in the d-zone and moves the puck extremely well. He makes quick, crisp passes on the breakout and has no problems joining the rush in transition. His poise is also very impressive. He doesn’t seem to get rattled and makes a lot of good decisions.

Offensively, he looks almost identical to Evan Bouchard (minus the cannon slapshot). He’s not a burner but very elusive and likes to join the attack. Excels at hitting teammates in stride. He gets good torque on his wrist shot but doesn’t really shoot a lot (only 42 shots in 32 games). On the powerplay he does a good job of distributing, keeping pucks in, and walking the line, just would be nice if he got more pucks on net.

Defensively, Nause really excels. His gap control is excellent and he is strong at puck retrievals. He often wins the race to the puck and quickly transitions to a breakout. He’s especially good against one on one rushes. He uses his speed & stick quite effectively to neutralize attackers and make him tough to beat. He doesn’t mind being physical and wins more than his share of puck battles.

Final thought:

I like Evan Nause a lot. He might be one of the more underrated players in this draft. He’s solid in all facets of the game and has no glaring weaknesses. If he trusts his shot more (especially on the powerplay), I think he can put up bigger offensive numbers at the next level. While he might not ever be a Top pair defenseman (I’m not ruling it out), he could be a very good #3D one day. See a lot of similarities between he and a young Dion Phaneuf. Sneaky good player who’s really strong defensively.

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22. Manix Landry

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Manix Landry is one of the most underrated prospects in this draft. Despite being arguably one of the best QMJHL prospects in several categories (skating, hockey sense, work ethic, 200 ft game), he is ranked as the 21st best Q prospect by NHL Central Scouting, which is an absolute shame.

Landry checks pretty much all the boxes for a prospect. He’s versatile, he’s a leader (team captain at age 17), he can play in all situations. But his real strengths are his skating & work ethic. It’s tough to find a prospect who competes as hard as he does on every shift and in all 3 zones. He creates a ton of turnovers with his relentless puck pursuit & fabulous skating. His strides are nearly flawless and his acceleration is elite. He also protects the puck extremely well and isn’t afraid to battle along the boards or take a hit to make a play. The kid is a gamer.

On top of all that, Landry has some serious skill. He doesn’t shoot a ton but he has a very good wrist shot and quick release. His vision is also high end. He makes a lot of good reads game in and game out with his head up and is a very capable playmaker. Being the Captain of his team likely limited his offense somewhat, as he was so responsible defensively being the F3. He even played regularly on the PK. But there’s no doubt he can create offense with his speed, skill & hockey IQ.

At a minimum, Landry appears to have the all the tools to be an excellent shutdown / penalty killer type at the pro level. He’s a terrific skater with an abrasive style & defensive mentality, but can also be a relentless puck-hound with finishing ability. There are a lot of similarities between he and Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli (who only scored 36 points in 68 games in his draft year). He’s got the drive but also the puck skills to go with it. He needs to get a bit stronger like most prospects do but other than that, tough to find a more intelligent and complete player than Landry.

Final thought: 

I’m not going to lie, I watched a ton of the QMJHL this season including just about every Gatineau game. I have Manix Landry as the 3rd best prospect out of the QMHL this season (behind Bolduc & Nause). People slept on Anthony Cirelli in his draft year and I think they’re doing the same here. Landry is a terrific prospect who is an absolutely steal if he is still on the board in the 3rd round.

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23. Fabian Lysell

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Fabian Lysell is a dynamic player who played in the J20 Nationell (3 goals, 13 points in 11 games) then was promoted to the SHL (just like Rosen and Olausson). Much like those other two, he struggled in the SHL to find his game. He then played for Sweden at the U18’s and was tied for the most points (9) with Rosen.

Lysell has tremendous a work ethic & skating ability. His speed is outstanding and he might be the fastest in this draft. He can absolutely dangle at high speeds and always seems to be moving his feet. Loves to push the pace. He can take a puck while circling in the neutral zone and bust if for a breakaway at any time – it is McDavid like.

However, I feel like despite all the tantalizing speed & dangling ability, Lysell is the prospect that most people will be wrong about. Yes, he is real dangerous off the rush and can absolutely fly, but once he’s slowed down I really don’t like his game at all. He makes a lot of poor decisions with the puck and is a bit of turnover machine. On the smaller rinks in the NHL, he’s not going to have as much time and space and he really struggles when pressured – both physically (he gets knocked down a lot) and mentally (turnovers). Even when he does fly into the zone he still makes some head scratching passes. This play here from U18’s is a perfect example. The clip cuts before you catch it but he ends up dropping that puck to no one at the blueline for a free zone exit. He had the time just didn’t look and rushed it.

That’s the catch with Lysell. Yes he can provide highlight reel scoring plays, but most of that is off the rush or on a breakaway. In a normal offensive role, if Lysell doesn’t have open ice off the rush he is an extremely underwhelming player. He struggles with controlling the pace and seems to force things even when there’s minimal pressure. He’s always going 100 miles an hour to a fault. His inability to slow things down and buckle whenever he is pressured is a red flag. Plus, he doesn’t battle nearly as much as a guy like Chibrikov for example in front or along the boards. His style has a very International feel to it. Great on open ice, but easy to control and outmuscle or pressure on the smaller ice.

Final thought:

Lysell has world class speed, a tremendous motor, he’s an excellent 200 foot player, but his poor hockey sense and small stature means he’s more like a bottom 6 penalty killer to me than a Top 6 player. But, his speed & skating alone should get him to the NHL. Be interesting to see if he can adjust to the North American game the next couple years and play with much better pace. There’s enough here to think he can make it.

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24. Fedor Svechkov

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Fyodor Svechkov played primarily in the Russian VHL league this past season (15 points in 38 games) but also saw time in the MHL (15 points in 15 games). He represented Russia at the U18’s and had a strong overall performance finished 4th on the team in points with 10 points in 7 games.

Svechkov is a very steady and reliable forward with a strong defensive acumen. His vision and poise are real strengths in all 3 zones. He’s a real patient player who makes good reads and not a lot of mistakes. He’s strong in puck protection and will suck defenders in only to dish to an open teammate. He’s really a much more dangerous passer than shooting threat.

Defensively, he is capable of playing a shut down role and that could easily be his calling card in the NHL. He’s likes to challenge the puck carrier and shows good work ethic to break up plays and get the puck out. He’s physical in board battles and seems to have great pride in excelling in the d-zone. Looks like an ideal #3C who excels on the penalty kill as an NHL’er.

The negatives with Svechkov are two-fold. He doesn’t have a great shot and his skating is a bit choppy. His shot and release are probably average at best and he fans on one-timers more than you would like. When he does score it’s usually either a deflection or in tight. You’ll rarely see him score outside of 10 feet from the net. As far as his skating goes, while his top end speed looks ok, he’s just not very agile, he has slow feet and is more a straight line skater than quick cut back type. Looks too stiff. Edges could definitely use some work. He’s crafty and smart so can manipulate defenders to create space currently, but will need to improve his overall skating to excel at the next level.

Final thought:

Svechkov looks like a solid prospect just not sure how much offensive upside has really. He’s solid in most areas but the lack of high quality skating is an issue and probably limits his potential. As does the threat of a real quality shot. Defensively though, he’s as strong as there is in this class and that is valuable. As far as Russians go in this draft, Chibrikov is definitely the more dynamic with the higher offensive ceiling and Kisakov isn’t far behind. But, I like Svechkov too I think he will be a solid pro but more of a 2nd or 3rd line center likely at best. Reminds me a lot of Anton Lundell last year minus the big production.

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25. Corson Ceulemans

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Corson Ceulemans played for the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL this past season registering 4 goals and 11 points in 8 games. He also represented Canada at the U18’s and had an good offensive showing, scoring 1 goals, 8 points in 7 GP. He is committed to Wisconsin in the fall.

Ceulemans is a promising defenseman with a big shot. He can absolutely hammer the puck and projects to be a PP1 at the next level. He’s an excellent skater and very good stickhandler so naturally loves to activate on the rush and in transition as much as possible. He has no problems pinching in from the point either and he excels at getting pucks on net. Great offensive instincts. He’s also a terrific passer and puck mover. That makes him a real enticing prospect for any NHL team.

The downside to Ceulemans is his decision making and penchant for turnovers. You could go as far as to say Ceulemans is a liability defensively. He can be guilty of making bad pinches in the o-zone and he can really struggle in the d-zone with consistency. He’s not overly physical and his defensive awareness just isn’t where you would like it to be. Gets caught puck watching (maybe thinking offense) way too often and seems to struggle with forechecking pressure. That’s a real concern projecting him to the next level no matter how good his offense is.

Final thought:

Ceulemans style kind of reminds me of Cody Ceci. He’s a good skater with some nice offensive skills but he can be a bit of a mess in his zone at times. Not sure the hockey awareness is where it should be especially defensively so he’s a risky selection for me. But if it figures it out, the tools are there for him to be a high impact Top 4 offensive defenseman in the NHL one day. There will likely be some growing pains along the way.

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26. Chaz Lucius

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Chaz Lucius played for the U.S. National team and in the USHL this past season before getting injured. He scored 26 goals and 38 points in 25 total games. He missed the U18’s unfortunately with a knee injury.

Lucius’ game is all about getting open and unloading his blistering shot. He has one of the best shot and releases in this draft and he likes to use it often. Pure goal scorer. Look no further than this stat: 68% of his points this year were goals. His hands are dynamite around the net and he has great hand-eye coordination to bang home loose pucks and rebounds.

Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about his game. His speed is average. His 200 foot game needs work. He’s not much of a playmaker. He’s not physical. He’s good at faceoffs but I can’t see him being a center at the pro level given his lack of defensive commitment. Lucius really is a one-dimensional player at this point of his career. Plus, he’s coming off a major knee injury.

Final thought:

Lucius reminds me so much of Tyler Toffoli. Not a great skater but dangerous once he’s in the offensive zone as he can score from anywhere. If he can improve marginally in other areas, he still has a chance to be a very effective NHL’er because of his elite shot & quick hands. Othmann offers more in most areas including grit and physicality which is why he is ranked ahead.

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27. Samu Tuomala

Samu Tuomaala played mainly for Karpat of the U20 SM-sarja league where he scored 15 goals and 31 points in 30 games. He also got into 5 games for Karpat in Finalnd’s top league – Liiga. He represented Finland at the U18’s and looked terrific scoring 5 goals, 11 points in 7 games to lead his team.

Tuomaala has two definable traits that translate to the NHL: His shot and his speed. He’s light on his skates and can absolutely fly around the ice. He’s got great acceleration and is a breakaway threat whenever he is on the ice. Not only he is so quick though, his puck control even at top speeds is impressive. He likes to aggressively attack defenders and he’s more than comfortable going to the middle of the ice to get a shot off. He’s fearless with the puck on his stick almost to a fault. His shot release and one-timer are both excellent. He can be guilty of turning the puck over more than you like and there is a certain predictability to his game (he’ll try the same move more than once in a game).

Tuomala is still a pretty intelligent player with a good work ethic. He’s good at shooting through defenders and creating something out of nothing. In typical Finnish fashion, he has a high motor and likes to push the pace – real pesky player. He’s real dangerous in transition and likes to carry the puck in on zone entries. He often outworks his opponent and is real aggressive on the forecheck and especially chippy in the corners and in front of the net.

Defensively, Tuomaala doesn’t appear to be anything special. He does cheat the zone at times and doesn’t show enough commitment in the half of the ice so that will be something to work on moving forward. Overall though, he is a fast, pesky player who likes to shoot the puck which are attractive qualities.

Final thought:

Tuomaala has the talent to make it to the NHL. There is some question as to how his game translates to the pros (bit of a junior feel to it) so he may have to adjust his game a bit to the North American style. But he can really skate and really shoot so that give him a real chance at being a goal scorer in the NHL one day. Reminds me of Artturi Lehkonen.

28. Trevor Wong

Ranked #90 NA Prospect, Trevor Wong is ranked as low as he is because of his size – plain and simple. Plus, his body of work is a really short sample. Wong is highly skilled and has a relentless motor but he is small by NHL standards, which means some team is going to draft a helluva talented kid in the mid rounds.

Wong only played 16 games for Kelowna of the WHL, but I watched his shifts from all of them and he’s a terrific prospect. Talent wise, he’s right up there with Logan Stankoven for me (who’s also small but has 15 lbs on Wong). Kelowna wasn’t nearly as deep a team as Kamloops but Wong still averaged a point per game and played in situations. He scored 2 SHG’s in 16 games and was 56.2% in the faceoff circle. He was always hustling and was a force in all 3 zones. Loved his compete level – right up there with some of the best in this draft.

Wong has elite offensive instincts. The only real knock I have on him is he needs to shoot more. Sometimes he over-passed the puck when he had a chance to shoot. He only averaged just over 2 shots a game (Stankoven was 5 shots/game) which is a shame because he can absolutely rip the puck when he wants to. His speed & motor are his real assets though. He is so dangerous in transition and just flies through the neutral zone. He puts a lot of pressure on defensemen with his speed & aggressive forecheck. He’s not afraid to go hard to the net despite his diminutive stature, and in many ways reminds me of Kailer Yamamoto (who is almost the identical size).

Wong plays center and despite his small stature, he plays the position extremely well though it’s possible he switches to wing eventually. He is a very capable playmaker or shooter and excellent in all 3 zones. His hockey IQ is really high. He’s great at puck support and finding open ice. He hustles hard defensively and will sacrifice his body to make a player. He really is a complete player.

Final thought: 

Wong has all the makings of being a solid 2 way center at the next level similar to a Tyler Johnson and will likely destroy the WHL next season. He’s fast, he’s smart, he can rip the puck, and he has a relentless motor. He’s also versatile and reliable. But, he’s 5’8″, 164 lbs. I think he still makes it to the NHL as an impact player. Tremendous value if he drops past the 2nd round.

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29. Simon Robertsson

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Like the other highly touted Swedish forwards, Simon Robertsson spent time both in the J20 Nationell (9 goals, 20 points in 15 games) and SHL this year. He also played in the HockeyEttan league (Swe-2) for a bit and in the playoffs.

Robertsson is one of the kids I don’t have a great read on. I see the elite NHL shot, the good speed and good work ethic and think he has a good chance at being a solid NHL’er one day. But something’s missing with him. A lot of his goals he scores are while he’s wide open, or from far out with the goalie screened. At times, he can look like Patrick Laine with that heat missile of a shot.

But, he’s not a real threat off the rush with his good but not great skating. Quite often on one on one rushes he will dump the puck past the defender and go get it. Similar to Fabian Lysell, if he’s not open and has the puck on his stick, he doesn’t create a whole lot with limited time and space which obviously can be an issue at the NHL level. He’s good at puck pursuit and aggressive on the forecheck. Yet quite often when his team has possession he becomes more of a “let someone else do the creating and I’ll get open” type. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s just his style but makes you wonder if he’s not able to get open in the NHL, how effective is he really going to be?

Robertsson’s passing and decision making are also issues. He can be caught throwing live grenades to his teammates a bit too often making it tough for them to corral. Even when he has time, he can be rather erratic or force passes that aren’t there. That kind of makes him more of a gritty one-dimensional shooter for me right now.

Final thought:

Robertsson has that elite trait (NHL shot) he can hang his hat on and is good enough in other areas to make you think with some moderate improvements over the next couple years he can be a solid pro. However, I have a bit of hesitation that his game is not going to translate great to the NHL without those improvements. So, he’s a risky pick but worth a shot near the end of the 1st round or early 2nd for me.

30. Bryce Montgomery

I intentionally put Bryce Montgomery immediately ahead of Simon Edvinsson for a reason. Why? There are very similar in a lot of ways, but I think Montgomery will be the much better pro.

While I disagree with his NHL CS ranking completely (146th NA prospect), I at least understand it a bit. Montgomery is a kid who’s stock really took a hit with the OHL not playing. He was a bit raw in London in 2019-20 and was logging mainly 3rd pair minutes so didn’t have a lot of hype around him. He even played a bit of forward. But his size and athleticism were quite apparent even in training camp as he beat out fellow Knight teammate and draftee Logan Mailloux for a spot in London. He was also set to get a bigger opportunity this past season in a more prime role but that never materialized for obvious reasons.

So instead, Montgomery didn’t play much hockey this year other than in the newly formed Pandemic hockey league. While it certainly wasn’t ideal in terms of scouting, the main thing I was looking for was improvement in the puck control and puck rushing ability that he flashed in training camp in 2019-20. That showed up on tape for sure which was a great sign. But I was blown away by the power and strength is in his skating – especially in the backwards crosscuts and moving laterally. Watch these clips and remember: he’s 6’5″, 220 lbs.

Montgomery is a very toolsy prospect. His real strengths are his mobility and hockey sense. He has great range for such a big man and makes a lot of good decisions with the puck. Has a knack for making the smart but subtle plays. Shows real good poise. He’s also a hard worker on and off the ice. He’s physical, he outmuscles opponents, and he stands up for his teammates. Defensively, Montgomery plays the position very well. His closes gaps quickly and is good clearing the front of the net. He makes a good first pass but can also skate it out if he has to. There’s a lot to like about the kid. His shot & puck skills appear to be improving so if his hands ultimately catch up to his head – watch out. Ton of upside with this kid as a potential physical, puck rushing d-man.

Final thought:

When you talk about “toolsy” prospects with high potential in this draft, Montgomery’s name should absolutely be part of that conversation. He’s big, mobile, intelligent and shows a strong 2 way game. With the OHL being cancelled it might have hurt his draft stock more than any other prospect. He was on the verge of a breakout season in London but instead, he is now overlooked but just about everyone. He’s scheduled to be back in London of the OHL in 2021 anchoring the blueline on a strong Knights team. Don’t sleep on this kid he is a gamer with big upside who will be a solid pro one day.

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31. Simon Edvinsson

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Edvinsson’s offensive ceiling is limited and not a big fan of his decision making but he is pretty strong defensively which is why he is ranked where he is.

Edvinsson’s strengths are his size, skating and puck handling. He moves around the ice so well for a big guy. His zone exits are usually excellent as he likes to carry the puck out a lot. He’s more than capable of making a good first pass on the breakout or springing a teammate on a long outlet pass too. He likes to be aggressive in transition and push the puck up the ice. He’s also not afraid of carrying it through the neutral zone or try and stickhandle around a guy. He has good overall offensive instincts.

Despite all that, I really feel like Edvinsson tries to do too much and is going to get caught turning over the puck a lot if he tries that in the NHL. He almost acts like he’s Philip Broberg out there but he’s not nearly as polished. He struggles with balance at times and looks a bit out of control. Some see the raw-ness in his game as a positive, I see it as a potential barrier. Owen Power plays with much better control and is more smooth with his puckhandling I find.

Defensively, Edvinsson is pretty strong in that area. He’s aggressive at the blue line, challenging zone entries and forcing offsides. He closes gaps well and I like his physicality. He battles hard along the boards and in front of the net to clear his man. What I don’t like is his defensive awareness as he can get caught out of position a lot, or even baited into following his man too far up the boards. He can struggle with adjustments by picking up the wrong man a bit too much.

In addition to that, Edvinsson really struggles with decision making on his passes. He tends to rush his passes or just flat out mistime them. Seen plenty of examples where he will make a good play by breaking up the cycle only to panic and give the puck away with a bonehead pass up the middle. This is very concerning and hard to see how it improves dramatically over the next few years.

Final thought:

Edvinsson is extremely toolsy and looks the part so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets drafted really high. And I get that is ceiling is also considered extremely high. But I have him this low for 2 reasons – I just don’t like his decision making (especially when passing), and he lacks that threat of a big shot which will limit his offense, especially on the Powerplay. But, he can be a very effective puck mover on the back end and can give a team big minutes. If a team is patient, he could develop into a big time d-man but I’m picturing more of a 3rd-5th D type. Probably overrated due to size & skating. How much he improves from here on in will ultimately determine him as a prospect, but he’s not better than Hughes, Power or Clarke right now in my opinion. Definite high potential but also real bust potential. Reminds me so much of Martin Marincin.

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Omissions:

As I mentioned earlier, this is not a mock draft it is a list of who I think will be the Top 31 prospects in the NHL when it’s all said and done. And I base it on certain criteria including Red flags, which are the main reason why prospects do underwhelm or bust completely. These players are highly touted by many other but give me real pause in my assessments so did not make the Top 31 list:

Kent Johnson – Every year there are a few kids who everyone falls in love and who I don’t and it causes some type of controversy. This year, Johnson is one of those prospects for me. His game is very sloppy at times and overrated. Not a great skater, gets way too cute, makes a lot of poor decisions and turns over the puck too much, too comfortable on the perimeter too often. Plays a high risk, junior style game that will not translate well.

Aatu Raty – Similar to Johnson, Raty is just way too risky for me to take him in the first round. Lots of flash but way too many bad turnovers. Poor 200 foot game. Decision making very questionable. Not to mention a real drop off in production.

Carson Lambos – I don’t really dislike anything in particular about his game, I just view him more of a 2nd round prospect. Could be a solid 2nd pairing defenseman in NHL eventually but likely his ceiling.

Zach Dean – Probably one of the most frustrating players for me to this year. Dean has very good speed & some high end puck skills but his decision making concerns me as does his 200 foot game. I just don’t understand some people’s assessments on him. Nice player with some flash and possible upside, but the rest of his game leaves a lot to be desired. Overhyped.

Zachary L’Heureux – This is another prospect I have no idea what people see that make them think he’s a 1st round guy. More like a 4th-6th for me. Good down low below the circles but not a fan of his skating, lazy efforts, poor decision making, undiscipline play. No chance I’d draft him in the Top 100.

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