NHL Draft 2021: 1st-Round Mock Predictions and Latest Order
Over the next few months, the NHL postseason field will be set, the playoffs will take place and one team will win the Stanley Cup. So there's plenty of exciting hockey on the horizon.
But it's not too early to start thinking ahead to the 2021 NHL draft, especially for teams that aren't going to be participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This year's draft is set to take place July 23-24. But the order won't be finalized until after the regular season, when the draft lottery (which doesn't have a date) takes place.
No matter which teams end up with the top picks, though, there are some talented prospects from the college and international ranks who are likely to be selected early.
Here's an early mock for the first round of this year's draft. The order shown is courtesy of Tankathon's projections, but things will change before the draft, based on game results and the draft lottery.
1st-Round Mock Draft
1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, Michigan
2. Anaheim Ducks: Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan
3. Seattle Kraken: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (SHL)
4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes, D, USA Hockey NTDP
5. Ottawa Senators: William Eklund, C/LW, Djurgardens (SHL)
6. Columbus Blue Jackets: Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)
7. Detroit Red Wings: Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF (SHL)
8. San Jose Sharks: Kent Johnson, C, Michigan
9. Calgary Flames: Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (SM-Liiga)
10. Los Angeles Kings: Brandt Clarke, D, HC Nove Zamky (SVK)
11. Arizona Coyotes: n/a (pick forfeited because of combine testing violations)
12. Vancouver Canucks: Fabian Lysell, LW/RW, Frolunda J20 (SuperElit)
13. Chicago Blackhawks: Chaz Lucius, C, USA Hockey NTDP
14. Philadelphia Flyers: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL)
15. Nashville Predators: Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL)
16. New York Rangers: Cole Sillinger, C/LW, Medicine Hat (WHL)
17. St. Louis Blues: Matt Coronato, LW/RW, Chicago (USHL)
18. Dallas Stars: Zachary L'Heureux, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
19. Montreal Canadiens: Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski (QMJHL)
20. Edmonton Oilers: Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea J20 (SuperElit)
21. Winnipeg Jets: Stanislav Svozil, D, HC Kometa Brno (CZE)
22. Boston Bruins: Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL)
23. Minnesota Wild (via Pittsburgh Penguins): Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener
24. New Jersey Devils (via New York Islanders): Oskar Olausson, LW/RW, HV71 (SHL)
25. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Tampa Bay Lightning): Daniil Chayka, D, Moskva (KHL)
26. Minnesota Wild: Sasha Pastujov, LW, USA Hockey NTDP
27. Florida Panthers: Isak Rosen, LW, Leksands IF J20 (SuperElit)
28. Vegas Golden Knights: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL)
29. Columbus Blue Jackets (via Toronto Maple Leafs): Samu Tuomaala, C/LW, Karpat (SM-Liiga)
30. Detroit Red Wings (via Washington Capitals): Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburgh (MHL)
31. Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton (WHL)
32. Colorado Avalanche: Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Michigan May Have First 2 Players Drafted
Michigan's 2020-21 season had a disappointing ending. Slated to play Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCAA men's ice hockey tournament, the Wolverines didn't get an opportunity to take the ice for that game and try to reach the Frozen Four, as multiple positive COVID-19 tests caused them to withdraw from the event.
For some Michigan players, that's how their college careers ended. Several of them are now likely to go on to have strong professional careers, including two who could be the first players selected in the 2021 NHL draft.
Defenseman Owen Power and center Matthew Beniers are among the top prospects in this year's class. The Wolverines duo sit third and fourth, respectively, in The Athletic's Corey Pronman's draft prospects rankings. And depending on which teams end up with the top picks, Power and Beniers could get selected at any point within the first five selections, potentially even at Nos. 1 and 2 overall.
Power and Beniers aren't the only Michigan players who are top prospects. Center Kent Johnson is another talented player (who ranks No. 5 in the class, according to Pronman), and he should also get taken early in this year's draft.
So while their college careers didn't end the way they wanted, these three Wolverines standouts are likely going to enjoy draft night this summer.
Who Will Kraken Take in Their Inaugural Draft?
On July 21, the Seattle Kraken will have an opportunity to build their roster for their inaugural season. That's when they will acquire some of the top unprotected players from the NHL's 31 existing teams as part of the expansion draft.
After that happens, the Kraken should have a better idea of what they want to do with the franchise's first NHL draft pick. Seattle has the third-best odds at landing the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery, so it's guaranteed to own a top-six selection—and it could even land the first one.
Considering the Kraken don't have any prospects, they may end up wanting to take the most talented player on the board when they are on the clock rather than try to target a particular position. Seattle is likely going to want to add as much young talent as possible so that it can build a roster that sets it up for long-term success.
It will be interesting to see how general manager Ron Francis assembles the Kraken's roster, including what the team will do during the 2021 NHL draft.
Could Red Wings Take Top Goalie in Class?
There's usually not a lot of goaltenders selected early in the draft, but there have been recent exceptions. Last year, for example, Yaroslav Askarov went to the Nashville Predators with the No. 11 overall pick.
This year, the first goaltender likely to be drafted is Jesper Wallstedt, an 18-year-old from Sweden who plays for Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League. The 6'3" Wallstedt may not be the most athletic goalie, but his skills will make him an enticing prospect for an NHL team.
"What makes him such a good goaltender is his elite sense and puck-tracking ability," Pronman wrote. "He makes the right read at a remarkably high frequency. Wallstedt can make a tough save when he needs to and has some lateral quickness, but it often seems like he doesn’t have to adjust his technique much."
One fit for Wallstedt could be with the Detroit Red Wings, who may end up with a top-10 pick in the draft. Detroit's top two goaltenders are both veterans (35year-old Thomas Greiss and 32-year-old Jonathan Bernier), and neither is signed beyond the 2021-22 season. It could be wise for general manager Steve Yzerman to draft Wallstedt if he's available when the Red Wings are on the clock.