Bleacher Report's Final 2021 NHL Mock Draft
The wait is almost over for this year's top hockey prospects, as the 2021 NHL draft begins with the opening round Friday. Rounds 2 through 7 will follow on Saturday.
It was an unusual season, as COVID-19 affected leagues throughout North America and Europe. Most played shortened schedules, but some, such as the Ontario Hockey League, had public health orders prevent them from playing.
That likely complicated scouting efforts, but NHL Central Scouting still released its final ranking of this year's best prospects on May 27.
The top 15 selections in the opening round were determined by the draft lottery June 2, with the remaining 16 spots decided by the postseason. The Arizona Coyotes forfeited their first-round pick for violating combine regulations before the 2020 draft.
The following is our final 2021 mock draft. The selections are based on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of the top North American and international prospects and what we believe are each team's needs.
1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr had plenty of praise for the 6'6", 213-pound blueliner. "Power is an excellent package of NHL size, skating and attributes, which he utilizes effectively in all situations," he said, per NHL.com. Marr praised the 18-year-old's hockey sense, skating and maturity. Power had 16 points in 26 games as a freshman last season.
After missing the postseason for the 10th straight campaign, the Sabres need all the help they can get. Power's size and skills could one day make him one of their top-pairing defensemen.
On July 10, Power told TSN (h/t NHL.com) he'd welcome being selected first overall by the Sabres, citing their rich history and proximity to his hometown of Mississauga, Ontario. He said he's leaning toward returning to college for another season, but that's unlikely to affect his position as the potential No. 1 pick.
2. Seattle Kraken: Luke Hughes
The luck of the draft lottery landed the expansion Seattle Kraken the No. 2 pick. They could use it to select defenseman Luke Hughes of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USNTDP) Under-18 squad.
Hughes, 17, is the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes. He can make history by becoming the third son of a United States family to be selected in the first round. Central Scouting ranked him fourth in the class.
At 6'2", 184 pounds, Hughes is larger than his brothers. He has the same quickness as they do but also plays a more physical style. Central Scouting senior manager David Gregory believes he could not only be better than his brothers but also be the best of this year's draft. The young defenseman collected 34 points in 38 games in 2020-21.
The Kraken could have a veteran-laden defensive corps coming out of the expansion draft. They'll need a top prospect within their system with the potential to one day anchor their blue line. Hughes could fill that requirement.
3. Anaheim Ducks: Mason McTavish
The decline of Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique leaves the Anaheim Ducks in need of skilled centers. Mason McTavish of the Ontario Hockey League's Peterborough Petes could be a good fit.
Central Scouting ranked the 18-year-old second among North American skaters. Marr called him "that coveted power center that possesses the elite package of size, smarts and compete, which all NHL clubs look to add," per NHL.com's Mike Morreale.
With the OHL shut down by COVID-19, the 6'1", 207-pound McTavish spent part of the season in Switzerland. He tallied 11 points in 13 games with EHC Olten while skating against older players, as well as seven points in four playoff contests. He also collected 11 points in seven games playing for Canada at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.
The promising Trevor Zegras (ninth overall, 2019 draft) should be ready to crack their lineup full time in 2021-22, but they could use more depth at that position. Adding McTavish could give the Ducks a potent one-two punch down the middle for years.
4. New Jersey Devils: William Eklund
The New Jersey Devils have two skilled centers in No. 1 overall picks Nico Hischier (2017) and Jack Hughes (2019). However, they're lacking wingers with natural offensive talent. A tempting option will be William Eklund of Djurgardens in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
Ranked the top international skater by Central Scouting, Eklund is also this year's winner of the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence. He underwent an emergency appendectomy and registered a positive COVID-19 test during the season but still tallied 23 points in 40 games and was named the SHL's rookie of the year.
Eklund is a smallish forward at 5'10" and 176 pounds, but Central Scouting's Marr highlighted his speed and talent: "He competes and works hard with excellent hockey sense, quickness and elite puck skills to be both a playmaker and a scorer." Marr also pointed out the young Swede "plays bigger than his size and plays to win."
The Devils have a couple of promising wingers in their system in Alexander Holtz (seventh overall, 2020 draft) and Nolan Foote. Eklund's skills, however, could make him an excellent fit alongside Hischier or Hughes.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Matthew Beniers
A lack of skilled centers within the Columbus Blue Jackets' system could see them address that issue in the draft. They could go with Matthew Beniers from the University of Michigan, who's ranked sixth among North American skaters.
His teammate Kent Johnson is listed as a center and ranked higher (No. 3), but he spent 2020-21 at left wing. Beniers, 18, is a natural center who could be best-suited to address the Jackets' long-term needs.
The 6'2", 175-pounder plays a strong two-way game. He finished the season with 24 points in as many games for Michigan and played for the United States at the 2021 World Junior Championship.
Elite Prospects praised Beniers' skills, skating and work ethic. He could one day blossom into the true first-line center the Jackets need.
6. Detroit Red Wings: Jesper Wallstedt
The Detroit Red Wings have spent the past two years rebuilding under general manager Steve Yzerman. However, they don't have a goaltender among their top prospects. Jesper Wallstedt of the SHL's Lulea HF could help the Wings address that issue.
Central Scouting ranked the 18-year-old as its top international goaltender. The 6'3", 214-pounder has the size and athletic skill to compete at the NHL level, and in 22 games with Lulea, he had a 2.23 goals against average and two shutouts.
Wallstedt's performance garnered praise from Central Scouting's Al Jensen, per Morreale. "He's got excellent pro potential with a very good chance to be a quality No. 1 goalie in the NHL," he said. Jensen commended the youngster's confidence, rebound control and ability to track the puck through traffic.
It could take two or three years until Wallstedt is ready. Nevertheless, he could address the Red Wings' need for a reliable long-term starting goaltender.
7. San Jose Sharks: Kent Johnson
Finishing 25th last season in goals per game average (2.61), the San Jose Sharks need scoring punch in the short and long term. They must restock their prospect pipeline, and University of Michigan forward Kent Johnson can help.
The 18-year-old can play center or left wing and is ranked third among North American skaters. Lanky at 6'1" and 167 pounds, he was No. 1 among all first-time draft-eligible NCAA players with 18 assists and 27 points. He also earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
Johnson has impressive offensive and puck-handling skills. Elite Prospects praised his quickness, agility, anticipation and hockey smarts.
The Sharks will need young forwards to eventually replace veterans such as Logan Couture and Evander Kane. Johnson could be one of those pieces.
8. Los Angeles Kings: Simon Edvinsson
Ranked second among international skaters, Simon Edvinsson of Frolunda in the SHL has the tools to become a top-four NHL defenseman and could be enticing to the Los Angeles Kings at No. 8.
They sit on top of The Athletic's 2021 NHL prospect pool rankings. However, they have just two defensemen (Helge Grans and Tobias Bjornfot) among their top-10 prospects. Edvinsson would provide an additional measure of future big league depth.
He is a skillful defenseman who plays well at both ends and could eventually replace the 31-year-old Drew Doughty as the Kings' blue-line leader.
Elite Prospects praised the 6'4", 198-pounder's size, physicality and instincts. The site also highlighted his smooth skating and puck-handling skills.
9. Vancouver Canucks: Brandt Clarke
Defensive depth remains a concern for the Vancouver Canucks. After hitting the jackpot in 2018 with Quinn Hughes at No. 7, they could land another blue-line gem at No. 9 in Brandt Clarke of the OHL's Barrie Colts.
Ranked seventh among North American skaters, Clarke was loaned to HC Nove Zamke of the Czech Extraliga after the pandemic shut down the OHL this past season. The 18-year-old puck-moving defenseman played well there, tallying 15 points in 26 games against older talent. He also had seven points in as many games for Canada at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship.
Clarke is tall and slender at 6'2" and 185 pounds, but he has a big shot and is a superb playmaker and puck-handler. He also reads the play well and has good hockey sense.
The Canucks will need another promising defenseman in their system, with youngsters Jack Rathbone and Olli Juolevi expected to see more NHL playing time next season. With Hughes as their top-pairing mobile blueliners, Clarke could one day fill a similar role on their second pairing.
10. Ottawa Senators: Dylan Guenther
A promising left winger with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League, Dylan Guenther has the makings of a future NHL scoring star. His skills could make him a solid fit with the rebuilding Ottawa Senators.
The 6'2", 175-pound Guenther tallied 12 goals and 24 points in just 12 games with the Oil Kings in their shortened WHL campaign. He also had seven points in as many games for Canada at the 2021 World Under-18 Championships.
Guenther has strong offensive skills, including a hard, accurate shot and slick playmaking ability. He's ranked fifth among North American skaters.
The Senators are building what they hope will become a future Stanley Cup contender with the young talent already on their roster and within their system. Guenther could be a key part of their future as a top-six scoring winger.
11. Chicago Blackhawks: Cole Sillinger
Jonathan Toews' season-long absence because of an immune system disorder gave the Chicago Blackhawks a stark preview of life without their top center. That could put them on the hunt for a future replacement. Someone such as Cole Sillinger of the Sioux City Stampede in the United States Hockey League (USHL) might draw their interest.
Sillinger, 18, has a solid hockey pedigree as the son of former NHL center Mike Sillinger. The 6-foot, 197-pounder has decent size with excellent offensive skills, including a strong wrist shot. He can skate at center or left wing.
In his first season with the Stampede, Sillinger scored 24 goals and posted 46 points in 31 games. In 2019-20, he tallied 53 points in 48 contests as a rookie with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers.
Ranked 10th among North American skaters, Sillinger has star potential. He might be ready to transition into the Blackhawks lineup within a couple of years.
12. Calgary Flames: Carson Lambos
The Calgary Flames have spent the past two seasons transitioning younger talent into their defensive corps. Carson Lambos of the WHL's Winnipeg Ice could be another fine addition.
At 6'1" and 197 pounds. Lambos has good size for the NHL game, reads plays well and is an effective mobile defenseman. He's ranked 11th among North American skaters.
Lambos spent the season loaned to JYP of Finland's SM Liiga Jr, netting 11 points in 13 games with their Under-20 squad. He also had a solid debut with the Ice in 2019-20, with 32 points in 57 contests.
Young defensemen Juuso Valimaki, 22, and Rasmus Andersson, 24, have earned regular spots on the Flames blue line. Lambos could join them in a couple of years.
13. Philadelphia Flyers: Brennan Othmann
A skillful left winger, Brennan Othmann of the OHL's Flint Firebirds spent 2020-21 loaned to EHC Olten of the Swiss League. His performance could make him an enticing draft target for the Philadelphia Flyers.
With veteran left winger Claude Giroux approaching his mid-30s, the Philadelphia Flyers will eventually need to find a promising long-term replacement.
After a promising 33-point rookie performance with the Firebirds in 2019-20, Othmann had 16 points in 34 games in Switzerland. He also had six points in seven contests with Canada at the 2021 Under-18 Championships.
Othmann's improvement in 2020-21 sent him surging to eighth among North American skaters. That bodes well for his development as a future top-six NHL left winger.
14. Dallas Stars: Matthew Coronato
Matthew Coronato enjoyed a strong second season with the USHL's Chicago Steel. He led the club with 48 goals, finished second with 85 points in 51 games and was its postseason scoring leader with nine goals and 13 points.
Coronato's performance led to his finishing ninth among North American skaters. That could draw the attention of the Dallas Stars.
At 5'10" and 183 pounds, Coronato is a hardworking forward who skates well and possesses a strong shot. He can also play on either wing.
The Stars will eventually need replacements for aging right wingers Joe Pavelski, 37, and Alexander Radulov, 35. Coronato's skills could make him a good fit one day in Dallas.
15. New York Rangers: Chaz Lucius
The New York Rangers are blessed with considerable prospect depth. However, they have just two centers among their top-15 prospects. Chaz Lucius of the USNTDP could bring an extra measure of depth to that position.
In 12 games with the USNTDP Juniors squad, Lucius tallied 13 goals and 18 points. He also collected 13 goals and 20 points in 13 games with the U.S. National Under-18 Team.
Lucius is a natural goal scorer with a quick, accurate shot. He also has good vision, underrated playmaking ability and can also skate on the wing.
16. St. Louis Blues: Nikita Chibrikov
The St. Louis Blues have taken a hit among their top wingers over the past year. Alexander Steen retired, Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade and Jaden Schwartz is due to become an unrestricted free agent July 28.
Trading Tarasenko and the potential loss of Schwartz to free agency will leave the Blues trying to shore up their long-term wing depth. Nikita Chibrikov of SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) could be worth consideration.
Chibrikov, 18, is ranked fourth among international skaters. He appeared in 16 games with St. Petersburg in 2020-21. He also tallied nine points in 11 contests with their junior squad and 13 points in seven games for Russia at the World Under-18 Championships.
The Blues have some good young forwards in Jordan Kyrou, 23, and Robert Thomas, 22. However, they must restock their 26th-ranked system. The 5'10", 170-pound Chibrikov might lack NHL size, but he possesses good speed, shifty playmaking skills and a solid work ethic.
17. Winnipeg Jets: Corson Ceulemans
The Winnipeg Jets lack skilled depth on the right of their blue line on their roster and in their system. Only two of their top-15 prospects are right-shot defensemen.
They'll have to turn to the trade and free-agent markets this summer for immediate roster help. A long-term solution could be found in this year's draft in Corson Ceulemans of the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).
The 6'2", 198-pound Ceulemans is a big, sturdy blueliner ranked 14th among this year's North American skaters. He had 11 points in eight games with the Bandits in their pandemic-shortened season and eight points in six contests with Canada's World Under-18 squad.
Ceulemans possesses a good, hard, low shot from the point. He can play a responsible game within his own zone. Those skills could make him a future top-four NHL defenseman.
18. Nashville Predators: Xavier Bourgault
A talented offensive forward with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Xavier Bourgault should prove attractive to NHL clubs seeking scoring depth at center. The Nashville Predators could be among those clubs.
The Predators have one potential center among their top-five prospects in Philip Tomasino, but he tends to play more at right wing. Bourgault could be a better option.
The 18-year-old has a very good shot and possesses strong playmaking abilities. He's a scoring threat whenever he's on the ice and can also play on the wing. He's ranked 13th among North American skaters.
The 6-foot, 172-pounder tallied 20 goals and 40 points in 29 games during the 2020-21 COVID-shortened season. In three campaigns with the Cataractes, he's totaled 60 goals and 131 points.
19. Edmonton Oilers: Sebastian Cossa
The Edmonton Oilers are in serious need of goaltending depth. They're reportedly in talks to bring back 39-year-old Mike Smith for another season, per Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal. Backup Mikko Koskinen has struggled through his NHL tenure and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. There isn't immediate help coming from their system.
Standing 6'6" and 210 pounds, Cossa has the size of an NHL goaltender. He takes up a big part of the net, moves well in his crease and has superb rebound control.
Cossa put up strong numbers in his first season with the Oil Kings in 2019-20, sporting a 2.23 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and four shutouts in 33 games. While the pandemic shortened 2020-21's WHL schedule and limited Cossa to 19 games, he finished with a sparkling 1.57 GAA, a save percentage of .941 and four shutouts.
20. Boston Bruins: Fabian Lysell
The Bruins were last in The Athletic's 2021 NHL prospect pool rankings. They're in need of a skilled right winger in their system, and Lysell could be a good fit.
He isn't very big at 5'11" and 172 pounds, but he's considered a highly skilled offensive forward. He's creative with the puck, moves well and possesses a quick shot release. He also works hard on the backcheck.
With Frolunda HC J20 this past season, Lysell tallied 13 points in 11 games. He had a bit of a rocky transition to Lulea with just three points in 26 games. Playing against older opponents, however, could be a good experience in preparing him for an NHL career.
21. Minnesota Wild: Samu Tuomaala
Ranked 10th among international skaters, Tuomaala spent 2020-21 skating with Karpat and its junior club, tallying 31 points in 30 games with the latter. He also had 11 points in seven games for Finland at the World Under-18 Championships.
Blessed with good speed and a quick shot, the 5'10", 174-pound Tuomaala is a scoring threat at any angle, though he's at his best when skating alongside talented teammates.
The Wild will need to bring in more skilled right wingers soon, especially for when 33-year-old Mats Zuccarello reaches the end of his contract in 2024. Tuomaala could be a good fit alongside rising star left winger Kirill Kaprizov.
22. Detroit Red Wings (from Washington Capitals): Francesco Pinelli
With Joe Veleno likely to crack the Detroit Red Wings roster full time in 2021-22, the Wings could use a skilled center among their top prospects, and the 18-year-old Pinelli could draw their interest.
The 6-foot, 185-pounder is a strong skater with good hockey sense. He's also a hard worker and a crafty playmaker who benefited from facing mature opponents in Slovenia.
Pinelli had 11 points in 13 games with Jesenice in 2020-21, as well as 11 points in seven games for Canada at the World Under-18 Championship. Before that, he put up 41 points in 59 games with Kitchener in 2019-20.
23. Florida Panthers: Isak Rosen
Rosen had just one assist in 22 games with Leksands but tallied 12 points in as many games with its junior team. He also played well for Sweden at the World Under-18 Championship, scoring seven goals and posting nine points in seven games.
Ranked eighth among international skaters, Rosen is listed as a right wing by Central Scouting but spent more time as a left winger. Slender at 5'11" and 156 pounds, he's a terrific skater with an accurate wrist shot and a quick one-timer.
Rosen will need more time to fill out his physique and adjust to playing against mature opponents. In two or three seasons, he could blossom into a skillful NHL winger.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Toronto Maple Leafs): Aatu Raty
Raty managed just six points in 35 games playing in Finland's top pro league. Central Scouting, however, still ranked him No. 3 among international skaters.
At 6'2" and 185 pounds, Raty has good size and possesses a hard, accurate shot. He doesn't shy from the corners or from driving to the front of the net to create traffic and scoring chances. Given time to regain confidence, he could get his promising career back on track.
The Jackets must bring in skilled centers for their NHL lineup and to stock up their prospect system. They could pursue Raty if they've already selected a high-caliber center with the No. 5 pick.
25. Minnesota Wild (from Pittsburgh Penguins): Simon Robertsson
Simon Robertsson could be a good addition to the Minnesota Wild if they want to bolster their prospect depth among their right wingers. The 18-year-old suited up for Skelleftea AIK in the SHL in 2020-21 and is ranked 11th among international skaters.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder has good hockey sense with power forward potential. He has a quick shot, plays a high-tempo style and is a good forechecker.
Robertsson had two points in 22 games with Skelleftea this past season but netted 20 points in 15 contests with its junior team. Another year with the main club will provide this versatile two-way winger the opportunity to improve his game against older talent.
It could take Robertsson two or three years to fully develop. Still, he could be worth the wait.
26. Carolina Hurricanes: Daniil Chayka
A tall defenseman with a left-handed shot, Daniil Chayka has experience in the North American and European games. That could smooth his transition toward the NHL.
With Jake Bean moving up to the Carolina Hurricanes roster, they lack a left-shot blueliner among their top-10 prospects. The 6'3", 187-pound Chayka could fill that role and eventually find his own place on their defensive corps.
Ranked fifth among international skaters, Chayka spent two seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20) with the OHL's Guelph Storm. He was loaned to the KHL's CSKA Moscow for part of the 2020-21 season and played for Russia at the 2021 World Junior Championship.
Possessing a long reach, Chayka has good mobility and moves the puck with confidence. Spending part of this season against older talent in the KHL could hasten his development into a top-four defenseman.
27. Colorado Avalanche: Sasha Pastujov
The Colorado Avalanche have done well at the draft table in recent years, selecting notable talent such as Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar. However, they could use more left wing depth among their top prospects. A possible candidate to fill that spot is Sasha Pastujov of the USNTDP.
Ranked 18th among North American skaters, he's listed as a right winger by Central Scouting but also skates at left wing. He led the USNTDP in scoring with 30 goals and 65 points and finished fourth on its junior team with 26 points in 18 games.
At 6'0" and 184 pounds, Pastujov has decent NHL size and plays a solid two-way game. He's a skillful playmaker with a terrific shot.
He's headed to the University of Notre Dame this fall. A season or two of NCAA hockey should help him make significant strides toward reaching the NHL. He could prove worth the wait for the Avalanche.
28. New Jersey Devils (from New York Islanders): Sean Behrens
Should the New Jersey Devils take a winger with the fourth pick, they could seek a left-shot defenseman with this selection now that Ty Smith has become a roster regular. Sean Behrens of the USNTDP might be an option.
At 5'10" and 177 pounds, Behrens may lack NHL size, but he has considerable offensive potential to one day reach the NHL as a top-four blueliner. He's ranked 24th among North American skaters.
Behrens tallied 35 points in 46 games with the USNTDP this season. He also had 18 points in 23 games with their junior team in the USHL. He'll get his first taste of NCAA action this fall as he joins the University of Denver.
A talented puck-moving defenseman, Behrens not only contributes offensively but also controls the puck well in his own zone. He's a smooth skater and an energetic young player.
29. Vegas Golden Knights: Wyatt Johnston
The Vegas Golden Knights have an immediate roster need for a first-line center. They won't find that help via this year's draft. In Wyatt Johnston of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, however, they could land a prospect with the potential to fill that need in a few years.
Johnston had a promising debut in 2019-20 with the Spitfires, scoring 12 goals and 30 points in 53 contests. Apart from a seven-game stint with Canada at the World Under-18 Championships, he didn't see any playing time in 2020-21 because COVID-19 scuttled the OHL schedule. Nevertheless, Johnston is ranked 16th among North American skaters.
The 6'1", 178-pounder plays a smart, all-around game. He's a hardworking center who performs well in all situations, moves the puck well and is a creative playmaker.
Johnston seems like a risk as a first-round selection. For a team located in North America's gambling mecca, the Golden Knights could be willing to bet on him, as it could pay off down the road.
30. Montreal Canadiens: Zachary Bolduc
Once known as the Flying Frenchmen, the Montreal Canadiens had only two French-Canadian players (Phillip Danault and Jonathan Drouin) in 2020-21. They also had just one among their top-20 prospects. If they're seeking some promising homegrown talent, Zachary Bolduc of the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic could be a good choice.
The Canadiens' focus, of course, is and should be on finding the best available talent regardless of nationality. Nevertheless, Bolduc could prove a worthwhile pick. The 6'1", 175-pound center is ranked 17th among North American skaters.
Bolduc is a talented stick-handler and playmaker. He also has terrific speed and good hockey smarts.
Debuting with the Oceanic in 2019-20, Bolduc had 52 points in 55 games. Despite another pandemic-shortened season, he tallied 29 points in 27 games in 2020-21.
31. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Tampa Bay Lightning): Fedor Svechkov
The Blue Jackets could select centers with their earlier picks. They might shift their focus toward a versatile forward with this selection, and Fedor Svechkov of Lada Togliatti in Russia would be a good choice.
Ranked sixth among international skaters, the 6-foot, 187-pound Svechkov put up good numbers on Togliatti's development teams. He also tallied 10 points in seven games for Russia at the World Under-18 Championships.
Svechkov's strength is his defensive game. He has an active stick to force takeaways and disrupt the opponent's rush. He reads plays well and puts himself in good position to break up plays in the neutral zone and force turnovers.
Listed as a center, Svechkov can also skate on the wing. His all-around game and versatility could make him a worthwhile addition.