2021 NHL Draft: 5 American players to watch
American players will make a big impact in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Starting the season, it’s looking like there’s a strong player on this list that’s a contender to go first overall, or at least be in the discussion. And he’s Canadian. He’s actually one of two Canadians on this list, both of whom will be attending the University of Michigan. Then, there should be a few more players in top-10 discussions and a handful throughout the first round.
With FCHockey getting set for the season, our scouts agreed on five 2021 NHL Draft-eligible players from the USA that you’ll need to see this season. From the NCAA, the USHL, and (as always) the United States National Team Development Program, the American leagues will be well-represented at the top of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Here are FCHockey’s five prospects in the United States to watch this season:
Luke Hughes, D, United States U18 Team (USHL)
We start off with a player whose name you’ll recognize. Luke Hughes is the youngest brother of the Hughes family, with Vancouver Canucks’ defender Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils’ Jack Hughes already working their craft at the NHL level. Luke will look to follow their footsteps of a high draft pick in 2021.
The defenseman spent the 2018-19 season with Little Caesars 15U AAA, playing 71 games and tallying 22 goals, 61 assists, and 83 points. He then made the jump to the U.S. National U17 Team in 2019-20, where he played 48 games. Hughes scored seven times, adding 21 assists for 28 points.
He played an additional 28 games in the USHL, getting another four goals, nine assists and 13 points. He also participated in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge where he added another goal and three assists in six games to help the US with the silver medal.
“An absolutely elite skater with textbook form, Hughes gets up to top speed in a hurry and possesses great elusiveness and balance on his edges,” said Eastern Canada Scout, Joseph Aleong. “He shows great jump and aggressiveness in transition, displaying great puck-rushing ability and a knack for finding open lanes for controlled zone entries.”
Hughes is committed to the University of Michigan in 2021-22, joining a couple of other prospects on this list.
Kent Johnson, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
Alright, Kent Johnson may be a Canadian on this list, but he’s playing for the University of Michigan in the NCAA so he’ll count for this list. The centerman commanded attention in the 2019-20 season playing in the BCHL for the Trail Smoke Eaters as the alternate captain. In 52 games, he potted 41 goals, 60 assists, and 101 points.
The list of accolades he received for this past season is a long one. On top of leading the league in every offensive category, he earned the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy and the Most Valuable Player and the Bob Fenton Trophy as the Most Sportsmanlike Player. This came after his 2018-19 rookie season in the league where he had 20 goals, 26 assists and 46 points in 57 games and was named to the All-Rookie Team.
During this past season, he also played for Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge. In four games, he collected a goal and an assist.
“Already his game is so dynamic thanks to always playing on his toes and his quickness in each plane,” said Western Canada head scout Justin Froese. “He is deceiving and proactive in his thought processes and is never seemingly out of options thanks to the dexterity of his puck skill and his elusive skating.”
With the move to the NCAA, eyes will be on Johnson to see if he can replicate his offensive production in a much tougher league, defensively.
Chaz Lucius, C, United States U18 Team (USHL)
Leading the forward corps out of the USNTDP is Chaz Lucius. The centerman is a sniper that can score goals in bunches and there will be teams looking at him a the top of this draft.
Lucius spent the 2018-19 season with the Gentry Academy 15U AAA team in the NAPHL. In just 13 games, he collected a shocking 39 goals, 23 assists and 62 points. His goal and point totals led the league.
Then in 2019-20, the forward made the jump to the U.S. National U17 Team. He kept his goal-scoring ways going, potting 31 goals and adding 19 assists for 50 points. He added 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 32 USHL games. Then, he put on an excellent performance at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, leading the tournament with seven goals and 10 points en route to a silver medal.
“Lucius is an offensive catalyst who has the talent and ability to be one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the 2021 class,” said Crossover scout Brandon Holmes. “Lucius has phenomenal hands in tight, allowing him to make plays at the net mouth and beat defenders one-on-one with flashy dekes, while also having the offensive smarts and awareness to get to high-danger areas on the ice to score goals and make himself available for his linemates.”
Now on the U18 National Team, Lucius will be leading the way offensively again as he looks to impress NHL scouts.
Owen Power, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
The top draft player playing in the United States in 2020-21 is actually Canadian – defenseman Owen Power. The six-foot-five, 214-pound player put on a show in the USHL in his last two seasons and is now heading to the NCAA powerhouse, the University of Michigan.
In 2018-19, his rookie season, Power jumped on the Chicago Steel roster scoring 11 goals and adding 14 assists for 25 points in 58 games. His season earned him a spot on the USHL All-Rookie Second Team. He also got the invite to play for Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, playing five games, recording no points.
In 2019-20, Power broke out in a big way. He scored 12 goals, had 28 assists, and finished the campaign with 40 points in 45 games. That point total led all defenders in the league. His performance also earned him a spot on the First All-Star Team and Defenseman of the Year honours.
“Power’s game could make him a potential top-five pick which a chance to hear his name No. 1 overall,” said United States scout Ray Napientek. “A good-sized defenseman with excellent skating, an advanced defensive game and an improving slap shot the sky is the limit for him. He’s the type of defenseman that controls games in all three zones.”
Power looks to be one of a handful of players that could be the No. 1 overall pick so far. A big season in the NCAA could solidify that ranking.
Matthew Samoskevich, C, Chicago Steel (USHL)
Finally, looking at the USHL, Power’s former teammate on the Steel looks to be one of, if not the top draft-eligible prospect in the league this season. Matthew Samoskevich, a graduate of the renowned Shattuck St. Mary’s program in the USHS-Prep league, is entering his sophomore season with the club and should be a leader on the squad.
Playing with Shattuck in 2018-19, he recorded 36 goals, 38 assists, and 74 points in 51 games. He ended up playing two games with the Steel that season, collecting two assists. He also stepping into three playoff games, capturing another assist.
In 2019-20, Samoskevich spent the full season with Chicago. In 47 games, he potted 13 goals, 21 assists and 34 points. To start off the year, he dressed for Team USA at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and had one goal in his four games.
“Samoskevich may have flown under the radar in some stacked Steel teams but his offensive game is his bread and butter,” said Napientek. “He has soft hands, is an excellent playmaker and a sneaky good shot. Samo’s skating is improving and can play all over the ice. He’ll drive the offense in Chicago this season.”
With the Steel established as a top tier development program for the NHL, Samoskevich should have a lot of eyes on his this season.