Hughes tops FCHockey’s Spring ranking for 2021 draft
In what has been an unprecedented hockey season, April has provided a glimmer of normalcy for the scouting community.
The 2021 BioSteel All-American Game took place earlier this month, the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship is kicking off in a few days, and the Western Hockey League was able to get its players on the ice.
The Ontario Hockey League season has now been officially cancelled, but a number of players have seen some time overseas and others will hit the ice in the Under-18s. There’s talk of a potential showcase to get some additional players on the ice before the NHL Draft, too. It’s not an ideal situation, but adapting to the situations presented this year is a must for those scouting hockey.
At FCHockey, scouts have been glued to screens this season watching tape, and sprinkling in rare live views around the globe when safely able to based on local restrictions.
Through these looks, much as is the case in the public sphere, this draft remains very much open. There is still no clear-cut No. 1 selection and finding two scouts who rank the top-10 the same is a rarity to say the least. It’s leading to a very exciting draft, taking place July 23-24, where the unpredictability adds to the usual excitement.
With the 2021 NHL Draft only three months away, here’s how FCHockey’s Spring ranking has the top-32.
1. Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP (USHL) – Holding on to the top spot in the draft for FCHockey, Hughes has seen his season come to an early end after surgery to repair a foot tendon lacerated by a skate cut. The highly-skilled defender wrapped up his season with 34 points (six goals, 28 assists) in 38 games, impressing FCHockey scouts enough to maintain his No. 1 ranking. The draft is extremely fluid still, so much so that a strong performance from one of the other contenders participating in the Under-18s could see Hughes supplanted as the top seed.
2. Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (SHL)/Vasteras (HockeyAllsvenskan) – The first player on this list participating in next week’s Under-18s tournament, Edvinsson could control his draft stock in the tournament. The Swedish rearguard finished his regular season with Vasteras IK in the HockeyAllsvenskan, collecting five assists in 14 regular-season games, adding three points (one goal, two assists) in six playoff games. Already in the conversation for first overall, a strong tournament could see the six-foot-five defender come out at No. 1.
3. William Eklund, C, Djurgardens (SHL) – Eklund moves up one spot in the Spring rankings, after concluding a successful season in the SHL. Not only did he spend the full season in Sweden’s top men’s league but he excelled as a draft-eligible, collecting 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 40 games. His 11 goals were the most among junior-aged players in the league.
4. Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan (NCAA) – A strong contender for the top forward in this class, Beniers capped off a very successful freshman season with the University of Michigan with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in as many games. He finished fourth in the NCAA in rookie points per game (1.00) and was named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team.
5. Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL) on loan with Nove Zamky (Slovakia) – Heading overseas to Slovakia with the OHL season delayed (and ultimately cancelled), the defender seemed to get more and more comfortable as time went on. He finished his time with Nove Zamky with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 26 games. If there is one player who could shoot up to the top spot of this draft with a strong Under-18s tournament, it’s Clarke for Canada.
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6. Owen Power, D, University of Michigan (NCAA) – It might seem like a big drop going from No. 3 to No. 6 in the rankings, but given the state of the top-10 in this class, it’s just a shift within one tier. The top-10 of this class is far from set, and Power is a name that could be very much closer to the top come draft day. Power finished his season as a finalist for the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games.
7. Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (SHL) – After taking over the SHL starting job earlier in the season, Wallstedt since lost the role, once again serving as the backup. Despite this, the SHL season he put in his draft year is unprecedented and makes him the unquestioned top goaltending prospect in this class. He finished his regular season 12-10-0 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.
8. Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) – The WHL hit the ice and Guenther exploded out of the gate. The forward has 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in 12 games so far, leading the league in points-per-game with 2.00. He’ll look to be a leader on Canada at the Under-18s and could shake up the top-10 with a strong performance.
9. Kent Johnson, LW, University of Michigan (NCAA) – The third active Wolverine on this list, Johnson’s creativity and puckhandling are some of the most intriguing in this draft class. The winger finished his freshman season with 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 26 games, earning a spot on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team. His 1.04 points per game were third among all first-year NCAA skaters.
10. Fabian Lysell, LW, Lulea (SHL) – Lysell is right there with Johnson on the creativity level. After transferring to Lulea from Frolunda, the winger spent his season in the SHL, collecting three points (two goals, one assist) in 26 games with minimal ice time. Lysell should be a star on Sweden at the Under-18s and could impact his draft ranking in a big way.
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11. Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – Another player that has been able to hit the ice as the AJHL season has got underway, Ceulemans continues to prove his dominance in the league. His defensive game has seen improvements and he remains an offensive weapon that has a physical edge. He will look to prove just how dominant he can be against his top peers with Canada at the Under-18s.
12. Chaz Lucius, C, USNTDP (USHL) – After missing the start of his draft year to a knee injury, Lucius has come back, regained his form, and wreaked havoc on goalies in the USHL. Lucius, arguably the best shot in this class, has 18 points (13 goals, five assists) in just 12 games but will unfortunately miss the Under-18s for Team USA.
13. Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) – After transferring from the WHL to the USHL, Sillinger opted to stay in that league for the season — and that appears to be the right call. He’s collected 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 31 games, coming in the top-five in points-per-game. He would’ve been a top player for Canada at the Under-18s, but has been pulled out of the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.
14. Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea J20 (J20 Nationell)/Pitea HC (HockeyEttan) – Another player that will be putting on a show next week at the Under-18s, Robertsson continues to impress FCHockey’s scouts the more they watch him. He’s effective in every zone, showing off a high competitiveness every time he hits the ice. He wrapped up his season in the HockeyEttan with Pitea HC, collecting three points (two goals, one assist) in seven games, adding three assists in five playoff games.
15. Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Peters (OHL) on loan with EHC Olten (Swiss League) – McTavish headed overseas this season to Switzerland, impressing with 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games, adding seven points (two goals, five assists) in four playoff games before heading to the USA for the World U18s. McTavish will be a top player for Canada and could be an interesting name to keep an eye on potentially moving up, even into the top-10.
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16. Francesco Pinelli, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) on loan with HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL) – Pinelli found his home in Slovenia with HDD Jesenice in the AlpsHL, collecting 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 13 games. He was bumped up to the top men’s league in Slovenia for the playoffs, adding another goal in two games. While there were some inconsistent looks in his European tour, Pinelli’s intelligence on the ice makes him one of the most intriguing options outside of the top 10. He’ll get the opportunity to show why with Canada at the Under-18s.
17. Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL) on loan with EHC Olten (Swiss League) – The third-straight globetrotter, Othmann joined McTavish overseas with EHC Olten, quickly impressing with his wicked shot and offensive skill. He was overseas longer than McTavish, suiting up for 34 games and collecting 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) and adding a goal and assist in four playoff games. Just like the previous two players, look for Othmann to do some damage at the Under-18s.
18. Fyodor Svechkov, C, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)/Lada Togliatti (VHL) – There’s a new top Russian prospect on FCHockey’s ranking. Svechkov is the first new name in the top-32 and with a strong Under-18s tournament, could continue to climb. The dynamic two-way center spent the majority of his season in the VHL putting up 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 38 games, adding 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 15 MHL games. While he’s strong in his own end, don’t sleep on his ability in transition and in the offensive zone.
19. Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Liiga) – Raty continues to slide down draft boards after not taking the step that scouts hoped he would this season. The skill is there, from his playmaking to his puckhandling, but the processing and decision making have left some questioning the upside with the Finnish pivot. He’s still the top Finn in this class, and he does have the potential to prove his slide down draft boards wrong in the long run.
20. Logan Stankoven, RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – Like Guenther, Stankoven has started the WHL season with a bang, racking up 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in six games. The alternate captain’s ability to create offense has been on full display and should continue into the Under-18s. Some teams may pause at the five-foot-eight forward, but he has the skill to overcome his size.
21. Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL) – Chibrikov is heading into the Under-18s as the captain of Russia and will look to earn back the position of top Russian in the draft class. He battles hard and has a knack for setting up plays, as proven in his season in Russia. He played in the three top leagues, the KHL, VHL, and MHL, spending most of his time in the VHL where he had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 20 games.
22. Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL) – After returning to the WHL to join the Winnipeg Ice, Lambos played just two games before being taken out for the season due to an undisclosed medical procedure. With his draft year over, Lambos’ time in Finland will be his body of work, where he had 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 13 games. The defenseman didn’t take the jump forward that scouts would have liked to see while in Finland, but there is still plenty of potential in the young defenseman.
23. Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) – While Guenther and Stankoven have impressed early in their WHL season, Cossa has been outright dominant. He’s 12-0-1 with two shutouts for the Oil Kings, recording a 1.61 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. The six-foot-six goaltender has been practically impossible to score on, rising his draft stock with every game played.
24. Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL) – A historic USHL season for Coronato seems to have him locked into the first round. The winger has piled up 83 points (46 goals, 37 assists) in 50 games, leading the league in goals and sitting second in points. The highly competitive forward has shot up draft boards this season and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
25. Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) – A bit of a faller within the first round, Bolduc is on the sidelines after a lower-body injury took him out of the lineup. The center has 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 27 games, slightly above the pace he was at last year, albeit with a rise in assists and drop in goals. He’s still the top QMJHL prospect, although it’s extremely close.
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26. Matthew Samoskevich, RW, Chicago Steel (USHL) – The second new name in FCHockey’s first-round ranking, Samoskevich is very close to challenging teammate Coronato for the top spot from the Steel. The alternate captain has 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 36 games, and is carried by his high-end skating and puckhandling. He stood out on the losing end of a 7-1 blowout in the All-American Game, helping push him up the board further.
27. Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) – The QMJHL prospects drew a lot of discussion from FCHockey’s scouts, ending up bumping Bourgault up to the second spot among the Eastern Canada players. This season, Bourgault has 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 29 games, exceeding the pace he set last season. His confidence, creativity, and offensive prowess should translate well to the NHL level, giving him the slightest of edges over the third prospect from the QMJHL.
28. Zachary L’Heureux, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) – L’Heureux has been a hot topic and while he does have 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 33 games, the questions of his competitiveness and his four suspensions this season do bring some concern. Still, the offensive talent that he brings to his game keeps him very much in the race for the top QMJHL player. There’s still some time for him to earn the top spot.
29. Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL) on loan with KOOVEE U20 (U20 SM-sarja) – The last OHL player on this list that went overseas this season, Harrison was okay in his time with KOVVEE U20 but didn’t wow scouts as much as hoped. While there, he collected nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games. Harrison will have a chance to put on a show at the Under-18s, where his skill-meets-grit game will be on display.
30. Zach Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) – Dean, the third and final new name on FCHockey’s top-32, missed the start of the season to injury. Since returning, he has not only found his game but forced his name into the top QMJHL draft-eligible conversation. He has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 23 games, showing off dynamite puckhandling and the ability to create chaos in the offensive end.
31. Isak Rosen, RW, Leksnads (SHL) – Often forgotten behind the other Swedish players on the top half of this list, Rosen will have a chance to showcase his talent at the Under-18s. He spent most of his season in the SHL, with one assist in 22 games under limited minutes. As a potential top offensive player for Sweden next week, look for Rosen to make a big impact.
32. Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL) – The last time three goaltenders were taken in the first 32 picks of the NHL Draft was 2012, with Andrei Vasilevskiy, (19), Malcolm Subban (24), and Oscar Dansk (31) hearing their names called. This could be the year where it happens again. Gaudreau has yet to suit up this season, but he is participating in the Under-18s and should do everything he can to show why he’s a first-round worthy talent in this draft.
For FCHockey’s full list of the top 100 players eligible for the 2021 draft, click here.