2021 NHL Mock Draft – Neumeier edition
It’s May, which means we only have about two and a half months to the 2021 NHL Draft.
This year has been unprecedented in terms of how much teams and prospects have been able to play in leagues across the world, but also unprecedented in how little consensus we have at the top of the draft and throughout the rest of the first round.
A lack of consensus breeds chaos, which generates plenty of fun discussion for the coming months. Perfect food for thought – and a mock draft.
Notes: Pick No. 13, belonging to the Arizona Coyotes, is skipped here as part of the NHL’s punishment to the club as the team must forfeit that selection. This mock draft order is based on NHL standings on May 6.
1) Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
Times are, once again, tough in Buffalo. And truth be told, this is a team that won’t say no to help in any and all areas. In many ways, Power is the safe pick to make here, as he has the ability to help bring some reliability and versatility to a franchise that needs more of both things. The huge blueliner can effectively log heavy minutes in all situations and would likely also grow into a key leadership role with the club.
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2) Anaheim Ducks: Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
The Ducks are going to need a new face of the franchise once Ryan Getzlaf ultimately leaves and Beniers could certainly become that type of player. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this draft class more confident or competitive than the Massachusetts native, and he fully understands all of the responsibilities of being a center. His superb defensive game would be welcomed with open arms in this organization.
3) Seattle Kraken: Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP (USHL)
Obviously, the first-ever draft pick of a new franchise needs to be a great player, but him being an exciting player would go a long way as well. The Kraken would check off both boxes by picking Hughes, one of the best skaters in this entire draft class and someone who can wow fans with his dazzling puck rushes. It’s never a bad idea to start building your team around defense, and the brother of Quinn and Jack would be a great piece for the foundation.
4) Detroit Red Wings: Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF (SHL)
Over the past few years, the Red Wings have assembled an incredible prospect pool, but something that they don’t have right now is a future superstar between the pipes. Yes, it’s a little risky to draft a goalie this high, but the big and technically sound Wallstedt has the potential to become an NHL starting goaltender for a decade or more, and general manager Steve Yzerman isn’t afraid of taking chances and making a bold move.
5) New Jersey Devils: Dylan Guenther, LW/RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
While the Devils would surely be tempted to draft William Eklund here so that he could play in the future with his former Swedish linemate Alexander Holtz, Guenther just fits into the bigger picture a little more neatly. New Jersey has some talented prospects already in place, and the versatile Albertan winger would be a great option to help tie everything together as a team leader and someone who can play a key role in all situations.
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6) Columbus Blue Jackets: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda HC (SHL)
Columbus doesn’t shy away from taking risks, and they’re an organization that could really stand to hit a home run right about now. Enter Edvisson, a wildcard prospect who is far from a finished product, but one who could become an incredible and special player one day if his development goes according to plan. Defensemen with his size, mobility, puck skill, and poise are as rare as unicorns. He just needs to maximize his natural talents.
7) Ottawa Senators: William Eklund, C/LW, Djurgardens IF (SHL)
This young, pesky Senators team is starting to build an identity for playing with pace and confidence, so Eklund would have no trouble at all fitting in with what they’re building. They can play fast or gritty, and so can he. He brings skill and a surprising amount of intensity for his small frame, and any forward who can play both center and wing and who is responsible in all three zones is always a welcome addition to a rebuilding club.
8) Vancouver Canucks: Brandt Clarke, D, HC Nove Zamky (NVK)
The Canucks seem like an organization that would love to add a young, physical, shutdown preference to their mix, but they won’t be upset at all by landing a different type of player in Clarke, the best prospect still on the board here. After all, adding a skilled puck-moving right-shot defenseman who could learn from Quinn Hughes and develop alongside him for years to come could pay huge dividends.
9) San Jose Sharks: Kent Johnson, C/LW, University of Michigan (NCAA)
The Sharks are a club that desperately needs a shot of young talent to provide a spark and help spice things up, and Johnson offers precisely that. He’s an absolute wizard with the puck, able to create chances out of nothing and provide glorious scoring opportunities for his teammates, which would be a breath of fresh air for a team that will need help scoring goals once their veteran forwards can no longer carry the load.
10) Calgary Flames: Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea HF (SHL)
While I’m sure the Flames would seriously consider the perfect identity fit of Corson Ceulemans with this pick, GM Brad Treliving knows that his team desperately needs to add more speed and skill, and Lysell is as dynamic as they come. He’s the type of winger who can single-handedly break open a game on any given shift, but he puts in an honest enough effort defensively that he shouldn’t end up in Darryl Sutter’s doghouse.
11) Los Angeles Kings: Mason McTavish, C, Olten (SL)
McTavish kept his legs warm in Switzerland while the OHL was unable to operate and then had a fantastic showing for Canada at the World U18s, cementing his place as one of the draft’s top prospects. He’s a two-way pivot with leadership abilities who also plays with an edge, and that right there sure screams Los Angeles Kings hockey, doesn’t it? By adding McTavish the Kings would be the future envy of the NHL for their center depth.
12) Arizona Coyotes: Forfeit
No. 13, belonging to the Coyotes, is skipped here as part of the NHL’s punishment to the club as the team must forfeit that selection.
13) Chicago Blackhawks: Chaz Lucius, C/RW, USNTDP (USHL)
As the Hawks look to retool on the fly instead of outright rebuild they’re steadily patching holes in their roster, and adding a scoring forward with power elements like Lucius would certainly fill a gap. It was a tough year for him due to injuries, so there’s some potential that the Minnesota native could end up better than most people realize, a risk that a currently middle-of-the-road Chicago team would be more than willing to take.
14) Philadelphia Flyers: Isak Rosen, LW/RW, Leksands IF (SHL)
The Flyers need to add some young speed and puck skill to their organization, and Rosen fits that need quite well, especially after the impressive performance he had at the U18s, generating quality chances as both a playmaker and a shooter. Philly has also turned to Sweden for a lot of their recent draft picks, so having some national familiarity among prospects is a bonus that can sometimes help build chemistry.
15) New York Rangers: Aatu Raty, C/LW, Karpat (Liiga)
The Rangers are stacked with young talent right now and could go many different directions with this selection, so why not roll the dice a bit? Raty’s stock has fallen a lot since being considered a potential 1st-overall pick not that long ago due to a lack of production and issues with his decision-making, but he still possesses a great frame and hands. Could develop nicely alongside other top prospects who would get more spotlight.
16) Dallas Stars: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
The Stars found great value in the 2019 draft when they landed the toolsy-yet-incomplete defender Thomas Harley, and they could do the same here with a similar player in Ceulemans. Unlike Harley, however, the AJHL defender plays with a physical edge, which the team needs more of in their prospect pipeline. There’s a lot of untapped potential to work with here and Dallas can afford to be patient and careful with his development.
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17) Montreal Canadiens: Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
The Habs made a staggering number of picks across all positions over the past few drafts, and Marc Bergevin is as ballsy as general managers come, so a big swing like this wouldn’t come as a surprise. Cossa is the full package as a goaltender and keeps getting better and better without showing signs of slowing down. He and Cayden Primeau could compete fiercely to be the heir to Carey Price’s starting goaltender job.
18) St. Louis Blues: Fyodor Svechkov, C, Lada Togliatti (VHL)
Balanced two-way hockey is the name of the game in St. Louis, so nabbing one of the draft’s most balanced two-way centers here certainly makes a lot of sense. Svechkov is mature beyond his years and can make a positive impact in all three zones, which allowed him to spend most of this season in Russia’s second pro league, the VHL, and earn solid ice time. He played a key role in helping his nation win a silver medal at the U18s.
19) Nashville Predators: Daniil Chayka, D, CSKA Moskva (KHL)
The Predators know a thing or two about developing defensemen, and the torch will need to be passed from Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm eventually. While Chayka is a long-term project, even for someone on the older side of this draft class, he has interesting potential with his size, mobility, and capability at the offensive blueline. Nashville could develop him carefully over time under some superb mentors.
20) Winnipeg Jets: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Who doesn’t love a good hometown story? Not only is Lambos a local Winnipeg boy who also plays for the city’s major-junior club, but he is also one of the best players on the board at this time as well. Well, at least it seems that way, though a so-so foray over to Finland and a season-ending injury just two games into the WHL’s return to play make him a bit of a wildcard. If he bounces back, though, him going at 19th would be great value.
21) New Jersey Devils (via NYI): Cole Sillinger, C/LW, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
The Devils don’t have any glaring needs in their system, so they can afford to go for the best player available, which is definitely Sillinger at this pick. He had no trouble tearing up the WHL last season and then the USHL this season, which speaks to his ability to adjust. What he lacks in size and skating ability he makes up for with high-end playmaking and shooting, making him difficult to defend because he can beat you in different ways.
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22) Edmonton Oilers: Logan Stankoven, C/RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
When your team boasts elite centers like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, how could you not load up on offensive forwards to play with them? Stankoven is an absolute terror for opposing goalies when he gets the puck in a dangerous scoring area, and it’s safe to assume that McDavid and Draisaitl would have no trouble getting him the puck. He also plays with a ton of heart and passion, which would win over the devout Edmonton fanbase.
23) Boston Bruins: Simon Robertsson, LW/RW, Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
The Bruins are real sticklers for two-way hockey, so that will attract them to Robertsson, who was able to play in Sweden’s top pro league for most of the 2020-21 season because he’s so consistent and reliable in all three zones. Being the son of a long-time coach probably helps a lot. He is a very safe bet to make the NHL and become at least a steady bottom-six winger, though the foundation is there for his offense to grow over time.
24) Minnesota Wild: Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA Neva St. Petersburgh (VHL)
Kirill Kaprizov significantly upped the fun factor in Minnesota, so bringing in a fellow high-flying Russian with this pick would be hard for the organization to pass up. Chibrikov has a bad habit of oscillating between hot and cold, but on the shifts where he’s hot he can really break things open offensively. He’s at his best speeding up the ice on a rush, though he’s also pretty dangerous when he gets set up on the power play.
25) Minnesota Wild (via PIT): Matthew Coronato, C/RW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
With Kaprizov, Marco Rossi, Marat Khusnutdinov and now Chibrikov all in the mix, controlling and passing the puck will be a breeze. The Wild make themselves that much more dangerous here with the pick of Coronato, one of the best pure finishers in this draft crop, as evidenced by his 48 goals in 51 games this season. The Chicago Steel are an absolute development factory, which helps reduce the risks posed by his stature and mobility.
26) Detroit Red Wings (via WSH): Olen Zellweger, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Detroit’s prospect pipeline is bursting at the seams right now as the organization’s full rebuild is beginning to bear fruit, but one area that they could use a little more help in is point-producing defensemen. Zellweger’s stock was well on the rise before the U18s, but his play there — especially on the power play — cemented his place as one of the top prospects in this draft. Everett’s track record of developing defensemen means that he’s in great hands.
27) Florida Panthers: Zachary L’Heureux, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The Panthers have really found their confidence and swagger as of late, displaying an edge that they were missing previously. L’Heureux certainly plays with an edge as well — too much of one at times, getting him into penalty and suspension trouble. But when he stays on the right side of the line he can be incredibly effective as a pesky and skilled power forward. If he cleans up his game he could be a steal at this sort of range.
28) Columbus Blue Jackets (via TOR): Brennan Othmann, LW, Olten (SL)
Columbus made just eight picks over the past two drafts and only one was within the top 100, so they need to add some relatively risk-free young talent in 2021. Othmann isn’t much of a specialist in any particular area, but his hockey sense is excellent and his skillset is well-balanced, which allows him to mesh with different linemates. He got to play a fairly full season in Switzerland, so he didn’t lose as much development time as others.
29) Colorado Avalanche: Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
It’s rare to see three goalies drafted in the first round of an NHL entry draft, but that can — and should — happen in 2021. Just how special is Gaudreau? He didn’t play a single game during the 2020-21 season before the U18s began, but still won the team’s starting job there and backstopped them to a championship. Quick, technical, competitive, composed — there are many different elements to like about his game.
30) Columbus Blue Jackets (via TBL): Stanislav Svozil, D, HC Kometa Brno (Czech)
Like the Othammn pick at 27th, the Blue Jackets need to land a can’t-miss prospect here, and Svozil is as safe as they come in this range. He is a jack-of-all-trades defender who has been playing against men in his native Czech Republic for the past two seasons, which speaks to how steady and reliable he is. He’s also closer to being NHL-ready than most prospects his age, which is a bonus for a team that needs success soon.
31) Vegas Golden Knights: Zachary Bolduc, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Bolduc’s stock has slipped a bit following an inconsistent year and then a late season-ending injury, but the long-term best-case scenario for him is still that he becomes a top-six forward in the NHL. Vegas probably would have preferred to get a goalie with this pick, but they won’t complain about adding a well-rounded player who should fit right in with their excellent depth up front. Once a center, his future is probably on the wing.
32) Carolina Hurricanes: Xavier Bourgault, RW, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Like a few other teams, Carolina has the luxury of simply picking the best player available here since they don’t have a pressing need for any kind of specific future piece. Bourgault is a slick, slippery forward who can really work magic with the puck. As a bonus, he’ll be a part of a Shawinigan team next year that could be one of the CHL’s best and challenge for the Memorial Cup (if it happens).