July 22, 2021

Scout Survey: 2021 NHL Draft class

We’re in for a fun one.

The 2021 NHL Draft is within sight. All the scouting reports have been filed. The 2021 NHL Draft Guide has been released. And there’s still debate and disagreement amongst our group.

Rightfully so. There hasn’t been an NHL Draft process quite like this one.

Which means however you feel about the depth of this year’s prospect pool, there’s still more than enough intrigue to fuel draft interest and debate.

It’s the same at FCHockey. Plenty of debate. No right or wrong answers. Yet.

Even at the top of the draft.

In an informal poll of nine scouts, projected No. 1 pick Owen Power had just two first-place votes. That total was matched by Brandt Clarke (No. 2), Luke Hughes (No. 3) and William Eklund (No. 5). But only one scout had Power lower than No. 2. Hughes, by contrast, had just three votes within the top three picks, as did Clarke and Eklund.

With the two first-place and six second-place votes, Power’s ranking averaged out the highest. Clarke was second. Matthew Beniers, who had one first-place vote, averaged out to fourth and ahaed of Hughes and Eklund based on the average.

With such diverging opinions on the top handful of players eligible for the 2021 draft, we went ahead and quizzed seven scouts — head Western scout Justin Froese, head Eastern scout Dylan Galloway, head Video scout Derek Neumeier, as well as video scouts Josh Bell, Austin Broad, Brandon Holmes and Dylan Krill — on a a variety of topics we’ll see unfold in short time.

Welcome to our final Scout Series of the 2021 NHL Draft.

Who was your favorite to scout and why?

Olen Zellweger was awesome to watch because of the early ID we got on him from D-1 film. While there’s no victories to be claimed until the kid is on an NHL roster, it was awesome to see Zellweger mould his games translatable skills and take massive steps forward while adding many more layers to his game. I think he’s got all the tools to be a contributor and solid transitional defender.” – Froese

Matthew Coronato was easily my favourite player to watch in this draft. So energetic, so competitive and always on the puck. One of those players referred to as ‘high event’ as he’s all over the puck in the offensive zone and so energetic in all three zones. Highly active and effective through transition, his ability to read the play happening in front of him allows him to change up his point of entry and grab space away from his opponents and enables him to get into great positions to shoot. He’s a ton of fun to watch.” – Galloway

“I have all the time in the world for Matthew Beniers. I just love his mental approach to the game, with how smart and focused and competitive he is. His small details are simply fantastic. It’s always special to see guys who make as huge of a difference as Beniers does without being the most purely skilled. He’s going to be a guy who wins a lot in his career.” – Neumeier

“I came into the season pretty high on Zach Dean but his season was delayed due to injury. Coming back, he took some time to get his feet under him. Once he did, he excelled tremendously. Dean has all the transferrable components that teams should drool over. He has excellent hands, he’s fearless in his pursuit and drives to the net, and doesn’t give up in his own end. Dean is an absolute blast to watch and I think he should be a fan favourite at the next level.” – Bell

Lucas Forsell was my favorite player to scout this year. In my viewings of him he had that ‘electric’ factor that made you think he was going to do something special whenever he touched the puck. His ability to skate up and down the ice, make people miss with his puckhandling ability and then spot an open teammate with a great pass was so fun to see. I think he’s a prospect that has a ton of upside, and if he can continue to play the game with the same pace and skill he flashed this past season he’s going to be a guy to watch out for in the future.” – Broad

“There are a few players that I really enjoyed scouting this year, but one that stands out is Chaz Lucius. He makes you really zone-in and focus on the impressive plays he’s making on a consistent basis. He’s so creative with and without the puck, understanding where he needs to be and what to do to get there most efficiently. His hands are among the best in the draft and he catches many eyes with the dekes he can make in such small spaces.” – Krill

“Beniers  was a player that grabbed me early in this process and was just always a treat to watch. His awareness with the puck on his stick, his commitment to supporting teammates in his own zone, his ability to make plays in transition, he’s a player that I think NHL coaches are going to absolutely adore, he’s hard not to love.” – Holmes

Which player did you struggle most to get a read on this year despite multiple views?

Carson Lambos had one of the tougher years in my region. He looked like a top-10 lock coming into the season with a phenomenal rookie campaign last year, but really struggled to nose his game forward in Finland and subsequently was shut down for the season due to heart procedure. I had high hopes, but developmentally he’s a wild card.” – Froese

“In a season with so many stops and starts, players moving between leagues, and in general a significant amount of chaos, it was hard to get a read on many players in this draft. Taking all of that out of it, one of the players I struggled to understand most was Zachary L’Hereux. His inconsistency, particularly with his behaviour on the ice, made it difficult to rank him in this draft class. Looking at his pure skill alone, he should be a first round candidate, but the inconsistency in his overall play, in combination with multiple suspensions, made it difficult to rely on the good viewings as a basis of what he projects to be at the next level.” – Galloway

“This is an easy one for me: Oskar Olausson. I watched him at the J20 level, in the SHL, in the Allsvenskan and at the World Juniors, and I just never got a great viewing of him. I know other scouts really like him, but he just never impressed me in the games I watched. I see the tools he has, with his size and mobility and puck skill, but I find him too lackadaisical and lacking in intensity. I want to see him take charge and drive the play more than he does. I also have questions about his awareness and hockey sense.” – Neumeier

Kirill Kirsanov was a strange player to watch this season. I was very impressed after my initial viewing, thinking that this is a player that has first-round potential. The next game I saw, I wouldn’t have drafted him at all. This became a theme for Kirsanov, where he’d have standout games and then disappear or make numerous mistakes in the next. It was like watching a completely different player. Kirsanov is a high-risk, high-reward player in my opinion. The ceiling is high but the floor is just as low. If a team can develop him into a more consistent defender where he makes an impact every night, watch out. I’ll be very interested to see how he progresses in his development curve.” – Bell

Aatu Raty was a guy that I struggled to get a read on this year. I knew he had a lot of hype before heading into his draft year, but in my viewings of him he was very inconsistent and one of my viewings was cut short when he suffered an apparent injury. Raty is a prospect that understands the game very well and he brings a solid two-way approach, but when I saw him he showed virtually no offensive upside. I think he’s a player that still has a decent shot at being a second line center in the NHL, but when I watched him play, I couldn’t get a read on him.” – Broad

“I’d say, that would probably be Scott Morrow. When you watch him you can instantly tell that he is full of high-end skill and looks like the best player on the ice. If you were just watching for skill he looks like a clear first rounder, but there are concerns to his game. This is Morrow’s third season playing with Shattuck’s U18 team, so you would expect a big step in his game, but he didn’t look as dominant as you would want. There are improvements to be made in his defensive game as well, having the tendency to lose positioning and not having the awareness to cover his zone. The potential is huge with Morrow, but you can’t ignore his flaws.” – Krill

Kent Johnson was a difficult one to evaluate despite spending a lot of time watching the University of Michigan simply because the range of outcomes was so wide for him. There were some nights where Johnson was electric, displaying dazzling skill and making things happen in the offensive zone all game, while there were other games where he was largely neutralized at even strength and had difficulty penetrating the interior of the ice. He seems to be a true boom or bust player, but when he’s on he’s really on.” – Holmes

Which prospect ranked outside of our top-100 has the biggest home run potential?

Sasha Teleguine is an exciting offensive talent who, while playing in a lesser league, didn’t dominate as hoped. Nevertheless his ability to multitask, manipulate and show creative solutions while carrying speed are among the most impressive in my region. While I do have concerns about accountability and assignment management, if he becomes a competent off puck player he’s a top-six producer.” – Froese

” I really like Cameron Berg. I felt he deserved to be drafted in 2020 and he only further solidified those feelings with an incredibly strong D+1 season. While small, Berg has some really great offensive potential and I think if he continues this development path he’ll outperform his draft position by a significant margin.” – Galloway

Manix Landry is really talented. His skill with the puck is high-end, he’s an elusive skater, he plays with good pace and there is some craftiness to his game. His numbers haven’t been great so far, especially for a guy who is a late 2002 birthday, but part of that might be him playing on a team that is weak offensively overall. He could be really special in the future if he can figure out how to master and blend all of his attributes.” – Neumeier

Dmitri Zugan is a player that I’ve pushed for in our rankings every time. He has extremely high awareness thanks to his constant head checks. He battles hard for the puck and never seems to take his foot off the gas. His strongest trait is likely his skating, showing off very impressive speed at times and an ability to tear down the ice. He has excellent patience with the puck and his competitiveness is very intriguing. He can work the perimeter a little too much, but if he learns to drive the middle and get off the wall more, I think this could be a pick we’re questioning why he didn’t go higher in a few years.” – Bell

“I think Ilya Fedotov has the biggest home run potential of any prospect I’ve watched outside the top-100. Fedotov has a ton of offensive skill, he can skate well, handle the puck in tight quarters and can create offense through his passing ability and his shot. He was one of the first players I scouted when I started with FCHockey this season and he immediately stuck with me. If he became a high-level producer at the next level in three-to-five years I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest.” – Broad

“I think this goes to Aidan Hreschuk. One of the more confusing players to scout this year for me personally because he has many high-end tools that I look for in a top-four defensemen, but he has a tendency to make mental mistakes that lead to his team becoming vulnerable. Before this season, there were many who thought Hreschuk was a clear first rounder, but as the season went on he wasn’t able to stay consistent and prove his worth. The talent is there, he just needs to simplify his game and focus on improving his weaknesses.” – Krill

Dmitri Kuzmin is a very interesting potential mid-round swing for a team to take. He was recently taken by Flint in the CHL Import Draft and he’s a potentially dynamic offensive defenseman that could be had late in this draft. There’s upside there as a future power play contributor with strong puck moving ability.” – Holmes

Which goaltender outside of the first round are you most excited for?

“I admittedly don’t know a lot about him, but I’m intrigued by Benjamin Gaudreau. I feel as if there would be more buzz if he has played a full year and gotten those reps to aid his development, but in small sample still liked what I saw at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.” – Froese

Kari Piironen is a name that really draws my attention after the first round. I liked him when he was in Windsor with the Spitfires. His size and skill are an intriguing package and I think he could be a goalie that with some seasoning in Finland eventually ends up as a respectable 1B or backup in the NHL.” – Galloway

“I’m really intrigued by Aku Koskenvuo. His stats this season were rough, no denying that, but he has a really good foundation to build upon. He’s quite quick and athletic for a goalie that big. The biggest issues with him right now are his reads and his positioning, which are both shockingly off at times. But those are things that can sometimes be fixed through proper goalie coaching and development. Get him working with the right goalie coaches and I think he could be phenomenal at some point in the future.” – Neumeier

“Entering the season, I believed there were four goaltenders to be considered high-end talents. While three of them ended up in our first round, Tristan Lennox has slid in the public eye. He’s an extremely confident goalie whose numbers in his D-1 season don’t speak to his play. Back in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Lennox was solid, going 3-0-0 with a .951 save percentage. I think there’s a strong netminder here that has slipped due to the OHL not hitting the ice this season.” – Bell

“Lennox is the goalie I’m most excited for outside of the first round. He missed 2021 because of the pandemic and the OHL’s cancellation, but I think he would have had a strong year for Saginaw had they played. His size and athleticism in the crease make him an interesting goalie prospect, he can move well laterally and has an aggressive mindset in the crease. I know his numbers weren’t all that impressive in 2019-20, but I do think he would have taken a huge step forward and I’m excited to see where he lands in this draft.” – Broad

“I’m going to go with Alexei Kolosov. It’s not very often that you see a goalie from Belarus, under 20, playing at the Men’s World Championship. Despite being on a weaker team compared to competition, he displayed enough talent that he should definitely be in conversations if a team wants a goalie in the opening 100 picks.” – Broad

“Lennox was a casualty of the OHL cancelling their season, but is a really talented goaltender who showed well for Saginaw and Team Canada in 2020, and should be worth a look in the early rounds of this draft. Lennox has prototypical NHL size standing at 6-foot-4, seals the lower portion of the net well l, and does a great job at reading plays to give himself a chance on most shots.” – Holmes

Which prospect will come out of nowhere to be plucked in the first round?

Colton Dach or Ethan Samson. Neither player brings a lot of flash to the table but have developing skills games, make articulated choices and have projectable frames and styles which are sought after by teams. I feel both players have their respective flaws and a top-31 selection is a bit rich for me, but I wouldn’t be stunned to see them high on some boards.” – Froese

“Morrow could be that player. He played Prep this year and was extremely dominant at that level. His skating and skill with the puck make him really enticing for a team that thinks he can translate that skill to tougher, more competitive leagues.” – Galloway

“I’ll go with Cole Jordan here. He is a fantastic skater for a defenseman and is confident enough to drive play on his stick. I’m pretty sure he went through a growth spurt relatively recently, so I think he’s still growing into his body and filling in his frame. Playing on a bad team might have held him back a bit, too. He really looks like a guy with a lot of upside but isn’t as well-known because he’s a late bloomer.” – Neumeier

Ville Koivunen has caused some discussion in our group, as his consistency and impact has been questioned in some of our views. However, he’s also shown an ability to take over games and show up clutch. Koivunen shows high intelligence and exceptional competitiveness. At the Under-18s, he shows off just how strong his offensive game is, creating strong passes and showing an ability to open up opportunities for his teammates. I can see teams being very high on Koivunen.” – Bell

“I could see a team taking a shot on Danila Klimovich in the first round. With this season being so out of the ordinary and with teams getting limited views on players, I think you might see someone take a shot on a high-end offensive player. Klimovich impressed all season with his ability to score goals, and when you watch him play you get the sense that he has that ‘it’ factor. His performance for Belarus at the Under-18s put him on the map and I think he could be that dark-horse first round talent.” – Broad

“With a lost OHL season and being dependent on his play at the Under-18s, I believe Wyatt Johnston proved that he is worth a late first round pick. Being a center will catch many  eyes as there aren’t many true centers available in this range. He plays a strong two-way game with great intensity, having good vision and a quick release to contribute in the offensive zone. He is expected to have a big role with the Windsor Spitfires next season, so this pick might seem risky at the time but it has a big payoff.” – Krill

Shai Buium is a player that I think will get interest towards the end of the first round, especially for teams with multiple first round picks that want to swing on raw tools on defense. Buium has a high-end work ethic, prototypical size, can move well for a player his size and owns upside as a defensive-leaning two-way blueliner.” – Holmes

Which prospect outside our top-10 has the most potential to be selected in the top-five?

“Scorers are coveted and there are few snipers in this draft like Cole Sillinger. Blessed with an elite shot and ability to play between checks, his offensive game is one of the best in the draft and outshines a lot of the blemishes to his game. A team who believes he can slot in beside a play-driver and fill the net may like him over others on our list.” – Froese

Mason McTavish. His shot, combined with his physicality and smarts, is just too enticing of a package to pass up in a draft filled with question marks. McTavish plays a style that you know NHL teams will be drooling over and I think he could break the top three players selected, let alone the top-five.” – Galloway

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams are totally in love with McTavish, especially after the performance he had at the Under-18s. There aren’t a lot of centers at the top of this draft, and he’s going to be an instant hit anywhere he ends up.” – Neumeier

“Sillinger is likely a player that has been ranked too low all season. His creativity is elite and his understanding of how to play the game — and perhaps more importantly, how his opponents player the game — is tremendous. He’s one of the strongest offensive weapons in this class and at the next level he has the potential to be a star. I can see numerous teams having him higher. This is an exceptional talent and his selection could surprise on draft day.” – Bell

“I think Fabian Lysell has the most potential to be picked within the top-five. When you watch him play, you see a player with elite level offensive potential. He’s one of the more exciting players to watch when he has the puck on his stick and always catches your eye even if he’s not your main focus for that game. There are some questions about him, but out of anyone outside the top-10 I think he has the strongest case as the riser here.” – Broad

“I believe there is an outside chance that someone takes a swing and selects Lucius in the top-five. Being one of the best goal scorers in this draft and playing a premium position like center will be attractive to teams, and may be enough to entice them to draft him with a top pick. He has very high skill and displays great confidence with the puck consistently. With a draft like this years, it seems unlikely that teams will be willing to trade back/trade up, so some team in the top-five may just select him, not wanting to let him pass.” – Krill

“Lucius is a player I could see sneaking his way into the top-five for a team looking to add scoring punch to their forward group. Lucius is a very intelligent attacker to gets to high-danger areas, owns an excellent shot and and skill, and has versatility as both a wing and center, which when combined could be a tantalizing package for a team selecting high in this year’s draft.” – Holmes

Which prospect ranked in our top-10 has the most potential to fall beyond the 20th pick in the draft?

“For various reasons there’s a few top-10 players who may slide but not to that extreme. If anyone is going to drop it will be Lysell, ranked at 11, who has elite offensive skills but yields polarizing opinions.” – Froese

“Tough question, I don’t think any of them fall that far but if there’s any wild cards it’s almost always a goalie. Jesper Wallstedt is my safe pick to fall. Goalies are tough to read, and after a strong start to the season, Wallstedt’s numbers came back to Earth a bit towards the end of the season.” – Galloway

“This one is hard, but maybe Wallstedt. Sometimes it’s hard to predict where goalies will get drafted, and the back-half of his season wasn’t nearly as good as the front half. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a team that is willing to spend a high pick on a goalie prefers Sebastian Cossa instead.” – Neumeier

“I think the obvious answer here is Wallstedt. If he was one spot higher I would say Lysell, who looks primed to slide on day one of the draft. But instead, I’ll go with Wallstedt. NHL teams could shy away from taking a netminder in the top-10 picks of the draft, and even in the first round altogether. I doubt he slides past 20, but Wallstedt stands the biggest chance of anyone in our top-10 to slide that far just due to his position. Frankly, I believe he’s worth a top-three pick.” – Bell

“I think out of anyone in our top-10, Simon Edvinsson has the most potential to fall beyond the 20th pick. I don’t think he will because he’s a strong prospect, but when you look at the rest of the top-10 you can see players with high ceilings and star potential. I think Edvinsson has a well-rounded skillset, but I think his ceiling is a lot lower than the others in the top-10 so he’s my choice.” – Broad

“I think it’s very unlikely that any will drop this far, but if I had to choose, I think I would go with Johnson. Despite having one of the highest ceilings in this draft, a lot of the plays he makes will not translate well in the NHL. It seems at times he tends to choose the skilled play over the efficient play, which may scare teams away because he may take more time to develop and there is risk that his type of play will not translate at all. I personally believe with time and a strong development team will improve Johnson’s chances a lot to become an NHL player, but some teams may think otherwise and would rather take a safer player.” – Krill

“Wallstedt, and not because of talent, but because of how unpredictable the market can be at times for goaltenders. Wallstedt is among the top goaltenders we have seen come through the draft in recent years, but if teams in the top-10 all elect to draft position players, there could be a scenario where Wallstedt’s next best fit may not come until the early 20’s in the first round.” – Holmes

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