The Climb: Meet the risers of the 2021 Draft class
In a draft year where a minority of the players played anything resembling a normal, full season, draft day was always going to be full of drama.
As it went on, the disparity between each team’s rankings became increasingly evident.
These picks may have shocked those watching the draft, and may garner plenty of scrutiny amongst fans of the teams who made them, however this was undoubtedly one of the toughest years in the history of the draft to evaluate players.
Without further ado, here are the players from the 2021 NHL Draft who rose highest from the collective consensus.
Tyler Boucher – Ottawa Senators | POS: LW | RD: 1 | PICK: 10
Team: USNTDP (USHL) | HT: 6-1 | WT: 200 | NAT: USA | RANK: 93
It didn’t take long for someone to go off the board. Last year relative unknown Yegor Chinakov went at No. 21 to Columbus. Tyler Boucher bested him by sneaking into the top-10. The National Team Development Program winger was projected to have an outside chance of being picked in the first round, but no one called such a prompt pick.
The Senators prospect cupboard is stocked with high-end talent. With this selection, it seems they were trying to add some sandpaper as Boucher has already drawn comparisons to Tom Wilson.
“Boucher is the type of player I would feel comfortable playing all throughout my lineup,” FCHockey scout Dylan Krill said. “He is able to contribute offense and play with skilled players or on the bottom-six, bringing energy and physicality every shift.”
Nolan Allan – Chicago Blackhawks | POS: D | RD: 1 | PICK: 32
Team: Prince Albert (WHL) | HT: 6-1 | WT: 174 | NAT: CAN | RANK: 101
Nolan Allan is an excellent skater who brings a shutdown presence to the blue line. He clearly impressed the Blackhawks scouting team at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship this spring, where he won gold playing anchor to Brandt Clarke on Canada’s top pair.
“He’s a safety valve player who tailors his game to provide a mobile and physical presence in the neutral zone and as the last man back,” said FCHockey scout Justin Froese.
Ryker Evans – Seattle Kraken | POS: D | RD: 2 | PICK: 35
Team: Regina (WHL) | HT: 5-11 | WT: 180 | NAT: CAN | RANK: 109
After being passed over in the 2020 draft, Ryker Evans returned to the WHL and produced over a point-per-game with 28 points (three goals, 25 assists) in a shortened 24-game season. He flourished on a power play with phenom Connor Bedard, posting 16 points on the man advantage alone.
“His bread and butter seems to be his quickness to jump into space in the transition,” Saskatchewan-based FCHockey scout Joel Henderson said. “In the offensive zone, he does a wonderful job of receiving pucks in motion or while in stride which lets him move to the middle of the ice quicker and release the wrist shot quicker. That part of his game is very mature and developed.”
Josh Doan – Arizona Coyotes | POS: RW | RD: 2 | PICK: 37
Team: Chicago (USHL) | HT: 6-2 | WT: 178 | NAT: USA | RANK: 71
Another overager, Josh Doan began the year unranked by FCHockey following a modest outing of 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 45 games with Chicago in 2019-20. However, the son of Coyotes legend Shane Doan emerged from COVID-19 lockdown a bigger, faster and stronger player, and was one of the USHL championship-winning Steel’s best players. Doan, whose father serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer, has a growing reputation as a top prospect is a result of his own hard work.
“Doan is one of the most projectable players in this draft, and I see no area in his game that he won’t be able to fix and improve as he continues to grow,” said Krill. “Constantly making smart plays in all three zones of the ice, you will rarely find him out of the fight or at least contributing in some way.”
Zack Ostapchuk – Ottawa Senators | POS: C | RD: 2 | PICK: 39
Team: Vancouver (WHL) | HT: 6-3 | WT: 187 | NAT: CAN | RANK: 82
Zack Ostapchuk is a player who snuck into the top-100 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2021 draft upon further film review. He is a towering figure at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds and has a great set of mitts. The center is far from the final product, but possesses plenty of raw physical ability and skill. The Senators clearly were looking for size in the draft and they found it in Ostapchuk.
“Among WHL forwards long term, I think Ostapchuk has about as high of potential as anyone,” said Henderson. “His puck control abilities are truly fantastic in small spaces — it’s very tough to find that level of finesse with someone his size.”
Ilya Fedotov – Arizona Coyotes | POS: RW | RD: 2 | PICK: 43
Team: Novgorod (MHL) | HT: 5-11 | WT: 146 | NAT: CAN | RANK: 198
While Ilya Fedotov was not ranked nearly this high in our rankings, it was reported that one team had him ranked near the top-20 — and he didn’t go too much later at No. 43. The Coyotes were clearly one of the teams ready to invest in the right winger.
“He’s a real boom-or-bust prospect who has enough skill to succeed one day if he can somehow find a way to get his strength and conditioning up to an acceptable level,” FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier said.
Benjamin Roger – Ottawa Senators | POS: D | RD: 2 | PICK: 49
Team: London (OHL) | HT: 5-11 | WT: 6-4 | NAT: CAN | RANK: 293
Benjamin Roger was one of the players most hurt by the OHL cancelling their season. The London Knights organization is known for easing in its talent, and this year the defenseman would likely have gotten a lot more usage. With just 36 career OHL games under his belt, Roger will return for one more year of major junior.
“He’s able to give out safe, accurate passes and is able to hold possession with a man on him trying to take him off the puck,” said Ontario-best FCHockey scout Olivia McArter, who saw Roger at the PBHH Invitational in Flint in May. “He’s a decent skater, he has good acceleration on some rushes, and when he trailed the play he quickly regained the rush and showed to have good stride power.”
Janis Moser – Arizona Coyotes | POS: D | RD: 2 | PICK: 60
Team: Biel-Bienne (NLA) | HT: 6-0 | WT: 158 | NAT: CHE | RANK: 132
One of the most mature players in the entire 2021 draft class, Janis Moser was nabbed earlier than projected. But it’s not necessarily hard to see why. Moser, who was in his third go-round through the NHL Draft process, did have almost double the points of any U21 defenseman in the Swiss league this year, and was seventh overall amongst all rearguards with 30 points (nine goals, 21 assist) and was EHC Biel-Bienne’s captain.
“He has always been a very solid stay-at-home defender, but where he improved most in my opinion is his offensive game over the last two seasons,” FCHockey scout Dennis Schellenberg said. “He also grew his compete level and was shutting down forwards. I’d see he became a much more responsible player and started to take over the play when crunch time came up.”
Tyson Hinds – Anaheim Ducks | POS: D | RD: 3 | PICK: 76
Team: Rimouski (QMJHL) | HT: 6-3 | WT: 179 | NAT: CAN | RANK: 279
Tyson Hinds showed some solid upside this season, as the sizeable defenseman began to put up more points following a trade to the Rimouski Oceanic. The Ducks picked Hinds after grabbing Sasha Pastujov at the start of the third round, which likely eased the comfort in reaching for a defenseman who had one assist in 10 games prior to relocating from the Shawinigan Cataractes.
“Hinds is a complete two-way defenseman who showed the commitment to put efforts defensively and the confidence to step up offensively,” said Quebec-based FCHockey scout Andy Lehoux. “When given the space and time, he completed his outlets with precision and showed signs of poise.”
Stiven Sardaryan – 88th overall, Buffalo Sabres | POS: F | RD: 3 | PICK: 88
Team: Moskva (MHL) | HT: 6-1 | WT: 154 | NAT: RUS | RANK: N/A
Stiven Sardaryan is a member of the famed CSKA Mosva system, but is committed to the University of New Hampshire for 2022-23 — an unconventional path. He was also teammates in the MHL with Buffalo Sabres second-round pick Prokhor Polpatov in the MHL this season. That added exposure in scouting Poltapov likely played a key role in the unranked Sardaryan nabbing a third-round selection.
Luca Munzenberger – Edmonton Oilers | POS: D | RD: 3 | PICK: 90
Team: Kolner (DNL U20) | HT: 6-2 | WT: 192 | NAT: GER | RANK: N/A
Luca Munzenberger, one of the best names in the 2021 class, didn’t leave the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton with any points, but must’ve left an impression in front of his future employers. Munzenberger, who is committed to playing in the NCAA for the University of Vermont, was in Edmonton at Christmas representing Germany at the tournament.
“He had a strong net front presence and was aggressive in the slot area to try and keep his opponents out of the area,” said McArter, who saw Munzenberger at the PBHH Invitational. “He often had good reach on his opponents and when he gained possession of the puck he often had decent puck handling abilities.”
Taige Harding – Chicago Blackhawks | POS: D | RD: 3 | PICK: 91
Team: Fort McMurray (AJHL) | HT: 6-7 | WT: 236 | NAT: GER | RANK: N/A
The Blackhawks actually traded up to pick Taige Harding — who wasn’t ranked on public boards. He is an overage defenseman from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. His 6-foot-7, 236 pound frame is likely the catalyst for the selection. So too could be another overage defenseman taken out of Fort McMurray — Colton Parayko. Parayko, who was originally eligible for the 2011 NHL Draft, was nabbed by the St. Louis Blues in the third round (No. 86) of the 2012 draft.
Things really spun out of control for the last four rounds — which was to be expected, really.
Even in a normal year, teams are much more comfortable abandoning the best-player-available philosophy and grabbing guys that they are high on near the end of the draft.
This year the disparity amongst internal rankings was just much greater.