The Tumble: Meet the fallers of the 2021 Draft
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 fell highest from the collective consensus, divided into three categories: those who slipped the furthest down the board relative to where the consensus had them being picked, the players who could provide the most value relative to where they were picked, and finally a trio of Ontario Hockey League players who could’ve gone much higher had they gotten to play this year.
Jesper Wallstedt – Minnesota Wild | POS: G | RANK: 8 | PICK: 20
Team: Lulea (SHL) | HT: 6-3 | WT: 212 | NAT: SWE
There was always a chance that Jesper Wallstedt would slip out of the top-10. Although he was undoubtedly one of the most talented players available, predicting where elite goaltenders get selected is always a shot in the dark. There was also speculation of Sebastian Cossa being the first goalie off the board, too – but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who predicted both Cossa being picked first and Wallstedt slipping all the way to No. 20.
If you look at the four teams that picked before Minnesota and after Detroit grabbed Cossa at No. 15, it is conceivable that they all felt comfortable enough in their current goaltending to pass up on Wallstedt. The Rangers have Igor Shesterkin, who just arrived in North America, the Blues have Jordan Binnington signed until 27, the Jets have Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck and the Predators just took Russian phenom Yaroslav Askarov in last year’s draft.
“Wallstedt already looks like an NHL goalie with his style and mindset, and that’s pretty unique for a teenager,” FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier said. He naturally takes up a ton of the net and knows how to play to his advantage, conserving energy and staying square instead of trying to make dramatic saves. He also showcases incredible focus and mental fortitude. He’s been elite among his peers for years, and I expect that to continue in the NHL.”
Aatu Raty – New York Islanders | POS: C | RANK: 17 | PICK: 52 (-35)
Team: Karpat (Liiga) | HT: 6-1 | WT: 181 | NAT: FIN
Aatu Raty was another candidate to slide on draft day due to the stagnation in his development over the last two years. After a 12-game stint in Liiga last season, he still didn’t adjust well to the men’s league this year, and only scored 6 points in 35 games.
“He has a lot of the tools, but his toolbox has some leaks. His ability to stack skills isn’t where it needs to be and his processing is in question,” said Bell. “Perhaps it’s the stress of his draft year or maybe it’s simply that he’s lost some confidence in his game.”
Simon Robertsson – St. Louis Blues | POS: RW | RANK: 27 | PICK: 71
Team: Skelleftea (SHL) | HT: 6-0 | WT: 190 | NAT: SWE
This one is less easy to explain. Simon Robertsson was a consensus pick to go near the end of the first round and slipped all the way to the third.
FCHockey scout Sebastian Death described him as “a very safe pick in this year’s draft,” and said he could play in an NHL team’s top-six due to his great shot and intelligence. He also said his high-motor and forechecking ability would allow him to excel in the bottom-six, too.
A player that is that easy to project at the pro level very rarely ends up being picked in the third round. If there was a knock on Robertsson it would be that he has struggled to produce in the SHL in the past two years and had a somewhat underwhelming 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship — which was the only live looks scout would have had on him.
Matvei Petrov – Edmonton Oilers | POS: LW | RANK: 57 | PICK: 180
Team: Krylia Sovetov Moskva (MHL) | HT: 6-2 | WT: 181 | NAT: RUS
The first overall pick in the 2020 CHL Import Draft, Matvei Petrov was unable to report to the OHL this year due to the league not playing as a result of COVID-19. Instead, he returned to the MHL, where he finished second in team scoring with 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) in 58 games.
Petrov was thought to be one of the best scorers in the draft, however, he is definitely a work in progress.
“There are times where he gets a little bit of tunnel vision, ignoring passing options and just looking for the shot,” Bell said. “He’s a little bit of a peculiar case, in that he shows deception with his head and feet, but his hands don’t seem to match. He doesn’t seem to have the ability to handle the puck through traffic, at times looking frozen with the puck.”
Jack Bar – Dallas Stars | POS: D | RANK: 55 | PICK: 138
Team: Chicago (USHL) | HT: 6-2 | WT: 194 | NAT: CAN
Jack Bar made a smooth transition from prep school to the USHL this season, helping the Steel win a Clark Cup. The defenseman is a strong skater and a great puck-mover and will be further his development next year on a stacked Harvard team with Steel teammates Matthew Coronato and Sean Farrell.
There are two factors that likely contributed to Bar falling to the fifth round. First, he spent the first two years of his junior career at St. Andrews College in a league that scouts are less comfortable evaluating players in. This was reflected in his low ranking from Central Scouting — he was the 41st ranked North-American skaters. The second reason is the rawness of his game.
“Working on his ability to dictate play rather than reacting to the play will be an important development piece for him,” Bell said.
Dylan Duke – Tampa Bay Lightning | POS: C | RANK: 41 | PICK: 126
Team: USNTDP | HT: 5-10 | WT: 190 | NAT: USA
Dylan Duke was the top center for the U18s this season and finished second in team scoring with 49 points (29 goals, 20 assists) in 50 games. He can score from any range but does most of his damage in front of the net. He is another player who Central Scouting was low on (the No. 29-ranked North American Skater) and who is going to one of the NCAA’s top programs in the University of Michigan.
“Due to his lack of explosiveness and creativity with the puck, it’s unlikely Duke continues his top-line production at the NHL level,” Aleong said. “However, he has an array of promising offensive tools, including an advanced shot and strong awareness in all three zones.”
Tampa Bay have been one of the league’s best at developing their middle and late-round picks. Duke could be another gem.
Brandt Clarke – Los Angeles Kings | POS: D | RANK: 2 | PICK: 8
Team: Barrie (OHL) | HT: 6-2 | WT: 190 | NAT: CAN
Brandt Clarke is an awkward skater, which results in him having trouble pivoting and getting full power into his strides. This is very likely the reason he didn’t get picked as high as we had him ranked. However, the Kings clearly felt confident that they could work with him on it. There was much less risk picking him here than at the very top of the draft, and that little risk could reap big rewards, according to FCHockey scout Dylan Galloway.
“I think Clarke has the highest ceiling of the defenders in the draft,” Galloway said. “He is dynamic with the puck on his stick and has great vision. He needs to work on his defensive game and his stride, but I think he could succeed as a top-pairing offensive defender in the NHL.”
Fabian Lysell – Boston Bruins | POS: RW | RANK: 11 | PICK: 21
Team: Lulea (SHL) | HT: 5-10 | WT: 172 | NAT: SWE
Few players in this draft can match Fabian Lysell in terms of speed and skill. He is one of the most entertaining prospects from this year’s crop and is capable of pulling off some highlight-reel plays. The criticism surrounding Lysell is in regards to intangibles in his game. There are murmurs of him having attitude problems — he switched to Lulea this season after spending the three previous seasons with Frolunda — and inconsistent effort levels.
Another reason he fell to No. 21 could be a lack of production. He only scored three points (two goals, one assist) in 26 SHL games but he played on Lulea’s bottom line.
Neumeier also pointed out in his report on Lysell that there is a hole in his otherwise tantalizing offensive toolkit — his shot.
“None of his wrist shot, slapper or one-timer have the power or quickness coming off of his stick to be dangerous,” Neumeier said. “It’s hard to see that changing long-term.
Corson Ceulemans – Columbus Blue Jackets | POS: D | RANK: 12 | PICK: 25
Team: Brooks (AJHL) | HT: 6-2 | WT: 201 | NAT: CAN
Corson Ceulemans, who played in the AJHL this seaosn, was definitely a wildcard in this draft. He also played on a Brooks Bandits team that plays a very free-flowing, high-octane brand of hockey.
Neumeier explained how Ceulemans’ role with the Bandits could’ve been a detriment to his draft stock.
“He plays a very aggressive, risky game with his puck rushes, pinches and gap control, so turnovers and offensive breaks against are common, but it’s important to note that Brooks plays this way by design so these mistakes might be something that an NHL team could rein in through development,” Neumeier said. “Ceulemans has a ton of raw upside and could easily become one of the very best players from this draft class if his development goes according to plan.”
Logan Stankoven – Dallas Stars | POS: F | RANK: 19 | PICK: 47
Team: Kamploops (WHL) | HT: 5-8 | WT: 170 | NAT: CAN
Logan Stankoven is a firecracker of a player and loves to score goals. However, he only played six league games this year on top of a standout performance at the U18s. He was a wildcard at the draft for that reason and also likely because of his size.
“Stankoven possesses plenty of skill to translate and his shiftiness will serve him well,” said FCHockey scout Donesh Mazloum. “But he still does have some quirks to work on and he must become tougher on the puck.”
Sasha Pastujov – Anaheim Ducks | POS: LW | RANK: 39 | PICK: 66
Team: USNTDP | HT: 6-0 | WT: 187 | NAT: USA
In Bell’s report on Sasha Pastujov earlier this season, the FCHockey scout said the National Team Development Program’s top scorer is “very much a player that we could be looking back at the draft in three or four years and thinking ‘how did he go so low?’” Despite his elite production, the Florida-born winger was heavily criticized for his poor skating. However, Bell thinks his ability to dominate the offensive zone will carry him to the NHL.
“He really excels in his deception on the ice, using his head, eyes, feet, change of direction, and change of pace to throw defenders off his path,” he said. “The way he plays the game so smoothly, so simply, makes me think that he’s ready to explode at the next level.”
Brent Johnson – Washington Capitals | POS: D | RANK: 42 | PICK: 80
Team: Sioux Falls (USHL)| HT: 5-11 | WT: 165 | NAT: USA
After spending last season with the Detroit Little Caesars AAA team, Brent Johnson had a very impressive rookie season in the USHL. He is certainly a late bloomer, but that could mean he has plenty of room to grow.
“Johnson is a very effective transitional defenseman who is reliable at contributing offence, playing on the power play and also suppressing chances against for his team,” FCHockey scout Dylan Krill said. “He’s smart at finding space and is agile enough to get to it efficiently. If he stays consistent with his defensive game and continues to improve his offensive skills, he has a high upside.”
Liam Gilmartin – San Jose Sharks | POS: LW | RANK: 87 | PICK: 167
Team: USNTDP | HT: 6-2 | WT: 188 | NAT: USA
Liam Gilmartin, a London Knights commit, is an effective role player who does a lot of the little things right. He doesn’t have much offensive upside, but is a good checker and is effective on the cycle and in front of the net. Playing underneath Dale Hunter will be perfect for him, as the Knights love workhorse types.
“Gilmartin plays a very responsible game, understanding that he needs to make the small efficient play rather than the skilled play,” said Krill. “He competes hard for the puck, using his intensity to out-battle opponents consistently. I am confident that Gilmartin will be an effective player in the NHL.”
Joshua Roy – Montreal Canadiens | POS: C | RANK: 74 | PICK: 150
Team: Sherbrooke (QMJHL) | HT: 6-0 | WT: 190 | NAT: CAN
Joshua Roy is a player who dominated minor hockey and has had a productive two seasons in the QMJHL, but there are concerns about how his game will translate to the pro level. Still, that offensive upside in there in 35 points (22 goals, 13 assists) in 35 games this season.
“His pace, hands and shot are reminiscent of Tyler Toffoli,” FCHockey scout Andy Lehoux said. “Some will perceive Roy’s competitiveness and skating as red flags. I see it as an opportunity to snatch a great hockey player at a lower spot than usual.”
Benjamin Gaudreau – San Jose Sharks | POS: G | RANK: 32 | PICK: 81
Team: Sarnia (OHL) | HT: 6-2 | WT: 174 | NAT: CAN
Benjamin Gaudreau was a very highly-touted prospect coming out of minor hockey — he didn’t lose a single game in 26 starts in minor midget, carrying his team to the Great North Midget League championship. He then impressed on a torrid Sarnia Sting team in his OHL rookie season but wasn’t able to build on it this year as he decided not to play elsewhere.
A great performance at the Under-18s with Canada pushed him into the first-round discussion, but we will never know how high he could have been picked had he played a real sophomore season.
“Gaudreau has always shown to be a strong, dependable goalie,” said FCHockey scout Olivia McArter. “He has very precise positioning and stays square to the play, tracking the puck to the best of his abilities.”
Connor Lockhart – Vancouver Canucks | POS: C | RANK: 58 | PICK: 178
Team: Erie (OHL) | HT: 5-9 | WT: 161 | NAT: CAN
Connor Lockhart also had an impressive rookie season in the OHL, putting up 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 57 games on a weaker Erie Otters team and also played at the World Under-17 Challenge. He did not play a single game of competitive hockey this season.
“Lockhart’s best skill in my eyes is his offensive awareness and ability to read the play through transition and in the offensive zone,” Galloway said. “His floor might make him more of a depth player if he doesn’t continue to improve his shot selection and calmness under pressure. More likely, Lockhart projects to be a bottom-six scorer who could really be a solid option on a team’s PP2.”
Ty Voit – Toronto Maple Leafs | POS: C | RANK: 43 | PICK: 153
Team: Sarnia (OHL) | HT: 5-10 | WT: 161 | NAT: USA
Ty Voit was a player who grew a lot throughout his rookie season, becoming a lot more comfortable with the puck on his stick as the year went on. The hallmark of Voit’s game is his ability to make rushes using his puckhandling ability, and it became more evident with each game. Voit will fit right in Toronto’s farm system, as they love to draft small but skilled players. Alongside Gaudreau, Voit could very quickly make this pick look like a steal on a strong Sting team.
“His mobility with his quick hands makes him a thrill to watch,” said Galloway. “With some added muscle and quickness, I think he could be an incredibly effective playmaker in the middle-six of an NHL team.”