Undrafted: The top players unselected at the 2021 Draft
The joy was clear for 223 prospects this weekend. The heartbreak for many more was just as real.
The heartbreak felt by those outside of the top 223 prospects — as deemed by National Hockey League organizations at the 2021 NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday — isn’t something easily erased. The sting of knowing that they were at the club, but found themselves still in line at closing time would leave even the most mature of players wondering how those other guys jumped the line.
And though there’s still plenty of time to prove to oneself, and others, that these 32 franchises got it wrong, there’s still plenty of deserving prospects left pondering the fact.
While there is no exact science to the draft, the complex events that leads up to it and the happenings at the draft table, we have tried to make some sense of a few of the more egregious misses — a deeper dive into five skaters and a few honourable mentions of some players that we felt deserved a better fate.
Marcus Almquist, RW, HV71 (J20 Nationell) | Rank: 193
Marcus Almquist is a dynamic player that had exceptionally strong results playing in the J20 Nationell.
Clearly, though the hold up for Almquist is his size. That doesn’t matter as much as it used to in today’s NHL. The recent successes of Alex Debrincat, Cole Caufield and others have given those of smaller stature hope.
That said, it would be fair to say that this is the biggest drawback for Almquist. He was playing well above his age level in Denmark He had a productive year in the J20 in Sweden before that got cut short and then struggled playing well above his age in the men’s league in Denmark. In fact, he actually had the most points in 2020-21 by a U18 player in the J20 Nationell. Surprisingly, the successes didn’t translate to the NHL Draft.
“He’s a very fun little player,” FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier said. “He is incredibly quick and agile, and has a stellar pair of mitts. When he gets the puck in the offensive zone he can really buzz as he darts around, slips through or around traffic and funnels pucks into dangerous areas.”
In other words, skill isn’t the issue, and there isn’t much he can do about his height at this stage.
But he can continue to produce and develop. As he works through school at the University of Nebraska Omaha. If he can do it again in the NCAA, who knows where it might lead.
Florian Elias, C, Adler Mannheim (DEL) | Rank: 185
Florian Elias is a player whose name continually turns up when discussions of who got missed are happening. He is tenacious to a fault, and his low center of gravity makes him difficult to knock off the puck and with his quick feet and impressive edges, He can make things happen offensively.
“He’s always looking for open ice and doing all he can to help his team in every shift,” FCHockey scout Dennis Schellenberg said.
What team wouldn’t have interest in a player with that description? Especially for a player that excelled both against peers at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship and against men in DEL, Germany’s top pro league.
“I would have had a go at him in a lower round, but the reason he went undrafted is probably still old school, lacking size and the interpretation of having a strong World Juniors showing only because of playing on Germany’s top line,” Schellenberg said.
Peter Reynolds, C, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) | Rank: 89
Peter Reynolds was a player that many believed would be selected, and he was entrenched firmly within the top-100 of FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2021 draft.
“I really believed that Peter Reynolds would get selected, and probably in the top 100,” FCHockey scout Viktor Bergman said. “That surprised me the most.“
Lack of quality views shouldn’t have impacted Reynolds. He’s a known quantity as a slick player who is an excellent skater with good edges and agility, and he blends these skills to create lanes and move the puck to high scoring areas.
Like every good offensive player, they crave the puck and offensive zone opportunities. It is possible that scouts saw too much of his shortcomings and with the shortened season, he lacked the consistent opportunity to hone his areas of growth.
“Reynolds didn’t rack up a huge amount of points in his rookie QMJHL season, but he still played a crucial all-situations role at center for a competitive team,” FCHockey scout Joseph Aleong said. “Reynolds is still susceptible to grinding, physical play as a thin-framed pivot.
“However, he shows great awareness in all three zones and is adept at moving the puck in transition and through heavy traffic. With a full CHL season in place next year, Reynolds could be a candidate to be drafted as an overager with a more robust scoring line in the QMJHL.”
Jimi Suomi, D, TPS (U20 SM-sarja) | Rank: 119
Jimi Suomi, a potential sleeper entering the draft, was high risk, high reward, but many at FCHockey thought that the high reward outweighed the high risk. It raised eyebrows when he didn’t.
“I absolutely thought that Suomi was going to be drafted this year,” FCHockey scout Josh Bell said. “He was a player that I had vouched for in rankings discussions at FCHockey. What stands out is his excellent skating ability. He makes his movements look effortless, including a seamless directional change. He’s definitely an offensive defender, showing off great instincts regarding when to jump up in the rush. In my views he showed good awareness, strong transition play, and was just as solid in his own end.
“Looking to the 2022 NHL Draft, he’s a strong contender to be one of the top overagers.”
The risk in Suomi won out.
The undersized defenseman who showed lapses in decision-making trumped the dynamic skill that Suomi showed flashes of.
“It’s a very high-risk style of play, and Suomi gets himself into trouble more than you’d like to see,” Neumeier said pre-draft. “He will occasionally make the wrong read or try to force a play that isn’t there, and the result is often a turnover. He’s a risky pick because of how much development work needs to be done. If he can maximize his skills and playing style while also cutting down on his mistakes he could become a niche NHLer one day.”
Sasha Teleguine, C, Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) | Rank: 114
Sasha Teleguine is a forward whose physicality and pace of play is difficult for defenders to contain. While not exceptionally big, he plays big. He has high end speed and elite puck skills and combining that with excellent acceleration, he provides an offensive upside to his game that is noted.
Sounds like he should have been drafted? However, the flip side of the coin is always different.
“He needs to tidy up his defensive zone play,” FCHockey scout Shaun Richardson said. “At times he will take shortcuts, like not stopping on pucks or leaving the zone early, in an effort to take advantage of anticipated offensive opportunities that fail to materialize.”
The question becomes can someone get him there. Is there a coach who can draw a better all around game out of Teleguine, who has clearly shown the upside in his game.
“Teleguine was far and away my highest ranked player who went undrafted,” FCHockey scout Donesh Mazloum said. “While he has his warts, there weren’t many options with his speed and skill available in the later rounds. Add in the fact that he’s college bound and has more years of development available before team’s have to sign him, and I was surprised he didn’t hear his named called.”
This does make for a curious case as to why Teleguine did not hear his name called, but the college experience at the University of Connecticut could help tidy some of these things up for opportunities moving forward.
Year over year, draft prospects get missed.
Some get found at a later date, some never get found at all. Some will have another opportunity next year, others will fade away into the annals of old draft guides.
But opportunity will continue to knock if their games continue to grow. The beauty of sport is that the ball is squarely in the player’s hand at this point.
“David Gucciardi is the first name I thought of here. He’s a mobile defender that excels in transition, whether that’s with his feet or with his puck-moving ability. He’s a competitive player, always engaged in the play, and constantly jumping into puck battles. He has a strong shot and excellent anticipation. His decision making and processing could use some improvement, which is likely while he was passed over, but I believe that he was a better option than some of the other players selected, especially in the later rounds.” – Josh Bell
“There are a lot of names that didn’t get picked in the draft that I expected to hear their names called, but Dmitri Katelevsky was the biggest surprise to me. He plays a well-rounded and mature two-way game with some offensive upside. Although his ceiling might not be the highest of the undrafted players I feel he was a safe pick and would have been a surefire bottom-six NHL forward.” — Austin Broad
“I was very surprised to see Trevor Wong go undrafted, he fit the bill as the exact type of player that could be swung on in the mid-to-late part of the draft with good upside and I was surprised no one stepped up to make that swing. Wong is a quick and active attacker, was a point-per-game contributor for Kelowna this past season, and was a star in AAA before headed to the WHL, he will be a prime overage candidate for next summer’s draft.” — Brandon Holmes
“Ethan Burroughs is a player that I was surprised did not get selected. Even though Burroughs was not ranked very high on a lot of scouts’ draft boards, I thought that he would have made a good sixth or seventh round selection. Burroughs is an intelligent forward who plays a solid two-way game. He excels at finding soft spots in the offensive zone off the rush and cycle. Burroughs has a high motor and moves in-between checks well. His quick release makes him dangerous when he gets to open ice. If there were an OHL season this year Burroughs would have 100 percent been drafted. However, I believe that he will get drafted in 2022 after a very strong showing in the 2021-22 OHL season.” — Sebastian Death
“I was very surprised defensemen Jake Martin from the USNTDP didn’t get selected. In my views on him he displayed great defensive awareness, stick placement and gap control. Enough that it made me believe he was worth being drafted in the third round. He was very consistent with his responsible decision making with and without the puck and was one of the only defensively reliable defenseman on the USNTDP throughout the year.” – Dylan Krill