NHL 2021 entry mock draft

Associate Sports Editor Peter Piekarski discusses which NHL prospects will land where in the first round of the 2021 entry draft


Photo from Instagram @mbeniers10

Matty Beniers celebrates with Kent Johnson

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

This might be considered one of the wildest NHL seasons to ever exist. With COVID-19 forcing the league to completely realign divisions and schedules as well as the playoff format, partially leading to one of the craziest playoff runs from the Montreal Canadiens. Now 48 hours removed from the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, we enter probably the most confusing draft classes ever. Out of every source I’ve read, only mainstream sites predict a unanimous first overall. But this class is so unpredictable from picks No.1 all the way to the tenth pick. 

I anticipate either a trade-heavy draft or for there to be exactly one team that trades up in the first round. Side note, if I have a country listed for a players’ league, they appeared in multiple leagues within that country. Nonetheless, let’s get this mock draft underway.

Spoiler alert – I don’t agree with most mainstream sites. OK, now let’s actually begin.

1.Buffalo Sabres: Matthew Beniers F // NCAA + WJC +WC //

37 Games Played / 12 Goals / 17 Assists / 29 Points

Yes, I’m aware that it’s nearly unanimous that Owen Power is being picked over Beniers, but I think Beniers’s game is noticeably better. The freshman forward out of Michigan is without a doubt the most explosive player coming out of the draft. His speed, edgework, agility and shiftiness make him the best skating forward in this class. Not to mention his puck handling ability, ice vision and hockey IQ are already NHL-caliber. Buffalo desperately needs a forward star as current captain Jack Eichel continues his merry-go-round on the trade block.

2. Seattle Kraken: Owen Power D // NCAA //

34 GP / 3 G / 16 A / 19 P

Michigan really hit the jackpot with young prospect talent as Power manned the blue line for the Wolverines this past season. His six-foot-five frame doesn’t define his hockey ability, rather it merely upgrades every aspect of his game. Power is a two-way defenseman that has the reach and physicality to be lockdown in his own end, as well as boasting impressive offensive skills and a booming shot. Seattle’s first-ever franchise pick should be quite special.

3. Anaheim Ducks: William Eklund F // SHL + Sweden //

44 GP / 12 G / 13 A / 25 P

Eklund is the complete package as a forward, containing elite speed, incredible ice vision and hockey IQ. The forward’s outstanding offensive instincts, playmaking, scoring and responsible defending are a coach’s dream. He’s considered one of the best overall skaters in this draft and after watching some of his tape, it is perceivable that he could be the best. Pairing him with future star Trevor Zegras, the Ducks will be rolling the highlight reels quite soon.

4. New Jersey Devils: Brandt Clarke D // Slovakia //

33 GP / 7 G / 15 A / 22 P

The Devils have a gaping hole on their blue line. They have the option to take one of two potential stud defensemen. The smart pick is to go with the right-hander in Clarke. He has all the tools you want in a decently sized defenseman. Most importantly, his skating is off the charts. He has a brilliant mind in the offensive zone and will elevate the Devils’ power play to the next level around young blossoming forwards.

Simon Edvinsson wraps around his net to advance the breakout. (Photo from Instagram @simonedvinssonn)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Simon Edvinsson D // Sweden //

45 GP / 2 G / 14 A / 16 P

Landing one of Clarke or Edvinsson is a dream scenario for Columbus as the organization seems inevitably heading towards a slight rebuild. Seth Jones seems most likely to be traded, and no other blue-liner is signed beyond 2022. Needless to say, Edvinsson is an excellent player to build a defense around. His size already benefits his game. His skating is on par with Power, and his two-way game is impressive.

6. Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Guenther F // WHL + AJHL + WJC //

23 GP / 19 G / 17 A / 36 P

Trust the Yzerplan. After the Detroit Red Wings received goaltender Alexander Nedeljkovic Thursday afternoon, my question about their goaltending plan was answered. And now, the next step is taking Guenther. His edgework and skating agility are right up there with Eklund’s, though his top speed is a slight step behind. Guenther is lethal with the puck and possesses the ability to shoot or pass at any given moment around the net.

7. San Jose Sharks: Jesper Wallstedt G // SHL //

22 GP / 2.23 Goals Against Average / .908 Save% / 2 Shutouts

Wallstedt’s play leading up to the draft is considered nothing less than franchise-goaltending capable. Originally, I had Detroit taking him with the preceding pick. But now, Wallstedt will be the new face in the net to begin the Sharks overhaul of aging talent. Wallstedt will succeed at the pro level as he already displays every necessary quality in a starting goaltender. 

8. Los Angeles Kings: Mason Mactavish F // SL + WJC //

20 GP / 14 G / 8 A / 22 P

This would probably be the steal of the draft. After the Ontario Hockey League had to shut down its return to play plan, Mactavish barely saw the ice leading to him slipping on most prospect boards. Mactavish is a very skilled forward with a knack for shooting the puck. His body control and puck skills are among the best in the draft. He lacks true breakaway speed, but his exceptional acceleration makes up for it. Mactavish was exceptional during the World Junior Championship putting up five goals and six assists in just seven games.

9.Vancouver Canucks: Luke Hughes D // USDP + USHL //

56 GP / 10 G / 39 A / 49 P

Here it is: Vancouver could have brothers playing together once again. Potentially joining his brother Quinn Hughes on the blue line, Luke Hughes is a high-profile offensive defenseman who loves to skate with the puck and create the offense through him. His puck control in the offensive zone is pro-level. The only knock against Luke Hughes is his defensive consistency, hence him dropping to the ninth slot. 

10. Ottawa Senators: Kent Johnson F // NCAA //

26 GP / 9 G / 18 A / 27 P

Woah, another Michigan top-10 pick. The only reason why he drops this low is because of Power and Beniers. Regardless, Johnson is a playmaking machine with a lethal shot. His hands are ridiculous and the dekes he uses to generate space and speed are arguably the best in the draft. He utilizes a hesitation move when shooting to freeze the defender and use him as a screen on the goaltender. Once he gains weight, Johnson will be a force to reckon with.

11. Arizona Coyotes: Oops. 

No need to go much further than the Coyotes really fumbled last season. Forfeiting picks for a franchise desperately looking for success is expectedly frustrating. Arizona violated pre-draft scouting rules by hosting fitness testing leading up to the 2020 draft. Better luck next year?

12. Calgary Flames: Fabian Lysell F // Sweden //

44 GP / 8 G / 17 A / 25 P

Speed. Lysell is speed. He garnishes a lot of his game on the rush as his speed is very difficult to defend against. He lacks elite deking and stick handling against defenders but is very good at controlling the puck on the rush. His two-way style game is very advanced for his age and will translate well at the pro-level. I expect a top-six role with penalty-kill minutes to be his ceiling.

Cole Sillinger celebrates a goal. (Photo from Instagram @colesillinger)

13. Chicago Blackhawks: Cole Sillinger F // USHL //

31 GP / 24 G / 22 A / 46 P

Entirely the opposite type of player from Lysell, Sillinger is a scoring machine. He has a bomb of a shot with pinpoint accuracy. His patience and ice vision are so good that it hides his weakest point which is his skating. He’s a threat on the power play and will be an excellent counterpart to a speedy playmaker. Son of former career journeyman Mike Sillinger, Cole has the potential to be better than his dad, who notched 548 career points in 1049 games from 1990-2009. 

14. Philadelphia Flyers: Chaz Lucius F // USDP + USHL //

25 GP / 26 G / 12 A / 38 P

Much like Sillinger, Lucius is a deadly goal scorer with a wicked shot. He’s willing and able to shoot from anywhere. Even more so, his skating is also his biggest weakness. He’s not speedy or agile but always finds room to take a shot or will sit around the crease causing mayhem or tapping in goals.

Carson Lambos looks for a pass breaking through the neutral zone. (Photo from Instagram @carsonlambos

15. Dallas Stars: Carson Lambos D // Finland U18 + U20 //

15 GP /  2 G / 12 A / 14 P

Yet another offensive-minded defenseman in the draft with a smooth skating ability, Lambos loves to get involved on the rush. That will potentially burn him in the NHL, but he has elite offensive instincts and a tremendous shot. His defensive game needs work and will develop as he learns to play a more physical game. 

16. New York Rangers: Matthew Coronato F // USHL //

51 GP / 48 G / 37 A / 85 P

This guy is a pure scorer. His shot is one of the best in this class and his goal-scoring ability is top-notch. He possesses exceptional speed and quick hands to release wicked wrist shots. Coronato is a relentless forward but lacks the agility of top prospects. He’s another guy I expect to be an impressive counterpart scorer. 

17. St. Louis Blues: Isak Rosen F // Sweden //

42 GP / 16 G / 10 A / 26 P

With the inevitable departure of Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues will look to bring in a speedy forward with a scoring touch. That’s exactly what Rosen is, a shifty, speedy forward with slick hands and a precise wrist shot. He is on the lighter side and will need to fill out to reach the NHL.

18. Winnipeg Jets: Brennan Othmann F // Swiss League + WJC //

41 GP / 10 G / 12 A / 22 P 

This is another steal. A lot of scouts overlook Othmann for his lack of acceleration and speed, not necessarily saying it’s a weakness but that it brings his game down. But Othman’s goal-scoring ability is the best in this draft class. His shot is one of if not the best in this year’s draft.

Sasha Pastujov with the celebration after a big goal. (Photo from Instagram @sashapastujov12)

19. Nashville Predators: Sasha Pastujov F // USDP + USHL + WJC //

64 GP / 45 G / 54 A / 99 P

Explosive is the best way to describe Pastujov’s game. He darts so smoothly with the puck and has ridiculous hands. He often finds himself on the right dot which allows him to shoot or set up a shot whenever the puck is on his stick. If the Notre Dame product can build up his top speed and develop a quicker shot release, he’ll be a threat.

20. Edmonton Oilers: Corson Ceulemans D // AJHL + WJC //

14 GP / 5 G / 14 A / 19 P

This pick will be a bit of a project. Ceulamans is an exceptional offensive defenseman with a knack for joining the rush. He has forward-like hands and deking ability, a smooth-skating style, and a blast of a shot. His decision-making isn’t the best and can burn him too often. Ceulemans’ defensive game is also suspect. Once he begins his NCAA career with Wisconsin that aspect will start to develop.

21. Boston Bruins: Francesco Pinelli F // AlpsHL + WJC //

20 GP / 9 G / 13 A / 22 P

Oh man, is this pick exciting. Pinelli’s game fits the Bruins perfectly. He’s already a very well-rounded player at both ends of the ice. He also obtains a scoring touch and is relentless on the forecheck. His two-way game as a centerman only reminds me of Patrice Bergeron. You can always find him positioned around the net for deflections, rebounds, and cross-crease passes. He should pan out nicely. 

22. Minnesota Wild: Simon Robertsson F // Sweden //

51 GP / 15 G / 14 A / 29 P

I actually think Robertsson should go a lot earlier. He’s a complete package type of player with an absurd wrist shot with an even more ridiculous release. He’s not the most dynamic player, but there aren’t many flaws in his game. His shot and finish trump that, though. Minnesota risks losing Calder Trophy-winning forward Kirill Kaprizov this offseason, so Robertsson seems like a shoo-in. 

23. Detroit Red Wings: Nikita Chibrikov F // Russia //

54 GP / 11 G / 21 A / 32 P

Chibrikov is an electric forward with an other-worldly shot. He’s fast, shifty, and has quick hands which make it hard for defenders to do anything against him. He’s difficult to knock off of the puck. But his defensive game is quite poor, and he will need to significantly improve it to advance. 

24. Florida Panthera: Zachary Bolduc F // QMJHL //

27 GP / 10 G / 19 A / 29 P

I have never seen scouts more polarized on a player’s abilities ever. His draft rankings are quite literally all over the place. He is an exceptionally skilled forward who can dominate at any given moment but will disappear periodically. If he can develop his consistency level he can be a sneakily good pick for the Panthers.

Aatu Räty sets up a scoring chance. (Photo from Instagram @ratyaatu)

25. Columbus Blue Jackets: Aatu Raty F // Finland //

43 GP / 6 G / 7 A / 13 P 

This one is quite shocking. Raty was once considered a top-five and arguably No.1 pick. But he had a poor draft class season and didn’t progress the way most had anticipated. He is still highly skilled and possesses insane hands and an elite goal-scoring touch. He can become a solid NHLer, but the lack of progress and the amount of success from the players selected before him will lead to him dropping later in the first round.

26. Minnesota Wild: Logan Stankoven F // WHL + WJC //

13 GP / 11 G / 7 A / 18 P

I despise how Stankoven is looked over for his size. His 5-foot-8 posture is the smallest out of first-round prospects, but it benefits his game. He’s an incredible skater with lightning-quick top-end speed and acceleration. His edgework is phenomenal, and his shot is incredible. If he rounds out his game, he’ll be a solid NHLer.

27. Carolina Hurricanes: Xavier Bourgault F // QMJHL //

29 GP / 20 G / 20 A / 40 P 

Bourgault’s abilities remind me a lot of that of Kevin Hayes. Displaying wide strong strides, strong and difficult to knock off the puck, while maintaining good ice vision and playmaking ability. But his speed is what drags him down a bit. If he rounds out his game and can increase his first-step ability, he’ll be a solid player.

28. Colorado Avalanche: Stanislav Svozil D // Czech Republic //

53 GP / 3 G / 10 A / 13 P

Colorado is on the search for a strong skating lockdown defenseman. Svozil is precisely the guy it’s looking for. He plays a solid two-way game but excels much more on the defensive end. With multiple highly skilled offensive defensemen on the team, Svozil will develop nicely into a second or third pairing for the Avalanche.

29. New Jersey Devils: Matthew Samoskevich F // USHL //

36 GP / 13 G / 24 A / 37 P

After taking a stud defenseman in the top-five, my guess is that the Devils go for flashy offensive prowess with No. 29. The biggest knock against Samoskevich is his defense, but that can always develop during his NCAA career. His skating is remarkable in all facets. He’s fast, agile, can stop on a dime, and has exceptional hands and dekes. His shot is also heavy and accurate. 

Sebastian Cossa celebrates with his team following a win. (Photo from Instagram @sebastian.cossa)

30. Las Vegas Golden Knights: Sebastien Cossa G // WHL //

19 GP / 1.57 GAA / .941 SV% / 4 Shutouts

This is another first-round pick made to fill an inevitable void. Cossa is a massive goaltender, standing at 6-foot-6. His stats in the WHL are preposterous. He already showcases everything you expect from an NHL-caliber goaltender and his size emphasizes that. The only issue is his WHL team was that good that most scouts wonder if he can continue this level of play in tougher leagues.

31. Montreal Canadiens: Zachary L’Heureux F // QMJHL //

33 GP / 19 G / 20 A / 39 P

This is the perfect pick for Montreal. After the showcase of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield during the last playoff run, the Canadiens need to add another dynamic to their speedy skilled top line. L’Heureux provides an edginess while also containing a high level of skill in his game. He’s nearly impossible to knock off the puck. 

32. Columbus Blue Jackets: Oskar Olausson F // Sweden //

51 GP / 20 G / 17 A / 37 P

And to cap off the 2021 NHL entry draft, Columbus will take an offensive threat in Olausson. His game will need some work as his positioning and consistency aren’t great, but his skill set is tremendous. He has a quick shifty stride to tag along with quick hands. However, he’s a raw player that needs to focus on not doing too much with the puck and let the game flow around him more.