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Hockey Sense final 2021 NHL Draft rankings
Owen Power maintains hold on No. 1; Matty Beniers, William Eklund round out top three
The 2021 NHL Draft will be held on July 23 and 24, 2021. I, for one, welcome its arrival with open arms. It has been a difficult year to evaluate, but I can’t be more thankful to have any hockey to evaluate at all. Despite the challenges of the season, most players were able to be seen multiple times, if not live then on video.
Instead of a drawn out intro, I’m just going to let you get to the list. But before I do that, I have to quickly thank my partners at InStat, without whom this list would not be possible. Throughout the process, InStat has made what could have been a near-impossible task much, much easier with its excellent product, featuring video and tracked data from all over the world. In turn, my hope is their insights included give you, the reader, a better feel for the class.
I also want to give out a special thanks to Dan and Margaret Hickling and the University of Michigan for providing photos to bring some color to this piece.
Also, if you’re reading this on your email, you’ll need to click this link to get the full list as it is too long for most inboxes. The full list features the top 90 players, but there will be another list of players to be aware of as potential late-round selections coming soon. There will also be a lot more draft-specific content all the way up to the draft, so stay tuned.
Let’s get going.
1. Owen Power, D, Michigan (Big Ten)
After a full season of watching Power at Michigan, it was an added bonus to see him at the Men’s World Championship. Especially since he climbed up the depth chart the entire tournament and became one of the team’s most important players down the stretch, eventually playing a key role as Canada won the gold medal.
The first big plus is his combination of size and skating ability. Power does not look like an explosive skater, but he’s powerful and his long strides are so useful in recovery or taking pucks up ice. His range, reach and ability to close gaps all comes from a good base of skating. Then he’s got the smarts. Power is a cerebral player who anticipates instead of reacts. When you’re 6-foot-5 and have the reach that he does, there could be an over-reliance on it, but that’s not the case for Power. He likes to defend in tight and keep everything in front of him. Power has good battle ability along the walls, using his size and strength to win pucks or keep plays to the outside. An especially quick forward can still cross him up from time to time, but largely he’s not going to get beat clean too often. It’s something that took time for him to build up as earlier in the season, I had some concerns about his defensive footwork, but not by the end.
Offensively, Power is solid, if unspectacular. He has a good, strong shot from the point, extends plays on the offensive blue line and has good offensive zone awareness. He makes mostly good reads on his best options, with excellent passing and ability to get pucks through and to the net. Power can also get engaged on the rush, with confident abilities in carrying pucks through the neutral zone. He also picks his spots well with when and how to jump into plays and provide offensive support. There’s not much flash to his offense, but it’s effective.
As mentioned in the previous report, Power has been on a steady progression over his last three seasons, starting as an exceptional 16-year-old in the USHL, then the best defenseman in the league at 17 and a high-end defenseman in college as a true freshman. He’s taken a step every year. After watching him in the World Championship, his game is still progressing at a similar rate, and I think it’s fairly safe to say he’s the most NHL-ready prospect in this draft.
I’ve said it before, though, and I will say it again – This may be the best year to try and give players some extra time at their respective leagues. Let Power go back to college and dominate and arrive as a more finished product. He has a chance to be a special, long-term piece of an NHL blue line so making all of the right moves in his development is going to be key.
2. Matty Beniers, C, Michigan (Big Ten)
Matty Beniers is simply a player you win with. His on-ice drive is unmatched in this draft class as he’ll compete every single shift and make thing hectic for the opposition whether he has the puck or he doesn’t. There’s never really any time where he drops his intensity level, which makes him one of the best puck pursuers in this class. It also makes him a defensively responsible, challenging player to play against. Teams are at a disadvantage when he’s on the ice, because there’s another precocious defender out there.
When it comes to offense, Beniers does not have overtly dynamic puck skills, but his footwork and ability to create separation are two things that take his offensive game to the next level. He drives the middle lane, makes plays off the wall and has the ability to take pucks hard to the net or find the right passing lane for a better play. His awareness and processing speed in the offensive zone are high-end traits of his elite-level hockey sense.
The team that drafts Beniers has no worse than a No. 2 center on their roster who can handle tough matchups, play on their power play, their penalty kill and probably one day wear a letter for their team. There are more dynamic offensive players in this draft, but there isn’t a single forward who impacts the game in as many ways as Beniers does.
3. William Eklund, LW, Djugårdens (SHL)
The maturity and poise it takes to be a top-line player as an 18-year-old professional is rare. It’s why so many don’t get the chance. Eklund earned it, however, and rewarded his club with solid performance after solid performance. In a class that lacks a ton of dynamic talent, Eklund has it. He’s quick, smart and creative, making plays with pace and precision. Eklund finished the season with 23 points in 40 games, marking the fifth-most productive season for a draft-eligible player in SHL history. Eklund was named the league’s rookie of the year, too.
We didn’t get to see Eklund at the World Juniors or the men’s Worlds, though he was trending towards a selection to Team Sweden before being injured. His confidence over the course of the season was evident in his play. He sees the ice incredibly well and processes the game at pro speeds. To think he played 20 SHL games last season and only put up two assists seems hard to believe. He was a legit force in a very good pro league.
Eklund has been in the shadow of Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz, two players in the same birth year but a year ahead in draft status. I think Eklund is close to those two in terms of his overall upside. In fact, he might be a bit ahead of Holtz whom he played with this season at Djugårdens. I think Eklund will need a year or two more in Sweden before he can come over, especially as he needs to continue to build strength and refine the defensive elements of his game. But whichever team drafts him is going to feel they’ve got a future top-six scorer with their club with high hopes for what he can deliver offensively.
4. Luke Hughes, D, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
Looking across the league at the defensemen who are coming in and making an impact, skating, vision, elite hockey sense, high-end passing abilities, elusiveness in the defensive zone and neutral zone and offensive drive are all key assets. Hughes is strong in each of those areas. While his defensive game still needs rounding out and just a bit more attention to detail, he can change the game with the puck on his stick. While there’s not as much of a dynamic puck handling ability, he is the most dynamic skater in the draft among defensemen. That elite tool is a major separator from him and the others listed behind him.
Hughes is creative on the offensive blue line, extending plays and taking pucks deep when he sees the opportunity to get a better look. His shot isn’t quite strong enough yet to be a consistent goal scorer from the blue line, but he shows great patience and allows lanes to open up with tremendous poise with the puck on his stick. He’s got a lot of confidence through the neutral zone as well, taking what is given to him and making the entry on his own if he needs to.
The youngest brother of Quinn and Jack Hughes has been in the shadow, but has forged his own path. His numbers aren’t as impressive as some of the record-setting figures from Quinn and Jack, but his on-ice impact relative to his team was certainly similar. He was sorely missed at the World U18 Championship, which he missed due to a laceration. On top of all of that, Hughes is one of this draft’s youngest players, and while he likely needs a few years in college to develop and continue to build strength, there’s so much runway for him to take his game to another level yet.
5. Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
This season, Guenther was a consistent, almost constant source of production across three different teams including a brief stint in the AJHL, his 12 games in the shortened WHL season and Team Canada at the World U18 Championship. Guenther has high-end hand skills with an excellent shot, accurate, crisp passing and good one-on-one skills to make plays and open things up for himself or his linemates. Guenther has a tremendous ability to finish plays, with many of his touches in the offensive zone ending with a chance.
The one thing that gives me pause in terms of having Guenther a little higher is that I haven’t viewed him as a play driver above being a play finisher. He’s not always the guy relied on to get pucks into the zone or make plays through the neutral zone. I think top end players, especially the guys listed above him, drive play a bit more and make more plays in all zones. This isn’t to say Guenther is one-dimensional because he provides good effort in all three zones, I just think his skills are best utilized offensively.
Guenther is one of the most offensively gifted players in this draft, so I think he could be more of a driver if needed, it’s just not what his role dictated. Without seeing that enough, though, I hedge on his upside just a little bit. Guenther skates well, has a frame to grow into and his hockey sense and hands are high end compared to a lot of this class.
6. Kent Johnson, C/W, Michigan (Big Ten)
One of the most creative, gifted puck handlers in this class, Johnson is a player with so many more options than the average forward. He’s got the skill to beat defenders one-on-one, but mixes that with poise and patience to let the game come to him and exploit the openings that he finds just by holding onto the puck. The game seems to slow down for Johnson when he has the puck on his stick and it makes him one of the more dangerous forwards in this draft. A legitimate shot-pass threat, he’s always looking for the best play he can make.
Though he can play center, I don’t think there’s enough defensive value to comfortably project him there. His dynamic talent flourished on the wing last season and can maximize his offensive potential there. Johnson still needs to add some more physical strength, but the skill he has makes him such a difficult player to stop.
7. Mason McTavish, C, Olten (Swiss League)
One of the biggest risers of the top-tier prospects in the class, McTavish stepped out and made his presence known at the World U18 Championship. He has toughness, grit and some general nastiness to his game, but then he’s got all of this talent as well. His vision is high end in this class and he can make so many plays under duress. McTavish protects the puck well and can extend plays with both strength and skill. He has good defensive sense and provides a good effort as a two-way player. McTavish, however, is not a particularly strong skater relative to other top players. He can make up with that with his strength and hockey sense, though. Versatility is such a key in today’s game and I think McTavish has proven time-and-time again he’s got that. Whether it was against pros in Switzerland, his peers in the World U18s or last season in the OHL, McTavish brings a lot of attractive traits that have allowed him to be an especially productive player.
8. Brandt Clarke, D, Nove Zamky (Slovakia)
Probably the most offensively gifted blueliner in this class, Clarke is an expert puck mover and producer who navigates the ice confidently. A lot has been made of his skating and it is warranted. His short-distance quickness and stride are going to need to improve for him to be an effective pro. However, I still think he can play the game fast based on how he processes things and his ability to spot the right plays. He moves pucks quickly and confidently, has deceptive puck skills and a good shot from the point that can sneak up on goalies. Clarke’s north-south speed may be lacking, but he does have some good agility and ability to change direction with some deception in his footwork.
Clarke spent the season in Slovakia’s top pro league, where he put up 15 points in 26 games, an impressive figure for any young player in a pro league. It’s especially impressive given Clarke’s need to adjust to a new environment, country and style of play. He returned for the World U18 Championship and was a top player, named to the tournament all-star team while helping lead Canada to gold.
9. Simon Edvinsson, D, Frölunda (SHL)
The upside of Edvinsson is tantalizing. There just are not many players like him in the world. A 6-foot-5, skilled defenseman who has confidence with the puck? It just doesn’t come along very often. If that’s true, though, shouldn’t he be higher? Well, you can certainly make the case, but I’ve got some concerns.
For all of the skill that Edvinsson does have, he hasn’t been especially productive. He got a little more active when he was loaned to Västerås in the Allsvenskan and looked a little more solid in that regard, but I’ve never seen him take a game over like some of the other top defensemen in this draft. He wasn’t especially dominant against his age peers at the U18s Worlds and for as big of a guy as he is, he can get knocked around a little bit.
Basically, Edvinsson is the most fun kind of project for a team. There are holes that need to be plugged in his game, but if you’re working with a player of his size, mobility and skill, you’ve already got some of the most difficult things covered. It’s still worth hedging a bit on because it’s so important to get those players in the earlier picks right. I have a little more comfort with each of them at this point. That’s the main difference.
10. Chaz Lucius, C, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
Missing such a large chunk of the season while recovering from knee surgery and later missing the World U18 Championship after coming down with an illness just prior to the tournament, it was not an easy year for Lucius. When he did play, however, he was mostly dominant. He scored 13 goals in 13 games and even when he didn’t have a great game, he found a way to make an impact – usually on the score sheet. Lucius has a lankier frame that he can continue to build some strength onto, which will make him a bit more effective. But it’s his hand skills that especially stand out. Lucius has an innate ability to make plays to get inside and get to prime scoring areas when he has the puck on his stick. His release is so quick that by the time a defender realizes he has to close in, the shot is away and probably in the back of the net. Sometimes his shift-to-shift competitiveness can wane, but he doesn’t shy away from the tough areas of the ice and if he sees a chance to make a play, he doesn’t wait. I think he’s going to be one of the more entertaining players to come out of this draft, so long as he continues to build strength and bounce back from a season that was largely lost to him due to his injury and illness.
11. Jesper Wallstedt, G, Luleå (SHL)
After a season that saw him appear in 22 games, fourth most by a U19 goalie in SHL history, Wallstedt showed that he could hold his own against pros. He posted a .908 save percentage in those games, trailing only Jacob Markström and Filip Gustavsson among his historic age peers. Wallstedt appeared in just two games at the World Juniors, serving as a backup. So we don’t have a huge sample to go off of from this season alone, but his ability to play at such a high level against men is impressive. Wallstedt has always been a step ahead of his age peers, often playing as an underager on Swedish national teams and in the club ranks.
A big reason for his early success is that Wallstedt has advanced hockey sense and excellent technical skill. He’s sharp and controlled in the net and doesn’t leave too much out in front of him. I think his post-to-post play still needs some work as he doesn’t have quite an NHL-level burst from side to side and sometimes leaves a little net exposed as a result. Still, I look at what he’s accomplished at a young age, the refined way he plays the position and the ceiling he has as a player always pushing ahead of his age-specific peers, Wallstedt looks like the top goalie in the class.
12. Fabian Lysell, RW, Luleå (SHL)
One of my personal favorites in the draft class, Lysell’s combination of skill and quickness allow him to play the game in a style more indicative of where the NHL will be in the next few years. Watching the young up and coming teams in the NHL, they all have players that can play with some burst and some quickness. Lysell has that and brings the finish to it as well. He dazzled at the World U18 Championship where he scored nine points including a pair of goals in Sweden’s quarterfinal win over the United States. His other goal was an end-to-end highlight reel tally against Belarus. Lysell is a nightmare in transition because his hands and feet work in tandem to mystify defenders. He often enters the zone with speed and has the hands to surprise the goalie with a move or quick shot. His ability to create for himself is a special tool. There are a few concerns about his ability to make plays within structure. So much of his offense is generated off the rush that you wonder if he’ll be able to be as effective when the games are slowed down and the defense has time to set up. I think his talent is unique, though. There aren’t many players in the draft that can move as quickly as he does while also being able to make the kind of plays he does. If you’re team drafts him, he’ll probably be one of your favorite prospects right away because he is a treat to watch.
13. Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
It took me all year to get there, but the more I watched Cossa video the more I viewed him as a goalie with legit No. 1 ceiling. I think we have to take his numbers with a slight grain of salt, given his .941 save percentage and 17-1-1 record in 19 appearances came against a limited WHL schedule against in-division opponents. But if you take the numbers out of it even, he still looks like one of the elite prospects in this draft. His size, his speed, his hockey sense all look NHL-caliber. Cossa was wilder in the crease a season ago. This year, he’s quieted things down without losing his explosiveness. His pre-shot reads looked stronger this year. There were so few times he got beaten clean from outside shots. I’m a little scared of the sample size this year, but I also don’t have strong enough feelings about others in this class that I can say they have higher upside than this massive, athletic goalie who looks special relative. While I don’t put him in the Yaroslav Askarov/Spencer Knight category yet, he’s not far off from that. He’s going to go early and I think he’s going to deserve it, too.
14. Fyodor Svechkov, C, Lada Togliatti (VHL)
He’s strong, well-rounded, competitive and just signed a deal with SKA St. Petersburg that will keep him with the club through the 2022-23 season. Svechkov was already well-respected, but boosted his stock at the World U18 Championship where he had 10 points for silver medalist Russia. His strength on pucks, vision and ability to impact the game in all zones made him an integral piece for Russia. His skating is closer to average, which you may be sensing as a theme in this draft as you continue reading, but his anticipation is advanced and he hunts pucks very, very well. Svechkov has high-end vision and sets up plays especially well. His puck touches are sure-handed and his decisions are usually sound. On top of that, he’s committed to the defensive aspects of his position, is strong at the faceoff dot and is an especially strong player who excels in displacing opposing players of the puck with body position and a powerful lower half. He looks like a solid middle-six center long-term.
15. Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
With higher-end skill and excellent playmaking abilities, Chibrikov showcased himself well at the World U18 Championship where he captained Russia to the silver medal. He had 13 points in that event. Chibrikov has excellent hand skills, with quickness and deception. He understands how to get through defenses and can be especially dangerous from the outside in the offensive zone, mainly because he so often finds a way inside to get the better look. He appeared in 16 KHL games this season, scoring a goal to become the youngest player ever to score in a KHL game for SKA. He also became the youngest player ever to suit up for the senior national team in a mid-season European Hockey Tournament event. He had three points in that event. Chibrikov has a mature offensive game, which was evident against his peers at U18s. He also has a bit of a mean streak, playing a physical, grating style that can get under opponents’ skin. You won’t get much defensive value from Chibrikov, but his threatening offensive capabilities help keep his team in possession of the puck.
16. Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
One of the draft’s better creators, Sillinger was the USHL rookie of the year after joining the league late and scoring a whole bunch. He had 24 goals in 31 games for Sioux Falls and was supposed to join Canada for the U18s, but returned a positive test before he could join the team. It was a huge disappointment after how good he was in the USHL this year. He did more than enough to prove his footing among the elite players in this draft. Sillinger has one of the best releases in this draft, quick, accurate and deceptive. He can score from distance, but has good hands in tight as well. I think he may be the best in-stride shooter in this draft. Defensively, he’s not going to blow anyone away, nor will his skating. The hands and his ability to create space, however, is unique compared to a lot of his peers. In this particular draft class, his hand skills are a big separator for me. Sillinger will be headed back to Medicine Hat next season after choosing to come south of the border amid the WHL’s delayed season.
17. Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
Between the regular season and Clark Cup playoffs, Coronato had 57 goals and 98 points for the champion Steel. He was the forward of the year in the USHL and put together one of the best goal scoring seasons the league has seen in the Tier 1 era. You don’t put those numbers up without have a special amount of talent. Coronato isn’t exceptionally skilled in terms of his ability to beat defenders one-on-one or make some fancy plays. He has an exceptional awareness, however, of the routes he needs to take off the rush or inside the offensive zone to put himself in the best position to score. He pops into soft areas well without the puck, too. Coronato has a heavy shot that gets on goalies in a hurry. His skating is solid, but not a standout trait. Coronato plays with great effort, too. He engages in puck battles, goes hard to the net when he has the lane and generally plays smart, reliable hockey in the defensive zone. His historic season was well-earned.
18. Isak Rosén, RW, Leksands (SHL)
A speedy north-south winger who can back down defenders on the rush, Rosén had his breakout moment this season at the World U18 Championship where he set a new high-water mark for Swedes in that tournament. His seven goals is an all-time record in that event by a Swedish player. Beyond that, he competes hard and plays reasonable defense. There’s a relative lack of high-end puck skills, though Rosén has a good shot. A reasonable concern about his game is that it doesn’t always have the same level of creativity of some of the forwards in this range. He didn’t put up numbers in the pro league this year, but was a point-per-game player in the U20 ranks. Despite not having a huge frame, Rosén is strong on the puck and protects well. The real standout trait for me, however, is his explosive speed that makes him an especially dangerous player on the rush and in transition. He can flip games quickly.
19. Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
When you only have 14 games in a season to judge, it’s hard to get a super strong read on a player. However, looking at his full body of work over the last two seasons, plus his season-capping performance at the World U18 Championship where he was a top-four defenseman for the gold medal winning Canadian squad, there’s a lot to like. Ceulemans is one of the better skating defensemen in this range. He has good offensive instincts and gets up into the rush quite a bit, often with the puck on his stick. Ceulemans has a strong shot, but often is looking to make the pass. He’s solid in getting pucks out of his zone, making good reads off of his retrievals and making quick decisions to get pucks up ice. Ceulemans is always looking to push the pace. In the offensive zone, he has a good feel for how to extend plays and use his D partner. At 6-2, 198, he has a good frame but I’d like to see him get a little more aggressive physically and be a little tougher to knock off the puck. As he gains strength, he could be a force. Headed to the University of Wisconsin next season, there have been plenty of young defensemen who have developed remarkably well in Madison, with both K’Andre Miller and Wyatt Kalynuk making NHL debuts last season.
20. Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg ICE (WHL)
It was a weird year for Lambos, doing what he had to do by going to Finland and getting some significant experience. He returned home and only appeared in two WHL games before his season ended. Everything I’ve heard from teams is that the health concerns are not going to be an issue. He appeared in a total of 19 games this season, so there’s good tape on him for this season. He had no problem in Finland’s U18 or U20 ranks, making plays and showcasing higher-end skating ability relative to this draft class, though I think his defensive footwork needs refinement. He has good burst, though and recovers well when he’s up ice. JYP even called him up for a couple of games with their senior team in Finland where he held his own, engaging physically and having the confidence to at least try to make some plays. When you look at the full body of work, including an especially impressive U17 season in the WHL, there’s a lot to like. If teams are comfortable with his medicals and with what they’ve seen, there’s still a chance he sneaks into the Top 15.
21. Aatu Räty, C, Kärpät (Liiga)
One of the most polarizing and uncertain prospects in this entire draft, Räty is as confounding as he is intriguing. This year did not go well for him and he’s admitted that the draft season and expectations weighed on him. He was presumed a No. 1 for this class for a few years, but things didn’t go that way this year. While he may no longer be one of the top prospects in this class, I still see a quality prospect with a chance to grow his game even further. He had six points in 35 games in Liiga this season, didn’t make the World Junior team and didn’t have any other chances to showcase his ability to scouts. He was recently named to Finland’s U20 camp roster, which is good that he’s back in the mix there. The thing about Räty that makes me hedge more is that there was such a steep regression from last season to this season. He needs to rebuild his confidence, which is a taller order and requires some special care from the team that drafts him. You get him back on his game, though, and Räty could one day be a top player from this class. In better years, he might slip further, but I still believe he’s got the chance to turn it around.
22. Sasha Pastujov, RW, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
Pastujov always seems to find a way to put up points. He has good length, good overall skill and competes well enough, but his skating is the big concern that prevents him from being in the top tier of this class. He’s one of the elite producers, having put up 65 points in 41 games including 30 goals for the U.S. U18s. He also had eight points in five games at the U18 Worlds. The reason I keep Pastujov near the top 20 is I think he processes the game faster than he plays it, which shows up in his crafty plays and ability to anticipate. You can make up for deficient skating with elite hockey sense and I think he has that. His pace may never allow him to be a consistent top-line player, but I think he’s going to find a way to get to the next level because of his offensive know-how.
23. Logan Stankoven, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
A gifted goal scorer with a stunning release, Stankoven can do a lot with the puck on his stick. There’s always some level of creativity in everything he does. Even the way the puck comes off his stick when he’s passing is a little different, often accurate and especially hard. Stankoven is 5-foot-8 and you can tell he’s adapted to his size with the way he can open up space for himself. On top of that, he’s got a good burst in his skating which creates separation and gets ice to open up for him in transition. His speed also is a factor in puck pursuit. Stankoven gets on defensemen quickly and even though he can’t out-muscle them often, he’s forcing them to be less comfortable with the puck. On top of that, he can make turnovers turn into a real problem for the opposition with how quick he can transition to attack mode once he’s gotten the puck. The size is going to be a factor, but I like the way he plays and the effort he gives. This is a guy that absolutely loves scoring goals and is desperate to get the puck whether his team has it or not. He’ll do the work to make sure he gets it. Stankoven was an alternate captain for Canada at the World U18s where he had eight points in seven games.
24. Brennan Othmann, LW, Olten (Swiss League)
Normally a member of the Flint Firebirds, Othmann headed to the second division in Switzerland where he got 34 games in. Othmann had 16 points, averaging nearly half a point per game in his first pro experience. He has one of the better shots in this draft with a quick and accurate release. It gets on goaltenders in a hurry, sometimes before they know it’s coming. His ability to shoot from the outside is especially important because he’s not the best skater. He doesn’t have that innate ability to get around defenders, but he uses defensemen well in getting his shot off and drawing them in before taking his chance. That scoring tool is especially intriguing, but Othmann also has good drive and gets on opposing defensemen in the forecheck. He can needle his opponents with competitive, agitating play with a goal of dispossessing them of the puck.
25. Mackie Samoskevich, RW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
When at the top of his game, Samoskevich is an electric skater who can beat defenders wide, while having the strength and skill to drive the net and make plays. Having missed time this season, he didn’t get the chance to compile points like some of his teammates, but he averaged over a point per game and was excellent in the postseason as well. He’s a high-end shooter, scoring a lot of goals off the pass this season while also proving to be an excellent set-up man. Samoskevich can make plays off the rush, but an area I think he excelled at this season was creating and finding space to make plays. When the game was slowed down, he was just as effective at dissecting defenses and finding the right play. I think his offensive instincts were better than I gave him credit for earlier this season.
26. Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Bolduc’s star was on the rise coming into the season after he put up 52 points in 55 games as a QMJHL rookie. This season, Bolduc averaged over a point per game, but I think even more offensive dominance was expected of him. An injury knocked him out of the season early, though. Bolduc has a solid frame that he can tack strength onto and good soft-touch skills with excellent offensive timing. I’d like to see him be a bit tougher to play against down low and get a little more of a work rate in the corners. He also strikes me as more of a finisher than a play driver, which is fine. Bolduc’s skill and offensive sense put him in the discussion to be a future top-six forward at the next level.
27. Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Bourgault is one of those players who pops on video. He has those standout traits with excellent hand skills and he absolutely burns for the offensive elements of the game. After putting up 71 points last season, he had 20 goals and 40 points in 29 games this year in the Q. His 1.38 points per game was highest among draft-eligible players this season. Bourgault is a slippery player who can mix his skill with high-end competitiveness to will his way past defenders. Bourgault also has an innate feel for time and space in the offensive zone as well. It allows him to slip by defenders undetected and get himself in a better position to score. He doesn’t necessarily have a natural goal-scorer’s shot, but he does have a goal-scorer’s sense, which is usually just as good.
28. Oskar Olausson, RW, HV-71 (SHL)
Olausson is a high-motor winger who gets in hard on the forecheck and can make plays and has some power elements in his game. For this draft class, he is a particularly strong skater with good outside drive. He can lower his shoulder and take on defenders even at the pro level. He was effective in both the SHL and Allsvenskan, where he played for Sodertajle, and produced. I don’t want to read too much into a four-game sample, but his World Junior was fairly underwhelming as I thought he’d be able to make a more significant impact there. The full body of work, however, is very favorable as Olausson looks like he’s got a lot of pro attributes starting with that skating. He also has a nice shot and can score from distance, while also possessing quick enough hands to make plays inside.
29. Samu Tuomaala, RW, Kärpät U20 (Finland U20)
One of the best shooters in the draft, Tuomaala proved he is more than a shooter at the World U18 Championship. He scored big goals, but he also was a threat in transition and committed to competitive play in all zones. His pace looked better and he was able to challenge defenders with his hand skills. His sense of timing and space in the offensive zone is among the top tier in this draft as he finds soft areas and makes himself a scoring threat when his team has possession in the offensive zone. He still needs to get stronger to make up for his size, but his improving pace and hand skills are especially encouraging.
30. Daniil Chayka, D, CSKA Moscow (KHL)
I think Chayka is one of those players that you have to have a full picture of in order to feel comfortable taking him in the first round. He didn’t have the best run in the KHL where he didn’t get a lot of minutes, but I think we also have to consider that even though he is a native Russian, he was still getting his first taste of pro hockey after two years in the OHL with Guelph. That’s a gigantic jump for any player, but especially a defenseman. Chayka is big and mobile, defends adequately and when he was in the OHL, he put up points. That wasn’t the case as much in Russia, though he did produce when he was put in games in their U20 league. Chayka is a project defenseman, with a ton of raw ability that needs refinement. Picking him in the first round is a total upside play, but as we’ve seen with bigger defensemen who have at least shown a proclivity for offense in their younger days, there’s more you can coax out of them. I view Chayka very similarly to how I viewed K’Andre Miller in his own draft year. Be patient, let him develop and be rewarded later. Miller is rounding out into a strong NHL defenseman and I believe Chayka’s physical profile and skillset will allow him to do the same.
31. Francesco Pinelli, C, HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)
Of the players that went abroad, Pinelli found one of the more unique locations, going to Slovenia to play in the AlpsHL. He was only there for 11 games, but Pinelli looked great out there with 11 points in 13 games, leading all U18 players in the AlpsHL with a 0.85 points per game. I’m not sure how much we can reasonably read into those numbers for Pinelli, but I do know what I saw at the World U18 Championship where Pinelli was a take-charge center who put up 11 points in seven games. He has excellent vision, exploits gaps well and can be reliable as a play-driver. Getting more live looks at Pinelli, I soured a bit on his overall skating ability as I think he’s going to need to smooth things out and pick up some more speed to be as effective as I think he can be based on his offensive know-how.
32. Prokhor Poltapov, LW, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
The second-leading scorer among all U18 players in the MHL, Poltapov has long been one of my favorite players in this draft. He is average sized, but does he ever compete. Poltapov has a high work rate in puck pursuit and he can be a thorn in the side of the opposition. He’s constantly hunting pucks and when he gets it, he can make a lot happen. I think Poltapov’s hand skills are higher end, with an ability to find ways to the middle of the ice. His skating is closer to average, which probably makes it good for this draft class, but if he can add a little more strength and power to his stride, he’s going to be that much better of a player. He just has no fear in his game and wills his way to loose pucks, better scoring chances and making big-time plays.
33. Zachary L’Heureux, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
L’Heureux has top-20 skill level in this draft class. He makes things happen all the time. Usually it’s good things, but he’s also had some on-ice meltdowns that have led to suspensions. I think some of his issues are going to get corrected with maturity, but they’re a concern enough that I think it negatively impacts his stock. You have to have talent, which he does, but a team needs to be able to trust you to make good decisions. With four suspensions in one season, including one in which he spit on an opponent, there is enough there to give me pause. I think in other drafts, he might slip farther but if a team is confident in their ability to get the maturity issues in check, they’re going to feel better about drafting him.
34. Alexander Kisakov, LW, MHK Dynamo Moskva (MHL)
The second-leading scorer in the MHL this season, Kisakov took a gigantic leap from last season to this one. After putting up 18 points in 34 games in his U18 season, he exploded for 36 goals and 73 points. No U19 player in the league was within 17 points of him in terms of scoring. He handles pucks remarkably well. You can’t give this guy a bad pass because he’ll just corral it and get it to a dangerous position immediately. He has a nice one-timer, too, but is much better as a catch-and-shoot player. So why isn’t a guy with this statistical profile higher? He’s pretty slight at 5-10, 150 according to Central Scouting. The height isn’t a problem, but he has a ton of weight to tack on to be able to be counted on by NHL teams. So that requires a lot of time and patience, but it begs the question of how much he will ultimately be able to add.
35. Sean Behrens, D, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
Behrens is an especially heady defenseman who moves the puck well and is an expert at getting pucks out of his zone with either his feet or a good first pass. While he lacks the size to defend physically, that doesn’t prevent him from trying. This guy battles for everything he gets on the ice and will do whatever he can to disrupt the opposition. When he has the puck on his stick, he’s going to make effective plays and find lanes to make a good pass or get a shot through. He has some dynamic elements to his game, with great edge work and deceptive skating to evade pressure. He’s headed to the University of Denver where defensemen of a similar quality have rounded out their games, notably Will Butcher and Ian Mitchell. I think Behrens has a very favorable trajectory and considered him as a first-round grade.
36. Kirill Kirsanov, D, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
One of the elite defenders in this class. Kirsanov is a stopper, but he has the mobility and enough skill – at least in small doses – to make plays. I think being a young player getting significant time with the pro side as a U19 player has forced Kirsanov to focus on the details in his game and as a result, he’s become very effective. When he gets outside of the pro environment, like at the World Juniors or in SKA’s U20 team, he can dictate a little more. You look at his stat line and think there’s no way this guy can produce, but I think his tools say otherwise. That’s not to say he’s going to be viewed as an offensive defenseman. No way, he’s defense first and that will probably always be true, but I think it is very rare to find a player that young that is that detailed in everything he does on the ice.
37. Zach Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
A high hockey-sense and good work ethic has made Dean a dependable two-way center. His game doesn’t have much pace to it, but he’s still able to dissect defenses with his reads and ability to find the seams. Despite a lack of separation speed or dynamism, he’s effective. Providing the effort he does shift by shift is notable and allows him to make a significant impact at both ends of the ice. He played a ton of minutes down the stretch for Gatineau this season and is a reliable player. There just isn’t one thing about his game that blows you away.
38. Danila Klimovich, C/W, Minskie Zubry (Belarus U20)
One of the truly elite shooters in this draft, Klimovich spent all season in the Belarus U20 ranks which is not typically a place you’re drafting top-two-round talent out of. In a normal year, he probably would have been playing for Rouyn-Noranda, which drafted him in last year’s CHL import draft. He popped in a major way at the U18 Worlds, where he scored six goals and showed off an incredible release. Watching footage from his Belarus games, he also brings a lot of puck skill to the table, opening up space for himself. Klimovich also shoots like a lot of the modern goal scorers, with various blade angles and release points to maximize deception without giving away much on accuracy. He also has some good strength and protects pucks well. I want to see him challenged a bit more in the coming years, whether that’s in North American junior or playing professionally and Europe, but the tools are there for him to be something of a unique talent relative to the rest of this draft class.
39. Samu Salminen, C/W, Jokerit U20 (Finland U20)
Before the Finnish U20 league was shut down, Salminen was a dominant force with 10 goals and 26 points in just 17 games. Then he went to the World U18 Championship and captained Finland to fourth place, while scoring seven goals over seven games. He’s a big, aggressive forward with a good shot, especially off the pass. He doesn’t have tremendous skating ability, but his ability to create, using both skill and his big frame is unique among forwards in this draft. He’s a highly intelligent player who brings good effort to the ice each and every shift. Headed to the University of Denver eventually, he could be one of the next high-end Finns to make a big impact on college hockey.
40. Matthew Knies, LW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
It took him a while to get rolling this season, but once he did, he was tough to stop. Knies had four points in his first 13 games before going on a bit of a tear with 38 points in his next 31 games, which included an end-of-season run of points in 13 of his last 14 games. Knies is a big forward with an ability to get to the net and make plays in tight. He has a good shot, but also is a solid passer, making good reads with effective distribution. His ability to create trouble at the net-front also helped his teammates pick up the garbage if he didn’t bury it himself. For a big guy, there’s some nice fluidity in Knies’s game, without losing the edge. I think he’s much closer to the player he was at the end of the season than he was the player at the beginning of the year that struggled to score. I’m looking forward to seeing how he continues to round out his game at the University of Minnesota starting next season.
41. Simon Robertsson, RW, Skellefteå (SHL)
A gifted shooter with a heavy shot, Robertsson scored 15 goals in all competitions, while splitting time between Skellefteå’s U20 and pro teams this season, as well as a brief stint on loan in the third division. Robertsson had an underwhelming showing at the World U18 Championship where his inability to create with any consistency at the U18 level raised some concern. He does get after pucks though and has the strength to win battles along the walls. I don’t know that his goal scoring ability is so great that it makes up for what I think is below-average hockey sense, creativity and skating, but he has enough tools in total to challenge for a middle-six spot down the road.
42. Shai Buium, D, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
A big defenseman who can play in all situations, Buium made an early-season jump from Shattuck-St. Mary’s to Sioux City and managed to play 50 games with the Musketeers. Over the course of the season, he grew into the team’s most important blueliner, playing significant minutes. His skating stride needs some work, but Buium has good puck skills for a bigger player and made some nice plays over the course of the season. In his final game this year, according to InStat’s tracking, Buium played 34 minutes in a regulation game. You look at his start of the season to the finish and there was a ton of maturity in his game over that span as he took full advantage of the competition.
43. Ty Boucher, RW, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
A hard-nosed forward who can get in on the forecheck and create a lot of problems, Boucher appeared in just 14 games this season as injuries forced him out of the U.S. lineup. The Boston University-bound forward is the son of former NHL goalie Brian Boucher. In the 14 games he played, which included a couple of games with the NTDP’s U17 team that was shorthanded, Boucher had nine goals and 14 points. He has a tremendous motor and finds ways to win pucks even if he doesn’t get there first. Boucher’s goal scoring came in a variety of ways, off the rush, crashing the net and from distance. I don’t think he’ll necessarily be a goal scorer at the next level, but he has the skill to contribute on top of providing a high-end forechecking presence.
44. Cameron Whynot, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
A mobile defenseman with good size and solid offense instincts, Whynot is a true two-way defenseman who can contribute at both ends. His offensive skill is notable as he has a good shot and while he doesn’t have dynamic hand skills, he has poise and patience to let things open up for him. Defensively, Whynot engages physically and can win battles on the wall. As he gets stronger, he’s going to be even better in those 50-50 situations. In 34 games with Halifax, he had 23 points while logging massive minutes in all situations.
45. Justin Robidas, C, Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
A player who does pretty much everything at a fast pace, Robidas averaged better than a point per game on one of the QMJHL’s best teams. Though the Foreuers fell short of the title in the President’s Cup Final, Robidas was heavily involved in their pursuit of it. He had 36 points in 35 regular-season games and 10 in 14 postseason games. The son of former NHL defenseman Stephane Robidas has quick twitch skill and good skating that allows him to dart into space and get on pucks quickly. He brings good work-ethic to the ice as well, diminishing the impact of his relatively slight frame.
46. Ville Koivunen, RW, Kärpät U20 (Finland U20)
With a mix of higher-end work ethic and skill, Koivunen makes himself a very difficult player to play against. He put up big numbers in Finland’s top junior league and was a standout performer for the U18 team at Worlds. Koivunen is an especially heady player, who is excellent in puck protection and puck pursuit, using his frame well. He’ll be even more effective as he gets stronger. I think his down-low play is probably a separating factor for him among some other players on this list and a reason he may go even higher than I have him slotted here.
47. Stanislav Svozil, D, Kometa Brno (Czech)
Svozil showed what can do and why he looks like he’ll manage to reach the next level over the course of the season playing substantial minutes in the top pro league in his native Czech Republic. However, in his international tournaments, he failed to produce. At both the World Juniors and World Under-18s, Svozil struggled to make an impact for teams that desperately needed him to be a bigger factor offensively. I think his skating and overall puck skills are good, but he lacks finish. I don’t think you can discount the fact that he’s been a professional since he was 16, appearing in as many games prior to his 18th birthday as Jaromir Jagr did in the Czech Extraliga (tied for fifth all-time with 71 games played). I just worry about the finishing and completing plays and what that says about his overall hockey sense. The physical tools are there, I’m just not sure he’s got the sense at a level that’s going to guarantee his success.
48. Olen Zellweger, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
The next wave of defensemen is interesting. Zellweger had a breakout performance at the World U18 Championship where he ended up seeing more time on Canada’s top power play unit. His skating is a strength, as is his ability to retrieve pucks and make smart plays in the defensive zone. He moves pucks extremely well in general, with surehanded puck skills and poise to go with it. You’re betting big on the small sample this season provided with Zellweger, but with how productive he was both in the WHL and U18 Worlds, he made the most of that tight window.
49. Evan Nause, D, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Nause played huge minutes for Quebec this season, factoring in at both ends of the ice. He moves the puck well with a good sense of how to extend plays and give himself the time to make the right read and find the best option. Though he put up points this season, I’m not sure I would describe him as especially skilled. It doesn’t look flashy, but he’s effective. He has a pretty good shot as well, but is not going to be a reliable source of scoring from the back end. If you look at his whole body of work, from being a 16-year-old defenseman in the USHL last year with Sioux Falls, to making a seamless transition to being a top-pairing guy in the QMJHL, there’s a lot to like in where his game is headed.
50. Ayrton Martino, LW, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
Missing last year’s draft cutoff by two weeks, Martino made the most of his move to the USHL after two successful seasons in the OJHL. He averaged 1.47 points per game with the Lancers in 38 USHL games this season and challenged defenders in the league with his higher-end puck skills and agility. Headed to Clarkson next season, Martino will get the chance to sharpen his game away from the puck which still needs work. The upside that comes with skill like his, though, keeps him in the top 50 for me.
51. Scott Morrow, D, Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Prep)
A polarizing prospect between the public scouting world and the NHL, Morrow has some clear offensive tools and enticing characteristics. I’ve talked to some people that view him as a first-round talent and others that don’t have a ton of time for him. His six-game stint with Fargo in the playoffs didn’t exactly do him favors after a dominant showing with Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Offensively, there’s very little reservation as he has high-end puck skills and skates well enough to open things up a bit more. Defensively, as highlighted more during the Clark Cup Playoffs, that there is a lot of room for growth. I like Morrow’s attacking mindset in that he’s always trying to push things up ice, but I think the defensive work rate is going to give teams some pause. The offensive tools are notable and while most scouts I talked to wanted to see a full year of junior from him, he at least continued his progression while at SSM. Morrow was initially committed to North Dakota, but flipped commits recently to UMass, which has been a haven for defensemen over the last three years. I’ll be interested to see what they do with him while there because the physical tools and skills give a coach a lot to work with.
52. Wyatt Johnston, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
A center with good two-way skills, Johnston handled himself well in a depth role for Team Canada at the U18s, which was the only hockey he played this year. He could be used in tough matchups and often made things difficult on the opposition. Johnston does have quick hands and makes plays under pressure. On top of that, he was a productive rookie in the OHL last season with 30 points for Windsor. He could be a leading player for them next season, which would give him some great experience in an elevated role.
53. William Strömgren, LW, MODO (Allsvenskan)
An underwhelming World U18s where Strömgren should have been a more dominant force didn’t help his cause a ton, but there’s still a lot of upside in this player. Strömgren has size and there’s a good base of skills. He moves pretty well for a bigger player and has a nice shot, too. I do have some overall hockey sense concerns in terms of identifying and making the right plays on a consistent basis and at times he can struggle with games that have a little more pace to them. I think his physical foundation and overall skillset could see him picked higher in the draft, but the hockey sense concern for me was enough to hedge more on his projection.
54. Aleksi Heimosalmi, D, Ässät U20 (Finland U20)
Among defensemen in this draft, few walk the offensive blue line as well. Heimosalmi is an expert at extending plays and taking chances in the offensive zone. He has good vision and distribution skills, making a solid first pass. Defensively, he’s average and still needs to gain strength to be a more effective player. I like his footwork and offensive skill set and can see some upside with more sharpening of his defensive games.
55. Jack Peart, D, Fargo Force (USHL)
Peart split his time between Fargo and Grand Rapids (Minn.) High School, where he ended up being named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey. He returned to the Force to help them reach the Clark Cup Finals with seven points in nine postseason contests. He was dominant in the high school ranks, scoring 35 points in 18 games for Grand Rapids. Peart has crafty skill and plays the game cleverly, allowing himself to make easy plays. He reads situations well and knows when to take his chances. He skates reasonably well, though not necessarily a strength. With his offensive profile being what it is, he always seems to find a way to impact the game. Peart is headed to St. Cloud State where he should get a significant role early.
56. Dylan Duke, LW, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
One of the truly incredible net-front players in this draft, Duke does not have the prototypical size of a guy you expect to be doing damage near the net and below the goal line, but he takes it. His instincts near the net are impressive, then you combine that with a relentless competitiveness and quick hands around the net and you have a threatening player. Valid questions about Duke, however, are if there’s a lot more to his game. He’s not an especially good skater for his size and isn’t going to drive a lot of play, but he does have real offensive intelligence and know-how, which is why he scored 29 goals this season, almost all of which came from beneath the faceoff dots in the offensive zone. There are a lot of prospects that we dub natural goal scorers who score from distance, Duke does all of his damage in front and that’s a unique trait among his peers in this range.
57. Samuel Helenius, C, JYP (Liiga)
A massive, 6-foot-6 forward with offensive skill, Helenius would be a lot higher if he was a better skater. He had 14 points in 54 pro games this season with JYP and another four at the World Junior Championship. Helenius has good soft-touch skill, good vision and uses his frame remarkably well in puck protection. He also can be physical and is defensively responsible. All of those tools, on top of the size are why I have him as a top-three round pick despite the genuine skating concerns.
58. Tristan Broz, C, Fargo Force (USHL)
Broz has been a solid USHL player for the last two years, but he really took a step and played a leading role on a Fargo team that went to the Clark Cup Final this year. He was 12th in the USHL with 51 points in 54 games. He brings a work ethic and energy to each shift and makes plays. Broz is a solid scorer who takes advantage of his chances when he gets them, but he’s also a solid passer with outstanding offensive-zone awareness. He takes a lot of pucks to the net and finds ways to get inside defenses with his puck skills and extra effort. He lacks breakaway speed and probably could stand to be a bit quicker in general, but I think his awareness helps make up for that, to the point where I don’t view it as a large concern as I do for some other players in this draft.
59. Anton Olsson, D, Malmö (SHL)
A reliable defenseman who played most of the season in Sweden’s top pro league, Olsson was given an awful lot of responsibility for a 17-year-old blueliner. He averaged 11:15 per game, but there were several instances where he was getting top-four treatment from Malmö. He’s not a hulking defenseman by any means, but he defends well with good gap control and ability to angle off plays. The concern is that there’s minimal offensive upside and without rounding out his offensive game more, it may be tougher for him to find a spot. That said, he distributes the puck well enough in transition and can make the odd play in the offensive zone.
60. Oliver Kapanen, C, KalPa U20 (Finland U20)
Kapanen was a high-end producer in Finland’s U20 ranks this year, posting 41 points in 37 games. He is a forward that brings excellent effort and energy to every shift and works hard for his offense. Unfortunately at the World U18s, in his first game, he suffered a scary injury that saw him go head-first into the boards, leading him to be carted off on a stretcher. Thankfully there was no structural damage and he managed to return to play in three more games. His impact, however, was limited. So I didn’t get a great live look at him. On video, however, you’ll see a player who can play with solid pace for an average skater, scores a lot off the rush and has a great release, whether he’s on his forehand or backhand. He’s got some good overall tools and while he’s not a big guy, he plays sturdily with a good wide base.
61. Ryan Ufko, D, Chicago Steel (USHL)
The UMass-bound defenseman is going to require some patience from the team that drafts him, but 3-4 years of NCAA hockey could do a lot of good for a player with Ufko’s base of skills. He is a solid skater who plays the game more fluidly and with patience. Ufko has good passing abilities and helped aid a very strong transition game from Chicago. Defensively, he’s fine, though will need to get a stronger lower half to defend more effectively. His poise with the puck stands out and he’s going to a solid program where he should develop even further after impressing with the champion Chicago Steel.
62. Guillaume Richard, D, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
You’re not going to get a ton of offense out of Richard, but he does play a reliable defensive game that is both mature and confident. Richard logged big minutes for Tri-City this year and played a key role for Canada’s gold-medal team at the World U18s. Richard makes a good first pass and while there isn’t a single flashy thing about his game, he’s effective. Headed to Providence next season, he’ll go into a system where his skill set should thrive and where he’ll be able to sharpen those defensive skills while getting stronger and playing an even harder-nosed brand of hockey.
63. Chase Stillman, RW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Stillman is an energetic player who looks like he has a bottom-six profile. His defensive play and forechecking are both solid, with the latter being one of his best attributes. Stillman played in some games in the Danish U20 league, which he dominated in to such a degree that it didn’t have a ton of value as an evaluation tool. It put a little more on the U18, where he was a very effective bottom-six player who got in on the offense every now and again. Those games, Stillman showed he has offensive capabilities, but his value is in the way he competes and makes things more difficult for the opposition. I expect he’ll return to the OHL next season and be a highly productive player, though.
64. Janis Jérôme Moser, D, Biel-Bienne (Switzerland)
A 21-year-old defenseman who put together the third-highest point total for a U22 defenseman in Swiss NLA history, Moser has been passed over in multiple drafts and just had his big breakout. He also played for Switzerland at the Men’s World Championship where he played decent minutes and managed two assists over seven games. Moser is a good puck mover and has a solid shot from the point. His skating is fair. Whoever drafts him could potentially move him right into their AHL roster as his contract is currently up in Switzerland and he sounds eager to come over following his dramatic uptick in production as Biel-Bienne’s captain.
65. Nolan Allan, D, Prince Albert (WHL)
A physical, low-offense defenseman, Allan plays his position very well. He closes gaps, makes smart reads and can he ever lower the boom when needed. Allan has good mobility, too, which makes all those other traits more impactful for him. He is so tough to beat in the hard areas of the ice, using either his length or his mobility to get position and then using his strength to displace the puck. My concern, however, is that the offense is never going to come around and if it doesn’t, that makes it harder to climb the ladder.
66. Conner Roulette, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
What I like about Roulette is he is an effort above skill player. He uses his excellent forechecking abilities and reads to create disruption and then he pounces. After that, you must have the skill to finish, which he does. I think Roulette would be even more effective if he were a stronger skater. His style might not fit as well in higher-paced games or against defenders that move more quickly. That said, he’s such an effective poacher, pouncing on loose pucks, getting into space and finding a play to make. His ability to fight through contact and make plays under duress all help limit the concern about his average to below-average skating.
67. Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
After an impressive rookie season in the OHL, Harrison spent part of this season playing in Finland before returning to be part of Canada’s team at the World U18s. He performed well in Finland’s junior ranks where he clearly had a size and strength advantage. Harrison scored goals and was able to be a highly productive center. At the U18s, he settled into a depth role for Canada and I’m not sure he ever took charge. He wasn’t driving play much and I didn’t see an especially strong defensive value in his game there. The circumstances of the season and then his role with Canada didn’t allow him to flourish quite the way I personally expected, but he’ll be one worth watching further as I don’t think we ever saw him at the top of his game this season.
68. Olivier Nadeau, RW, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
He’s an awfully big forward with the offensive know-how to go along with it. The big issue with Nadeau at this point is that he has a plodding stride that makes it more difficult for him to create any separation or win footraces. What I do like about him, though, is he is nails at the net front. He can get body position and has the skill to make plays in those tight spaces. He also has a good shot to beat goaltenders from distance, though most of his goals come from close in. Also, a number of his assists this year came right off contested pucks that he won and was able to quickly transition to offense for his team. That versatility in his offensive game, especially with his ability to take pucks hard to the net and make plays is going to give him a chance assuming he gets some extra jump soon.
69. Jakub Brabenec, C/W, Kometa Brno (Czech)
It’s tough for a younger player to stand out in the Czech league, but Brabenec played fourth line and occasionally middle-six minutes for one of the top clubs in his homeland. Internationally, playing against his age peers, is where Brabenec seemed to stand out most. He put up points in international friendlies against Slovakia and at the World U18 Championship, he was one of the Czechs most consistent threats offensively. He has good size with a frame to build on. You could see the benefit playing against pros for Brabenec with how much better use he made of his time and space when playing against fellow U18s. His skating is fine, not amazing. Meanwhile, Brabenec is more of a pass-first player, but when he does take a shot, he’s got a pretty good one. Brabenec is another one of those players with a lot of good tools, with essentially no standout trait. Also of note, Brabenec was born just a few days shy of the draft cut off, making him one of the draft’s youngest players.
70. Aidan Hreschuk, D, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
Hreschuk has been highly touted in the American 2003 birth year for some time now and has been one of the top players. Though he didn’t quite break out over the two seasons at the NTDP, he was an especially effective two-way defenseman who played his position proficiently enough to be a heavily relied on blueliner. He played big minutes at the U18 World Championship and was often cleaning up messes on a team that struggled in the tournament and doing it well. He did have 37 points for the NTDP last season, a fairly high figure for a blueliner there. Hreschuk is one of those players who doesn’t necessarily have one standout trait, but is adequate to good at a lot of them with mobility and passing among his best attributes. I think he’s going to do well at Boston College, possibly stay all four years and have an NHL contract waiting for him.
71. Riley Kidney, C, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Kidney is a player I warmed to late in the process after watching footage of his playoff games. Among players with over five games in the postseason, Kidney was tied with Devils prospect Dawson Mercer for top points per game with 1.89. He is an expert playmaker who can slow the game down when he needs to and is a pinpoint passer. He has an average shot and his skating, while not blazing, is quick enough. The hockey sense really stands out for me, which is why I think he was so good at creating offense this season.
72. Red Savage, C, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
Savage had a breakout season, putting up 42 points in 46 games with the U.S. National Under-18 Team. He captained Team USA at the World U18 Championship, setting a tone early in the tournament with his incredible forechecking, defensive play and all-out work ethic. It is those traits that will get him drafted more than his offensive. He’s a warrior of a player and helped that U.S. team set the tone in games. The son of former NHLer Brian Savage will be following in his father’s footsteps to Miami University next season.
73. Josh Lopina, C, UMass (Hockey East)
A key player as a freshman on the national champion UMass team, Lopina is a two-way center who likely can play down the lineup. He has an excellent motor and competitiveness and plays detailed, defensive hockey. There’s enough offense there to get him by and give him a chance to play in the NHL. He is a third-year eligible player, so you get a better picture of his physical profile and NHL timeline. While he was a top-six player at UMass, I think his skill set suggests depth forward as he progresses. I still think he does all of the little things you need players to do to help you win games with his defensive responsibility, physical aggressiveness and enough skill to contribute the odd point.
74. Josh Doan, RW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
Perhaps one of the most improved players in the USHL year-over-year, Doan fit right in with the elite offensive game that the Steel played this season. He saw a 56-point improvement in his point production from his USHL rookie season. It’s dramatic. Doan’s size and physicality are a factor, especially along the walls or other highly contested areas. Meanwhile, he’s developed nice touch in near the net, scoring 31 goals this season. A second-year eligible, Doan will be headed to Arizona State University next season.
75. Carter Mazur, LW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
After watching several games of Matthew Knies, Mazur kept catching my eye. As a second-year eligible, he broke out this season in the USHL, jumping from 13 points as a rookie to 44 this season as the Tri-City captain. Mazur is a solid skater and has a good work ethic down low. The thing I like best about him is how often he gets himself to the middle for a better shot. You look at his InStat shot chart and most of it comes from between the faceoff dots and as you watch more of him, you see how often he’s making a play to get inside. I think that was a big key to his success in his second draft year. Headed to the University of Denver next season, I think he’s going to be a strong college player. If teams don’t get him now in the draft, I suspect they’ll be looking at him as a potential college UFA down the line.
76. Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Outside of the top two goalies in this class, Gaudreau seems to have the most pro potential of the rest of the field. He has good size and plays a controlled, confident game between the pipes. His only games this season were in the U18 World Championship where he backstopped Canada to gold. There’s a high-risk value in taking a goaltender who essentially missed an entire season of live reps, but his body of work is such that he deserves to be the third goaltender off the board.
77. Vladislav Lukashevich, D, Yaroslavl (MHL)
I was really hoping to see Lukashevich at the U18s, but he was injured and unable to attend. He is a combination of a lot of raw ability, strong skating and a growing offensive game. Lukashevich is tall and lanky, but has breezy skating ability and especially good hand skills for a defenseman. He moves pucks with ease and has a nice release on his shot. Lukashevich had 19 points in 36 games in Russia’s top U20 circuit, a 13-point improvement from his rookie season. To be playing that proficiently at 17 stands out, but there are enough concerns mixed in – like his overall defensive sense – that leave me with some questions. I think there’s a player in there, though.
78. Joshua Roy, RW, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
He is one of the better outside shooters in this draft, which scored him a lot of goals in junior hockey. The question I have, and I know scouts do too, is if he’s too much on the perimeter to be an effective player at the next level. Those outside shots have no trouble beating QMJHL goalies, but they’re not going to get the job done at the next level. He’s a highly productive player, but his skating needs work. If he can get more of an inside presence as he progresses, that will help him. The shot tool is elite, however, which is why I still think he could be a top-three-round pick.
79. Dmitri Kostenko, D, Lada Togliatti (VHL)
Kostenko impressed enough over the course of the season to earn a KHL contract with Spartak Moscow. He spent a good chunk of this season in Russia’s second division and while he’s not the thickest defenseman, he plays the game hard. Kostenko is a very good skater who can get out of trouble or hop into plays. He moves the puck well and has a high level of competitiveness that works to his advantage both offensively and defensively. On the offensive side of things, I like his ability to fight through pressure and stick checks while maintaining control to try to make a play. He also escapes the zone well and finds good outlets. Born 10 days after last year’s draft cutoff, he was a young pro this year and should be up for a good challenge in the KHL next season.
80. Colton Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
The younger brother of 2019 third-overall pick Kirby Dach, Colton has the same big frame, which he uses well. Dach’s standout tool is probably his shot as he can absolutely let it fly. He scored 11 goals in 20 WHL games this season and is just as effective at the net front as he is with outside shots. The issue with Dach is his skating is not at a level that projects very favorably to NHL regular. I think the hands and his size can carry him a bit, he seems to have pretty good hockey sense if not spectacular. But the stride is heavy and that could scare teams away even in a draft where there’s not a ton of high-end skating talent.
81. Ty Gallagher, D, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
With an absolute bomb of a shot and an eagerness to shoot, he’s one of the more active defensemen on an offensive blue line. He became the NTDP’s all-time leading goal scorer among defensemen this season with 25 over two seasons including 14 in 2020-21. While that tool is significant, Gallagher’s defensive game lacks detail and proficiency. He can be guilty of over pursuit and making bad reads, which leaves me some concern about his overall hockey sense. There are still some physical tools he can expand on as he gets better.
82. Ryan Winterton, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
The only games we got to see of Winterton this year were at the World U18s, but I also liked the film of him I watched from last season as a U17 in the OHL. He has good hockey sense and plays hard. There’s some good offensive talent in there, but not so much that he’s going to be a high-end producer. He looks more like a guy who will be fighting to be a depth player at the next level, but his on-ice work ethic should carry him.
83. Ethan Del Mastro, D, Mississauga (OHL)
Del Mastro played his way into a top-four role with Canada at the World U18s and played especially well in the biggest games. Those tournament contests ended up being the only games he played this year. I liked his mobility, the physicality he played with and how he could disrupt the attacking team in his own zone. He makes a good first pass, but there’s not a lot of offense in his game. Without that offensive element, it may be more difficult for him to find a place, but that solid defensive foundation gives him something to build off of.
84. Lorenzo Canonica, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Canonica has some nice puck skills and vision. His first foray in North America had its ups and downs as he adjusted to his time in the QMJHL. He also got a chance to play for Switzerland at the World Juniors where he held his own on a relatively weak team. My sense is that with a normal season and normal development timeline, Canonica will make good on the upside a player of his skill level suggests. His passing ability, especially on the rush is particularly good and he has a playmaker’s confidence with the puck on his stick, showing good patience. I’d like to see what he looks like with a full season in North America next season after making the jump after the WJC at midseason, but have seen enough to feel he should be drafted.
85. Jackson Blake, RW, Eden Prairie (MN-HS)
He’ll be a hero in Eden Prairie, Minn., for the rest of his life after scoring an overtime game-winner for the Eagles in the Minnesota Boys’ state championship game. He also scored the game-winning goal in the Clark Cup-clinching win for the Chicago Steel after joining the team upon the conclusion of his high school season. Basically, it was a very, very good year for Jackson Blake, who is the son of longtime NHLer Jason Blake. The younger Blake has good puck skills and was dominant in the high school ranks. He is on the smaller side, but has good quickness and offensive know-how. Committed to the University of North Dakota, he’ll likely stick for another year in the USHL before heading to Grand Forks and it should do him some good, too.
86. Niko Huuhtanen, RW, Tappara U20 (Finland U20)
Huuhtanen plays a heavy game and is a heavy player in general. Listed at 6-1, 203, he is so hard to move off the puck. His skating stride is heavy, too, which may hold him back. Despite that, he had 34 points in Finland’s top U20 league and another five points in seven games at the World U18s. Huuhtanen brings a physical edge, a net-front presence and a great shot. He can score from in tight or distance. He’s probably physically ready to play with and against men in Finland’s top league if he can earn a spot. He’s a physically dominant player at the U20 level currently.
87. Liam Gilmartin, LW, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
A heavy forward who brings a solid motor and physicality to his game, Gilmartin is a very north-south player. He has just enough skill to keep teams honest, but it’s his aggressive forechecking and good-enough defensive play that will get him drafted. There isn’t a ton of finish in his game yet, which has to come for him to challenge to play NHL minutes. Gilmartin comes from a military family and initially was slated to attend Providence College, but recently signed with the OHL’s London Knights instead. With his skating and physicality, he could one day round out into a depth forward.
88. Daniil Lazutin, C, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
A two-way center with some offensive pop when he’s on top of his game, his numbers never showed that this year after he showed some impressive flashes in his U17 season. In fact, his numbers dipped this season in the MHL. He looked a little more like the Lazutin of a season ago at the World U18s, where he managed to earn more ice time as the tournament progressed, playing in key situations. He has a decent burst in his skating to create some separation and then his hand skills are quick for a big guy. I’m just not sure he’s put it all together quite yet. I’ll be interested to watch his progression, but that statistical profile is underwhelming.
89. Roman Schmidt, D, U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
A massive defenseman with plenty of raw potential, Schmidt has good mobility for a player his size. He shows flashes of pro upside with some of his physical tools, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on his overall game. His defensive reads lack maturity yet and he needs to add more physical edge. Offensively, he’s still a ways away from realizing his full potential. I have moderate hockey sense concerns, but I think the physical profile he possesses, with a good base of skating, I think he has a long-range pro trajectory that will require patience and a whole lot of development. There is enough there for me, however, to take that chance on him in the middle rounds. Previously committed to Boston University, Schmidt recently signed with Kitchener in the OHL.
90. Bennet Rossmy, C/W, Lausitzer (Germany 2)
This happens every World U18 Championship. A player catches my eye there and intrigues me enough to keep digging. This year, that player was Rossmy. A big forward who stood out in a positive way regardless of the quality of Germany’s opponent, Rossmy found ways to impact the game. Usually it was with his physical play, with several booming body checks and a couple of 10-minute misconducts, too. Rossmy generated a ton of shots on goal, too. After starting the year in the Czech Republic, he returned to his native Germany where he played for second division club Lausitzer Füchse where he appeared in 46 games. No U18 player in the history of that league has had more than eight points prior to this season. Rossmy finished the year with 16 points, playing middle-six minutes. He was signed by Eisbaren Berlin, but likely will remain in the second division next year. With his size, his competitiveness and some keen scoring ability that can be sharpened, I had to list him. There’s a good chance no one takes him, but I felt strongly enough about what I’ve seen from him that I wanted to make sure he was on the list.
HM. Artyom Grushnikov, D, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
If Grushnikov had played this year, I’d imagine he would have been listed way higher than I have him here. There are just too many variables for a player that missed an entire season. It was going to be his first in North America, which would have given us a lot to learn about where his game is relative to the advanced level it appeared to be at over the last two seasons. He was on Russia’s U17 team as a U16, appeared in U18 games as a U17 and was playing top-level Russian junior hockey at 16 years old. That’s all impressive and suggests a high level of both maturity and talent. Teams will have the resources to dig in more and I’m certain he will go much higher than I have him, but there’s enough I don’t know based on the lost season.
Coming soon, I will make a separate list of late-round caliber players that I like, but did not list. I’ll also take a deeper look at the goaltenders available in this draft and other prospects to know.