The 2020 NHL Draft changed into as soon as surrounded by uncertainty. With the COVID-19 pandemic taking on the realm, the when, where and how concerning the draft changed into as soon as set into inquire of. On the opposite hand, who would go No. 1 general changed into as soon as never doubtful. Alexis Lafrenière came into the season because the tip seize, and that’s precisely where he went.
Now, the 2021 model faces many of the identical obstacles — and more. Plus, it couldn’t be any more totally different on the tip waste. Looking out in opposition to the July draft, uncertainty abounds on and off the ice. All over any other time, the when, where and how appear like up in the air. This time round, on the opposite hand, there’s also a inquire of of who.
Depending on who you quiz and where you peek, the chase for No. 1 in 2021 is huge originate. Coming into the season, Finland’s Aatu Räty regarded to protect the frontrunner situation nonetheless under no circumstances had it locked down. Months into the season, he’s no longer handiest misplaced his grip on that situation nonetheless it seems to be out of his care for shut. Nowadays, there are as many as 10 avid gamers who hang emerged as candidates. Some is prone to be more likely than others nonetheless at this level none of these names going No. 1 would maybe well be frightful.
Here are FCHockey’s 10 candidates(alphabetically) for the No. 1 situation on the 2021 NHL Draft.
2021 NHL Draft: 10 potentialities for No. 1
Matthew Beniers, C, College of Michigan (NCAA)
FCHockey’s 2021 NHL Draft rating: 7
Beniers has broken into the NCAA with the Michigan Wolverines and is forcing the hockey world to prefer inquire of alongside two other draft-eligibles that are also on this checklist. For years, Beniers has been quietly impressive, steadily serving because the youngest player on his group whereas being a key decide. An instance of this changed into as soon as his standout efficiency on the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, where Beniers changed into as soon as the lone draft-eligible on Team USA and helped lead the squad to the gold medal.
For those that hadn’t considered him play in the NCAA, this changed into as soon as a coming-out occasion for the centerman.
WORLD JUNIORS 2021: USA shocks Canada for gold
He’s a huge riser in FCHockey’s as much as this level draft rankings thanks in portion to performances at both the college degree and World Juniors stage.
“Whether or no longer on the abolish or at even energy, his skill to protect the puck out of his have zone, by means of the neutral zone and into the offensive zone is amazing,” FCHockey’s Derek Neumeier acknowledged in a most up-to-date scouting document. “It’s uncommon to learn about any individual so aggressive and defensively detailed hang such an even pair of arms. He never seems to be out of situation or pondering a step in the aid of the play in any zone or in any situation.
“His offensive vision is successfully above average, as he can originate up chase dwelling in conjunction along with his teammates and create good little passes in beefy flight.”
Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL) on mortgage with HC Nove Zamky (Slovakia)
FCHockey irascible: 6
One of many main contenders to hear his name called first in the 2021 NHL Draft, Clarke hasn’t earned mighty dialogue this season with the Ontario Hockey League yet to drop the puck. To protect himself on the radar, he headed to Slovakia’s HC Nove Zamsky where he’s been a standout at age 17. Early on, he’s confirmed some impressive flashes in the males’s league.
Barely just a few Clarke’s pedigree comes in what he changed into as soon as ready to entire the past two seasons, despite the indisputable truth that. In 2019-20, Clarke led all beginners with 38 facets (six dreams, 32 assists) and being named to the league’s First All-Rookie Team.
“His passing transition sport is incredible,” noted FCHockey’s regional scout Joel Henderson. “When the puck is on his stick, he has his head up and steadily confirmed his skill to create tape to tape passes peek easy whether they had been crisp or softer and weighted.
“Combining his puck protection in the offensive zone along with his skill to learn about passing lanes originate up and he would maybe well also simply furthermore be very unhealthy by becoming a member of that chase.”
Simon Edvinsson, D, Frölunda HC (SHL)
FCHockey irascible: 4
After starting the season as a major in the J20 Nationell with Frölunda HC J20, Edvinsson has carved out a role for himself on the SHL degree — granted in a restricted role most games. Sweden cancelled the J20 leagues for the season, so Edvinsson making himself at dwelling in a single of essentially the most efficient leagues in the realm is promising.
Usually left in the aid of just a few of the opposite defenders on this class, Edvinsson has change into a severe contender for the tip of the 2021 draft. The mobile blueliner presentations promise in his have waste and extraordinary skill in the opposite two zones. First general is terribly mighty interior his reach.
“Edvinsson is ready to generate speed fleet and with out considerations with fair appropriate just a few long strides whereas also demonstrating huge support watch over along with his edges, the utilization of crossovers to fleet switch direction whereas carrying the puck or strolling the blue line,” Brandon Holmes, a video scout with FCHockey, acknowledged. “The transitional upside with Edvinsson is huge, as he’s easiest on the ice at intriguing pucks up the ice and securing zone exits and entries with support watch over.
“He consistently has his head up whereas handling the puck and does a amazing job at evading tension from oncoming forecheckers, the utilization of his edge work, puck abilities, and long reach to convey faraway from opposing attackers.”
William Eklund, C, Djurgårdens (SHL)
FCHockey irascible: 5
One more Swedish player that has been turning heads this season, Eklund would maybe well also simply fair appropriate be the largest draft-eligible riser early in the season. He’s been stellar in his play, carving out a high-six role for himself with the SHL’s Djurgårdens, an extremely impressive success.
Eklund would hang furthered his stand up draft boards with a situation on the 2021 World Juniors, nonetheless a particular COVID-19 test held him out. As an alternative, he returned to Djurgårdens and continued to provoke in a single of essentially the most efficient leagues in the realm.
“(Eklund) has taken huge strides forward in his sport since final season, which is always an even designate for a prospect’s long-term trend,” acknowledged Neumeier. “He’s a truly expert, versatile, and reputable player, who has many totally different formula to his sport.
“His hockey sense is perchance his single most efficient asset, as he seems to be like fair appropriate at dwelling on the decent degree in opposition to avid gamers mighty older than him. He never seems to be misplaced in the play or overwhelmed by it, so he’s rarely a criminal responsibility.”
Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) on mortgage with Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)
FCHockey irascible: 9
There’s an argument to be made that Guenther’s situation on this checklist is most impressive, as a result of the indisputable truth that he’s done fair appropriate four games this season with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Each the WHL and the AJHL aren’t having fun with fair appropriate now, making it very refined for him to spice up his draft stock.
The left winger’s 2019-20 marketing and marketing campaign — and 4 AJHL suits — hang earned him recognition as one of the tip avid gamers on this class. With the Edmonton Oil Kings final season, he racked up 59 facets (26 dreams, 33 assists) in 58 games, incomes the Jim Piggott Trophy because the Rookie of the Twelve months.
“He’s a excessive-octane offensive player who carries pucks in beautiful positions and the arms to interrupt ankles by intellectual easy the trend to deceive opponents and exploit weaknesses,” reported FCHockey’s head Western scout Justin Froese. “He can hang plays at speed with the puck and has the layers to his sport that allow him to situationally be in huge spots to create plays or score originate to time a route.
“Defensively there’s a starvation to score the puck and turn over play which he makes employ of an even stick and sprinkles in some physicality to create so.”
Luke Hughes, D, US-NTDP (USHL)
FCHockey irascible: 1
The name Hughes has earned some clout in the NHL already, as a result of the excessive alternatives of Quinn and Jack — Luke’s older brothers. The youngest Hughes has a truly beautiful chance to hear his name nearer to Jack’s draft situation (No. 1 in 2019) than Quinn’s (No. 7 in 2018). Luke is even one of the youngest avid gamers eligible on this draft, fair appropriate days faraway from being 2022-eligible.
A jog-setter on the U.S. Under-18 Nationwide Team, Hughes stands out as a puck-intriguing defenseman that the NHL has considered taking on the league in most up-to-date years. The College of Michigan commit is having fun with at over a level-per-sport tempo this season, and as a minimal seems to be like like a high-5 seize on this class.
“Hughes is a soft-skating, expert offensive aid who presentations an inconceivable skill to be a excessive-waste playmaker and puck mover,” acknowledged Dylan Galloway, FCHockey’s head Japanese scout. “He plays a dynamic offensively minded sport showing a penchant to jump up into the play and drive the transition with managed exits and entries.
“Hughes’ skating is type of agile and fluid. He alters edges assuredly and would maybe perchance twist and turn to lead obvious of opponents with relative ease.”
Kent Johnson, LW, College of Michigan (NCAA)
FCHockey irascible: 8
There had been some questions about Johnson coming into the season, centering round his making the transfer from the second-tier BCHL to the NCAA — a truly huge jump in the case of competition. Johnson has fleet set those questions to bed, impressing with highlight reel-degree plays in opposition to the refined competition.
Johnson would maybe well fair appropriate be essentially the most expert forward on this class. He oozes creativity with the arms and ft that can support up along with his mind. His instincts are by means of the roof and for that, he would maybe well be the tip forward in the class.
“Extremely artistic winger who excels at being dynamic offensively and making highly expert plays peek easy,” Galloway wrote. “The wonderful word to describe Jonson is artistic, his skill to create appropriate in the aid of the aid passes peek typical and easy changed into as soon as impressive.
“Johnson’s skill to hang these plays is by means of his innate skill to learn in regards to the ice and how avid gamers are intriguing round it.”
Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL) on mortgage with JYP U20 (U20 SM-sarja)
FCHockey irascible: 16
One more prospect that changed into as soon as buying for ice this season, Lambos headed foreign places to Finland to affix JYP U20 in the U20 SM-sarja. Lambos is prone to be fair a little more of a shadowy horse at this level, nonetheless with a stable second half to his season, he would maybe well totally obtain himself atop the draft board.
Coming into 2020-21, Lambos earned his situation as one of the tip defenders in the class as a result of 32 facets (eight dreams, 24 assists) in 57 games as a rookie final season with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. He also had a stable efficiency on the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Self-discipline.
“His sport is centered round his mobility which permits him to govern the tempo of transitions and pare down offensive alternatives for opponents,” acknowledged Froese. “He’s received counterfeit layers interior his sport and would maybe perchance con opponents into taking unlucky routes to pin him down.
“Whereas his offensive play is now and then explosive and he can manipulate dwelling along with his mobility and counterfeit data, he plays somewhat accountable interior motive and simply manages the sport.”
Owen Energy, D, College of Michigan (NCAA)
FCHockey irascible: 3
Beniers and Johnson aren’t the handiest draft-eligibles turning heads with the Wolverines. Energy, 6-5 and 214 pounds, is barely appropriate there with them — and arguably above them. The defenseman came into the season as one of the tip potentialities as a result of his 40 facets (12 dreams, 28 assists) and defenseman of the year efficiency with the USHL’s Chicago Steel in 2019-20.
Now in the NCAA, Energy has slid into the stronger, sooner competition successfully, conserving on to his situation as a high prospect on this class. Along side Clarke, Energy would maybe well totally be a entrance runner for the first-general selection.
“He’s an prominent skater, no longer fair appropriate for his broad frame, showing huge dynamic posture and soft edgework to plot and protect his speed,” reported FCHockey scout Joseph Aleong. “Confident and efficient whereas intriguing the puck, keeping it straightforward with hasty retail outlets and showing beautiful patience whereas under tension.
“His consciousness shines by means of in his skill to jump into originate ice on offense and is huge at controlling the puck along the blue line and altering the angle of his shot to originate up a lane to the obtain.
Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF (SHL)
FCHockey irascible: 2
After Spencer Knight and Yaroslav Askarov flirted with the tip-10 in the final two drafts, Wallstedt would maybe well fair appropriate be the one to create it in 2021. The goaltender is no longer fair appropriate spending his draft-eligible season in the SHL, nonetheless he’s stolen the starting role and has been excelling in it.
Goaltenders having fun with in males’s leagues of their draft-eligible seasons have a tendency to create totally of their NHL careers, and it’s rarely that the league they’re having fun with in is one of essentially the most efficient in the realm. There’s a stable possibility Wallstedt would maybe well be the first name off the board in the 2021 draft — no longer fair appropriate the first goaltender selected.
“His huge size and tight positioning allow him to naturally conceal an huge portion of the obtain, even when he drops to his knees,” Neumeier acknowledged in a scouting document from the World Juniors. “There are no wasted actions, and he doesn’t score scrambly when traffic involves his crease.
“He holds his posts successfully and covers the decrease obtain to disclaim jam plays. His rebound support watch over is incredibly stepped forward for a goaltender of his age.”
Josh Bell is a scout and the director of deliver for FCHockey.