Welcome to, July? And wait, welcome to NHL Draft season?
Yes, in this truly strange season we’ve had, we are just under three weeks away from night one of the draft. Even including last season, this will be a draft like no other.
We are about to have a draft in which an entire league (the Ontario Hockey League) didn’t have a season. We’re going to see players get called who haven’t played in an actual game in over a year. Think for a minute about the magnitude of that.
Teams will certainly be familiar with the players eligible to be drafted. They’ll have seen them in previous seasons. They’ll also have video and other means to use when trying to evaluate a prospect. But this truly is a unique draft.
Related: The 2021 THW NHL Draft Guide
Last season, the season was put on pause. There were some games to fall back on. It’s not as simple this time around. Some players went overseas to play. Some didn’t play but had access to more training time depending upon their location. This draft is going to be full of “surprises.” It’s going to start in round one as well. Outside of say the first 10-15 players, rankings are going to be wildly different based on the team.
It’s for that reason that we are treating the “Do Not Draft” list differently this time around. We normally share upwards of 10 or more prospects that we wouldn’t draft given where the consensus says they’re going. But with so much uncertainty about where players actually are, it’s much more difficult to create a big list.
This season, we will share five players with you that will all get drafted and get drafted very high. But we will tell you why we wouldn’t draft them in a certain range or spot. This list isn’t saying do not draft the player at all. It hopefully will give you some insight into decisions teams must make when choosing someone.
Let’s get started. And let’s jump right into the deep end of the pool, shall we?
The 2021 “Do Not Draft” List
Owen Power – University of Michigan
Projected: First overall.
Our suggestion: Do not draft first overall.
Let’s clear something up before you all take issue with this and throw tomatoes my way. I do ultimately think Power is the first pick by the Buffalo Sabres and he will be a huge part of helping them get back on the right track. He’s a good player and perhaps the best player available. I would have no issue if he goes first.
But let’s step back for a second. Imagine you are GM Kevyn Adams and the Sabres. Is this as slam dunk a pick as many are making it out to be?
For starters, as of late this past week, Power admitted to not having any conversation with the Sabres yet. I don’t know about you but that seems unusual for someone expected to go first overall.
The Sabres have been busy with several things including finding their next full-time head coach and trying to figure out what happens with their star Jack Eichel. So maybe a meeting is in the works upcoming. But you’d still expect to have some conversation before.
Now add that Power is leaning towards a return to Michigan. That’s great for his development. But what if part of this rationale is he doesn’t want to be drafted by the Sabres? It’s not completely out of the question given how tough things have been the last decade.
Power showed he’s ready for the NHL based on his play at the World Championships. He didn’t look out of place. Now he possibly leans toward going back to school as opposed to starting in the NHL. Interesting.
If I’m the Sabres, I better be sure the player I’m selecting in that spot wants to be there eventually. You don’t often hear of the projected top pick leaning towards going back to school. It’s something to definitely watch as we get closer to the draft.
But wait there’s more. The Sabres already have Rasmus Dahlin. They also might not have Eichel or Sam Reinhart moving forward. That’s a huge hole up the middle of the ice that needs filled. Might the Sabres look at Power’s teammate Matty Beniers? Although it’s a minority opinion, some believe that Beniers could go first overall.
What do you do if you’re the Sabres here? Are you better off with Dahlin/Power or Dahlin/top forward? This situation could warrant the Sabres looking away from Power. Personally with Dahlin in the fold and forward being a huge need, I’d go Beniers or even William Eklund first overall. Power isn’t as big a runaway as previous first overall picks. If the Sabres do pass, that’s the Seattle Kraken’s gain. I still think Power goes to the Sabres, but I’m not as confident in it as others are.
Simon Edvinsson – Frolunda
Projected: Potential top-10 pick.
Our Suggestion: Do not draft in the top-10.
Edvinsson is one of the most interesting and divisive prospects in this draft. There are some teams that see him as a top-five talent while others see him outside the top-10 or worse. Every year at least one prospect seems to find themselves splitting the scouting community. It depends what you believe in.
My rule of thumb is simple. To draft someone in the top-five, you need to be 100% sure of what you’re getting. While there is plenty to like about Edvinsson, there’s significant questions about his upside and if he can obtain it.
Let’s start with the good. Edvinsson is as good a puck mover as there is out there for someone who is already 6-foot-4. On tape, two things stand out: His confidence with the puck and his hands. When he’s on, it’s actually beautiful to watch. He draws comparisons to Victor Hedman for what he can do on both ends of the ice.
But on the other end, there are times that I am left wanting more knowing Edvinsson has the talent. It just seems to me he doesn’t know how good he can be and is still trying to figure that out. That has led to stretches of inconsistent play that make you think he won’t reach his potential.
The thing I want to see improve is his shot. For someone as big as Edvinsson is with the hands he has, I’d expect to see a more dynamic shot. This is especially important on a power play if he’s the quarterback. That shot needs to be a threat. Right now it’s not a threat. He knows he needs to improve there.
Teams at the top of the draft who are in the market for a defenseman are going to have to make a decision between the big-four of Edvinsson, Power, Luke Hughes and Brandt Clarke. Hughes and Clarke might not have the full upside Edvinsson has, but their floors are higher. I expect Edvinsson to go high maybe even inside the top-five if a team truly believes in the hype. But he also has the biggest “bust” potential of the group.
Edvinsson checks in at 11th on my list just outside the top-10. This factors in the risk he carries. If he figures things out it will make this call silly. But in the top-five, I want the safer player.
I’d take Hughes and Clarke over Edvinsson. I’d also take Eklund, Beniers, Kent Johnson, Mason McTavish, Jesper Wallstadt, Dylan Guenther, Chaz Lucius and Cole Sillinger over him too.
Aatu Raty – Karpat
Projected: Middle of the first round.
Our suggestion: Do not draft in the top-20.
Remember a time when Raty was projected to be the first pick of this draft? Those were the days. Now we have a prospect who has not only fallen down the rankings, we have someone we’re not quite sure what to make of yet.
It’s truly a stunning fall from grace for someone thought to be the best in his age group. The question on the minds of many is where did it all go wrong?
Just to put some perspective on this situation, Raty’s points per game was at a higher rate back in 2018-19 than both Aleksander Barkov and Mikko Rantanen. He was dominant offensively. But as it is turning out, this dominance covered up some major warts in his game as he started playing at higher levels.
Raty’s decision making and play away from the puck are major questions. He no longer puts himself in good scoring position while trying to force plays. He looks like a completely different player than the one that excited everyone for this season.
In short, the team who drafts Raty will need to undertake a bit of a reclamation project. I’m all about taking chances especially later in the first round if there is a clear upside. He has upside but you will need a lot of patience here to help him rediscover himself. Therefore he falls outside my top-20 overall. If I’m a team at the end of the first round that wants to take a shot, that’s the time to do it. But there are more sure things available prior to 20 I’d rather take a chance on. We sure hope he figures it out but it’s hard to ignore the sudden drop.
Brennan Othmann – Flint Firebirds
Projected: First-round pick.
Our suggestion: Do not draft in the first round.
Othmann was one of the players who played overseas this season with the OHL season being canceled. He played in Switzerland but really didn’t stand out. But it was his U-18’s that showed everyone why he is a projected first-round pick.
Othmann was one of the better wingers at the U-18’s. His biggest asset is his shot. He can score from almost anywhere in the offensive zone if given the room. He’s also hard to play against as he isn’t afraid to be physical.
Where my concern comes in is with Othmann’s skating. He doesn’t have the pace you’d like to see for someone who many project to go in the first 32 picks. Given where the NHL game seems to be going with speed, I have questions about if he can consistently keep up. I wouldn’t draft him in round one but as soon as round two starts and if he’s still available, he’s an interesting player.
Danill Chayka – CSKA (Russia)
Projected: Late first-round pick.
Our Suggeston: Do not draft in the first round.
Chayka brings a lot to the table but is a bit too one dimensional for me to draft him in round one. He’s a good skater especially for someone who is already 6-foot-3. If he fills out completely and continues to skate like he does, that’s intriguing for the next level.
However he doesn’t do enough on offense in the times I’ve watched him. He doesn’t jump into the play all that often. I think he depends on breakout passes as opposed to starting transition on his own. He plays a laid back style that could work in certain situations, but it certainly leaves you wanting much more.
If you’re comfortable with more of a stay at home defenseman, I can see teams looking at Chayka at the end of round one. His size and skating put him in that conversation. But I’m not using a top-32 pick on him as I think there are more complete options available in that range. But come early on day two, he should be one of the first names called.
Now it’s your turn. What did I get right? What did I totally miss on? Who is on your do not draft list? Let me know in the comments or on social media.
These five players will make an impact in the NHL someday. But teams will be faced with a decision involving them and others who might present themselves as better options. We’ll see soon enough where these players rank in the eyes of the teams on the draft floor.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.