2021 NHL Entry Draft Has Strong Family Ties

Hearing your name called by an NHL team is the dream of a lifetime for most hockey players. For many, it is a signature event for the entire family. Everyone gathers around to support the player, and the player exudes gratitude for the village that helped him achieve his goal. For many players in the 2021 NHL Draft, it was not the first time the family experienced such jubilation. Here are the most notable familial connections in the 2021 NHL Draft.

4th Overall, Round 1 – Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes is the third and sadly last of the Hughes brothers. Jack Hughes was selected first overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2019 and oldest brother Quinn by the Vancouver Canucks seventh overall in 2018.  Both Jack and Quinn are valuable contributors to their NHL teams. Since Luke plays defense, many more comparisons will be made to Quinn. Because Luke is so young, he has not yet played for the Michigan Wolverines, though he will start in 2021-22.

Like his brothers, Luke is an excellent skater. He is also the biggest of the three by several inches, something that probably helped him go as the second defenseman off the board. He may not have the hockey sense his brothers do, but he certainly has all the opportunity to learn from their vast experience. Luke is the highest overall pick of these bloodlines and probably the one with the highest expectations based on what his brothers have done. It will be important for him to forge his own identity, which will be challenging with Jack by his side.

8th Overall, Round 1 – Brandt Clarke

With the 8th overall pick, the Los Angeles Kings selected probably the best offensive defenseman in the 2021 Draft, Brandt Clarke. He didn’t get to play for the Barrie Colts of the OHL since the league didn’t start, so he went to Slovakia to play for HC Nove Zamky, where his brother Graeme was playing at the time. Over there, he put up 15 points in 26 games, but it was his performance at the under 18 World Junior Championship that no doubt caused his stock to skyrocket.

Brandt Clarke Barrie Colts
Brandt Clarke as a member of the Barrie Colts. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

Graeme Clarke is a forward and was drafted 80th overall in 2019 by the Devils. He also played in the OHL for the Ottawa 67’s, registering 34 points in 55 games in his draft season. Graeme spent most of his time this season playing for the Binghamton Devils of the AHL after he left Slovakia, where he appeared in six games. The Devils had a choice of prospect defensemen whose brothers play for the organization. Obviously, Jack Hughes is a much higher profile player than Graeme, but I don’t think that factored into the decision too much for the Devils.

10th Overall, Round 1 – Tyler Boucher

Tyler Boucher was probably the shock of the first round. He was ranked 29th on Bob McKenzie’s final list. On our very own The Hockey Writers’ rankings, he was 40th on Matthew Zator’s list but was 81st on Peter Baracchini’s and 91st on Andrew Forbes’.

Tyler Boucher USA Hockey NTDP
Tyler Boucher, USA Hockey NTDP (Rena Laverty/USA Hockey’s NTDP)

Tyler’s father, Brian, played 328 NHL games over the course of 13 seasons. Though he didn’t finish with a winning record, that is an incredibly long time to be playing in the NHL. Brian still holds the NHL record for the third-longest shutout streak at three hours, thirty-two minutes, and one second, which he set in 2003-04 as a member of the then-Phoenix Coyotes. Brian is now an NHL analyst for ESPN.

Elite Prospects’ lead scout explains what makes Tyler Boucher a unique prospect.

Tyler is off to Boston University this fall, where he will try to live up to his high draft selection. It will be an uphill climb as most, including our very own Matthew Zator, feel that the Ottawa Senators left a lot of talent on the board by selecting him. It seems there was a certain type of player the Senators wanted in this draft, and Tyler Boucher fits the rough and tough type.

12th Overall, Round 1 – Cole Sillinger

The Columbus Blue Jackets selected Cole Sillinger, the youngest son of Mike Sillinger, with their second first-round pick in 2021. Both of Cole’s older brothers now play for Bemidji State in the NCAA. Owen, who is 23, is in his third season playing for the Beavers, while Lukas, 20, was a freshman in 2020-21. Neither Owen nor Lukas have been drafted by an NHL team, nor does any team own their rights, so it’s safe to say Cole is likely the most skilled of the three.

Cole Sillinger Medicine Hat Tigers
Cole Sillinger of the Medicine Hat Tigers (Randy Feere/Medicine Hat Tigers)

Mike was the 11th overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 1989. Even though Cole was drafted 12th, since the Arizona Coyotes forfeited their pick, Cole was technically the 11th player selected in 2021. A fun coincidence for the Sillinger men, being taken at the exact same spot in the draft 32 years apart. Mike played 1049 games in the NHL over 18 seasons. He won an under 20 World Junior Championship for Canada in 1991 and was an AHL champion for the Adirondack Red Wings in 1992. 

Mike was a big scorer in junior and AHL, but the points didn’t translate to the NHL. He ended up being more of a solid two-way guy. Cole profiles to be more of a scorer than his dad, but you never know, he may end up carving out a middle-six role in the NHL just like his old man. The Blue Jackets dramatically improved the strength of their prospect pool with the 2021 Draft, and the idea of Sillinger and Kent Johnson playing together on a top line in a few years is tantalizing.

29th Overall, Round 1 – Chase Stillman

The Devils make another appearance on this list. At 29th overall, they took Chase Stillman, whose brother Riley is still playing in the NHL. Riley was drafted by the Florida Panthers 114th overall in 2016. He played 43 games for the Panthers before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played 13 games this season. They are both the sons of Cory Stillman, who had a prominent NHL career. Cory was the sixth overall pick back in 1992 by the Calgary Flames. He had some productive years for the Flames, but after he left Calgary, he found his greatest success. 

Cory Stillman as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2004-05 (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Cory won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04, posting 80 points in 81 games and another seven points in 21 playoff games. After the lockout of 2004-05, he won it again, this time with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he bested the point-per-game mark with 76 points in 71 games and an astounding 26 points in 25 playoff games. If it weren’t for Cam Ward and his Cinderella season, Cory might have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff’s most valuable player. Chase has some big shoes to fill, though it certainly seems as though he has no shortage of familial support to build upon.

37th Overall, Round 2 – Josh Doan 

Josh Doan was passed over in 2020, his first year of eligibility. The Arizona-born and raised prospect played his youth hockey with the junior Phoenix Coyotes. He then played two seasons with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, the second of which was apparently impressive enough to earn a draft selection. Next season, he will return to Arizona to play for Arizona State in the NCAA.

Josh Doan Chicago Steel
Josh Doan as a member of the Chicago Steel (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Josh’s surname probably sounds familiar, and that’s because his father, Shane Doan, was the 7th overall pick in 1995 when the Coyotes were the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets moved to Arizona the season after they drafted Shane, and he played the rest of his career for the team. In 2014, the organization became the Arizona Coyotes. Shane was captain of the Coyotes for 13 seasons until he retired in 2017. Shane is currently the chief hockey development officer for the Coyotes, so you’d have to imagine he had some say in the decision to draft his son. 

Highlights of Arizona Coyotes forward Josh Doan.

Josh was ranked 66th in Bob McKenzie’s final list, so taking him at 37th was a bit of a reach. But at this range of the draft and after getting Dylan Guenther at ninth overall, it doesn’t seem so worrisome. The Coyotes also had two more second-round picks at 43 and 60, making this far less risky. It is also a fantastic narrative that he was born and raised in the state, and now he gets to pursue his NHL dream with the Coyotes.

62nd Overall, Round 2 – Colton Dach 

Colton Dach is the younger brother of Kirby Dach, who was taken third overall back in 2019 and somewhat surprisingly made a pretty immediate impact with the Chicago Blackhawks. An injury at the U20 World Junior Championships robbed him of a chance to captain the Canadians to a gold medal. Colton was selected at the end of the second round, so not quite the same draft capital investment.

Highlights of Chicago Blackhawks draft pick and brother of Kirby, Colton Dach.

Colton has followed a similar development path to Kirby, playing for the same U15, U18, and WHL teams. Colton was a point-per-game this season for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, while Kirby put up 73 points in 62 games in his draft season. It looks like Kirby still has the higher upside, but based on the results from Kirby, I’m sure the Blackhawks will be thrilled with anything close to that kind of contribution from another Dach.

64th Overall, Round 2 – Oliver Kapanen 

Oliver Kapanen was taken 64th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. Oliver has two relatives who either played or are playing in the NHL. Sami Kapanen is his uncle, and Kasperi, Sami’s son, is Oliver’s cousin. Oliver has strong professional hockey bloodlines both in the NHL and Finland. Oliver’s father, Kimmo, was a goalie who played 13 seasons and 326 games in the Liiga. He also has a 17-year-old cousin Konsta who is currently playing in the SM-Sarja league in Finland.

Highlights of Montreal Canadiens’ prospect Oliver Kapanen.

Sami Kapanen was the 87th overall pick back in 1995 by the Hartford Whalers. The versatile winger played for the Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Philadelphia Flyers over 12 years, appearing in 402 NHL games. He was an NHL all-star one season but found more success internationally for Finland, winning two Olympic bronze medals, three silver World Championship medals, and one gold World Championship medal. 

Kasperi Kapanen Pittsburgh Penguins
Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kasperi Kapanen was the 22nd overall selection in the 2014 Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015, where he played 202 regular-season games. He was traded back to the Penguins in 2020 and had one of his best statistical seasons with 30 points in 40 games. Oliver will probably need another season or two in Finland and hope to follow a similar path as his cousin to NHL success.

176th Overall, Round 6 – Dru Krebs 

At 176th overall, the Washington Capitals took Dru Krebs, the younger brother of Vegas Golden Knights prospect Peyton Krebs. Peyton has yet to make his mark in the NHL, but with the recent trade of Cody Glass, it would seem the Golden Knights are very high on him. He did play in four NHL games this season but figures to be an NHL regular either this season or in 2022-23.

Highlights of Washington Capitals draft pick Dru Krebs.

Both the Krebs brothers played in the WHL, but Peyton was the star for the Kootenay Ice before the franchise moved to Manitoba and renamed the Winnipeg Ice, while Dru played the last two seasons for the Medicine Hat Tigers. Peyton scored 68 points in 64 games in his draft season, while Dru managed just 11 in 23 games. It would seem based on those totals and their draft position that Peyton will have a longer NHL career, but it remains to be seen. There is also a third older brother, Dakota Krebs, who went undrafted, played four seasons in the WHL, and is now playing for the University of Calgary.

220th Overall, Round 7 – Taylor Makar 

With the fifth to last pick in the 2021 Draft, the Colorado Avalanche selected Cale Makar’s brother, Taylor. Cale is a blossoming superstar for the Avalanche, and if his new contract is any indication of quality, he’s already one of the best defensemen in the league. Taylor is a forward, so although he will undoubtedly be compared to his brother, it won’t be an easy comparison. Like Cale, Taylor was drafted out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), a fairly low equivalency league. A goal in the AJHL is only worth .062 what a goal is worth in the NHL, according to an updated NHL equivalency model by Patrick Bacon.

Highlights of Colorado Avalanche draft pick and brother to Cale, Taylor Makar.

Taylor will play for UMass (Amherst) in 2021-22, just like his older brother did. Cale certainly had offensive prowess in his AJHL days, but his time at UMass really helped elevate his game to new heights. Taylor hopes to follow a similar path, and the fact that he plays for the same organization as his superstar brother will undoubtedly facilitate the process.

Final Thoughts

There were many interesting stories surrounding the 2021 NHL Draft, especially with the OHL and other junior leagues around the league not playing games. The lack of in-person viewings from scouts led to a lot of uncertainly in the selection process. I imagine that one thing that helped NHL general managers shape their opinion of players was their NHL bloodline. In the case of the Devils, Blackhawks, and Avalanche, they have the draft-eligible player’s brother in a starring role for their team. That has to make the decision earlier. When there is more uncertainty in the process, expect NHL general managers to rely on bloodline certainty.

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