2021 NHL Draft Rankings: Zator’s Final 128 Rankings

Don’t look now, but the 2021 NHL Draft is only a month away. It’s been a crazy year for scouting prospects, but somehow scouts got to see enough to evaluate the players and get some sort of list together for their general managers to follow come draft day.

For the first time ever, I debuted my own rankings for the upcoming draft after sitting on the sidelines writing profiles. It’s been an interesting experience, especially with the lack of games being played and the inability to go out and actually watch these prospects in person. Like many people, I had to rely on video, discussions with colleagues, and of course, researching and gathering information from the draft community.

Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide

After a top-64 and a top-100, I have built a top-128 for my final rankings. That’s a full four rounds of prospects for you to mull over. Since my second set of rankings was published in April, three major events occurred that opened my eyes to more players and forced me to change them once again. First, it was the U18 World Championship where Mason McTavish (32nd to 7th), Owen Zellweger (unranked to 45th), and Danila Klimovich (unranked to 37th) saw massive jumps, then it was the Erie Junior Showcase where Tucker Robertson (unranked to 119th) got on my radar, and finally, the IIHF World Championship where Owen Power jumped from sixth to second overall.

As for who sits on top of the 2021 NHL Draft mountain, it’s still Matt Beniers from the Michigan Wolverines. As much as Power impressed everyone at the World Championship with his poise and overall mature game, I still believe Beniers will end up being the better all-around player once he makes it to the NHL. If not for a brutal injury that derailed his opportunity to wow the judges at the World Championships, he would have upped his stock too.

Matthew Beniers, Michigan Wolverines
Matthew Beniers Michigan Wolverines (Photo Credit Michigan Photography)

William Eklund stayed at number three while Brandt Clarke leapfrogged Luke Hughes due to a strong outing at the U18s where he looked every bit of a top-five pick after struggling overseas with HC Nove Zamky. Unfortunately, Hughes’ injury really hurt him (no pun intended) in his pursuit of the top three in this draft. If he would have been able to play at the BioSteel All American Game, U18s, and IIHF World Championship, I’m sure he would have blown everyone away with his dynamic and exciting brand of defence and in turn raised his value in the eyes of scouts and draft experts. Nevertheless, his skill and overall resume speak for themselves and still end up keeping him just outside of the top five.

All in all, there was quite a bit of movement from my April rankings to my final ones. I guess that’s what more scouting opportunities do right? If not for the U18s and Erie Junior Showcase, scouts and experts would be shooting darts into the abyss, hoping for a hit. So, as we continue to wait eagerly for our version of Christmas Day, I give you my first-ever final top 128 prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft. Enjoy.

2021 NHL Entry Draft Final Rankings – Top 128

First Round

1. Matt Beniers, C, Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)

2. Owen Power, D, Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)

3. William Eklund, C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

4. Brandt Clarke, D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovakia) On Loan

5. Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea HF (SHL)

6. Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

7. Mason McTavish, C, EHC Olten (SL) On Loan

8. Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

9. Kent Johnson, C, Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)

10. Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea HF (SHL)

Jesper Wallstedt Sweden
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden, 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

11. Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)

12. Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda HC (SHL)

13. Sasha Pastujov, LW, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

14. Samu Tuomaala, F, Karpat (Liiga)

15. Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

16. Isak Rosen, LW/RW, Leksands IF (SHL)

17. Logan Stankoven, F, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

18. Brennan Othmann, LW, EHC Olten (SL) On Loan

19. Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

20. Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)

21. Chaz Lucius, C, US National U18 Team (USDP)

22. Matthew Samoskevich, C, Chicago Steel (USHL)

23. Dylan Duke, C, US National U18 Team (USDP)

24. Oskar Olausson, LW/RW, HV71 (SHL)

25. Scott Morrow, D, Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U Prep (USHS-Prep)

26. Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea AIK (SHL)

27. Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Liiga)

28. Sebastien Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

29. Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

30. Stanislav Svozil, D, HC Kometa Brno (Czech)

31. Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

32. Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Second Round

33. Zachary L’Heureux, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

34. Prokhor Poltapov, RW, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)

35. Evan Nause, D, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

Evan Nause Remparts de Quebec
Evan Nause, Remparts de Quebec (Photo credit: Jonathan Roy)

36. Ryan Ufko, D, Chicago Steel (USHL)

37. Danila Klimovich, C, Minskie Zubry (Belarus Vysshaya)

38. Fyodor Svechkov, LW/C, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)

39. Daniil Chayka, D, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)

40. Tyler Boucher, F, US National U18 Team (USNDP)

41. Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

42. Zach Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

43. Victor Stjernborg, C/LW, Vaxjo HC (SHL)

44. Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

45. Olen Zellweger, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)

46. Anton Olsson, D, Malmo Redhawks (SHL)

47. Brett Harrison, C, KOOVEE (Mestis)

48. Aleksi Heimosalmi, D, Assat U20 (SM-Sarja)

49. Ryder Korczak, C, Moosejaw Warriors (WHL)

50. Joshua Roy, C, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

51. Shai Buium, D, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

52. Jack Peart, D, Grand Rapids High (USHS-MN)

53. Ty Gallagher, D, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

54. Aidan Hreschuk, D, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)

55. Vladislav Lukashevich, D, Loko Yaroslavi (MHL)

56. Samu Salminen, C/LW, Jokerit U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

57. Artyom Grushnikov, D, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

58. Sean Behrens, D, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

59. William Stromgren, LW, MODO Hockey (HockeyAllsvenskan)

60. Justin Robidas, C, Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

61. Ville Koivunen, LW, Karpat U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

62. Red Savage, C/LW, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)

63. Cole Huckins, C, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

64. James Malatesta, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

Third Round

65. Matvei Petrov, LW, MHK Krylia Sovetov Moskva (MHL)

66. Nolan Allan, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

67. Oliver Kapanen, F, JoKP (Mestis)

68. Cole Jordan, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

69. Kirill Kirsanov, D, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

70. Samuel Helenius, C, JYP (Liiga)

71. Ty Voit, C/LW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

72. Cameron Whynot, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

73. Vincent Iorio, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

74. Conner Roulette, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

75. Jackson Blake, F, Chicago Steel (USHL)

Jackson Blake Chicago Steel
Jackson Blake, Chicago Steel (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

76. Jimi Suomi, D, Jokerit U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

77. Jeremy Wilmer, C, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

78. Tristan Lennox, G, Toronto Marlies (AHL) On Loan

79. Alexander Kisakov, F, MHK Dynamo Moskva (MHL)

80. Marcus Almquist, C/RW, HV71 J20 (J20 Nationell)

81. Chase Stillman, RW, Esbjerg II (Denmark2)

82. Matthew Knies, F, Tri-City Storm (USHL)

83. Tristan Broz, F, Fargo Force (USHL)

84. Jake Martin, D, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

85. Ethan Del Mastro, D, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

86. Josh Doan, F, Chicago Steel (USHL)

87. Lorenzo Canonica, C/LW, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

88. Roman Schmidt, D, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

89. Trevor Wong, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

90. Oscar Plandowski, D, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

91. Victor Sjöholm, D, HV71 J20 (J20 Nationell)

92. Manix Landry, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

93. Verner Miettinen, C, Kiekko-Espoo U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

94. Eetu Liukas, RW, TPS (Liiga)

95. Aleksi Malinen, D, JYP (Liiga)

96. Guillaume Richard, D, Tri-City Storm (USHL)

Fourth Round

97. Justin Janicke, F, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)

98. Robert Orr, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

99. Olivier Nadeau, LW, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

100. Hugo Gabrielsson, D, Frolunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell)

101. Liam Dower-Nilsson, C, Frölunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell)

102. Dmitri Kostenko, D, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)

103. Lucas Forsell, LW, Färjestad BK J20 (J20 Nationell)

104. Riley Kidney, C, Acadie Bathhurst (QMJHL)

105. Ayrton Martino, LW, Omaha Lancers (USHL)

106. Ruban Rafken, D, TPS (Liiga)

107. Francesco Arcuri, C, Steel Wings Linz (AlpsHL)

Francesco Arcuri Kingston Frontenacs
Francesco Arcuri, Kingston Frontenacs (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

108. Florian Elias, C, Manheim (DEL)

109. Jack Matier, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

110. Ryan Winterton, F, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

111. Aku Koskenvuo, G, HIFK U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

112. Kaiden Mbereko, G, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)

113. Yusaku Ando, F, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

114. Daniil Lazutin, C, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

115. Ilya Ivantsov, F, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

116. Ryan St. Louis, LW, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)

117. Matthew Argentina, C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

118. Matvei Averochkin, C, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)

119. Tucker Robertson, RW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)

120. James Hardie, LW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

121. Kyle Masters, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

122. Zach Biggar, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

123. Kirill Gerasimyuk, G, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

124. Sasha Teleguine, C, Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)

125. William Von Barnekow, C, Malmo Redhawks (SHL)

126. Niko Huuhtanen, F, Tappara U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

127. Kyle Kukkonen, F, Maple Grove High (USHS-MN)

128. Jeremy Hanzel, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Honourable Mentions

Zack Ostapchuk, LW, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Connor Kurth, F, University of Minnesota (NCAA), Peter Reynolds, C, St. John Sea Dogs (QMJHL), Dmitri Katelevsky, RW, Bars Kazan (VHL), Colton Dach, LW, Saskatoon Blades (WHL), Hunter Strand, C, Tri-City Storm (USHL)

Second Round Saw a Few New Faces

Benjamin Gaudreau (66th to 44th)

After sitting out the entire OHL season because of the ongoing pandemic, goaltender Benjamin Gaudreau was strong in the crease for Team Canada at the U18s. He was calm, cool, and collected throughout the tournament and finished with a perfect 5-0 record and a sparkling 2.20 goals-against average (GAA) and .919 save percentage (SV%), and most of all, a gold medal around his neck. His positioning and rebound control were nearly flawless during every start and although he didn’t face a lot of pressure until the final couple of games, he was never questioned at any point, and that’s exactly what you want from your starting netminder.

Benjamin Gaudreau Sarnia Sting
Benjamin Gaudreau, Sarnia Sting (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Everything is there for Gaudreau to become an NHL-caliber goalie. He has the physical attributes needed to excel and the mental fortitude to keep up with the game at all levels of play.

Eugene Helfrick, The Hockey Writers

Gaudreau jumped from the third round to the second with his performance and will be an asset to any team that drafts him. He has all the tools, now he has to put them all together at the pro level. Unfortunately, like all goaltenders, patience will have to be a virtue because of the nature of the position. Unless you’re Carey Price, they usually take a few years to marinate before they become NHL or even AHL-caliber netminders.

Aleksi Heimosalmi (Unranked to 48th)

The U18s really did Aleksi Heimosalmi a favour, as he was one of Team Finland’s best defenders throughout the tournament. After being just outside the top-100 in my April rankings, he trampolined up to 48th and into the second round of my final 128. The smooth-skating Finn was noticeable in almost every game, finishing with eight points, Best Defenceman honours, an All-Star team selection, and was named a top-three player on his team.

Heimosalmi is on the short side at 5-foot-11, but considering the success of smaller defencemen like Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar, and Jared Spurgeon, that supposed weakness probably won’t make much of a difference at the NHL level. He also ranks high on the hockey IQ scale, which is probably more important than any other skill.

Red Savage (82nd to 63rd)

After a strong U18s where he was relied upon to take almost every defensive zone faceoff and be the first over the boards on the penalty kill, Red Savage impressed me enough to warrant a jump from the third round to the second. Despite being denied a chance at a medal, he was consistently one of his team’s most hard-working players on both the forecheck and backcheck as well as on the penalty kill. Like many people have said already, he’s a coach’s dream. He does everything right on both sides of the puck and consistently works hard every time he’s on the ice. Oh yes, he also has underrated offensive skills. What more could a coach want?

Do you agree with my top-128 final rankings? Which prospects do you have an eye on? Who would you add? Who would you exclude? Have your say in the comments below!

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