2021 NHL Draft: Grading Every Team’s Picks

Months of preparation, hours and hours of scouting, and it’s all finished in two days. Yes, the 2021 NHL Draft is over. Similar to last year’s event, it took place virtually at the NHL Network studios and via Zoom, and it was a long and arduous process. The first round went as expected with only two big surprises in Tyler Boucher and Nolan Allan jumping into the coveted Day 1 spot. Then there was the whole Logan Mailloux drama with the Montreal Canadiens when they selected him with the 31st pick. Wait, then I guess it didn’t go as expected after all.

Related: 2021 NHL Draft Tracker

The craziness continued into Day 2 when all the rankings went out the window. Lots of prospects that were supposed to be drafted in the second round went into the later rounds, unknowns got selected in the third and fourth rounds and even a first-round hopeful in Sasha Pastujov fell all the way to 66th overall. It was one of the most unpredictable drafts I have ever seen, and that’s putting it mildly.

Though, when you look at the unprecedented circumstances of the 2021 Draft year, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Draft experts and scouting services were limited to video and discussion with their industry sources rather than in-person viewings, entire leagues were shut down and overall travel was severely limited. No wonder the rankings were messed up in the end. So, here’s hoping we have a normal 2022 Draft in Montreal next year where the pandemic is a distant memory.

2021 NHL Draft Grading Every team's picks Owen Power, Matt Beniers and Mason McTavish

Back to wrapping up the 2021 Draft. Following my predecessor’s lead, I’m going to go through each team and look at their draft class. I will give a grade for each team, which of course, is entirely subjective as it’s just my opinion. Also, this is not a comment on how the draft class will do as a whole in five years. My grades will be based on my early reaction to the team’s selections. You will definitely have your own opinions and grades on teams, which is totally fine. That’s the fun of the NHL Draft and the process of covering prospects in general. Looking back on this article in a year, these grades will most definitely change.

If you have a different opinion, please comment at the bottom of the page so we can discuss it. The learning never ends in the world of scouting and having an open mind is very important.

So without further pomp and circumstance, let’s get to the report cards!

Anaheim Ducks

I think the Anaheim Ducks did a great job in this draft, especially at 3rd and 34th overall with Mason McTavish and Olen Zellweger respectively. The former is going to be a stud number two center behind uber-prospect Trevor Zegras and the latter will turn into a very efficient top-four defenceman one day perhaps as a partner of Jamie Drysdale’s.

Mason McTavish Peterborough Petes
Mason McTavish of the Peterborough Petes (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Sasha Pastujov is an absolute steal at 66th overall after falling from, what turned out to be, lofty projection of 13th. Touted as having one of the best shots of this entire draft class and playmaking skills of a top-line forward, the Ducks somehow got him in the third round. As for the later picks, Joshua Lopina and Sean Tschigerl may make it in the NHL as bottom-six energy forwards, but the one I am most intrigued by is Kyle Kukkonen, who they drafted in the seventh round. He could turn out to be that leader/clutch goal scorer like Blake Coleman was for the Tampa Bay Lightning, making him a very interesting prospect to watch moving forward.

Grade: B+

Arizona Coyotes

After having their 11th overall pick confiscated by the NHL due to a draft combine violation, the Arizona Coyotes needed to get back into the first round. They did just that by trading captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks for their ninth-overall pick. With it in hand, they selected Dylan Guenther, a sniper from the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Edmonton Oil Kings. Probably the best player available at that point after Kent Johnson and William Eklund were selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks respectively, they basically got an elite version of Garland.

Dylan Guenther Edmonton Oil Kings
Dylan Guenther, Edmonton Oil Kings (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Josh Doan was a little bit of a reach at 37th overall after being ranked by many, including myself, as a mid-third round pick, but considering his Dad is a part of the organization it’s really not a surprise to see him go there. Ilya Fedotov and Janis Moser are boom or bust prospects, again probably too high for the second round, especially with Sean Behrens and Oliver Kapanen sitting there when overager Moser was picked. I did, however, like the Manix Landry pick in the fifth round. He’s going to surprise a lot of people when he makes it to the NHL.

Grade: C

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins started their day off with a bang drafting the highly skilled Fabian Lysell. He is going to be a high-scoring right-winger for a very long time, as long as his work ethic and attitude get straightened out. Although he might still turn out to be a stud. Just look at the careers of notoriously inconsistent workers Alexei Kovalev and Alexander Mogilny.

Brett Harrison was a typical Bruins’ pick in the third round as he’s a big centerman that knows how to use his size effectively. If the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) wasn’t canceled, he probably would have been drafted in at least the second round, if not the first. So, great high-value choice at 85th overall. The later picks were a mixed bag of what-ifs. Although I did like their pick of Andre Gasseau at 213th overall. He was ranked 72nd by Dobber Prospects and 132nd by THW’s own Peter Baracchini. At 6-foot-4, 203 pounds, I could see him on the third or fourth line as a two-way forward who kills penalties.

Grade: B+

Buffalo Sabres

Even though I don’t believe the Buffalo Sabres should have picked Owen Power first overall, it’s hard to criticize them for ultimately pulling the trigger on him. He’s going to be a top-pairing franchise defenceman who plays 30 minutes a night in all situations. I just think they needed an offensive boost with an exciting forward like William Eklund more than a two-way defensive presence like Power.

Owen Power, Michigan Wolverines
Owen Power Michigan Wolverines (Photo credit to Michigan Photography)

Having said that, the Sabres did redeem themselves in the excitement department with Isak Rosen at 14th overall. May be taken a little high at that point in the draft, he will be a solid top-six winger who can bust out the occasional exciting play or two. Second-round pick, Prokhor Poltapov will also bring it with his brand of feistiness which has brought visions of Brad Marchand to some scouts’ minds. As for their last six picks, the only one that really stands out for me is Tyson Kozak, a defensive pivot from the Portland Winterhawks. If developed correctly, he could be a solid third-line center in the NHL. Finally, I’m not sure if he’s going to ever make it to the NHL, but Stiven Sardarian wins the best name of the 2021 Draft even after Power.

Grade: A-

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames took the best pure goal scorer of this draft class in Matthew Coronato. A favourite of mine all season long, he will be a 30 goal scorer in this league at one point, and you can quote me on that. There were a lot of people who criticized me for ranking him 10th overall in my first rankings, but he went 13th (actually 12th). Not too bad if I say so myself.

Related: Flames Draft a Future Sniper in Matthew Coronato

William Stromgren was a steal at 45th overall, even though I had him ranked lower in the second round. He’s a slick offensive winger with a high motor who might turn into a top-six forward one day. Cole Huckins and Cameron Whynot were great picks in the third round and Cole Jordan, who was ranked by many to go in the second and third round, could be a steal at 141st overall. All in all, a great two days for the Flames.

Grade: A-

Carolina Hurricanes

Without a first-round pick this year, the Carolina Hurricanes had to wait for the second round to make their first pick of the 2021 Draft. They made a good choice though going with the smooth-skating Scott Morrow. Projected to go in the first round by yours truly, I think he will be a very good top-four defenceman in his prime. He’s raw right now, but in a system known for developing good blueliners, he should eventually hit his ceiling.

Scott Morrow, Shattuck-St. Mary's
Scott Morrow Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Photo Credit: Shattuck-St. Mary’s)

The Hurricanes followed that up with another astute pick in U18 standout Aleksi Heimosalmi. The undersized defenceman put up two goals and eight points during the tournament where he showcased his impressive speed and mobility multiple times. Then to make it a trifecta, they added yet another intriguing defenceman in Aidan Hreschuk who could also be a top-four option in his prime. Throw in skilled center Jackson Blake in the fourth round and Robert Orr and Justin Robidas in the fifth round, and you have a draft class that could be one of the best in a few years.

Grade: A+

Chicago Blackhawks

After switching places in the first round with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Chicago Blackhawks made an interesting choice going with the defensively-minded Nolan Allan at 32nd overall. Not projected to be selected even close to the first round (highest was 60th by Recruit Scouting), Blackhawks brass took a huge swing with this pick. With defencemen like Olen Zellweger, Jack Peart, Shai Buium, Daniil Chayka, and Scott Morrow still on the board, it was a puzzling choice. He probably will become a great two-way defenceman capable of shutting down top lines, but I believe they could have got him at 62nd with their next pick.

Related: Blackhawks 2021 NHL Entry Draft Recap

I do like their next picks though. Colton Dach, while taken a little high at 62nd, will become a solid scorer in the bottom-six. Drafting Ethan Del Mastro at 105th and Victor Stjernborg at 108th is robbery in my opinion, as they both should make it to the NHL as regulars one day. The fact that they were projected to go in the second and third round just puts a big exclamation point on that statement.

Grade: C

Colorado Avalanche

Boasting a strong prospect pool already, the Colorado Avalanche bolstered it with the skilled, but severely underrated Oskar Olausson at 28th overall. Ranked to go anywhere from 12th to 30th, the silky, versatile Swede already has NHL size and could become a valuable second-line forward for the Avs one day.

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

General manager Joe Sakic also made hay in the second round with another mobile defenceman in Sean Behrens to add to his impressive collection of young blueliners. Drafting Cale’s younger brother Taylor was also a nice touch with their final pick of the 2021 Draft.

Grade: B

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets came out like gangbusters in this draft. Starting with one of the most creative forwards in Kent Johnson at fifth overall, the hits just kept on coming with potential second-line center Cole Sillinger at 12th, slick defenceman Corson Ceulemans at 25th, and finally three very intriguing additions to the defence prospect pool in Stanislav Svozil, Guillaume Richard and Nikolai Makarov.

Ending with James Malatesta and Martin Rysavy, they also got two forwards that were not supposed to drop into the fifth and seventh rounds respectively. In fact, Malatesta was slated to go in the second round by many experts. All in all, a phenomenal two days for GM Jarmo Kekäläinen, not just on the draft floor but on the trade front as well adding Jake Bean and Adam Boqvist to the organization. Very deserved of the A+ grade.

Grade: A+

Dallas Stars

Wyatt Johnston will probably never become a high-end scoring center, but he may be a Selke Award winner one day. With how successful the Tampa Bay Lightning was with a third line centered by two-way dynamo Yanni Gourde, it’s always good to look for those players in the draft. Having said that, selecting him at 23rd overall is reaching a bit since he was ranked to go in the middle of the second round.

Wyatt Johnston Windsor Spitfires
Wyatt Johnston, Windsor Spitfires (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

There were picks throughout their draft that I liked. I have been a fan of Logan Stankoven all season, and to see him go in the second was a complete surprise, so a big win for the Stars there. Artem Grushnikov is a bruising defensive defenceman that already has a solid defensive hockey IQ, and Connor Roulette, Jack Bar, and Francesco Arcuri are picks with intriguing potential. Apart from the questionable first-round pick, their 2021 Draft class was pretty solid.

Grade: A

Detroit Red Wings

After making a ridiculous 12 selections in 2020, GM Steve Yzerman and his scouting staff only had eight this year. With their two first-round picks, they continued to add to their Swedish contingent with 6-foot-5 defenceman Simon Edvinsson and in a somewhat surprising turn of events, goaltender Sebastien Cossa, not another Swede in Jesper Wallstedt. Considering how highly touted Wallstedt was, it was a shock to see Cossa go first. That doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision though, as he dominated with the Edmonton Oil Kings this season finishing with a sparkling 2.23 goals-against average (GAA) and .921 save percentage (SV%).

Sebastian Cossa Edmonton Oil Kings
Sebastian Cossa of the Edmonton Oil Kings (Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

Related: The Grind Line: Grading the Red Wings’ 2021 Draft

The rest of the draft saw some great picks in two-way defender Shai Buium, future bottom-six cornerstone Red Savage and another slick Swede in Liam Dower Nilsson. All three have been favorites of mine all season long, especially Buium and Savage who I see as great character players that will play a huge role in the playoffs one day. Basically, Yzerman is building the next edition of the Lightning in Motor City with these picks.

Grade: A

Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers left me underwhelmed with their picks this year. After Xavier Bourgault, who was a great choice, by the way, the only two players that got my blood pumping were Jake Chiasson and Matvey Petrov in the later rounds. Without a second-round pick, I guess that was bound to happen.

Related: Oilers Hope to Have Sleeper Picks in 2021 Draft Class

Petrov was highly regarded in the draft community as a potential second or third-round pick, so getting him in the sixth round was definitely a win. Other than that, their other picks of Luca Munzenberger, Maximus Wanner, and Shane Lachance are hit or miss. Though, that’s what the later rounds are for right?

Grade: C-

Florida Panthers

The stars of the draft for the Florida Panthers were definitely Mackie Samoskevich and Evan Nause. I see both as key NHLers in the future and should mesh well with the prospects they have right now. Vladislav Lukashevich was my No. 57 prospect and the Panthers got him at 120th and Kirill Gerasimyuk was my No. 80 prospect and they got him at 152nd, so potentially some steals right there.

Related: Grading the Florida Panthers’ 2021 Draft Class

Grade: A

Los Angeles Kings

After adding nine prospects to their pool in 2020, the Los Angeles Kings were left with only four this year. Though, like the Avalanche, they still managed to add some tantalizing talent anyway. Starting with a stud franchise defenceman in Brandt Clarke who will likely take over for Drew Doughty in a few seasons, Rob Blake and his staff made good with the picks they had.

Brandt Clarke Barrie Colts
Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

With no selections past the third round and two second-rounders in their back pocket, they were able to snag a forward I had tagged for the first round in Francesco Pinelli (16th overall in my final rankings). After that, they got another two NHLers in my mind with Samuel Helenius and Kirill Kirsanov, so overall a great outing with the limited picks they had.

Grade: A-

Minnesota Wild

After buying out Ryan Suter and losing Carson Soucy to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, the Minnesota Wild needed to add more young defencemen to their system. With the additions of 26th overall pick Carson Lambos, 54th overall pick Jack Peart and 118th overall pick Kyle Masters, they did just that. Clearly focusing on defence in this draft, they came away with three solid prospects that have a high chance of becoming key parts of their blue line one day.

Related: Wild Continue to Stockpile Young Talent with 2021 Draft Selections

Their first pick at 20th overall was a surprise, considering how highly thought of 24-year-old Kaapo Kahkonen is in many circles. Although, when a franchise goaltender like Wallstedt is just sitting there, I guess you have to take advantage of it. He’s going to be a game-changer when he hits his prime.

Grade: B+

Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens were the talk of Day 1, and not in a good way. After renouncing himself from the 2021 Draft, Mailloux was selected 31st overall by GM Marc Bergevin. He was ranked to go in the first round, but given his recent history and questions about his character, he should not have been selected at all.

Day 2 did not produce the same drama, as the Canadiens went about their business adding eight more prospects to their pipeline. Pivot Oliver Kapanen and defenceman Dmitri Kostenko were solid picks in the second and third round respectively and Joshua Roy was a gift at 150th overall after being projected to go in the upper half of the draft.

Grade: No Grade (with Mailloux pick), B+ (without Mailloux pick)

Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators just know how to pick defencemen. After selecting two solid forwards in two-way versatile center Fyodor Svechkov and buzz saw winger Zachary L’Heureux, they went to work filling their quota of blueliners that were supposed to be selected in the second and third rounds.

Fyodor Svechkov, Lada Togliatti
Fyodor Svechko, Lada Togliatti (Photo Courtesy of HCLADA.RU)

Starting with Anton Olsson who was projected to go as high as 25th by Recruit Scouting, the Predators got a Dan Hamhuis clone at 72nd overall. He’s not the flashiest of defencemen, but he’s probably the smartest. Efficient in all three zones on the ice, he will likely be a top shutdown option when he makes it to the NHL. They weren’t done with him, as they got Chicago Steel standout Ryan Ufko next at 115th overall, someone that could end up replacing Ryan Ellis. He was projected to go as high as 47th, by the way. Then to top it all off, they got Jack Matier at 124th, a big, defensive defenceman who could also turn into a Hamhuis or Willie Mitchell one day, and he was supposed to go as high as 82nd.

Grade: A

New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils did the expected and selected the dynamic Luke Hughes at fourth overall, reuniting him with his brother Jack. He is the injection of excitement this franchise needs right now. Finishing the first round with the tenacious Chase Stillman was a reach at 29th, given I had him ranked 79th, but with his game in high demand, it’s not really that surprising to see him picked there.

The rest of the Devils’ draft was a mixed bag of unknowns and intriguing potential. Samu Salminen could become a good top-six forward if developed properly and Topias Vilen has the defensive IQ to potentially make it as a solid bottom-pairing defenceman. They also grabbed a “hit or miss” prospect in Zakhar Bardakov, who was on his final year of draft eligibility.

Grade: B

New York Islanders

Another team without a first-round pick this year, the New York Islanders were surprisingly able to snag Aatu Raty at 52nd overall. It wasn’t too long ago that he was considered a contender for the first-overall pick. So, getting a talent like that in the mid-second round is pretty good. If he develops into the player he was projected to be a few months ago, he might go down as one of the best draft picks in Islanders’ history.

Aatu Raty Team Finland
Aatu Raty of Team Finland (Finnish Ice Hockey Association)

As for the rest of the draft, I liked their choices of goaltender Tristan Lennox in the third round and Eetu Liukas in the fifth round. Liukas was No. 96 on my draft board and they got him at No. 157 and Lennox was No. 121 and they got him at No. 93.

Grade: A

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers were an interesting team at the draft this year. They started strong with their pick of tenacious forward Brennan Othmann, but then went way off the board with Jayden Grubbe at 65th overall. In most rankings, he was considered a fifth or sixth-round pick at best, and the Rangers selected him in the third round. With players like Pastujov, Salminen, and Simon Robertsson still available, I question the pick at this point in the draft.

Related: Rangers Add Grit, Forward Depth in 2021 Draft

Ryder Korczak was a great pick-up a few selections later, but other than goaltender Talyn Boyko in the fourth round, I am not overly excited about any of the other picks. Kalle Vaisanen might become a great top-nine forward, but the rest, in my opinion, are hit or miss.

Grade: C-

Ottawa Senators

I have one word for the Ottawa Senators’ draft class this year, reaching. Selecting Tyler Boucher and Zack Ostapchuk with their first two picks were off the board, to say the least. As much as I love both their games, they probably could have been had later in the draft as Boucher was ranked either in the latter part of the first round or well into the second and Ostapchuk was slated to go at the back half of the third round.

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

The rest of the Senators’ picks could be classified as reaching too. Ben Roger, who was selected 49th overall, was projected to go in the fourth round by many outlets and he went at the end of the second. Oliver Johansson was ranked 152nd and he went 74th and finally, Carson Latimer was only seen on McKeen’s Hockey’s list at 174th and he went 123rd. Overall, a very hopeful draft, which was far from the 2020 version that saw them select sure-fire NHLers, Tim Stutzle and Jake Sanderson in the first round.

Grade: D+

Philadelphia Flyers

Without a first-round pick this year, the Philadelphia Flyers got good value in Samu Tuomaala at 46th overall, someone I saw as a first-round talent. He’s going to be a heck of an NHL player when he hits his prime and they were able to grab him in the second round.

Related: Flyers 2021 NHL Draft Class Headlined by Samu Tuomaala

With a shallow goaltending prospect pool, the Flyers did well with selecting Alexei Kolosov, the second-best European goaltender according to NHL Central Scouting. They took a few swings with Brian Zanetti, Ethan Samson, and Owen Mclaughlin, but definitely got an intriguing prospect in Ty Murchison, the big, smooth-skating two-way defenceman from California. He’s going to be someone to watch in the coming years as he develops with Arizona State.

Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins did not have a particularly good draft when it came to potential NHLers. With only one pick in the top-100 this year, they had to do some digging in the later rounds. Tristan Broz was a great pick in the second round at 58th overall, especially when you look at where some scouts had him going. Elite Prospects had him at 31, Bob McKenzie at 43, and Craig Button at 38. Considering those are some pretty reputable names in the industry, maybe this pick could be a steal in a few years.

As for the rest of their selections, defenceman Isaac Belliveau is either a stretch at 154th or a steal. Ranked as low as 238th by FC Hockey and as high as 61st by The Puck Authority, I guess it all depends on who you ask. He wasn’t really on my radar, so I am going to have to defer to the Penguins’ scouts on this one. He managed to have a pretty good 2020-21 season with the Rimouski Oceanic and Gatineau Olympiques recording five goals and 17 points in 37 games, so you never know what he could turn into.

Grade: D+

San Jose Sharks

Needing a home run in the 2021 Draft, the San Jose Sharks got a floating curveball and blasted it over the fence with my projected first overall pick William Eklund at seventh overall. Shocked to see him drop out of the top three, he is going to be a superstar with the Sharks one day. That pick alone gets them a grade of an A.

Following it up with Team Canada standout goaltender Benjamin Gaudreau at 81 was also a home run, as he was my third-best goaltender behind Cossa and Wallstedt. Liam Gilmartin was another great pick at 167th, seeing that most saw him as a second or third-rounder. He could be a great two-way forward on a third line one day.

Grade: B+

Seattle Kraken

The Seattle Kraken started strong with Matty Beniers at second overall, but then fell a little flat after that. Beniers was the perfect pick right after Owen Power, but Ryker Evans at 35th, not so much. With defencemen like Morrow, Buium, Heimosalmi, and Chayka still available, it’s hard to support choosing an overager ranked mostly in the third and fourth rounds as your early second-round pick.

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

The Kraken’s remaining picks had some bright spots though with Ryan Winterton and Justin Janicke at 67th and 195th respectively. The former is going to make the third line his home one day and the latter might just surprise everyone and be one of those seventh-round picks that make it as a top-six forward.

Grade: B-

St. Louis Blues

With only four draft picks this year, the St. Louis Blues did a heck of a job with all of their selections. Zachary Bolduc has Ryan O’Reilly type skill, Simon Robertsson was an absolute gift at 71st overall, and Tyson Galloway’s skating might give him an inside track at NHL success someday. Ivan Vorobyov was just a hope and a prayer pick in the seventh round, but that’s where you take those gambles.

Related: Blues 2021 Draft Deep Dive: Simon Robertsson

Just grabbing Robertsson in the third round makes this draft class a success. Ranked all year in the first round by myself, Peter Baracchini, and Andrew Forbes, he has sneaky skill as a top-line forward. Touted as having the hardest shot in his class and a solid well-rounded game overall, it’s hard to fathom why he dropped into the later rounds. When we look back at this group in five years, I guarantee you we will be looking at this pick as the steal of 2021.

Grade: A

Tampa Bay Lightning

As back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning were given late picks throughout the draft. Except that doesn’t seem to bother them, as they live and breath the later rounds. With a roster dotted with steals like Brayden Point (79th), Nikita Kucherov (58th), Ondrej Palat (208th), Alex Killorn (77th), and Anthony Cirelli (72nd), it’s not the high picks like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman that have driven their success, it’s the gems later on.

Related: Lightning Have Strong 2021 Draft Despite Trading Picks

So it wasn’t really a shock to see projected second-rounders Roman Schmidt and Dylan Duke fall to them at 96th and 126th respectively. If I was a betting man, I would be all in on the prediction that in five years we will be seeing Schmidt playing on the second pair and Duke lighting it up in the top six. That’s how confident I am in their skill levels as potential NHLers. With the luck the Lightning have had in recent years with the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cameron McDonald, Alex Gagne, and Niko Huuhtanen make it to the NHL too one day.

Grade: B-

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to stop trading their draft picks away. Without a first-round pick this year and only three overall, their prospect pool didn’t get a whole lot bigger this year. Having said that, they did add some quality to it with power forward Matthew Knies at 57th and speedy winger Ty Voit at 153rd.

Voit fell from his lofty projection of the second round to the fifth, so that alone could make this draft a win. If he can develop into a scoring winger in the bottom six, I think the Maple Leafs will be very happy getting him in the later rounds.

Grade: B+

Vancouver Canucks

Overall, the Canucks had a very good draft considering they were left without a first-round pick for the second year in a row. They got some interesting prospects in Danila Klimovich and Connor Lockhart that could potentially turn into top-nine forwards and most importantly, two more defencemen in Jonathan Myrenberg, and Hugo Gabrielsson to help refill their shallow pool on the blue line. Not to mention another student in Aku Koskenvuo for goaltending coach Ian Clark to mold into a superstar.

Grade: B

Vegas Golden Knights

After Zach Dean, Daniil Chayka, and Jakub Brabenec, the Vegas Golden Knights just took swings at the fences with Jakub Demek, Artur Cholach, and Carl Lindbom. Dean was the perfect choice for them at 30th overall, as he plays the exact style the Golden Knights are known to play, hard, aggressive, and in your face. He will fit in almost immediately, especially if they keep playing to the identity they have established since coming into the NHL as an expansion team.

Zach Dean Gatineau Olympiques
Zach Dean of the Gatineau Olympiques (Steve Philippe)

Chayka dropped into the Golden Knights’ lap at 38th overall, as he was projected by many to go in the first round. He’s going to be a heck of a two-way defenceman when he hits his peak in the NHL. Finally, Brabenec at 102nd was a bit of a reach, but if everything goes right he could become an integral part of their penalty kill.

Grade: B+

Washington Capitals

Yet another franchise without a first-round pick this year, the Washington Capitals got some solid value with their mid and late-round picks. Vincent Iorio and Brent Johnson were great choices in the second and third rounds, especially for a defence pool that needs a bit of a boost. Johnson is a very underrated two-way defender that was overlooked by many, including myself as a second or third-round pick and Iorio was highly thought of as a second-round pick as recently as a couple of months ago.

Related: Capitals Clearly Focused on Blue Line at 2021 NHL Draft

The rest of their class were the run of the mill, shot in the dark picks that may or may not hit. I will have my eye on Peyton Kreb’s brother Dru though, as he was ranked as high as 79th by Elite Prospects. He has a great transition game that could translate to the NHL.

Grade: B+

Winnipeg Jets

Starting with Chaz Lucius at 18th overall, the Winnipeg Jets had a draft that should be considered a massive success. With only four picks over the seven rounds, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was able to grab two natural goalscorers, a high upside defenceman, and finally an overager many believe could be an impact player in the NHL one day. I would say that’s some pretty tidy work for the Jets’ GM and his staff.

Chaz Lucius of the USDP
Chaz Lucius of the USDP (Photo: Rena Laverty)

Lucius, who was projected to be a top-10 pick by Sportsnet, Bob McKenzie, McKeen’s, and The Puck Authority, the Jets were lucky to grab him at 18th overall. He’s going to be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, and you don’t find those types of players every day. Following that up with Nikita Chibrikov, who I thought was the best Russian in this draft, was another coup. His shot alone could make him a consistent 20-goal scorer.

Then, there’s Dmitri Kuzmin, while undersized, could potentially be better than a few of the blueliners that were drafted in the first round. Finally, the cherry on top is Dmitri Rashevsky, a scoring forward with a high hockey IQ who could potentially hit as a top-line forward. Yes, he’s a boom or bust prospect, but he’s a great gamble in the fifth round nonetheless.

Grade: A

2021 NHL Draft Is Full of Uncertainty

More so than any other draft year, the 2021 Draft class is full of uncertainty and potential steals. As I looked over every team’s classes, I was hit by the many unknowns that were selected in the top-100. We at The Hockey Writers wrote up profiles on over 180 prospects, and we were still left wondering who some of these players were. And we were not alone in that, as many draft experts and their rankings never saw these players in the rounds they were selected in. So of course, my grades are going to be a little incomplete. Having said that, it was still a fun exercise to do that I hope you enjoyed reading about.

I’m sure these grades will garner some debate and discussion, so go ahead and comment below with your takes on your draft class and why you agree or disagree with mine. Let’s get a dialogue going!


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