2021 NHL Draft Must Have Prospects

We have finally made it. It’s NHL Draft day.

After wondering for long stretches if we would ever see this day, the NHL Draft is set to roll virtually starting at 8 P.M. eastern for the first round. Rounds 2-7 will run starting on Saturday.

We have presented a series of draft features to help get you ready. In case you missed any of them, you can read them at the below links.

We now turn our attention to the Must Have Prospects of this draft. Think of it as the opposite of the “Do Not Draft” list. While that list presented players we felt would go higher than they should, this list of must have’s will target players that will provide a bigger value than where they’re taken.

The idea here is to identify players who will go late on Friday or on Saturday and could outperform where they’re taken. If you grab someone in the top-25 who ultimately performs as a top-5 player, that’s a must have and so on.

In no particular order, we will list five names that in our opinion have a good chance of outperforming where they’ll go. We’ll start with our Steal of the Draft from above.

Fabian Lysell

Lysell is one of the most skilled players in this entire draft but the word is he might fall out of the lottery. Teams in that range such as Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville and Boston should take a long look here if he does fall. He alone can take over a game with his explosiveness. That’s absolutely worth the risk at this part of the draft.

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Jack Bar

If a prospect has size and is a plus skater, they have the chance to outperform where they’ll be drafted. Bar fits this bill to a T. While he has to round out his overall game, he projects as a smooth-skating two way defenseman. The industry has him going in the second or third round. If he reaches his peak, he could perform like a first rounder. Teams in need of a defenseman with upside should look here and draft with confidence.

Brett Harrison

Quick. There were three OHL rookies who reached 20 goals during the 2019-20 season. Know who they are without looking? It was Mason McTavish, Shane Wright (2022) and Harrison. He already has the size and is only going to get stronger. He can create space and can score from around the net. For someone projected to go in the third round on some boards, that’s sneaky good value to land a pivot with some upside.

Danila Klimovich

My THW colleague Matthew Zator did a nice job summarizing why Klimovich could be one of the steals of this draft. He came out of nowhere to score six goals at the U-18’s for Belarus. Anyone who has the speed, skill and a flair for the dramatic like him should put him on every draft board. Could he be this season’s Yegor Chinakhov?

Ben Gaudreau

While all of the attention on goalies is rightfully going to Jesper Wallstadt and Sebastian Cossa, Gaudreau has a chance to be one of the better goalies in this draft but you’ll pay a far less price than a first-round pick. Gaudreau went over 400 days between starts as his Sarnia team had their OHL season canceled. But then he got to the U-18’s and showed why he was considered one of the best goalies in the world. His flashes of dominance were on full display. He’s going to slip because of his lack of play. But teams who miss out on Wallstadt and Cossa should draft Gaudreau with confidence especially if it’s Saturday.

Benjamin Gaudreau Sarnia Sting
Ben Gaudreau could provide tremendous value for teams later in the draft who miss out early on a goalie. (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

In Conclusion

That’s my list of five. Who makes your list of must-have prospects? There will be many prospects who will go lower than they should especially in the OHL. Connor Lockhart comes to mind on that front. Teams who identify these prospects the best can really make this a memorable draft.

Who will find the gems in the midst of the uncertainty? Those teams will ultimately win this draft.

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