Welcome to the March edition of my NHL Draft Rankings for the 2021 NHL Draft.
After continuing to watch the players eligible for this year’s draft, there has been a lot of movement since I put out my January rankings. Some players dropped significantly and others have risen to the occasion and have really caught my eye. There is a lot of movement, especially in the top five.
This time around, I went deeper and added more names to round out the rankings to the top 100 prospects. So without further a do let’s get into some of the biggest notes in this ranking.
University of Michigan’s Matthew Beniers moves up from fourth to be my first overall pick, much like Matthew Zator’s and Andrew Forbes’ rankings. He is a jack-of-all-trades centreman. He displays an excellent skillset offensively and is very reliable defensively. He reads every play so well and always gets to the open areas with ease. He has consistently displayed excellent decision-making with and without the puck. He has since become a point per game player and also registered a hat-trick in the process. Beniers’ teammate Kent Johnson made the jump into the top-10, as he provides excellent speed and creativity with the puck, being a very dangerous playmaker.
Two forwards that I am also really high on are Luleå’s Fabian Lysell and William Eklund from Djurgårdens IF as they round out the top-three. Lysell is probably one of my favourite forwards in this draft. He’s a player that never quits and plays with a high competitive edge, constantly fighting to gain control of the puck. He’s a great playmaker with great speed, but never count out his shot. He’s also very reliable defensively, making smart reads to break up plays and pressure the opposition.
Eklund provides just as much excitement in his game as Lysell, as he plays and thinks the game at a quicker pace. He’s very quick with his feet and has excellent vision to read the play extremely well as he’s a great playmaker and shooter. He’s been very impressive playing with men at the senior level in Sweden posting 11 goals and 20 points in 36 games.
Brandt Clarke falls from first to sixth and it’s not a slight against his overall play. He’s still playing well at the senior level in Slovakia, but with the way other prospects have elevated their play it’s hard not to have them higher than Clarke. There have been questions surrounding his defensive awareness, but he still displays excellent puck-moving qualities and offensive instincts as he can still push to be a top-five player.
Flint Firebirds left-winger Brennan Othmann has been a major offensive powerhouse. I’ve been following his play since his GTHL days with the Don Mills Flyers that included Clarke and potential 2022 first overall pick, Shane Wright. Othmann possesses probably one of the best shots in this draft class. After 33 points with the Firebirds in his rookie season, he was loaned to EHC Olten of the Swiss League. He had slow start but quickly adapted and became more comfortable, recording seven goals and 16 points in 34 games at the senior level. It’s an impressive stat line for an 18-year-old.
Cole Sillinger is another riser that should be noted. Despite not seeing a lot of time as a result of the Western Hockey League being on pause, Sillinger made his way to the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL and it was a move that greatly benefited him. In 17 games he’s registered 15 goals and 27 points, well over a point per game average. As a result, he’s continuing his dominance in that league and won’t return to the WHL.
Zachary L’Heureux (12th to 23rd) and Aidan Hreschuk (29th to 71st) drop this time around. L’Heureux, while displaying quick speed and hands as well as an aggressive side to his game, the latter is the reason why he dropped. He received a four-game suspension in November and another three-game suspension as a result of a cross check.
Hreschuk really hasn’t done much to really standout for me. Although he’s great at moving the play and breaking out, he still needs to work on his decision-making on the defensive side of the puck.
Without further ado, here are the top-100 rankings for the 2021 NHL Draft.
The Top 100 Rankings
1. Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
2. Fabian Lysell, RW, Luleå (SHL)
3. William Eklund, C, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
4. Owen Power, D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
5. Luke Hughes, D, USA U18 (USNTDP)
6. Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL)/ HC Nove Zamky (Slovakia)
7. Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
8. Simon Edvinsson, D, Frölunda J20 (Nationell)
9. Jesper Wallstedt, G, Luleå (SHL)
10. Kent Johnson, C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
11. Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
12. Chaz Lucius, C, USA U18 (USNTDP)
13. Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
14. Simon Robertsson, RW, Skellefteå AIK (SHL)
15. Aatu Räty, C, Kärpät (Liiga)
16. Oskar Olausson, LW/RW, HV71 (SHL)
17. Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL)/ EHC Olten (Swiss)
18. Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
19. Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)/Jesenice (Slovenia)
20. Stanislav Svozil, D, Kometa (Czech)
21. Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
22. Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
23. Zachary L’Heureux, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
24. Isak Rosen, LW/RW, Leksands IF (SHL)
25. Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL)/ EHC Olten (Swiss)
26. Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (MHL)
27. Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
28. Logan Stankoven, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
29. Zach Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
30. Daniil Chayka, D, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
31. Sasha Pastujov, LW, USA U18 (USNTDP)
32. Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL)/ KOOVEE U20 (SM-Sarja)
33. Anton Olsson, D, Malmö Redhawks (SHL)
34. Samu Tuomaala, RW, Kärpät (Liiga)
35. Matthew Samoskevich, C, Chicago Steel (USHL)
36. Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
37. Vladislav Lukashevich, D, Yaroslavl (MHL)
38. Evan Nause, D, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
39. Samu Salminen, C/LW, Jokerit U20 (SM-Liiga)
40. Joshua Roy, C, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
41. Prokhor Poltapov, RW, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL)
42. Ryder Korczak, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
43. Oliver Kapanen, C, KalPa U20 (SM-Sarja)
44. Fyodor Svechkov, LW, Ladia Togliatti (MHL)
45. William Strömgren, LW, MODO (Allsvenskan)
46. Scott Morrow, D, Shattuck St. Mary’s (USHS- Prep)
47. Vincent Iorio, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
48. Peter Reynolds, C, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
49. Connor Lockhart, C, Erie Otters (OHL)
50. Sean Behrens, D, USA U18 (USNTDP)
51. Stuart Rolofs, LW, London Knights (OHL)
52. Verner Miettinen, C, Kiekko-Espoo U20 (SM-Sarja)
53. Ayrton Martino, LW, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
54. Dylan Duke, C, USA U18 (USNTDP)
55. James Malatesta, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
56. Matthew Knies, LW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
57. Conner Roulette, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
58. Artyom Grushnikov, D, Hamilton Bulldgos (OHL)
59. Justin Robidas, C, Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
60. Daniil Lazutin, C, SKA St. Petersburg (MHL)
61. Ryan Ufko, D, Chicago Steel (USHL)
62. Jack Peart, D, Fargo Force (USHL)
63. Liam Dower-Nilsson, C, Frölunda J20 (J20 Nationell)
64. Oscar Plandowski, D, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Third Round/ Fourth Round
65. Tristan Broz, LW, Fargo Force (USHL)
66. Jack Bar, D, Chicago Steel (USHL)
67. Alexander Kisakov, F, MHK Dynamo Moskva (MHL)
68. Cole Huckins, C, Acadie Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
69. Samuel Helenius, C, JYP (Liiga)
70. Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
71. Aidan Hreschuk, D, USA U18 (USNTDP)
72. Hugo Gabrielsson, D, Frölunda J20 (Nationell)
73. Jack O’Brien, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)/ Lincoln Stars (USHL)
74. Talyn Boyko, G, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
75. Cameron Whynot, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
76. Matvei Petrov, LW, MHK Krylia Sovetov Moskva (MHL)
77. Chase Stillman, RW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)/Esbjerg II (Denmark)
78. Kirill Kirsanov, D, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
79. Logan Mailloux, D, London Knights (OHL)/ SK Lejon (HockeyEttan)
80. Tristan Lennox, G, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
81. Robert Orr, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
82. Tyler Boucher, F, USA U18 (USNTDP)
83. Roman Schmidt, D, USA U18 (USNTDP)
84. Isaac Enright, D, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
85. Zack Stringer, LW, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
86. Jeremy Wilmer, C, USA U18 (USNTDP)
87. Hobie Hedquist, G, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
88. Atte Lehikoinen, D, KalPa (Liiga)
89. Victor Stjernborg, C, Vakjo HC (SHL)
90. Francesco Arcuri, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)/Steel Wings Linz (AlpsHL)
91. Ty Voit, C/LW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
92. Wyatt Johnston, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
93. Dmitri Kostenko, D, Ladia Togliatti (VHL)
94. Ville Koivunen, LW, Kärpät U20 (SM-Sarja)
95. Lorenzo Canonica, C/LW, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
96. Martin Rysavy, LW, Vitkovice (Czech)
97. Riley Kidney, C, Acadie Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
98. Brent Johnson, D, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
99. Nolan Allan, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
100. Eetu Liukas, RW, TPS (Liiga)
Justin Janicke, F, USA U18 (USNTDP), Alex Geci, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL), Jimi Suomi, D, Jokerit U20 (U20 SM-Sarja), Red Savage, F, USA U18 (USNTDP) Manix Landry, C, Gatineau Olympique (QMJHL), Alexei Prokopenko, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
While I previously mentioned quite a few risers, I thought I’d highlight a few more names that really caught my eye the second time around.
Previously at 53rd overall, Evan Nause’s game lies in his ability to be a responsible two-way defender and keep things simple. That consistency is why he jumped up this time around. He has a great frame at 6-foot-2, 182 pounds and strong at closing the gaps on his opponents. He has great poise as he never panics with the puck, always taking that extra second in order to make the right play. He’s a very strong skater as he has a good stride and speed, especially when he takes the time to circle back to evade and move the play quickly with the puck. He has the ability to make a strong first pass out of his zone. He’s strong in transition to break plays up and has great positioning in one-on-one situations. There’s always a few players that continue to grow on you the more you watch them. Nause is definitely one of those players for me.
Like Coronato, Matthew ‘Mackie’ Samoskevich is a product of the Chicago Steel, as he currently ranks sixth in team scoring with 26 points. He is definitely one player that I regret having as low as he was in my previous rankings (71st) as he’s one of my biggest risers. He’s very quick and agile as speed is a very strong aspect to his game. He has great passing abilities, as he’s able to find the right lane to get the puck off quickly as well as quick hands to get out of tight situations. Just under 6-feet, he’s capable of shielding the puck very well and maintains great control of the puck to find the open lanes.
The cousin of Kasperi Kapanen and nephew of Sami Kapanen have caught the attention of many scouts. He’s a very strong two-way centreman, averaging over a point per game with KalPa U20 (41 points in 37 games) and has recorded 25 goals this season. FC Hockey’s Derek Neumeier praises Kapanen as being one of the “more well-rounded forwards in this draft class”. Kapanen displays a very sound and reliable game that makes him a threat at both ends of the ice. He can adapt to any situation and his awareness allows him to make the right play.
Do you agree with these rankings? Who would you add? Who are you keeping your eye on? Have your say in the comment section.
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.