THW 2021 Mock NHL Draft Round 1: Our Armchair GMs Make Their Picks

Similar to the 2020 iteration, the 2021 NHL Draft did not happen at the end of June. This year it will happen at the end of July when we normally would be talking about free agency. Instead, we at The Hockey Writers are getting you ready for the upcoming draft with our usual prospect profiles, features, rankings, and of course, our annual mock draft.

Related: THW 2021 Mock NHL Draft Round 2: Our Armchair GMs Make Their Picks

We have a tradition of getting our writers together for one of the most entertaining times of the year for us internally, the THW Writers’ Mock Draft. Our staff members pick teams and then make their picks for that respective team. Then they provide some reasoning about why they think that team would take that player. There’s only one rule: no trading picks.

I will also be continuing the tradition set forth by my predecessor, Josh Bell, of giving my take on the writer’s picks. Like him, I won’t be giving another selection just my thoughts on what if the team took that particular player in the actual draft. So without further ado, here are the results of the first round!

Note: My fellow ranker, Peter Baracchini will be stepping in to give his thoughts on my selection for the Vancouver Canucks.

1) Buffalo Sabres: Matt Beniers – C, University of Michigan (NCAA)

THW Writer: Brandon Seltenrich

Taking Matt Beniers with the first-overall pick was a no-brainer for me. While defenseman Owen Power is widely expected to go first, I think the Sabres could benefit more from bolstering their center depth with a player like Beniers, both now and for the future, especially if Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart are headed elsewhere. In addition to Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Cozens, Beniers could add to the young center core, and his complete, two-way game could give the Sabres a player they haven’t had in a decade, while also adding a speedy offensive threat into the mix. He was point-per-game in the NCAA with the University of Michigan this past season, and his skill set could translate into the NHL sooner than later.

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

Zator’s Take

In previous drafts, there were slam-dunk first-overall picks like Alexis Lafrenière, Auston Matthews, and Connor McDavid. The 2021 Draft? Not so much. While many outlets have Power leading the pack, there are others that have the two-way dynamo Beniers there instead. With the Sabres in disarray after missing the playoffs for a record tenth-straight time and the rumoured departures of Eichel and Reinhart, they need a star like him to help right the ship. That’s why I am okay with them picking him over Power. He will do what Jonathan Toews did for the Chicago Blackhawks and settle down the franchise with his combination of leadership, poise, and elite two-way skillset.

2) Seattle Kraken: Owen Power – LD, University of Michigan (NCAA)

THW Writer: Adam Kierszenblat

Owen Power is a dynamic defender that has game-changing ability. He dominated at the University of Michigan and showed he can perform on the World stage as he was one of Canada’s best players at the World Championships. At 6-foot-5, 214 pounds, Power should have no problem transitioning into the NHL. Kraken fans should be excited as he has the tools to become one of the top defenders in the league.

Related: 2021 NHL “Do Not Draft” List

Zator’s Take

The Kraken get an elite number one defenceman to start their franchise with in Power. Despite not going first overall in our mock draft, he’s an amazing consolation prize to Beniers who many think will ultimately go to them when the actual draft goes live on July 23. As Adam said, he proved himself on the international stage playing against NHL players and didn’t look out of place amongst players way older than him. He will be a dominant force in Seattle for the foreseeable future.

3) Anaheim Ducks: Dylan Guenther – RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

THW Writer: Mark Scheig

The Ducks are in need of elite goal scorers and Dylan Guenther fits that bill perfectly. But what sets him apart is his overall game and what he can bring defensively. He reminds me a lot of a younger Ryan Getzlaf and we know how that turned out for the Ducks. The new dynamic duo of Guenther and Trevor Zegras should help bring offense back to Honda Center for years to come.

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

Zator’s Take

Projected to go second overall in my mid-season rankings, Guenther goes to the Ducks at three. After seeing Corey Perry move on in recent seasons and Getzlaf get long in the tooth, they need an elite goalscorer to bring the franchise into the next generation. As Mark said, they already have Zegras, now with Guenther’s addition, they will have the next iteration of the lethal Getzlaf and Perry duo to entice Ducks’ fans to come to games once again.

4) New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes – LD, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

THW Writer: Alex Chauvancy

Surprise. Well, no, not really. Yes, Luke is the brother of Devils center Jack Hughes. But this isn’t a pick based on nepotism. This is purely taking the best player available. Luke is a dynamic, borderline elite skating defenseman who has tremendous offensive upside. Unlike his brothers, he already measures 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, and has plenty of room to add to his frame. He has some warts defensively, but he’ll get time to work on that once he gets to the University of Michigan in the fall. If all goes right, he’ll be anchoring the Devils’ top defensive pair for many years to come. And it’s not unreasonable to think he could be the best defenseman to come out of the 2021 Draft in a few years.

Luke Hughes USDP
Luke Hughes of the USDP (Photo: Rena Laverty)

Zator’s Take

If Hughes falls to fourth, which is very likely, I would not be shocked to see the Devils snag him. Yes, he’s seen more often in Canucks’ colors on Instagram, but with Quinn’s team toiling all the way down at nine, there’s virtually no chance he will hear general manager Jim Benning call his name on draft day. So I guess he will just have to settle for his other brother Jack and the Devils. His combination of size, speed, and mobility is what Devils’ fans thought they were getting when they acquired P.K. Subban, now they will have the young potential of Luke to excite them for the next decade or so.

5) Columbus Blue Jackets: William Eklund – C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

THW Writer: Mark Scheig

I’ll be honest. I was expecting to take a defenseman here given that Seth Jones is likely gone. But William Eklund was available at five and I couldn’t pass him up. His combination of skating, skill, and hockey sense makes him one of the best players available in this draft and gives the Blue Jackets a much-needed boost up front. He has also played center which made this even more attractive. Had Eklund not been available, this would have been either Brandt Clarke or Simon Edvinsson.

Zator’s Take

Honestly, I was surprised Eklund was available at five. He’s the best European available in this draft and will likely become a superstar in the NHL when he hits his prime in a few years. With the Blue Jackets treading water offensively, selecting him was a no-brainer even with defencemen like Clarke and Edvinsson still available.

6) Detroit Red Wings: Mason McTavish – C, EHC Olten (SL)

THW Writer: Devin Little

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to pick Jesper Wallstedt here. That being said, I believe Mason McTavish is a high-value pick at sixth overall, and he brings something to the Red Wings’ prospect pool that they desperately need: an impact center. His two-way game should fit in well with Detroit, and a potential 1-2-3 punch of Dylan Larkin, McTavish, and Joe Veleno is something to be excited about. I am very eager to watch McTavish strut his stuff in the OHL next season – hopefully, he makes this pick look very good, very soon.

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

Zator’s Take

Devin was doing his best Steve Yzerman impression when he made this pick. Since the departures of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, they have needed an heir apparent to take over the number one center spot and while Larkin is no slouch, he’s not the definition of an impactful first-line center. McTavish will fit in nicely with what they are building in Motor City right now under Yzerman’s watchful eye.

7) San Jose Sharks: Jesper Wallstedt – G, Luleå HF (SHL)

THW Writer: Josh Frojelin

With Beniers and Eklund off the board, I felt the Sharks needed to look at a netminder to find a game-changing talent. Martin Jones has been rough in his three most recent regular seasons, and Josef Korenar and Alexei Melnichuk are far from guarantees to be NHL quality goaltenders. Jesper Wallstedt was a starting goalie on a decent SHL team, at just 18-years-old. His .908 save percentage (SV%) through 22 regular season games is production and consistency never seen from a netminder of his age in the top Swedish league. The Sharks can likely fix their netminding woes in a few seasons with this selection.

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

Zator’s Take

The Sharks won big time getting Wallstedt at seventh overall. He fills a major need in the organization and will be Jones’ successor probably as soon as 2022-23. By far the best goaltender in the draft, he does everything at a high level, from his athleticism all the way down to his positioning. He also is as consistent as they come, and that is a rarity amongst goaltenders of his age. Like Evgeni Nabokov before him, he will be in San Jose for the long haul and could hit or pass some of his records by the time he retires.

8) Los Angeles Kings: Brandt Clarke – RD, HC Nove Zamky (Slovak)

THW Writer: Alex Hobson

Given the way picks 1-7 played out, it wasn’t hard for me to pick Brandt Clarke at 8th overall for the Kings. Clarke is arguably a top-five talent but was a little bit harder to scout this year given that he spent the season in Slovakia instead of in the OHL with the Barrie Colts. In 26 games for HC Nove Zamky of Slovakia’s top league, the 6-foot-2 right-handed defenseman amassed 16 points. He was also a standout offensively for Canada at the U18 World Championship with seven points in seven games.

Related: Prospect Brandt Clarke Is a Top-5 Talent in the 2021 NHL Draft

The Kings have one of the most stacked prospect pools in the NHL at each position. But, after taking a number of top-ranked forwards in recent years including Quinton Byfield (2020), Alex Turcotte (2019), Rasmus Kupari (2018), and Akil Thomas (2018), I opted to go with a defenseman this time. While Drew Doughty is still relatively young at 31 and still has lots left in the tank, Clarke would be a perfect pick to add to the Kings’ defensive core and eventually receive the torch when Doughty can’t go any further.

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

Zator’s Take

Surprisingly not one of the top five picks, Clarke falls into the lap of the Kings at eighth overall. Not playing in the OHL during his draft year really hurt his draft stock in a lot of scouts’ minds, including my own. He bounced back with a solid performance at the 2021 U18 World Championship, but that clearly wasn’t enough for the teams ahead of him in our mock draft. Despite my reservations, I still believe he will become a cornerstone defenceman in the NHL, so the Kings got a steal landing him here.

9) Vancouver Canucks: Fabian Lysell – RW, Lulea HF (SHL)

THW Writer: Matthew Zator

The Canucks desperately need to re-stock their cupboard on defense and at center, but with the top-tier defencemen of Hughes, Clarke, and Power gone, Fabian Lysell was the best player available even with Kent Johnson sitting there. It was a difficult decision, but the immense potential of the dynamic Swede was just too sweet to pass up. Despite their need for centermen, they are in need of more elite top-six players too. In a few seasons, this pick will be hailed as amazing in the same realm as Elias Pettersson’s selection was back in 2017.

Baracchini’s Take

Given that Lysell was the best player available, I’m very high on him as he has great awareness, speed, and ability to play at such a high pace. When he has the puck, he always wants to take control of the play. With Nils Hoglander having a great rookie season and Vasily Podkolzin waiting in the wings, this is a slam dunk pick for the Canucks as they drafted another player with great top-six potential. Imagine him on the wing alongside Pettersson or Horvat? That would be fun.

10) Ottawa Senators: Kent Johnson – C, University of Michigan (NCAA)

THW Writer: Dayton Reimer

The Senators have a wealth of top-tier talent in their system, so it’ll be tough for them to go wrong with the 10th pick. In this case, they jumped at the chance to pick Johnson, who could have the highest fantasy potential of any player available in 2021. The center had a strong freshman campaign with the University of Michigan and demonstrated his elite creativity and excellent skating regularly. While he’s not the pure goal-scorer Ottawa is looking for, he gives the team another great top-six center option. He won’t be ready for a few years, but the Senators have the time to wait.

Zator’s Take

Yawn. The Senators add yet another top-tier talent to their deep prospect pool. This story is getting old, isn’t it? Just joking, Sens fans. In all seriousness, Johnson’s package of speed, size, playmaking, and creativity is something they do not have in their system right now. Dayton hit the nail on the head, he will probably end up being the most productive player in this draft with his potential to rack up the goals and assists night in and night out.

11) Chicago Blackhawks: Sebastian Cossa – G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

THW Writer: Greg Boysen

While Kevin Lankinen had a nice rookie season, the Blackhawks are still in need of a dynamic goaltending prospect. They are high on last year’s second-round pick Drew Commesso, but Sebastian Cossa was just too hard to pass up here. A lot of pundits will tell you to never pick a goaltender in the first round, but all four starting netminders in the Stanley Cup Semifinals were first-rounders. Cossa dominated the shortened WHL season and has the fundamentals and mental make-up to be a franchise goaltender for years to come.

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

Zator’s Take

The first big bang of the mock draft, Greg sent waves through our Slack channel when he made this pick. Ranked by many outlets to be a late first-round pick or fall into the second, Cossa was not supposed to go this high. I called him to go 28th, while Peter and Andrew called him to go 30th. No one saw him going just outside the top ten that’s for sure. Having said that, he does fill a desperate need in the Blackhawks’ organization. With the departure of long-time netminder Corey Crawford and the uncertainty of Lankinen’s ability to replicate his 2020-21 season, the position isn’t really a strong one right now. So in the end, this pick may end up being genius. Although with Edvinsson still sitting there, they may end up regretting it too.

12) Calgary Flames: Simon Edvinsson – LD, Frolunda HC (SHL)

THW Writer: Alex Hobson

If Simon Edvinsson is indeed on the board at 12th overall when the Calgary Flames pick, they should no doubt pounce on the opportunity to select him. The Swedish blueliner was once the top-ranked defenseman in his draft class, but questions about his upside have seen him slip out of the top ten. Having said that, he has all the tools to become a surefire top-four defenseman, maybe even top-two if his upside exceeds expectations.

Standing at a hulking 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds, Edvinsson split the 2020-21 season between Frolunda HC of the SHL, Frolunda HC J20 of the Swedish Junior League, and Vasteras IK of the Allsvenskan league, Sweden’s second-tier pro league. After drafting a pair of forwards in Connor Zary (2020) and Jakob Pelletier (2019) in the last two drafts, I have them taking Edvinsson in 2021. With longtime top-pairing defenseman Mark Giordano turning 38 in October, Edvinsson would be a perfect defenseman to add in hopes that he can eventually hold a candle to Giordano’s role.

Zator’s Take

Dropping all the way down to 12th, Edvinsson’s recent polarity in the draft community seems to have seeped into the minds of our armchair GMs as well. As Alex aptly pointed out, there are definite concerns about his upside, more specifically, his decision-making. He could turn into a defenceman like first-overall pick Victor Hedman or become a bust like third-overall selection, Erik Gudbranson. Being big doesn’t always mean success in the NHL, so there are always questions when players like Edvinsson are selected high in the draft. In the end, he’s a boom or bust prospect. I am of the opinion that he’s going to boom and become a prominent top-four defenceman. So of course, I think the Flames got very lucky drafting him here.

13) Philadelphia Flyers: Cole Sillinger – C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)

THW Writer: Colin Newby

Cole Sillinger‘s size down the middle is attractive to a team that is currently evaluating its organizational depth chart at center. He becomes even more likely to be selected if either Nolan Patrick or Morgan Frost, two young centers who presumably figure into the long-term plans of the organization, are dealt in a trade package in what promises to be a busy offseason for general manager Chuck Fletcher. The Flyers drafted defenseman Cam York and winger Bobby Brink, who also both played in the USHL to varying extents, with their first two picks in the 2019 draft. Mike Sillinger, Cole’s father, also played for the Flyers in two of his 17 NHL seasons.

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

Zator’s Take

Like Devin did for the Red Wings, Colin did for the Flyers. He basically got into the minds of the brass and drafted someone I could actually see them landing come July 23. Playing a similar game to former Flyer Jeff Carter, Sillinger uses his size and strength at center to win battles along the wall and score with a very accurate wrist shot. With Claude Giroux declining and Frost and Patrick seemingly on their way out, he will help solve a weakness that use to be a massive strength for the former Broadstreet Bullies.

14) Dallas Stars: Chaz Lucius – C, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

THW Writer: Peter Baracchini

When a player that has one of the best shots and goal-scoring abilities is available in the draft, it would be smart to select him. Despite missing quite a bit of time due to an injury, Chaz Lucius didn’t miss a beat when it came to scoring goals. His NHL-like power and release in his shot and offensive awareness make him a major threat on the ice. He’s got great strength to protect the puck and his quick hands allow him to make slick moves in tight situations. With a solid defensive foundation already in the NHL, Lucius would be a massive addition to the Stars’ forward depth.

Zator’s Take

Selected around where most outlets predict him to go, Lucius’ shot alone makes him a top-15 pick. The Stars have a lot of young talent, but no one with the goal-scoring upside of this guy. As Peter said, they have defence, now they need to bolster their offence. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are still elite talents, but beyond them and Calder Trophy nominee Jason Robertson, it kind of falls off, especially on the prospect side. Lucius will definitely help shore that weakness up.

15) New York Rangers: Zachary Bolduc – C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

THW Writer: Matt Grazel

The New York Rangers have lacked depth at the center position for a few years so drafting a prospect at the position is of significance. Zachary Bolduc is known for his hockey intelligence and has good skating ability but needs to work on his defensive skills. The prospect from Rimouski Oceanic needs to work on his consistency in order to be an effective player at the NHL level.

Zachary Bolduc Rimouski Oceanic
Zachary Bolduc of Rimouski Oceanic (Iften Redjah – Foliophoto)

Zator’s Take

Selected higher than I expected, Bolduc does have aspects that make him a first-round talent. Except with Logan Stankoven and Francesco Pinelli still available for the Rangers to bolster their depth at center, I question it a bit. As Matt said, he is a smart forward, but his defensive and consistency issues would force my hand to select someone more polished instead.

16) St. Louis Blues: Sasha Pastujov – LW/RW, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)

THW Writer: Stephen Ground

The 16th overall pick is a higher draft pick than any the Blues have had since the 2010 draft when they selected Jaden Schwartz at 14 and then traded up to draft Vladimir Tarasenko at 16. The Blues have a very obvious need for right-handed defensemen in the system, but when the pick arrived, we had to choose between selecting the best player available on our boards, or (we felt) reaching a bit to take Corson Ceulemans. In the end, we choose to go with a dynamic offensive player in Sasha Pastujov, a dangerous threat whether passing or shooting in the offensive zone. As it happens, Ceulemans went just one pick later, to the Winnipeg Jets. But we are very pleased with our pick, as Pastujov now becomes the biggest jewel in a prospect crown that we hope will be glistening again in a year or two!

Zator’s Take

This is a great pick for the Blues. Criminally underrated by the draft community, Pastujov is a multi-faceted offensive threat who will be making a lot of people eat their words in a few years. Ranked 13th in my latest rankings, he goes very close to that in our mock. Shooting up in my rankings after his performance at the BioSteel All-American Game and U18 World Championship where he recorded five goals and eight points in five games, he will be a mainstay in the Blues’ top-six for a very long time.

17) Winnipeg Jets: Corson Ceulemans – LD, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

THW Writer: Colton Davies

Ceulemans possesses elite vision and combined with his excellent mobility, shot, and power, he is a major threat on the ice. While he is known more as an offensive-minded defenceman, he made big strides this past season working on his play in his own zone. He has a unique skill set that will allow him to flourish in the NHL as a top-four defenceman and he will see plenty of time quarterbacking a power play unit.

Corson Ceulemans, Brooks Bandits
Corson Ceulemans Brooks Bandits (Photo Credit: Brooks Bandits/Bryan Wilson)

Zator’s Take

Another polarizing prospect in this draft, Ceulemans has been projected to go as high as 18th (McKenzie) and as low as 55th (Elite Prospects). That’s quite the range from mid first-round all the way down to the bottom half of the second round. I have him at 30th, mostly due to his developing two-way game. Having said all that, his offensive talents are off the charts as he can drive play with his feet and his passing abilities. With the Jets needing more defencemen that can get the puck up the ice quickly, he is the perfect choice for them right now. After all, defence can be taught right?

18) Nashville Predators: Matthew Coronato – C/W, Chicago Steel (USHL)

THW Writer: Jeff Middleton

With the 18th pick, I chose Matthew Coronato. The main thing that separated him from the pack was his shot and ability to create offense from essentially nothing. His skating is excellent, but the one thing I noticed when watching film was his shot. It’s something that the Predators could use in their offensive scheme, as it’s been evident how much of a difference a player like Eeli Tolvanen makes.

Zator’s Take

By now, everyone must know that I have lifetime tickets on the Coronato hype train. Not only does he have my name, but he’s a future star in the NHL. He dominated the USHL last season with 48 goals and 85 points in 51 games and then was a force in the playoffs as well on his way to raising his first Clark Cup. There are concerns out there about his ability to translate his offensive talents to the NHL, but I don’t have the same doubts. As Jeff said, his shot and ability to create offence from nothing will ultimately drive his success at the highest level. I think it goes without saying, but this was a great pick for the Predators.

19) Edmonton Oilers: Fyodor Svechkov – C/W, Lada Togliatti (VHL)

THW Writer: Eugene Helfrick

While Fyodor Svechkov may not be the most offensively talented player available in the draft, his defensive production is elite. He is the exact kind of utility forward that the Edmonton Oilers want in their system, as he can play a valuable shut-down depth role in the coming years. No, this isn’t a sexy pick, but it’s one that makes Edmonton harder to play against, which is something the franchise needs right now.

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

Zator’s Take

Dropping a bit according to many rankings, Svechkov could be a steal for the Oilers when all is said and done. As Eugene said, the Oilers need to be tougher to play against, and he can definitely bring that to the team one day. He’s a monster defensively and he can score when the opportunity presents itself. Not to mention, he’s one of the smartest players in the draft.

20) Boston Bruins: Aatu Raty – C, Kärpät (Liiga)

THW Writer: Eugene Helfrick

It wasn’t that long ago when Aatu Raty was considered amongst the top-three prospects for the 2021 draft. While his stock has fallen after he struggled to adjust to playing against men in the top Finnish professional league, that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked on draft day. For the Boston Bruins, he offers a fantastic value pick a 20th overall, as he is a player with top-line center potential who needs more time and space to develop his game. Given their strong culture and ability to develop talent, the Bruins could get the most out of Raty in the coming years.

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

Zator’s Take

Remember when Raty was one of the contenders for first-overall? Well, he’s fallen a bit since then, but as Eugene said, he should not be overlooked. The talent that made experts declare that over him did not disappear, which means he could still turn into an elite number-one center one day. The Bruins also have some experience with selecting underachieving Europeans. David Pastrnak ring a bell for anyone?

21) Minnesota Wild: Isak Rosen – LW/RW, Leksands IF (SHL)

THW Writer: Peter Baracchini

With Marco Rossi and Marat Khusnutdinov in the system, the Wild wouldn’t even think of passing on another highly skilled forward with this pick. Isak Rosen has great speed and agility and brings a dynamic offensive presence in his game. He’s quick in transition and can burn the opposition easily. He’s a smart playmaker and passer, but he has a deceptive shot as it was on full display during his draft year and at the World U18 Championships. You could never have too many players with a high ceiling and Rosen makes the Wild deeper in that regard.

Zator’s Take

After selecting the elusive Austrian Marco Rossi with the ninth overall pick in 2020, the Wild go back to Europe in 2021 to snag the equally dynamic Isak Rosen at 21st. Filled with elite potential, he could be starring alongside another Swedish star in Joel Eriksson-Ek or even Rossi, as they continue to stockpile talent in the forward ranks. Combine them with the powers of Matthew Boldy and Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov, and the Wild could be a very scary team in a few seasons.

22) Detroit Red Wings (via WSH): Carson Lambos – LD, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

THW Writer: Devin Little

Once upon a time, Carson Lambos was considered a top-10 prospect in this class. Since then, he has sort of fizzled out, but I still like the potential in his game. I think he has the goods to be a two-way, top-four defenseman in the NHL. If he can rediscover his game from before this season, this pick is going to age very well.

Carson Lambos Winnipeg Ice
Carson Lambos of the Winnipeg Ice (Zachary Peters/Winnipeg ICE)

Zator’s Take

Similar to Raty, Lambos fell from the mountain of the top-three podium to the bottom of the first round. His inability to adjust to the pro game in Europe during the pandemic really hurt his draft stock, as many saw some chinks in the armor that they never saw when he played in the WHL with the Winnipeg Ice. Except, his talent did not disappear overnight. He could still develop into a top-four defenceman with the right coaching and mentorship. If that happens, the Red Wings will have one of the biggest steals of the draft.

23) Florida Panthers: Logan Stankoven – C/RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

THW Writer: Colby Guy

With Florida pushing for contention, they needed to find a polished forward who can add secondary scoring and defensive IQ, and that’s exactly what they’re getting in Stankoven. He might only stand at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, but he is already well-versed on the defensive side of the ice and is also able to use his speed and his motor to produce offensively. After showing what he could do on the international stage in January, scoring four goals and eight points en route to a silver medal in the World Junior Championship, Stankoven figures to be a crucial part of Florida’s plans down the line.

Related: Kamloops Blazers’ Logan Stankoven Is Raising His Stock

Zator’s Take

The Panthers hit a home run with this pick. Stankoven is going to be one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL in a few seasons, and he will have Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to play with. Talk about a lethal trio. As Colby stated, he is small, but he definitely does not play to his size. Like Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens, his motor never stops and he doesn’t back down when the going gets tough. Amazing pickup by Florida.

24) Columbus Blue Jackets (via TOR): Samu Tuomaala – RW, Kärpät U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

THW Writer: Mark Scheig

Again thinking I’d grab a defenseman here, Samu Tuomaala is a sniper who has plus skating. For a team like the Blue Jackets who need speed and skill in their lineup, he would fit nicely. Plus as it turns out, the first round is a bit more forward-heavy. There weren’t many defensemen in this range that were interesting enough to grab.

Samu Tuomaala Team Finland
Samu Tuomaala of Team Finland (Finnish Ice Hockey Association)

Zator’s Take

Another favorite of mine, Tuomaala adds to the elite haul the Blue Jackets have already in Eklund who they drafted fifth overall. Mark said it perfectly, he is an absolute sniper with more than enough skating ability to succeed in the NHL. He shone in the U18 World Championship with Team Finland where he recorded five goals and 11 points in seven games, which further solidified the fact that he should be a first-round pick. He went much lower than I anticipated (14th), so Mark, aka Jarmo Kekäläinen, well done.

25) Minnesota Wild (via PIT): Jack Peart – LD, Fargo Force (USHL)

THW Writer: Peter Baracchini

We all love it when a team drafts a hometown kid. Winner of the Mr. Hockey Award for the best player in the state of Minnesota, Jack Peart is a dual presence on the back end. He’s smart in his own zone breaking up plays but is quick to transition to offense. He has great vision and speed to move the play up and quickly gains the offensive zone. He’s very smart with his decisions and rarely makes a mistake that puts his team in jeopardy. The Wild now have a developing presence on defense for the future.

Related: Jack Peart – 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Zator’s Take

A huge riser from where he was expected to go (second round), Peart goes to the Wild at 25th overall. Ranked only by McKeen’s, Recruit Scouting, and Elite Prospects to go in the first round, he will add a lot to their prospect pool on defence. With his skill set, he is built for the modern NHL where puck movement reigns supreme. Now that the Wild have a plethora of talent at forward, they need defencemen that can get them the puck. He will do that and more as he’s not only a threat offensively, but also a solid presence in his own zone as well.

26) Carolina Hurricanes: Zachary L’Heureux – C/LW, Halifax Mooseheads (WHL)

THW Writer: Nick Pinkerton

The Hurricanes have one of the league’s strongest prospect pools, placing fourth in THW’s January 2021 rankings. However, they are missing a winger among their best future talent and could afford to select a risky, but high-upside player like Zachary L’Heureux. The 18-year-old Halifax Moosehead was suspended four times for 13 total games in 2020-21 and will need to clean up his act. Nonetheless, he has demonstrated a power forward skill set and a bruiser mentality that the Hurricanes lacked in their most recent postseason run. In 2020-21, L’Heureux played in just 33 games but scored 19 goals and 20 assists — racking up 47 penalty minutes, to boot. His 5-foot-11, 196-pound frame will help him win battles along the boards and establish a net-front presence.

Zachary L'Heureux Moncton Wildcats
Zachary L’Heureux of the Moncton Wildcats (Daniel St-Louis)

Zator’s Take

Selecting L’Heureux is a definite risk, there’s no doubt about that. At a very young age, he’s already dealing with suspensions and a reputation for being a dirty and immature player. Not exactly the image you want going into a big event like the NHL Draft. However, considering his talent as a potential elite power forward that isn’t afraid to mix it up, a team will probably take a chance on him. The Hurricanes do here, hoping that he will be able to fix that part of his game without taking anything away from his physical presence on the ice.

27) Colorado Avalanche: Nikita Chibrikov – RW, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

THW Writer: Peter Baracchini

The Avalanche have had an abundance of riches from the draft over the past few years. Drafting and developing Cale Makar and Alex Newhook, the Avalanche continues that trend by adding Nikita Chibrikov. Offense is always on his mind, as he wants the puck to be the catalyst every time he’s on the ice. He has great hands to control the puck and the confidence to take control of every shift. Combine that with his shot and you have a recipe for a high-scoring winger for the future. His 13 points at the World U18 Championship put him fourth overall in tournament scoring.

Zator’s Take

As we approach the end of the first round, the best player available mentality comes into play with Chibrikov. The Avalanche stay away from defense after selecting Justin Barron in 2020 and go with pure offense in the Russian sniper from Moskva. Already blessed with the presence of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen, he could be the next Milan Hejduk and score 50 goals for the Avalanche as they continue to search for their next Stanley Cup.

28) New Jersey Devils (via NYI): Oskar Olausson – LW/RW, HV71 (SHL)

THW Writer: Alex Chauvancy

Oskar Olausson finished this season with 20 goals between the J-20 Nationell, SHL, and HockeyAllsvenskan in Sweden. He’s a very mobile skater who happens to be one of the best shooters in this draft class. And he also excels in transition, which is a good trait to have if he projects to play on a line with Jack Hughes one day. On top of that, he’s a responsible two-way player, making him effective in all three zones. Most scouting services seem to consider Olausson a borderline top 20 prospect, so the value in getting him at 28 was too good to pass up. Plus, not only does he fit a need for a goal-scoring winger in the Devils’ system, but he also ends up being the best player available.

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

Zator’s Take

Steal. That’s all I have to say about Olausson going 28th overall. Ranked as high as 13th by Dobber Prospects, he will be a great addition to a team that already possesses the likes of 2020 picks Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer and 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes. Add in their recent selection of his brother Luke, and the Devils are well on their way to becoming respectable again.

29) Vegas Golden Knights: Francesco Pinelli – C, HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)

THW Writer: Devin Little

With Cody Glass seemingly falling out of favor, the Vegas Golden Knights could use a high-end center prospect (I consider Peyton Krebs to be more of a winger) and boy did I land one here in Francesco Pinelli. There’s a good argument to be made that if he were a little more dynamic, he’d be a top-10 pick in this year’s draft. He’s a gifted playmaker with a strong wrist shot, and he isn’t afraid to throw his weight around either. He is both what Vegas is and what they need all at once.

Zator’s Take

Pinelli dropping to 29th is the surprise of the mock draft for me. I had him ranked 14 picks before this and I honestly don’t know why he fell so far. As Devin said, he could be a bit more dynamic, but that shouldn’t make him less attractive higher up in the draft. He’s got all the aspects of a top-line center from passing to goal scoring, so seeing him near the end of the first round is a shock to the system. Steal if there ever was one for the lucky Golden Knights.

30) Montreal Canadiens: Scott Morrow – RD, Shattuck St. Mary’s U18 Prep (USHS-Prep)

THW Writer: Hadi K

One of the most skillful defensemen available in the 2021 NHL Draft, Scott Morrow is a perfect fit for the Montreal Canadiens, with their top-two right-handed defensemen (Jeff Petry and Shea Weber) reaching the age of decline. Morrow is a more long-term project with a bit of room to improve, but an interesting skillset built around smooth-skating, impressive stickhandling, and precise puck distribution. His defensive game needs slight fine-tuning, but he uses his stick efficiently to box out forwards on the rush. Expect to see him in the NHL in three to four years, as he builds up his defensive game and gains some weight on his frame.

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

Zator’s Take

Morrow is exactly the type of defenceman the Canadiens need in their system to start building towards life without Weber and Petry. As mentioned, he’s one of the coveted right-hand defencemen every team wants and he has the skills to succeed in the modern NHL of quick and efficient puck movement. He might be a few years away, but he should team up with Alexander Romanov one day to form a very effective top pairing in Montreal.

31) Columbus Blue Jackets (via TBL): Xavier Bourgault – C/RW, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

THW Writer: Mark Scheig

The Blue Jackets need impact centers and grabbing Xavier Bourgault at the end of the first feels like a win. He put up big numbers in the QMJHL and has demonstrated he can play with the pace needed to succeed in the NHL. He is also equally effective at both ends of the ice. He projects as a middle-six player who could with proper development reach as high as a 2C.

Zator’s Take

Bourgault dropped significantly from where I had him at 19th overall, so getting him with the final pick in the first round was the icing on top of an already great night for Mark. He will ultimately replace what they lost in Pierre-Luc Dubois when he was traded for Patrik Laine.

Final Thoughts

There were some definite surprises in this year’s edition of the THW Mock Draft. Going into the second round, there are still five players on the board that I had going in the first round and plenty more talent still to be had beyond them. As a result, the top of the next round will likely see some steals at both forward and defense.

Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide

As for winners, the Blue Jackets were hands down the toast of the night, grabbing two potential game-breakers in Eklund and Tuomaala and a very solid center in Bourgault. Quite the haul if I do say so myself. I also love what the Devils did drafting Hughes and Olausson, and the Sharks grabbing Wallstedt to shore up their goaltending.

All in all, it was an exciting and interesting mock to start July, aka draft month. Now, buckle your seatbelts and take a look at the second round available now!

What do you think about THW team’s picks? Let us know in the comments!


THW 2021 NHL Mock Draft Recap – Round 1

PickTeamSelection
1Buffalo SabresMatthew Beniers
2Seattle KrakenOwen Power
3Anaheim DucksDylan Guenther
4New Jersey DevilsLuke Hughes
5Columbus Blue JacketsWilliam Eklund
6Detroit Red WingsMason McTavish
7San Jose SharksJesper Wallstedt
8Los Angeles KingsBrandt Clarke
9Vancouver CanucksFabian Lysell
10Ottawa SenatorsKent Johnson
11Chicago BlackhawksSebastian Cossa
12Calgary FlamesSimon Edvinsson
13Philadelphia FlyersCole Sillinger
14Dallas StarsChaz Lucius
15New York RangersZachary Bolduc
16St. Louis BluesSasha Pastujov
17Winnipeg JetsCorson Ceulemans
18Nashville PredatorsMatthew Coronato
19Edmonton OilersFyodor Svechkov
20Boston BruinsAatu Raty
21Minnesota WildIsak Rosen
22Detroit Red Wings (via WSH)Carson Lambos
23Florida PanthersLogan Stankoven
24Columbus Blue Jackets (via TOR)Samu Tuomala
25Minnesota Wild (via PIT)Jack Peart
26Carolina HurricanesZachary L’Heureux
27Colorado AvalancheNikita Chibrikov
28New Jersey Devils (via NYI)Oskar Olausson
29Vegas Golden KnightsFrancesco Pinelli
30Montreal CanadiensScott Morrow
31Columbus Blue Jackets (via TBL)Xavier Bourgault

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