The 2021 NHL Draft is unlike any other before it. Due to global travel restrictions, canceled seasons, and a general lack of international events, scouting is just more difficult than it has been in recent years. This means that information on players may be less precise, as some were able to play a relatively complete year in certain leagues, while others were forced to sit on the sidelines due to closures.
Nowhere does this uncertainty strike harder than at the goaltender position. Goalies are already notoriously difficult to scout and project, and with a completely different cycle, this process became even more imprecise. However, with a deep and talented pool of goalies to discuss, who are the Top 10 goaltenders available at the 2021 NHL Draft?
10) Carter Serhyenko
If you’re looking purely at statistics, Carter Serhyenko won’t be on the top of anyone’s draft list. In 10 games played in 2020-21, he posted a 3.99 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .858 save percentage (SV%), which are far from inspiring numbers.
Once you look past those numbers, however, you will find a goaltender with an incredibly high ceiling who is coming off a tough season when many things were uncertain around him. I think general managers will fall in love with Serhyenko’s intangibles, as he can track the puck like the best of them in the draft, his athleticism in net is stellar, and he can keep a calm demeanor as play deteriorates around him.
While he will likely be a late-round pick, he strikes me as one of those goalies who we will look back on in five years and ask… how did he fall all the way to Round 6?
9) Taylor Gauthier
When it comes to overage goaltenders who could make an impact on a franchise relatively soon, few players have as much potential as Taylor Gauthier at the 2021 NHL Draft. After being passed over in both 2019 and 2020, he will hope that the third time is the charm and that he finally hears his name called on draft day.
While it seems unlikely that a team would select him now, Gauthier has shown that he is one of the best goalies in the WHL over the last few seasons, helping a fairly mediocre Prince George Cougars squad be in playoff contention had the 2021 postseason occurred. His selection to play with Team Canada in the WJC-20 also shows that some see him as a talented player who can make an impact on the ice.
For the right franchise, Gauthier could be a perfect late-round selection, as he could quickly make his way to the AHL and push for a starting role in the minor leagues to further develop his game. Considering that he has two previous years of scouting behind him as well, he may be more appealing due to the uncertainty this season.
8) Aku Koskenvuo
Of all the goaltenders who are likely to be selected in Rounds 5-7 of the draft, I think that Aku Koskenvuo has the highest potential. At 6-foot-4, he has that projectable NHL frame that general managers love, with the athleticism to move around in the net with a surprising amount of control and ability.
Koskenvuo won’t be a short-term goaltending option. He will require a lot of time to develop his game before he will even get a chance at an NHL backup role. However, given his commitment to play at Harvard starting in the 2022-23 season, he could be in the perfect position to take on ice-time at a top-flight institution to learn the game over the course of a few years.
So, if you are willing to be patient and commit a few years to his development, I think there is NHL potential in Koskenvuo. If your team isn’t in need of a goalie over the next four to five years, then he would be well worth the investment of a fifth-round pick.
7) Patrik Hamrla
There’s a lot to like about Patrik Hamrla. While playing hockey in the minor leagues in his home country of the Czech Republic, he has been a consistently strong performer. In 2019-20, when he was playing against opponents his own age in the Czech U17, he posted a 2.5 GAA along with a .915 SV%. He also has a large frame and plays the puck well in his own zone, which is appealing to NHL GMs.
Hamrla does feel like a bit of a question mark heading into the draft, though. I think talent-wise, he should be one of the top goalies available. However, he didn’t get a start at the 2021 WJC-18, as fellow draft hopeful Thomas Suchanek made all five starts, so he wasn’t able to showcase his talents on the international stage. However, this doesn’t mean that he will be overlooked, as his ability in net is amongst the best in the class.
6) Alexei Kolosov
As a top-end goaltending prospect, Alexei Kolosov may come as a bit of a surprise. He isn’t the biggest goalie in the draft, and his statistics aren’t particularly gaudy, but he plays with the mindset that he is the best goalie on the ice at all times.
This may seem like odd praise, but for a young goalie, staying calm in the net is as important as anything else. Kolosov doesn’t get rattled when things go wrong, instead using those mistakes as a focus for his talents. He gets better as he faces more shots, and he has the work ethic to pull off great saves to give his team a chance to win.
You can teach a lot of things to a young player, but confidence is always hard to get through. Right now, Kolosov plays like a top-tier prospect, and as such, that confidence in his game shows on the ice.
5) Tristan Lennox
With the cancellation of the 2020-21 OHL season, many draft-eligible prospects were unable to take the ice and impress scouts with their play. One such goaltender who was affected by this is Tristan Lennox, who comes into the draft with a bit of a mixed prospect profile.
On one hand, he absolutely dominated in the 2019-20 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, posting a 0.95 GAA and a .951 SV% in three starts. On the other hand, he had a mediocre 3.63 GAA and a .876 in 33 starts for the Saginaw Spirit that same year. While his overall record looked great, as he went 20-8-3, that could be attributed to the strong team in front of him.
With almost no playing time over the last year, it’s difficult to get a full read on Lennox’s potential. Many see him as one of the top goaltenders available due to his size and athleticism, but it’s also hard to tell if the 2019-20 regular season was just a down year for him statistically, or if it was the kind of play that should be expected from him in the coming years. However, given his raw potential, he is still amongst the elite of this class.
4) Kirill Gerasimyuk
To put it simply, who you play for matters as much as how well you play. For Kirill Gerasimyuk, he posted an impressive 2.59 GAA and a .931 SV% while playing for a mediocre to bad squad in the MHL. Due to his team seeing little success on the ice and the general difficulty scouting the MHL and VHL this year, I think he is going to be overlooked, which is a shame because he is a top-end goaltending prospect.
Gerasimyuk just reminds me of one of those players who will spend a few seasons honing his craft in the KHL before making the jump to the NHL and bursting into a starting role. He is an incredibly talented player who has full-time starter potential, and I believe will be one of the steals of this draft.
3) Ben Gaudreau
There’s a reason why Ben Gaudreau is considered to be amongst the top goaltending prospects for the 2021 Draft. He is a big-bodied goalie who moves well in the net and tracks the puck at an elite level. While his statistics were mediocre for the 2019-20 season, he was playing for a rebuilding Sarnia Sting team that was struggling through a down year.
Similar to Lennox, Gaudreau was unable to take the ice during the 2020-21 season due to the OHL’s cancellation. However, when you look at his tape you will see a player with the intangibles that general managers love who could make some real noise in the coming years.
Unlike Lennox, Gaudreau was able to start five games in the 2021 WJC-18 for Team Canada, pulling down an impressive 2.20 GAA and a .919 SV%. These statistics are important, as he made quality starts after being stuck on the sidelines for more than a calendar year, showing a player who is truly talented and resilient.
2) Sebastian Cossa
When you talk about goaltending at the 2021 NHL Draft, there is a clear-cut top two. While Sebastian Cossa may not be the #1 goalie available, by all accounts he has elite potential that could put him amongst the top players selected this year.
There’s just so much to love about Cossa. Standing 6-foot-6, he is a giant in net who plays with an incredible amount of control and finesse for someone his size. He also tracks the puck at an elite level and knows how to take away shooting angles by making those small choices to limit scoring chances.
His 2020-21 statistics are also a bit absurd, as he posted a 2.23 GAA along with a .941 SV% while playing for a stacked Edmonton Oil Kings roster. While these numbers may be a tad inflated, they showcase a player with special talent.
As a player with franchise-altering potential, Cossa should be a first-round pick. He will be much discussed heading into draft day, and he has the potential to live up to this hype in the coming years.
1) Jesper Wallstedt
If you’ve been following goaltending prospects for any amount of time, the name Jesper Wallstedt should come immediately to mind. For years he has been touted as the next great Swedish goaltender, and with each passing season, he kept showcasing just how special he was.
As said best by THW’s own Matthew Zator in Wallstedt’s draft profile:
All the superlatives you can think of apply to Wallstedt. He’s quick laterally, strong on his skates, almost perfect technically, and finally, never gives up on a play. He’s also calm as a cucumber, possesses a lightning-quick glove hand, and can handle the puck efficiently outside of his crease. Basically, what I am saying is, there are not many weaknesses to his game.
Wallstedt is the top goaltending prospect for a reason. He is one of the most talented goalies in a draft in years, and he will make an immense impact on the franchise that selects him in the coming years.
Don’t Underestimate the 2021 Goaltending Class
It will be easy to overlook the 2021 goaltending class due to the uncertainty surrounding them, which is fair considering the general lack of scouting caused by travel restrictions and league changes over the last year.
This doesn’t mean that you can ignore this class, though. It is still an incredibly deep and talented group that could contain multiple starters if they are given the time to develop their full toolkits.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.