As soon as the calendar flipped to January, the attention starts to shift over to the NHL Draft. Recently, Central Scouting released its midterm rankings and I thought it would be a great time to do a mock draft as a result of it.
I mean, who doesn’t like a mock draft? It’s engaging, interesting and the possibilities are endless for many of the teams. This year’s crop is a very exciting group of talent with Kingston Frontenacs’ centre Shane Wright continuing to lead the way as the top player for the draft. While he isn’t the consensus top pick, I still see he him as the top player in this draft.
This mock will include all 32 teams and their selection with the best player available. The placements are all based on points percentage in the standings and not based on overall points. If there were any picks traded, they are included to reflect to the current team selecting and the team where they received the pick.
There will be plenty more mock drafts done at The Hockey Writers as fellow draft expert, Matthew Zator, will be taking part with mock drafts of his own. Be sure to watch out for that as well as our draft profiles as we kick off our draft season.
Final Note: The standings are up to date as of Jan. 24, 2021 before puck drop.
Without further ado, let the first mock draft begin!
1. Montreal Canadiens: Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Despite getting criticism about his production in his draft year, Shane Wright is still the ultimate prize in this draft and the Montreal Canadiens shouldn’t second guess about this selection. A two-way centre with excellent vision and IQ, Wright possesses a high level of compete and work ethic. When the puck is on his stick, he is a major threat with his passing or with his accurate and strong shot. Even though he may not boast the production, the offense will come. Who wouldn’t want a Patrice Bergeron-like centre on your team?
2. Arizona Coyotes: Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP (USHL)
It’s not Shane Wright, but it’s a very nice consolation prize as Logan Cooley is the next best centre in the draft. He’s extremely skilled as he has the ability to provide a strong presence in his own end and be an offensive catalyst. He’s got great speed, hands and situational awareness. His strong performance this season has shot him up the draft boards. Despite a short showcase at the World Juniors, his dominant play for the NTDP is what stands out, where he’s fourth in points (35) and tied for third in goals with 15.
3. Seattle Kraken: Simon Nemec, D, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
I think Nemec has the label of being the top-defender in this draft. He has great poise, confidence and decision-making when he has the puck. He’s an excellent passer, has a smooth skating stride and has no problem in carrying the puck into high traffic areas and maintain control. He’s competitive and is always wanting to make an impact every shift. Did I mention he’s a right-handed shot? Defensemen with these qualities are definitely hard to find. The Kraken got their top centre in Matty Beniers last year, and now they could boost their defense with a quality defender with top pairing upside.
4. Ottawa Senators: Matthew Savoie, RW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
The Senators missed the mark by passing on skill with their top-10 pick last year. They shouldn’t repeat that with the fourth overall pick. Despite being 5-foot-9, Savoie plays a bigger game than expected. He’s crafty, aggressive and has a high compete level every time he’s on the ice. He has excellent hands to make moves in tight spaces and lightning quick release with his shot. He’s an excellent skater and has great agility. While he’s second in the WHL with 55 points, 27 of them have come on the power play, bringing his even strength production into question. Still, he’s a highly skilled player.
5. Buffalo Sabres: Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP (Liiga)
Always displaying a shoot first mentality, Kemell has a quick release and tremendous power in his shot. He finds the open ice perfectly to either take the puck himself or get ready for a one-timer opportunity. He’s constantly involved with the play and is also a very strong playmaker. There are times where he does take an extra second to make a move and an opportunity is gone, but he’s always a threat on the ice. Before he went down with an injury, he was on-pace to break Aleksander Barkov’s U18 season for points.
6. Philadelphia Flyers: Juraj Slafkovsky, LW, TPS (Liiga)
Already having the likes of Morgan Frost and Tyson Foerster, the Flyers add another key forward to their prospect pool in the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Slovak winger. The blend of his size along with skating and ability to protect the puck extremely well, makes Slafkovsky a really great player to have in your system. He has excellent control and has no problem to bully his way through his opponents to drive to the middle of the ice. His play style matches that of the Flyers in your face game.
7. New Jersey Devils: David Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Czech)
How exciting would it be if the New Jersey Devils can roll a potential pairing of Luke Hughes and Jiricek? The answer is very. Jiricek becomes another high-end, puck-moving defenseman in the system. He’s a quick and fluid skater with the ability to jump into the play and join the attack. He has a powerful shot from the point and isn’t afraid to engage physically to make a hit. While he’s expected to miss significant time following surgery after the World Juniors was paused, he’s still a player that has top-10 potential.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Chicago Blackhawks): Brad Lambert, C/W, JYP (Liiga)
The Blue Jackets are going to let the Chicago Blackhawks regret moving this pick. Despite facing some inconsistencies in the Liiga this season with six points in 24 games, Lambert played extremely well in the two games he played for Finland at the World Juniors with five points in two games. Despite the lack of production at the pro level, Lambert is extremely competitive as he’s a very great skater with soft hands and offensive vision. Still viewed a top-10 talent, he showed why he should still be in this range, possibly even higher.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets: Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
The Blue Jackets second pick in a row, snag another player with great size and skill in Geekie. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he possesses soft hands to make moves at top speed and can maintain control of the puck extremely well for his size. He has the ability to take control of every shift with his skillset or even make an impact with his off the puck play, with his positioning, or physical play. His skating is an area of improvement, but he has all the qualities that anyone would want in a centre.
10. Vancouver Canucks: Danila Yurov, RW, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)
Even though through 21 games in the KHL, he hasn’t registered a point, he has played less than five minutes per game. In the MHL, he’s producing with 16 points in 11 games. Yurov’s game is based on speed. He’s a smooth skater and is absolutely quick in transition, being able to go from end-to-end in a flash. He’s a strong playmaker, finding the seams and is extremely effective at protecting the puck.
11. Detroit Red Wings: Frank Nazar, RW, USNTDP (USHL)
The Detroit Red Wings continue to be spoiled. With Jonatan Berggren, Simon Edvinsson, Sebastian Cossa and many others in the system, drafting Nazar just makes their prospect depth even deeper. Nazar is an extremely quick skater with really strong edgework to turn on a dime. He’s very deceptive with his movements and is wowing the crowd every time he’s on the ice. He’s an excellent puck handler with the swiftness to make plays at a quick pace.
12. New York Islanders: Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Krylia (MHL)
The Islanders could use some goal scoring, as Miroshnichenko has all of the tools that makes him a lethal offensive force. He has the size, the speed and an NHL release with power that instantly makes him dangerous anywhere on the ice. He was a dominant force at the World U18 Championship and Hlinka Gretzky Cup and his production is pretty decent (10 goals and 16 points) for a 17-year-old in the VHL. While some may look at that as a downfall, he still possesses the qualities that could make him a great goal scorer.
13. San Jose Sharks: Jonathan Lekkerimäki, C/ RW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
After drafting William Eklund last year, adding a sharpshooter like Lekkerimaki would be a great selection for them as they continue to build a quality prospect system. His shot and ability to control the offense is his main strength as he has 20 goals in the J20 Nationell. His size allows him to get an inside advantage to take control of a battle and regain control of the puck. That along, with his skating and edgework, allows him to quickly evade any sort of pressure to settle things down and open the ice even more.
14. Winnipeg Jets: Cutter Gauthier, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
After adding a dangerous goal scorer in Chaz Lucis last year, the Jets look to go with another high-end quality prospect with a goal scorers touch in Gauthier. Playing with a power forward’s mentality, Gauthier is constantly engaged in plays along the boards, possessing great size and physical strength. He has a really accurate wrist shot as he leads the NTDP in goals with 20. He’s a strong stickhandler with great control and the ability to confuse his opponents with his quick movements head on.
15. Edmonton Oilers: Liam Öhgren, LW, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
A stand out at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with seven points in five games, Öhgren is tearing up the J20 Nationell in Sweden as he’s tied for fifth overall in goals with 18. That’s great production from a 17-year-old. He has great offensive awareness and his work ethic is always noticeable when he’s on the ice. He can be a threat when making a pass or when he’s wide open for a shot on net. He plays with a high level pace and confidence and would be a great addition to an already impressive Oilers prospect pool.
16. Anaheim Ducks: Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USA U18 (USHL)
With Mason McTavish and Sasha Pastujov turning heads, the Ducks continue to draft high quality talent, this time selecting a highly effective point producer in Jimmy Snuggerud. He plays with a high level of intensity and compete level, playing with conviction every time he’s on the ice. He can hurt you with his skating, his hands or his shot. He can score from anywhere on the ice as he has a quick wrist shot or can unleash a powerful one-timer. He currently is tied for the lead on the NTDP with 39 points and is second in goals with 16.
17. Dallas Stars: Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Mintyukov is a high-flying, in your face defender that brings a strong competitive edge. He’s a smooth skater with blazing speed, being able to jump into the rush and lead the offense from the backend. He’s got great confidence when he has control of the puck in transition, or being able to connect with his teammates with crisp, clean passing. He isn’t afraid to use his body to his advantage engaging in physical battles or making an open ice hit. Mintyukov is another promising defender for the future.
18. Los Angeles Kings: Alexander Perevalov, LW, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
A right shooting, left winger, Perevalov possesses the skill set to be an extremely effective offensive dynamo. He’s been a big riser for me and has definitely made himself known as a top prospect. He has great hands and control of the puck, making extremely creative high-end plays. He can be a deceptive passer, but it’s his shot that makes him extremely lethal. He has great power and accuracy, especially when he winds up for a one-time opportunity. He’s not the fastest skater but he does have a smooth stride in transition, gets the inside track in one-on-one situations and does a great job at opening space up for himself or even attack the front of the net.
19. Calgary Flames: Denton Mateychuk, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Mateychuk’s game is one that’s built on speed. Any time there’s a chance to rush the play forward, he always does it effectively and swiftly in order to create quality chances. He has great control with the puck and is always in motion. He’s definitely a risk taker with his aggressive attacking style, but it’s definitely worth the investment given his potential. With no viable puck-moving defensemen in the system, Mateychuk gives the Flames a very mobile and dangerous weapon on the backend.
20. Buffalo Sabres (from Vegas Golden Knights): Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
When you don’t have any quality right-hand defenseman in your system and there’s one available, you shouldn’t hesitate. With Jack Quinn and Peyton Krebs up front, the Sabres would be getting a really dynamic defender in Nelson. He’s a smooth skating, two-way defender. Nelson always displays the poise and confidence every time he’s in motion. He has an accurate point shot and despite his size, he isn’t afraid to challenge opponents bigger than him as he has great strength.
21. Nashville Predators: Tristan Luneau, D, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
A two-way defender with excellent situational awareness, Luneau has the potential to be a very viable top-four defender. He doesn’t panic under pressure in his own end as he’s always in position to break up a play or deny entry into the defensive end. He’s a smooth skater in transition and a really great puck distributor. He doesn’t have a wow factor, but he always executes each play perfectly. What he lacks in offensive production, he makes up for it with his smarts.
22. Washington Capitals: Marco Kasper, C, Rögle BK J20 (Nationell)
Marco Kasper has a lot of potential. He possesses great energy, determination and work ethic every time he’s on the ice. He has a drive and mentality where he doesn’t take no for an answer. He battles hard, provides great puck protection and great speed. He likes to have a strong net-front presence making life difficult for defenders. He definitely isn’t fun to go up against as he’s constantly engaging in battles to gain possession of the puck.
23. Boston Bruins: Nathan Gaucher, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
He’s big, tough and an extremely reliable centreman. At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Gaucher is very capable of being an offense generator. His size allows to him to be effective in the corners or in scrums along the boards and come out of that battle with possession. He’s excellent at carrying and driving to the high danger area in order to create havoc in front of the goaltender. The power and strength he has in his game really does scream Bruins hockey.
24. St. Louis Blues: Gleb Trikozov, LW, Omskie Krylia (VHL)
The Blues add to their forward depth by taking Trikozov in the late part of the first round. He plays an extremely reliable two-way game excelling in all areas of the ice as he possesses great vision and smarts and has a very lethal shot. He’s not afraid to play a physical game and play the body to separate the player from the puck to gain possession. The Blues are very thin on the left side with Jake Neighbours being their top prospect. Trikozov will definitely help bolster that wing position.
25. Minnesota Wild: Filip Mesar, RW, HK Poprad (Slovakia)
While all the attention has been on Nemec and Salfkovsky, Mesar tends to get overlooked even though he shouldn’t. He’s a high-flying winger with great speed and agility when in motion and has great control of the puck. He plays a high tempo game and makes plays at such a great pace. He has great vision to spot his teammates in order to set them up with accurate cross seam passes.
26. New York Rangers: Isaac Howard, LW, USA U18 (USHL)
The Rangers drafted a high-octane winger in Brennan Othmann last year. Well, why not add another one in Isaac Howard. Howard is always buzzing around in the offensive zone, he has the speed and is always persistent in applying pressure to battle for the puck, being a pain for the opposition. He has the drive to always attack the net and be a presence that’s hard to contain. He shows no quit as he always wants the puck on his stick.
27. Pittsburgh Penguins: Seamus Casey, D, USNTDP (USHL)
The Penguins prospect depth is pretty bare. After trading away first-round picks for playoff help, if they keep this year’s first, they should bolster their blueline. A strong and smooth puck-moving defenseman, Casey is a dual threat when he’s in transition. He’s a very strong skater that allows him to navigate flawlessly on the ice, either joining the rush or jumping into the attack at any time. He has great speed and edges that allows him to change his direction and movement instantly. He’s an effective passer, making long stretch plays with ease and accuracy.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs: Calle Odelius, D, Djurgårdens IF J20 (Nationell)
A confident and poised, two-way defenseman, Odelius has excellent smarts in his decision-making and play. He has great vision to connect with a crisp stretch pass to quickly catch the opposition off guard or take matters into his own hands and carry the play leading the offense. He’s a fluid skater in transition and always shows great poise when doing so. He makes everything look so effortless and always has a positive impact on the game. This seems like a pick that the Maple Leafs would love to make.
29. Tampa Bay Lightning: Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
OHLers paid the price without a season in 2020-21, though Del Bel Belluz isn’t showing any rust. He has come out blazing in his draft year and shows no signs of slowing down as he’s currently in the top-10 in league scoring with 47 points. At first, I thought his ranking of 11th overall among North American skaters was little high, but he’s showing his worth and consistentcy as a top prospect. He displays an excellent work ethic, letting his play do all the talking with his two-way game. He has great hands in tight and is always engaging on the forecheck, while also doing everything he can to generate chances and dictate the pace of the game.
30. Buffalo Sabres (from Florida Panthers): Rutger McGroarty, C, USNTDP (USHL)
After getting Kemell and Nelson, earlier in the draft, the Sabres add another quality offensive producer in Rutger McGroarty. He has great strength and he utilizes that to his advantage being in loose puck battles and in the corners. He’s a good skater and has the skillset that gives him the promise to be an impact power forward in the NHL.
31. Arizona Coyotes (from Carolina Hurricanes): Filip Bystedt, C, Linköping HC J20 (Nationell)
After drafting Cooley second overall, the Coyotes select Bystedt. Playing above a point per game pace at the J20 level with 28 points in 27 games, he possesses excellent qualities in a centreman. His ability to be a force with or without the puck stands out. He’s a very strong skater for his size, separating himself from other defenders quickly. His body allows him to fend off attackers and maintain puck possession. This combination makes him extremely difficult to contain.
32. Arizona Coyotes (from Colorado Avalanche): Matyas Sapovaliv, C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
You can never have enough centreman as Coyotes add another piece up the middle in Sapovaliv. The Czech centre has great size and speed, but it’s his playmaking abilities that’s truly his greatest asset. He handles the puck with great confidence and is capable of making swift moves in tight spaces to get around the opposition. It seems like there are eyes at the back of his head as he’s able to make plays like this look easy.
What do you think of your team’s selection? Is there another player you have in mind? Habe your say in the comment section!
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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.