Meet the Steal of the 2021 NHL Draft

We continue our month-long preview of the NHL Draft by turning our attention to one of our favorite annual traditions. It’s time to unveil who our steal of the 2021 draft is. In case you missed our first part, we shared five players who shouldn’t be drafted in a certain range.

Like the “Do Not Draft” list that we did last week, we had to treat the “Steal of the Draft” column differently than in year’s past. We just don’t have as much information as we are accustomed to having.

Why This Season Is Different

We normally look at all draft eligible prospects and try to project if someone is being undervalued. If you get someone in round two who provides round one value over time, that constitutes a steal.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have exceled at this concept of late. That has helped them get to the brink of winning consecutive Stanley Cups. See Point, Brayden and Cirelli, Anthony. Most teams will hit on their early picks. But whoever hits on the later ones gain an advantage.

What will make this season different is that there should be several steals in this draft. Players are going to go later than they should because of various factors and will turn out to be great players.

For this exercise I normally look outside the first round for someone who will provide first-round value. I think there will be a number of players who surprise us. But this season I keep going back to a name that should go early in round one but I think he’s rated too low anyway.

The more I see and read of this player, the more impressed I get. He could turn out to be one of the five best players in this entire draft and yet there are very few publications that have him in the top-five. If he goes outside the top-10 and is one of the five best players in this draft, that’s a huge steal. I think he gets there.

Who is he? Meet our steal of the 2021 NHL Draft. It’s Fabian Lysell.

Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story

As our Peter Baracchini wrote about Lysell in his draft profile, he requested a transfer from Frölunda. He wanted a fresh start at a higher level.

But one look at Lysell’s stat line from Luleå and uh oh. He scored just three points in 26 games. Clearly that isn’t the kind of point production you want to see from a top prospect, right? Yes that’s true. But we have to dig deeper into this one to get the full story.

The story here is Lysell’s usage. Most of his time was spent playing bottom-line minutes. He didn’t get a full opportunity to display the potential he has although he still did a great job showing what he could.

The biggest thing that jumps out is his speed. Beep beep. Will Scouch has called Lysell “The Swedish Roadrunner” and for good reason. He has one speed. It’s top speed. He uses it at all times. He has to be pulled in at times.

That speed is put to such good use with the way he pressures the puck. Lysell is as good on the puck as he is away from the puck. It’s truly dynamic the way he operates in this part of the game. Very few if any prospects can match this especially over 200-feet.

Trying to Explain Variance in Rankings

So why is that only one outlet, Dobber Prospects, has Lysell ranked inside the top-five? They had him ranked third on their March rankings. Everyone else cited by Elite Prospects has him ranked in a rang between sixth and 27th (Craig Button.)

It’s possible the lack of production was part of it. Perhaps size is part of it as Lysell is listed at just 5-foot-10. There have also been rumors of arrogance and the way he conducts himself but I have seen no hard evidence of this truly being an issue. Perhaps his lack of finish was a part of it too.

At the end of the day, I see a top-five talent going later than this position and in some cases much later than this position. If Lysell starts to drop which could very well happen, teams should race to the phone and see if a trade up is possible.

Not only does Lysell have a tremendous motor, he’s an excellent playmaker. When given the opportunity, he can get the puck in open space and make the correct read to get the puck to teammates. While he’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, he has enough skill to finish when needed. I can’t help but think of Artemi Panarin when watching him.

Artemi Panarin New York Rangers
Fabian Lysell reminds me a lot of the way Artemi Panarin plays. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Where I think he will make the biggest impact is his ability to drive the play on his own. At worst, Lysell is a middle-six forward who can contribute at both ends at add offense. But at best, he can be a top-line forward for a decade or more who will consistently make things happen.

The one area I’m concerned, and it’s very correctable, is his motor overheating of sorts. Mistakes are made when Lysell goes too quick. Whether it’s a bad or forced pass or incorrect read, he needs to have a better understanding of when to tone things down. But if that’s his biggest issue, sign me up for that all day.

Why Lysell Is A Steal

The upside far outweigh any concerns about Lysell’s game. Don’t let the his size or any perceived thoughts about him distract you from just how dynamic he is. The team that lands him could ultimately end up as one of the biggest winners of this year’s draft. Even if he’s drafted in the 7-10 range, that’s a steal given what he could ultimately bring to a team.

It’s for that reason that Lysell is our 2021 Steal of the Draft.

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