The 2021 NHL Draft was tough for all organizations. With the world dealing with COVID-19 since 2020, scouting has been extremely difficult. Scouts have had to work thoroughly through video and in some cases, scout a players’ skill from years before. On top of that, some leagues like the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), canceled their seasons in 2020-21, leaving many top prospects without much playing time to prepare for the draft.
For the Dallas Stars, the goal of this draft was simple. Commit to their previous scouting, trust their ratings, and have as many picks as possible to replenish the prospect pool. In the past two drafts, Dallas has only selected four and five times due to trade moves in previous seasons, leaving them shorthanded. Since they were not in the top 10 picks (15th), they felt the number of picks would likely outweigh the quality. For this reason, when they were on the clock in the first round, they traded their pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for picks 23, 48, and 138. The Red Wings were very interested in selecting goaltender Sebastian Cossa, therefore made the trade with Dallas. This move showed the intelligence and patience of the Stars organization as they were aware of the situation. This gave them 10 picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. Here is how those picks turned out.
Early Rounds, 1&2
First Round (23rd overall): Wyatt Johnston, Center (Windsor Spitfires, OHL)
Johnston had not played hockey all year due to the OHL shutdown. He got his first chance to shine at the U-18 World Championship in Plano, Texas. He played a third-line role due to his lack of recent play, but excelled in this role. On top of his two-way play, he added four points in the seven games at the tournament for Team Canada, winning the gold medal. During the 2019-20 season, he was tied for 10th among rookies in the OHL with 12 goals and tied for fourth among rookies with a plus-14 rating in 53 games. Scouts describe him as a well-rounded player that plays the full 200 feet of the rink exceptionally well. The 18-year-old took the time off this year to add 20 pounds of muscle and increase his explosiveness on the ice.
“He’s in a good spot in his career,” said Stars general manager Jim Nill. “He’s got very good skills. He’s shown that. He’s also a very responsible player. At the Under-18s, because he hadn’t played much when he made the team, the coaches asked him, ‘You know what? The other guys have been playing more. They put him in a third-line role. He accepted that and played it well. He still got power-play time because of that. He’s got a lot of tools to work with. His scoring will come on even more. We just think he’s a very well-rounded player that has a lot of upside.”
Second Round (47th overall): Logan Stankoven, Center (Kamloops Blazers, WHL)
Logan Stankoven is not a big forward at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds. However, he makes up for his lack of size with energy and hustle. The center scored 10 points in six games in the Western Hockey League (WHL) during the 2020-21 season. He was also a huge part of Team Canada’s success at the U-18 World Championship, racking up eight points in seven games.
Similar to Johnston, Stankoven is a very responsible player, ranking first among all players with a plus-14 rating at the U-18 tournament. In three seasons in the WHL, he has tallied 36 goals, 23 assists, and 59 points in 73 total games. Stankoven compares himself to Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens with his “never back down” attitude and energy all over the ice.
“He never backs down,” Stankoven said of Gallagher. “Doesn’t matter how big the guy is. He battles hard to every whistle. There are similarities in my game, too. I’m not going to back down, step away or shy away from the toughness part of the game. It’s never something I’ve been taught to shy away from. It’s part of who I am and how I play. I’m going to stick with that and bring it with me moving forward.”
Second Round (48th overall): Artem Grushnikov, Defenseman (CSKA 2, Russia)
Grushnikov is 6-foot-2, 198 pounds. At the age of 18, he will still grow both physically and mentally. He is not much of an offensive force, only tallying four points in 29 games for CSKA 2. However, he is a shut-down defender that can block shots, hit, and use his high hockey awareness to make plays. He is also an excellent puck mover and has the potential to improve on the offensive side of the ice. He will play next season for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL.
Middle Rounds, 3 & 4
Third Round (73rd overall): Ayrton Martino, Left Wing (Omaha Lancers, USHL)
Martino, the third Canadian selected by Dallas, is a speedy forward at 5-foot-11 that possesses a high level of offensive ability. He tallied 56 points in 38 games in the USHL last season with 18 goals and 38 assists, earning him a spot on the USHL All-Rookie Team. His stats show that he is a passer first, racking up assists, but can also find the back of the net. He will play college hockey next season at Clarkson University.
Third Round (79th overall): Justin Ertel, Left Wing (Summerside Western Capitals, MHL)
Ertel is a bigger forward at 6-foot-2 that tallies up assists. He recorded nine goals and 19 assists in 18 games in the Maritime Junior Hockey League last season. That was good enough to lead his team in points, assists, and points per game. The fourth Canadian on this list will play next season at Cornell University, ever heard of it?
“Coming into the draft, Dallas was one of the top teams I talked to,” said Ertel. “Knowing them, they have a great organization and have been known to produce a lot of good players, as well as develop them. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Fourth Round (111th overall): Conner Roulette, Left Wing (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)
Roulette is a deceptively quick playmaking winger with defensive responsibility and penalty-killing potential. He scored 12 points in 11 games during the shortened season in the WHL and finished tied for second on the team with a plus-4 rating.
He also played among draft mates Johnston and Stankoven at the U-18 World Championship this year, posting five points in seven games to help Canada win gold. His consistency and responsibility on the ice stand out most as he has posted 51 points and a plus-17 rating in 66 career WHL games.
Late Rounds 5-7
Fifth Round (138th overall): Jack Bar, Defenseman (Chicago Steel, USHL)
Jack Bar is a big, mobile, physical force on the blue line with offensive abilities. He racked up 15 points and 52 penalty minutes in 34 games in the USHL last season. He also played for St. Andrews College, recording 19 points in 22 games. The 6-foot-2 defenseman will play college hockey next season at Harvard University making him the second Stars’ draft pick this year to attend an Ivy League school.
Fifth Round (143rd overall): Jacob Holmes, Defenseman (Soo Greyhounds, OHL)
In his rookie season in the OHL in 2018-19, Holmes tallied nine points in 57 games. Along with Johnston, he was unable to play this season due to the OHL season cancellation. At 18 years old, the 6-foot-1 defender can be physical and has plenty of room to grow in his game.
Sixth Round (175th overall): Francesco Arcuri, Center (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)
Arcuri is a big center at 6-foot-2, 201 pounds. Due to the OHL season being canceled, he played 18 games in the Alps Hockey League for the Steel Wings Linz. He led the team in scoring with 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 18 games.
In the previous season, Arcuri posted 20 points in 60 games as a rookie in the OHL.
Seventh Round (207th overall): Albert Sjoberg, Right Wing (Sodertalje SK Jr., Swe-Jr)
The final pick for the Stars this year was the Swedish native, Albert Sjoberg. Sjoberg appeared in 18 games for his junior team in Sweden, recording 13 points. He also has some international experience, winning the bronze medal at the 2021 U-18 World Championship.
All in all, Dallas had a very successful draft. Trading down to acquire further picks turned out to be a genius move for the Stars as they were still able to select the player they wanted (Johnston) while adding two more picks. The 10 picks this weekend included seven forwards and three defensemen, eight Canada natives along with one player from each Sweden and Russia. The goal for the organization was to trust their scouting and pick players that were high on their lists. Not only did they do that, but they were able to increase their picks and add some players that they did not feel would still be available. While all of these 18-year-olds will not be NHL ready for some time, the Stars feel they were one of the winners of this years’ NHL draft and I agree.
Overall Draft Rating
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!