2021 NHL Mock Draft
It’s about that time. It’s time for our mock draft for the upcoming NHL Draft. We're predicting the top ten players to be drafted in the first round. However, it's a bummer that the draft is virtual again this year. Hopefully, things get better by 2022 because I'm not sure if I can handle another virtual draft where guys log into their Zoom accounts and begin their careers by hoping that their Wi-Fi doesn’t cut out. I miss all the people in the stands booing every pick. I miss the TSN guys scrambling to find highlights on Moritz Seider because the Red Wings threw a curveball. I miss the atmosphere that the draft has — it’s jam-packed with emotion as each rookie enters the Show.
1. Owen Power, Defenseman (University of Michigan)
If I was a betting man, which I am, I’d say that Owen Power going number one overall in the 2021 NHL Draft to the Buffalo Sabres is obvious. He’s 6’6, 214 pounds. He’s the epitome of what every NHL scout is looking for when it comes to size. If I ever have the chance to meet Power in person while he’s in skates, I can only imagine it’s how David felt when he saw Goliath for the first time. However, the public shouldn’t associate his towering size with a lack of finesse, skill, or speed. Owen Power is the full package. He’s a decisive, team-first defenseman that has some pretty silky mitts, skates/turns with ease, and has unmatched on-ice vision and creativity. He’ll have an impact in the league immediately and will be a top defenseman in no time. He will be a welcome addition to the Buffalo Sabres. They're used to having the first overall pick and they're used to drafting defensemen first overall. I'm starting to think that this Gen Z blue-line of Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power might be a force to be reckoned with for the years to come.
The Sabres (at the expense of Jack Eichel), successfully tanked for the first overall pick. What was your favorite hashtag from the regular season?
Also, will Bauer Hockey be getting Owen Power to sign with them? It only makes sense as #BauerPower would be the ultimate social media campaign for a new twig.
2. Matt Beniers, Center (University of Michigan)
If you know anything about who is writing this blog, you know that I’m Team #GoBlue. That’s right, I’m a huge Michigan Wolverines fan. Michigan dominated Big Ten hockey this past season with a roster that would make Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire shake in their boots during a discussion on which state is the official “State of Hockey.” I’m still convinced that COVID-19 was the only reason Michigan didn’t win it all. With the way Michigan played and the players that they boasted, I don’t know how you could have made an argument for any other region.
With that being said, I love two Michigan Wolverines going off the board in back-to-back picks for number one and number two. It’ll be the most talked-about Michigan will be in the sport of hockey since Mike Legg scored his famous “Michigan” goal behind the net against the Gophers. Enough Michigan talk — let’s talk about Matt Beniers — the guy who is just as, if not (in some aspects), more talented than Owen Power. If there was an SAT exam for hockey knowledge, Beniers would have walked out of the classroom with a perfect Scantron. This kid boasts an incredible hockey IQ and it translates it into being someone that can do it all on the ice. It doesn’t matter if he’s lacing up the boots at Yost or gearing up for a tilt against Team Canada, he will produce, night in and night out. He played a pivotal role in Michigan’s recent success and proved skillful as a depth player for Team USA in the 202 World Juniors.
He’s got a knack for finding the back of the net — I would too if I had a wrist shot like his. His offensive prowess paired with his physical intangibles makes him an elite two-way forward that can perform at the highest level. I like him at number two and to be an immediate contributor to the yet-to-be-determined Seattle Kraken squad.
3. Kent Johnson, Center (University of Michigan
Hail to the Victors! Kent Johnson comes in as the number three pick in the official Howies Hockey Tape 2021 NHL Mock Draft. KJ13 is a spectacular playmaker that has the pace, skill, and speed to score a highlight-reel goal every night. It’s a shame that Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor wasn’t allowed to have any fans because the Children of Yost would’ve ensured that every fan, coach, and player in the rink would know that he’s a freshman. That’s right, he’s a teenager that put up some big numbers against his older counterparts.
He’s a nifty goal scorer that has the razzle-dazzle to make people say “ooh” and “ahh”. He’s got exemplary speed that will leave defensemen flat-footed and in the dust. Also, what did those finance guys say when they all bought GameStop stock back in February? That’s right, diamond hands. Kent Johnson has diamond hands and I’m not talking about a short squeeze. I’m talking about those silky mitts that can and will embarrass any first-line D-pairing. He’s one of the NCAA’s top-scoring freshmen and is a threat whenever he’s out on the ice. He’s got the speed, agility, and acceleration that puts him ahead of the rest of the pack (both figuratively and literally) and he’ll excel in generating offense for the Anaheim Ducks (who are in desperate need of some offense after this year's showing).
This might sound like I’m jumping the gun, but I see hints of a certain #95 of the Edmonton Oilers in Johnson. Just saying. What’s a prediction without a bit of boldness?
Kent, if you’re reading this, the bar has been set so high. I’m sorry.
4. Brandt Clarke, Defenseman (Barrie Colts, OHL)
I'll be honest. Brandt Clarke was my third overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. I figured people might rag on me for being a homer and doing my best Michigan Wolverines fan page impression, but I don't think the Anaheim Ducks would opt for a defenseman in this year's draft. Instead, I think the Devils take the second-best defenseman available. I'm no draft expert, but Brandt Clarke and Kent Johnson swapping at three and four is definitely a coin flip!
Defensemen are hot commodities this year. With little to no top blue line prospects in this year’s draft, teams will be reaching for a quality defenseman. Clarke is the clear pick — as the number two defenseman in this draft behind Power, he will be in high demand. He’s not quite as big as Power is, but where he lacks in size, he matches up in skill. If you’re deep into some OHL highlights on YouTube at 3 AM on a Wednesday night, you might come across a Brandt Clarke highlight and notice how smooth he moves on the ice. He’s a mobile defenseman that knows how to move the puck, create space, and make plays on both ends on the ice. He’s not a goal scorer, but he puts up numbers. He led defensemen with 38 points (6G, 32A) in 57 games in the OHL last year. With COVID-19 still plaguing leagues, rinks, and locker rooms across the globe, Clarke is currently playing for HC Nove Zamky Mikron HC in Slovakia as a loan. He’s got 13 points in 26 games and is gaining invaluable experience that will certainly mold his game and gradually improve his blue-line presence.
5. Luke Hughes, Defenseman (USA U18 NTDP)
Another year, another Hughes. I don’t know what factory they were created in, but they’re pumping talent quicker than Simon Cowell can say “brilliant.”
First, it was Quinn. Then it was Jack. Now it’s Luke. In case you needed a quick rundown, Quinn currently plays for the Vancouver Canucks. Jack currently plays for the New Jersey Devils. Luke doesn’t have an NHL team yet, but based on my predictions, my guess is that he'll be on the Columbus Blue Jacket come fall.
I can picture what life in the Hughes household must’ve been like back in the day — the Hughes brothers playing ball hockey in the attic. Luke and Quinn posted up in front of the net, blocking Jack’s shots as he fires it at the mini net. Luke embodies more of Quinn than he does Jack — he’s a talented defenseman that will be attending the University of Michigan. Seeing a trend here?
Luke, in my opinion, is a top-five prospect. He had 32 points in 34 USDP games and 13 points in 15 USHL games. Scoring at almost a point-per-game pace, he’ll be held in high regard in the 2021 NHL Draft. He’s a solid defenseman that knows how to move the puck and will be a welcome addition to the Blue Jacket's prospect pipeline — especially with the potential departure of Seth Jones. He’s also got Hughes blood, which clearly means that he’ll excel in anything that he does when it comes to professional hockey. He’s also got size — he’s the biggest Hughes brother, so that’s a positive addition to his already growing resume. It’ll be interesting to see his progression during his collegiate years because whatever they’re feeding the hockey players in the dining halls is working. I’m keeping an eye out for his growth in his skill, poise, and quick release. If he works on his game, he has the potential to be the best Hughes brother in the league.
6. Dylan Guenther, Right Wing (Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL)
Guenther is no stranger to lighting the lamp. Before I get into the more in-depth and current analysis, I’ll throw in this tidbit: he had 103 points in 30 games whilst playing for his Northern Alberta U15 Prep team. It’s been a few years since 2017 and he’s since finished off a 59-point season for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. Scoring just over a point-per-game and as one of the league’s most skilled players, it’s no secret that Guenther is a playmaker that knows how to create offense. His hybrid patient-aggression with the puck makes for frustrating assignments for the opponent and creates chances for him and his teammates.
He’s agile and accelerates on a dime. He’s got a shot that might rival some current pro guys, so he definitely checks off some of the boxes when you’re looking at the prospect report. He capped off his four-game loan to the Sherwood Park Crusaders with five points and currently has 24 points in 12 games during the WHL’s wacky COVID-ridden season. He’s got the “A” this season and with great power comes great responsibility — this man is already on a mission averaging two points per game.
I think he'll be a welcome addition to the Detroit Red Wings at sixth overall. The Red Wings could probably use about five first-round picks, but since that isn't the case, I think they'll be pleased with adding Guenther to the lineup and filling some glowing offensive gaps.
7. Simon Edvinsson, Defenseman (Frölunda HC, Sweden)
Remember what I said about defensemen? It’s two gas pedals and no brakes when picking blue-liners off the board in this year’s draft. I’ll save you the suspense and let you in on a little secret: the pick after this is a defenseman too.
Everyone’s NHL Mock Draft Top Ten looks different, but I think everyone (for the most part) can agree that Edvinsson is cemented in the top ten. Where he ranks in that top ten is discretionary, but his mobility and powerful shot keeps him in the conversation.
Hailing from Frölunda HC in Sweden, he’s playing against the top guys in a professional league. He’s notched one assist in ten games with Frölunda and has five points in fourteen games with Västerås IK as a loan.
He might not have the complete package like potential number pick Owen Power, but he’s got the meat and potatoes. He might not have that extra side of vegetables, but some people don’t even like vegetables and can choose to eat them whenever they want to. What I’m trying to say is that he’s got a solid skill set that might not be fully complete, but with the right support system, coaching tree, and defensive pairing, Edvinsson has incredible potential to grow into a complete player. I think that happens with the San Jose Sharks. What better way to be mentored under the wing of fellow Swede, Erik Karlsson and pump some fresh legs into an already elite defense in Karlsson, Burns, and Vlasic?
He might not be a stat-sheet stuffer, but anecdotally, he’s outperforming his teenage counterparts in North America. As a 17-year old playing against older, formerly pro, and skilled players in the top professional league in Sweden, he’s gaining invaluable experience that you just can’t get back in the States. Anyone can play Fortnite, do some homework, and suit up for point night against a bunch of other college kids, but not everyone can keep up with grown men in the SHL. I like Edvinsson and his presence on the blue line — he’ll be a quality pick for the Sharks' rookie pipeline and will inevitably grow into a top-pair defenseman in the West.
8. Carson Lambos, Defenseman (Winnipeg Ice, WHL)
Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. That’s right, we’ve got another defenseman on the board. This time, it’s WHL star Carson Lambos. He led WHL rookie defenseman with 32 points (8G, 24A) in 57 games last season. He’s a talented defenseman that can consistently play both ends of the ice. He’s got exceptional defensive awareness and can pester opponents off the puck.
When Lambos is in the defensive zone, he owns it. It’s his space and he uses it to create space and opportunities for his teammates. He’s also patient with the puck, which is often rare with players of his age. Again, with COVID-19 interrupting hockey across North America, Lambos took to Finland’s junior league to prevent any rust and is back in action with the WHL for the 2020-2021 season. I’d keep an eye on how he plans to improve his already magnificent two-way play that could potentially boost his draft stock. He has the work ethic, skill set, size, and mobility to be one of the top defensemen in the draft and could potentially jump into the top five.
In the same name as being mentored under some of the league's biggest names, Lambos could learn a thing or two from Drew Doughty if drafted at eight overall. The Kings are slowly rebuilding since their glory days in 2014 and a player like Lambos could make that rebuilding process a lot shorter with the immediate addition of his skill and poise.
Also, Carson... you have to buy two Lamborghinis with your first paycheck. You literally have to. It's in your name.
9. Aatu Räty, Center (Kärpät, Liiga)
Aatu Räty is one of the rarer players in the draft in that he’s a talented player that’s well-rounded in almost every category. He checks off almost every box: speed, hands, size, and poise. He’s a strong skater that has exceptional puck-handling skills and nearly mimics brother and Arizona Coyotes prospect, Aku Raty, when it comes to his lightning-quick shot.
Now, you might be asking — if he’s the complete package, why is he ranked ninth on your list? Raty’s game has fallen off as of late. I make the same comparison for Edvinsson in the SHL, but the top Swedish league is a bit different than Finland’s Liiga. Raty has struggled in offensive production — he only has six points in 35 games with Kärpät this season. He was also left off Finland’s World Junior team, which doesn’t help when all you’re looking to do is boost the resume. With that being said, Raty isn’t getting first-line minutes and he is still on the younger end of players going up against bigger, older, and more experienced players in Liiga.
However, as Big Sean says, “last night took an L, but tonight I bounce back” and I certainly believe that Raty will bounce back. If he’s on the right line, he’s a lethal threat to put a point per night and can create chances for those around him. As I said, he’s got the skillset to succeed, but we might just need a year or two to see them fully develop. Aatu, like his brother Aku, has the makings of a top player in the NHL.
With a young squad in the Vancouver Canucks, Räty has the makings of fitting right in with other blossoming prospects. The rookie development in Vancouver is unmatched as they're creating a young empire of elite players. With players like Pettersson, Boeser, and Hughes to surround himself with, Räty will have plenty of opportunities to grow, improve, and serve as a welcome addition to the Canucks roster.
10. Jesper Wallstedt, Goaltender (Luleå HF, Sweden)
I love Jesper Wallstedt at #10. The Senators need help at essentially every position, but if the offense isn't scoring and the defense is letting forwards blow past them, then the only solution is a generational goaltender talent that can stop pucks night in, night out. Besides, the hashtag writes itself. The dude has “wall” in his name. Carey Price could never.
Wallstetdt truly lives up to his name — he’s a brick wall in that doesn’t give up many goals. In his 2020-2021 campaign with Luleå HF, he boasted a 2.23 GAA in 22 games with a SV% of .907. I made the same case for Simon Edvinsson — this guy is going up against Sweden’s best of the best and he’s already playing with the poise and confidence of an NHL goalie. He has put on some impressive performances on the international stage and has proven that he wasn’t just “hot” and instead stayed hot throughout this year’s SHL season. He’s quick in the crease, can stop some pretty tough shots, and has the potential to be a legitimate starting goalie in the NHL right out of the gate. And get this: he’s 18. Kid can’t celebrate with the team after a shutout win, but he definitely has earned the right. He’ll prove to be a difference-maker for the Ottawa Senators and that’s why he’s a top ten prospect in our mock draft.