In a year of uncertainty, it is fitting that the top of the next draft class is so uncertain. The 2021 NHL Draft is wide open for first overall with as many as a half dozen players truly vying for the pole position and another half dozen looking to be the late-rising wild card who sneaks into the conversation. The last couple of drafts were a bit lacking on truly elite blueliners with so much high talent at the forward position. The 2021 class is a mirror image of those classes with the defensive talent being the selling point of this draft class. Brandt Clarke, Carson Lambos, Owen Power, and Simon Edvinsson have all made their mark at various points in the last year and have garnered discussion as the top-ranked player from many within the scouting community.
That’s not to say that the 2021 draft will be a deficit of offensive talent from the class. Finnish center Aatu Räty is still in the conversation at the top of the draft. His mature pro-style game will attract NHL general managers and the fact that he plays center is always going to make him a factor. Future Michigan Wolverine, Kent Johnson may have the most interesting and intriguing upside in the draft class as he might have the highest upside of any forward in the draft with his combination of smarts and skill. That’s not even mentioning Dylan Guenther, Cole Sillinger, or Fabian Lysell who are all exciting, talented players in their own right. There hasn’t been a draft with such a wide-open top end in recent memory.
With all that said, the 2021 NHL Draft class is already shaping up to be a fun one. The DobberProspects Scouting team has been hard at work since the summer, really honing in on this next crop of draft-eligible talent. Our partnership with InStat Hockey has taken our scouting to a whole new level by giving us new ways to our scouting efforts. The team has watched hours and hours of video, engaged in discourse, discussion and debate all in preparation for this Top-100 NHL Draft Ranking. We got together in a Zoom meeting to go back and forth, collaborating again to put out an updated ranking based on their performance this fall, some falling and others boosting their stock. For others, the change may have occurred because of additional viewings, and at least partly done by a larger part of the team. Be sure to give the team below some love!
Here’s the full DobberProspects scouting team:
All size details are taken from NHL Central Scouting’s list.
Jokke and Tony discussed the rankings on the latest episode of Dobber’s DraftCast! Check that out and be sure to rate, review, and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform!
- Brandt Clarke, RD | CAN | 6-1, 180 lbs | Previous ranking: 2
Tony Ferrari: A silky smooth skater who showed the ability to alter the game on a moment’s notice in the second half of his rookie season in the OHL. Brandt Clarke has all of the tools that an NHL team would want in a defender as he has good size, elite skating ability, and an incredible mind for the game. He knows when and where to attack and he showed immense improvement on the defensive side of the puck as the season wore on. He leads with his stick and out skills the oncoming attacker, disrupting the puck and immediately moving it up ice. In the attacking zone, he can be a true game-changer. With his ability to move in any direction at any time, Clarke presents issues for his opposition as he is able to open passing and shooting lanes and he has the requisite skill to take advantage. The Barrie defender will look to separate himself from the pack as soon as he steps on the ice this season but with the OHL looking at a February start, Clarke may look to play elsewhere on a loan.
- Carson Lambos, LD | CAN | 6-0, 200 lbs | Previous ranking: 3
Tony Ferrari: Maybe the most well-rounded defender in the 2021 draft class, Lambos brings size, speed, and skill. The Winnipeg defender skates with a lot of power, attacking downhill in transition. He is able to back defenders off throughout the neutral zone and entering the offensive zone giving him options when he establishes himself in the attacking zone. His shot is good but inconsistent. He can really get ahold of a shot when he leans into a shot but he excels when he pushes into the middle of the ice and between the circles where he can let his snap shot and wrist shot go. He has a good release and locates the shots well. Defensively, Lambos is a high-level transition defender, with an incredibly active stick that jars pucks loose, allowing the young Canadian to establish body position and move the puck to a teammate. He also has the ability to turn the puck up ice on his own stick as well. He anticipates play well and jumps into passing lanes with a high rate of efficiency. He can play on the penalty kill or the powerplay as well. Lambos can do a bit of everything.
- Owen Power, LD | CAN | 6-6, 214 lbs | Previous ranking: 4
Clare McManus: He is an excellent skater and puck mover, especially for his size standing at 6’6”. For a tall defenseman, he has strong mobility and lateral movements, which is helpful when he walks the blue line to see his options in the offensive zone. He is very good at rushing the puck up ice, but he can also make strong stretch passes out of the zone on transition play. On the powerplay, he is a great quarterback and does a solid job of getting the puck to the net or an open teammate. As well on even-strength, he likes to shoot for a rebound opportunity, but won’t hesitate to try and score for himself. With the NCAA season unable to start yet, we haven’t seen Power play this season.
- Simon Edvinsson, LD | SWE | 6-4, 198 lbs | Previous ranking: 9
Alexa Potack: Edvinsson is a rare example of a big-bodied defenseman that has repeatedly shown his ability to be a threat in the offensive zone. In a draft class that is stacked with defensemen, Edvinsson is getting an advantageous headstart to his pre-draft season with Frölunda’s J20 team, and he’s clearly making the most of it. He will represent Tre Kronor this week in their scrimmages with Finland, which is likely a tryout for the 2021 WJC roster. Edvinsson is yet to play any games in the SHL, due to the depth of Frölunda’s roster; However, his dominance in the past year, scoring 51 points in 59 games (J18, J20, and in international play), makes his talent obvious.
- Aatu Räty, C | FIN | 6-1, 177 lbs | Previous ranking: 1
Eetu Siltanen: Räty is a pretty good offensive center with good defensive skills. He reads the game well and drives the play. He has good offensive toolset and everything to be a future star. But, Räty has had a slow start to the season and he hasn’t showed a lot of development recently. That is concerning but we still decided to give him No. five spot because we think that he’ll improve and fights for the first overall pick.
- Kent Johnson, C | CAN | 6-0, 166 lbs | Previous ranking: 12
Clare McManus: Johnson is a shifty electrifying center who thinks the game at a high level. He is always one of the most consistent players on the ice, showing off his flashy hands and playmaking abilities. This makes him very dangerous, but combining his offensive skills with strong fluid edgework and skating, he can carve the ice quickly, create space, and make the opposition hesitate. He doesn’t have a bad shot either. He can take the puck to the net and fool the goalie, but he is definitely more of a playmaking center. With a player as flashy as Johnson, there might be some concerns about how he will produce in the NCAA, especially because the BCHL is a weaker league, and that’s where he played last season.
- Dylan Guenther, C/W | CAN | 6-0, 166 lbs | Previous ranking: 6
Joel Henderson: The most well-rounded prospect to come from the WHL this season. Strength on his feet leads to smooth edgework and flick of the wrist passes and shots. He keeps defenders on their toes as he can change the shot angle or pass from multiple body positions at a whim. Give him time to be bigger, stronger, and faster, and he could be lethal. He’s a winger but plays like a center a lot of the time.
- Luke Hughes, LD | USA | 6-2, 176 lbs | Previous ranking: 7
Clare McManus: A smooth-skating defenseman with strong edgework and agility. He skates very similarly to his brother Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks. He is a dynamic playmaker with elite vision who can create space for himself and make a quick pass to an open teammate. He is very good on the powerplay, and while he is more of a pass-first defenseman, he has shown the ability to shoot the puck. One negative to take away from Luke’s game is that he needs to get stronger. He can get knocked off the puck in his own end by bigger opponents, which leads to turnovers. He has the mind and skill set to get the puck out of the zone quickly, but it could be much better if he adds some muscle to his body.
- Jesper Wallstedt, G | SWE | 6-3, 214 lbs | Previous ranking: 11
Danny Tiffany: A superb talent in net, Wallstedt is one of the most technically sound goalies we’ve ever seen in a player’s draft year. Not even having turned 18 yet, Wallstedt is playing in the SHL this season, the top league in Sweden. Not only has he played, but he’s played exceptionally well. Wallstedt blends great positioning and fluid movements combined with his NHL size of 6’3 215 pounds, there are no real flaws in his game. Jesper Wallstedt is a top 10 talent and has the potential to be a Vezina caliber goalie for years to come in the NHL.
Editor: This entire thread by Danny on Wallstedt is outstanding, go check the whole thread out!