DP Scouting Team’s Final 2021 NHL Draft Rankings (July 2021)

Nick Richard

2021-07-07

We are now just a couple of weeks away from the 2021 NHL Draft and the conclusion of one of the most difficult scouting cycles the hockey world has ever seen. Players have had seasons cut short or canceled altogether, others were forced to travel across the world in a pandemic to play competitive hockey in their draft year, and scouts – for the most part – were unable to get into rinks and watch these players up close.

Thanks to our partnership with InStat, the DobberProspects scouting team has been fortunate enough to have access to a wealth of video and statistical information for players all over the globe. This group has spent countless hours watching film, filing game reports, and discussing this draft class to form these rankings:

Tony Ferrari: Head of Scouting (@theTonyFerrari)

Eetu Siltanen: Director of European Scouting (@siltaneneetu)

Jacob Barker: OHL Regional Scout (@JacobMBarker12)

Caitlin Berry: OHL Regional Scout (@caitlinsports)

Brayden Olafson: QMJHL Regional Scout (@olaf1393)

Jameson Ewasiuk: WHL Regional Scout (@JamesonEwasiuk)

Samuel Tirpák: Czech/Slovak Regional Scout (@SammyT_51)

Alexa Potack: Swedish Regional Scout (@alexa_potack)

Nick Richard: Crossover Scout (@_NickRichard)

AJ Gidaro: North American Crossover Scout (@AlfredoGidaro)

Marek Novotny: European Crossover Scout (@MarekNovotny96)

Danny Tiffany: Goaltending Scout (@dantiffany30)

This draft class has garnered a reputation as being a weak one due to the lack of a clear, franchise altering talent at the top but there are still several players that have the potential to become cornerstone pieces for the franchises that select them. Owen Power, Simon Edvinsson, and Brandt Clarke are pieces to build around on the back end. Matty Beniers, William Eklund, and Fabian Lysell – to name a few – are the kind of talents that can define a forward group, and there is even some high end goaltending talent near the top of this year’s draft.

Without further ado, let’s get to the rankings.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the DobberProspects Fantasy Prospect report in the coming weeks! The FPR is your definitive fantasy hockey prospects guide, featuring insights and statistical projections for hundreds of players to help you build your fantasy hockey dynasty.

The DP Scouting Draft Board

1 | Matthew Beniers | C | Michigan (NCAA) |6-2 | 175lbs

Nick Richard: Beniers was the top name on our board in our midseason rankings and that is where he finds himself on our final rankings for the 2021 draft as well. The Michigan pivot offers a balance of floor and upside that is unmatched by any other prospect in the class and it shouldn’t take long before he is making an impact at the NHL level. His defensive game is advanced beyond his years, he is an outstanding skater with great speed and four-way mobility, and he never takes a shift off. Beniers impacts the game in transition, able to weave through traffic to create clean entries while wreaking havoc on the backcheck with an active stick and relentless effort. There are more talented offensive players in the draft but he is an opportunistic scorer with the vision to set up his teammates and he still possesses some untapped offensive upside. Beniers has all the makings of a play driving, two-way center and he should hear his name called early on draft day.

2 | William Eklund | W | Djurgården (SHL) | 5-10 | 176lbs

Alexa Potack: In many people’s eyes, Eklund is the favorite to be the most successful forward from this year’s draft class and it’s easy to see why. There is so much visible potential on every shift whether it’s his puck skills, energy, skating, or work ethic. He has already developed into a very mature player and does so many things well below the surface, which isn’t always present in young players participating in men’s leagues. He is not fighting to get by in the SHL but leading the pack already. Eklund is an incredibly deceptive playmaker whether it’s by passing or skating. He knows where the puck needs to be and has the vision to find a route for it to get to that point or player. The only department where Eklund showed a lack was in his physical game, which he should be expected to grow into. Additionally, while his speed is no real issue in the SHL, it is something for Eklund to improve upon prior to arriving in the NHL.

Game Tape with Tony: William Eklund

3 | Fabian Lysell | W | Luleå (SHL) | 5-10 | 172lbs

Alexa Potack: Dynamic is the word that should come to mind whenever the name Fabian Lysell is mentioned. His playing style exhibits incredible speed and finesse. Facing Lysell during a neutral zone rush is something to fear, he is unpredictable in the best way possible and can work his way around defenders in a variety of ways. He is still building a more complete game and you can see the results from his focus on becoming more reliable on defense so the ceiling for Lysell is sky-high. His point production, which was only 3 points in 26 SHL games last season, is yet to catch up with his skill level but that is nothing to fear. If Lysell continues to make the strides he made last year, he will have a very, very bright future ahead.

Game Tape with Tony: Fabian Lysell

4 | Jesper Wallstedt | G | Luleå (SHL) | 6-3 | 214lbs

Danny Tiffany: One of the best goalie prospects on the planet, Jesper Wallstedt has a case to not just be a top ten or top five pick, but the number one overall selection. In a draft class that lacks a consensus number one and number two pick, Wallstedt is seen as having the highest ceiling of any prospect in the draft. After spending the entire year in the SHL, Wallstedt has pro experience heading into the draft. Despite seeing his numbers drop a bit toward the end, it was a remarkable rookie season for the 18-year-old as he finished with a 2.23 GAA and a .908 save percentage in 22 games played. Wallstedt never looked out of place as his size and incredible IQ made the transition to pro hockey smooth. His ability to read the rush and breakdown plays before they happen is one of the strongest parts of his game. Wallstedt is athletic enough to make those desperation, flashy saves. The thing is, he rarely falls into scramble mode due to his really good edge work and strong positioning.

5 | Brandt Clarke | RHD | Barrie Colts (OHL) | 6-2 | 185lbs

Caitlin Berry: Clarke is the kind of offensive defenceman who excels when controlling the play. He had an excellent second half of the season in Slovakia, and at the U18 World Championships he was by far the best defenceman on the Canadian team, creating chances using his strong passing, quick turns, and crafty, deceptive fakes. Manning the point, he is adept at moving laterally across the blue line and opening up passing lanes, and he is more than happy to jump up to create his own chances on net. There is room for improvement in his skating, especially his backwards skating and his explosiveness, and he needs to improve his defense in transition. However, he has shown improvement defensively, particularly when using his stick to break up plays. His offensive instincts and elite four-way mobility mean he could be one of the best players taken in this draft.

Game Tape with Tony: Brandt Clarke

6 | Luke Hughes | LHD | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 6-2 | 184lbs

Tony Ferrari: A smooth skating defender who has what every NHL team loves – bloodlines! To be completely serious though, Hughes is one of the best skaters in the draft and his mobility is what makes him special. He has an eagerness to join the rush and get involved offensively and his defensive game is predicated on using his mobility to cut plays off before they really get started. He needs to continue to work on his defensive timing and anticipation but the tools to be a solid offensive top-four blueliner are there with some exciting upside.

7 | Owen Power | LHD | Michigan (NCAA) | 6-6 | 213lbs

Eetu Siltanen: Power seems to be a consensus first overall pick in many public rankings, but our team doesn’t quite think that he’s the best player available. He had a good season with the University of Michigan, scoring 16 points in 26 games and also had a strong showing at the men’s Worlds, performing well while playing big minutes. He has real potential to be a good two-way defender in the NHL. He plays a good offensive game, handles the puck well, and makes good decisions in the offensive zone. His physical attributes are solid, but they still need to improve. He skates smoothly and has some dynamicity in his movements, but he will still need to grow in to that frame so he can really utilize it. Power needs to add strength and explosiveness while improving his defensive game and going back to Michigan for one more season would be a good thing for his development.

8 | Simon Edvinsson | LHD | Frölunda (J20 Nationell) | 6-4 | 198lbs

Alexa Potack: Edvinsson is a strong, tall, mature defenseman that can also use his hands to weave his way through traffic as if he were five inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. He thrives in the defensive and neutral zones, despite his slight lack of pace. He isn’t much of a scorer but he gets himself on the scoresheet by racking up assists. Defensively, his size works very much in his favor. He uses physical play effectively and at the right times. Edvinsson also has great gap control and can match the movement of any opponent. He sometimes overcomplicates passing plays exiting the defensive zone but it is evident that this occurs with the drive and intention to create opportunities. He is a very appealing player in this year’s draft due to the combination of his maturity, pure talent, and will to win. This all accounted for, it’s easy to project his potential to play top-four minutes with an NHL team.

9 | Kent Johnson | C/W | Michigan (NCAA) | 6-1 | 167lbs

Nick Richard: The third member of the Michigan Wolverines to land in our top ten, Kent Johnson regularly graced highlight reels on his way to 27 points in 26 games as a freshman. He is one of the most creative offensive talents in the draft, terrorizing opposing defenders with elite puck handling skills and vision but can sometimes rely on his skill too much, causing him to force low-percentage plays. Johnson’s skating isn’t quite on par with the rest of his skillset, however, and he will need to add some explosiveness to his stride as he climbs the ranks and defenders become less susceptible to his dynamic puck skills. He also has a tendency to play on the perimeter a bit too much at times and adding strength to his slight frame in the coming years will improve his ability to play through traffic once he reaches the NHL. Johnson isn’t without his warts but landing a player of his skill level at this point in the draft is going to make some team very happy.

10 | Dylan Guenther | W | Edmonton (WHL) | 6-2 | 175lbs

Jameson Ewasiuk: Guenther made everyone take notice this season as he finished with 12 goals and 24 points in just 12 games. He is a volume shooter whose finishing instincts help him find positioning in smart areas around the net. His skating is an asset that will become even more of a weapon as he gets physically stronger. Guenther is not likely to wow you with highlight reel puck skills but he is a well-rounded offensive player who knows what makes him effective. He uses his strong read and react abilities to make smart plays, create space and generate consistent offensive chances for his team. He is not an elite playmaker but he does a great job of finding teammates in the net front area which, in combination with his one timer and general shooting ability, makes him a great asset on the power play. Guenther has the potential to be a long term top six forward in the NHL and since this draft is pretty wide open, do not be surprised if he goes anywhere from second to 12th overall.

11 | Mason McTavish | C | Peterborough (OHL) | 6-1 | 207lbs

Caitlin Berry: Mason McTavish silenced many of the doubters after the IIHF U18 Championship, where the concerns around his explosiveness and defensive game seemed greatly diminished. He displayed powerful skating at times when driving the play up ice and showed a much more consistent effort defensively. His offensive tools are still the highlight of his game, however. McTavish’s ability to create high danger scoring chances for himself and his teammates is elite. He has great offensive zone positioning and owns an extraordinary ability to make himself available for a pass or shot using his physicality and offensive awareness. He possesses an extremely powerful shot, with a quick release and solid accuracy, meaning he is able to score from anywhere in the offensive zone. It remains to be seen whether the improvements in consistency will continue given a larger sample size of games than we’ve had this year, but McTavish’s play is looking considerably more well-rounded than at the start of the season.

12 | Cole Sillinger | C | Sioux Falls (USHL) | 6-0 | 197lbs

Jacob Barker: As one of the most dangerous scoring forwards in the draft class, Sillinger can generate offence in a variety of ways. He possesses an insane wrist shot, which he is more than capable of letting loose quickly and in different areas around the offensive zone. Because of this, defenders are forced to close him down quicker than they would like to, which is where Sillinger uses his body positioning to separate his opponents from the puck and create space for his teammates. He is also a very efficient skater, as he is always getting to the correct position in all three zones in good time. This makes him incredibly reliable in transition scenarios, where he uses that positioning and crisp passing ability to move the puck up the ice quickly and successfully. Sillinger has all the tools to be a legitimate top 6 center that produces a bucket load of offence and moves the puck efficiently up the ice in transition.

13 | Fyodor Svechkov | C | Togliatti (VHL) | 6-0 | 187lbs

Nick Richard: Svechkov’s well rounded game and proficiency on the defensive side of the puck have seen him steadily climb draft boards all season long. His offensive totals in the MHL were solid but he took it to another level at the U18 World Championships when he was afforded the opportunity to play with more skilled linemates, finishing with 10 points in seven games for Russia. He plays a structured game with strong habits in all three zones, responsibly supporting the play on both defense and offense. Constantly scanning the ice for oncoming threats, Svechkov is in the right place at the right time more often than not. His understanding of flow and spacing lends itself to the offensive end as well where he has shown the ability to find teammates in scoring areas or make himself available for a return pass. Svechkov isn’t the flashiest player in the draft by any means, but the refinement in his game does give him one of the clearest NHL projections.

14 | Chaz Lucius | C | U.S. U18 (USNTDP) | 6-1 | 185lbs

Tony Ferrari: One of the best snipers in the class, Lucius had a limited sample size this season because of a lower body injury that held him out of the lineup until February despite the NTDP playing more games than the vast majority of teams this season. In that limited sample however, Lucius was scoring at a goal-per-game pace and he was showing off his crafty hands and puck skill every chance he got. He can score from distance or in tight and his skating improved year-over-year despite the lower body injury.

15 | Xavier Bourgault | W | Shawinigan (QMJHL) | 6-0 | 172lbs

Brayden Olafson: The Shawinigan forward is one of the older players who is eligible for the 2021 NHL draft. Having just concluded his third year in the QMJHL, Xavier Bourgualt has already developed into a player who dedicates himself to reliability and consistency. His blend of technical and cognitive strengths result in a player who consistently creates synergy among his linemates and he is capable of elevating his play to exceed and overcome the style of his opponents. On an individual basis, his strengths manifest in an ability to be highly evasive, both while carrying the puck and while seeking opportunities away from the puck. His versatility in terms of playing all three forward positions also adds to his value. As with many young players, Bourgault is vulnerable when it comes to his defensive play, especially the immediate effect of his backchecking pace. He has proven value in his maturity, but has a couple minor flaws outstanding.

16 | Isak Rosén | W | Leksand (SHL) | 5-11 | 156lbs

Alexa Potack: Explosive skating and nifty passing are Rosén’s two best assets. You can count on him to make smart plays and be ready to receive passes anywhere on the ice. Last season, a combination of inconsistent SHL minutes and few minutes when he actually did play hindered his effectiveness in games. His speed-driven style of play was held back by his size and he looked out of place at times. Mainly due to his small frame, Rosén is not near “NHL-ready” and will need to continue bulking up as he develops in Sweden. That stated, Rosén does show a great deal of potential with his offensive capabilities.

17 | Nikita Chibrikov | W | SKA (KHL) | 5-10 | 170lbs

Eetu Siltanen: Chibrikov spent the season playing for three St. Petersburg teams (KHL, MHL and VHL). He didn’t necessarily dominate – not even in the junior level – but he scored 13 points in 7 games at U18s and had strong showings in men’s national exhibition games. Chibrikov is a really skilled playmaker with great skating ability. He’s a smart, deceptive passer and possesses a great vision. It seemed as though sometimes he didn’t stand out at the junior level since he benefits greatly from a more structured game and utilizing his teammates. That’s why his skills might not be as evident at lower levels his teammates struggle to convert on his playmaking. He is very raw physically and had some consistency issues throughout the season, but I think playing in the KHL will help him grow and develop a more complete game. Chibrikov might be a bit of a risky pick in terms of reaching his potential but if everything goes right, he could become a good top six point producer in the NHL.

18 | Simon Robertsson | W | Skellefteå (SHL) | 6-0 | 190lbs

Alexa Potack: Robertsson’s shot has been the most recognized of his strengths and it certainly lives up to the hype. He possesses an arsenal of different shots with the capability to beat goaltenders and do it often. He won’t ever fill a true two-way role but he is polishing his defensive game to become a more well-rounded player. That said, Robertsson tends to fly under the radar too frequen