It will be extremely exciting to keep an eye on the draft prediction business as we move into the 2021 NHL draft.
Many tipsters, myself included, have experienced the same challenges as NHL teams in terms of seeing the players live and in person. As a result, and since the number of games played varies widely between leagues, this draft should be the most random I’ve ever participated in, and the randomness is entertaining.
Add in a fixed salary cap that is expected to be the norm for years to come, and you’ll put more randomness in the pot. Changes to this year’s lottery draw and moving forward eliminate the possibility of your team getting lucky. and pick up earlier than expected. Having said that, is sinking really still a thing in these times of financial uncertainty?
Anyway, as of Wednesday night’s lottery results, this is how I anticipate the top half of the first round of the draft.
1. Buffalo Sabers: Owen Power, D: You can never have enough defenses, and there must be an added level of confidence after watching him play for Canada at the World Cup.
2. Seattle Kraken: Brandt Clarke, D: All good teams are built from behind. An underrated defensive player with the ability to execute a PP1 thanks to his poise and patience.
3. Anaheim Ducks: Simon Edvinsson, D: Still raw, but he has the size (6ft 5, 207 pounds) and skill required for routine in the Western Conference. She would look great alongside Jamie Drysdale for years to come.
4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes, D: An excellent skater who has a confident tone with the puck on his stick. The sister act will add intrigue and interest for the fan base.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Matt Beniers, C: The mentoring of playing for the USA in the world will be valuable to a player who is expected to use a letter when he becomes an established NHL player. The work ethic, attention to detail, and reliability make it a safe bet.
6. Detroit Red Wings: William Eklund, LW: The Wings have taken a lot of D in the last two years and have a great connection to Sweden. Why not go to the most improved draft-eligible player in all of Europe?
7. Sharks of San José: Kent Johnson, C: The Sharks could use an influx of speed and skill, and Johnson has plenty of both.
8. Los Angeles Kings: Dylan Guenther, RW: He fell a bit in qualifying after a good but not great U18. That said, he could emerge from this draft as their top scorer.
9. Vancouver Canucks: Mason McTavish, C: Talk about Texas City on U18. He proved he’s more than a one-trick pony and did it with some bite.
10. Ottawa Senators: Chaz Lucius, C: There is no need for organizational positioning, so the best available player fits this selection. Due to injury and a lack of availability at U18, Lucius was limited to just 12 games, so there is a bit of risk, which Ottawa can absorb thanks to its great wealth of prospects.
11. Chicago Blackhawks: Fabian Lysell, RW: This choice also carries some risk, but at best, Lysell is the most dynamic and revolutionary player in the draft. The youth movement fueled by some economic surprises (Kurashev, Suter, Hagel), allows Stan Bowman to jump over the fences here.
12. Calgary Flames: Carson Lambos, D: The perfect intersection for the general manager, in terms of a two-way defender with offensive advantage, and the coach, who will appreciate Lambos’ ability to play in all situations with some jamming.
13. Philadelphia Flyers: Cole Sillinger, C: Scoring goals is always a coveted asset and Sillinger scored 24 times in 31 games for USHL Sioux Falls this season. He brings some heaviness to the game and the marriage of skill and guts fits perfectly with the Flyers’ MO.
14. Dallas Stars: Aatu Raty, C: Once thought to be the class of this year’s group, Raty was unable to enter the WJC Finland team as a returnee, and struggled to find his way into the Liiga. Having said that, if he can regain his form, it would be a huge win for the Stars.
15. New York Rangers, Fedor Svechkov: Does Chris Drury at the helm affect whether the Rangers return well to the Russian? If so, Svechkov is big, plays tough, and is ultimately responsible at both ends of the court.