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2021 NHL Draft Watch List – Sports Illustrated

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It’s looking like a great year for defensemen, while a trio of Michigan Wolverines have the top five in their crosshairs.

Owen Power, courtesy the Chicago Steel

The 2020 draft is finally behind us and while we don’t know what the schedule holds for the future, the 2021 draft class is starting to form – well, some of the leagues, at least. We’re still waiting for the OHL and WHL to start and that won’t be for a while, but we do know a lot of the prominent prospects nonetheless.

In the past, I’ve kicked off the draft season with a first-round ranking, but it occurred to me this year that the list could be confusing, since it was different from subsequent rankings that were more informed by talks I had with NHL team scouts. My initial ranking was always more of a compilation of players who had performed well as underagers and those who had made the cut in top-10 rankings I had compiled for Future Watch or Draft Preview.

So this year I’m switching it up. What you see here now is a watch list, much like Central Scouting puts out. These are kids I’m going to keep an eye on, based on my current knowledge of the 2021 draft class – which is embryonic right now, as we’re just getting started with the season. There’s a bit of scouting input here thanks to an exercise I did in the summer where I asked experts to help me put together under-18 squads for Canada and the U.S. for the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament that didn’t happen, so this isn’t totally just my research.

Instead of a ranking right now, I’ve broken up the kids by league as best as I could. There will be some movement, particularly with USHL kids who may go back to their Minnesota or New England high school teams during the season, but I’ve done my best here. The top kids from Minnesota (Luke Mittelstadt and Jack Peart for example) are listed with their USHL teams.

Have I missed anyone? Probably! But that’s going to happen when there have been so many tournament and camp cancellations. I assure you the snubs aren’t personal.

With that being said, let’s talk about the top picks right now. For me, it’s a duel at the top between Michigan freshman defenseman Owen Power and Finnish center Aatu Raty. Fellow Wolverines Kent Johnson and Matt Beniers are up there as well, not to mention OHL defenseman Brandt Clarke and NTDP kids Luke Hughes and Chaz Lucius. The best goaltender is Sweden’s Jesper Wallstedt. In general, it’s looking like a strong year for defensemen and a good season for the QMJHL (which is nice, since they’re the only CHL circuit playing right now – kinda).

So use the following as a starting guide for the 2021 draft and as scouts get a chance to fill their notebooks on kids, I’ll return with my first true ranking.

NCAA

Owen Power, D, Michigan

Kent Johnson, C, Michigan

Matt Beniers, LW, Michigan

OHL

Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie

Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough

Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint

Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia

Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener

Ethan Del Mastro, D, Mississauga

Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa

Ty Voit, LW, Sarnia

Tristan Lennox, G, Saginaw

Bryce Montgomery, D, London

Ryan Winterton, C, Hamilton

Connor Lockhart, C, Erie

Francesco Arcuri, C, Kingston

QMJHL

Zach L’Heureux, LW, Halifax

Zach Dean, C, Gatineau

Zach Bolduc, C, Rimouski

Isaac Belliveau, D, Rimouski

William Rousseau, G, Quebec

Evan Nause, D, Quebec

Joshua Roy, C, Saint John

Peter Reynolds, C, Saint John

Oscar Plandowski, D, Charlottetown

Justin Robidas, C, Val-d’Or

James Malatesta, LW, Quebec

Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan

WHL

Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton

Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg

Tyler Brennan, G, Prince George

Cole Sillinger, C, Medicine Hat

Nolan Allan, D, Prince Albert

Conner Roulette, LW, Seattle

Logan Stankoven, C, Kamloops

Graham Sward, D, Spokane

Trevor Wong, C, Kelowna

Zach Stringer, LW, Lethbridge

Jack O’Brien, C, Portland

USHL

Guillaume Richard, D, Tri-City

Matt Argentina, C, Waterloo

Hobie Hedquist, G, Dubuque
Matthew Knies, C, Tri-City

Kenny Connor, C, Dubuque

Connor Kurth, RW, Dubuque

Drew Tsakounis, D, Sioux City

Bennett Schimek, RW, Sioux City

JP Turner, C, Sioux Falls

Jack Peart, D, Fargo

Ryan Ufko, D, Chicago

Mackie Samoskevich, C, Chicago

Jackson Blake, RW, Chicago

Carter Schade, D, Lincoln

Dylan Gratton, D, Muskegon

Gleb Veremyev, C, Lincoln

Paul Minnehan, C, Muskegon

Tyler Haskins, C, Sioux Falls

U.S. NTDP

Chaz Lucius, C

Luke Hughes, D

Roman Schmidt, D

Aidan Hreschuk, D

Tyler Boucher, RW

Sasha Pastujov, RW

Dylan Duke, LW

Sean Behrens, D

Justin Janicke, RW

Ryan St-Louis, LW

NAHL

Dom Rivelli, RW, Wichita Falls

Owen Millward, G, Janesville

BCHL

Jack Bar, D, Penticton

Owen Murray, D, Penticton

Ayrton Martino, C, Chilliwack

Charles-Alexis Legault, D, West Kelowna

AJHL

Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks

Ty Mueller, C, Sherwood Park

CCHL

Jacob Guevin, D, Ottawa Jr. Senators

Russia

Daniil Chayka, D, Red Army

Prokhor Poltapov, RW, Red Army

Dmitri Zugan, C, Red Army

Kirill Kirsanov, D, SKA-St. Petersburg

Daniil Lazutin, C, SKA-St. Petersburg

Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA-St. Petersburg

Ivan Zhigalov, G, Dynamo Moscow

Matvei Petrov, RW, Krylia Sovetov

Vladislav Lukashevich, D, Loko Yaroslavl

Semyon Vyazovoy, G, Ufa

Sweden

Fabian Lysell, LW, Frolunda

Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea

Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea

Marcus Almquist, RW, HV71

Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda

Oskar Olausson, LW, HV71

Victor Stjernborg, LW, Vaxjo

Isak Rosen, LW, Leksand

Anton Olsson, D, Malmo

Finland

Aatu Raty, C, Karpat Oulu

Samu Tuomaala, C, Karpat Oulu

Samuel Helenius, C, JYP

Jimi Suomi, D, Jokerit

Jere Virolainen, C, Tappara

Samu Salminen, LW, Jokerit

Niko Huuhtanen, RW, Tappara

Juuso Helomaa, G, Assat

Czech Republic

Stanislav Svozil, D, Kometa Brno

Switzerland

Brian Zanetti, D, Lugano

Lorenzo Canonica, LW, Lugano

Prep Schools

Scott Morrow, D, Shattuck-St. Mary’s

Matt McGroarty, C, Brunswick Academy

Josh Orrico, D, St. Andrew’s College

Paul Davey, LW, Avon Old Farms

Justin Ertel, LW, St. Andrew’s College

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