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Dec 15, 2020

Blueliner Owen Power tops McKenzie's first 2021 Draft Ranking

The towering Michigan Wolverines defenceman is, at this moment, the clear and logical top prospect in a draft year like no other, Bob McKenzie writes.

Power the early frontrunner in McKenzie's 'wide open' draft rankings

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By Bob McKenzie

Let’s call it a Power Ranking. For now, anyway.

As in 6-foot-6 University of Michigan freshman defenceman Owen Power being the No. 1 prospect on TSN’s Top 20 Pre-Season 2021 NHL Draft Rankings.

More on that in a moment. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to unpack here.

Let’s start with the whole “pre-season” thing. It’s mid-December, right? Traditionally, our “pre-season” rankings come out no later than mid-September. Which is to say 2020 can’t end soon enough.

It would have been tough to do a “pre-season” ranking when the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs were still going on in mid-September. So now, with the 2021 NHL regular season tentatively scheduled to start in mid-January, we can at least satisfy the “pre-season” tag.

But that brings with it another set of pandemic-produced problems.

It’s safe to say these 2021 pre-season draft rankings are the most convoluted and bizarro we’ve ever presented.

To wit: Some of the top prospects, especially those in the Western and Ontario Leagues, haven’t played a game since last March and who knows for sure when they will play again; some prospects, though, most notably the Swedes, Finns and Russians, have been playing for months; some of those Swedes have taken full advantage of that opportunity and rocketed up the draft charts, such as they are; one of those Finns, on the other hand, has seen his early-season stock plummet.

There’s never been a more uneven playing field right out of the gate than what the 2021 class is experiencing. To say TSN’s first ranking for 2021 is a mixed bag of who knows what is being kind.

And quite aside from the havoc created by the pandemic, the 2021 NHL draft was quite likely going to be a wide-open affair anyway.

Maybe things would be much clearer if hockey didn’t come to a screeching halt last spring. Perhaps if the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tourney had been played in August, like normal, the scouts’ views of the prospects would be more crystallized than they are now.

But the strong suspicion is even in “normal” times, the race for No. 1 in 2021 was going to be a hotly-contested competition.

And so here we are, starting with the premise of a Power Ranking,

For all the reasons listed above, it’s soon to declare 2021 the Owen Power Draft. Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos — they got their names on their draft year from the get-go.

Now, it may well turn out to be the Owen Power Draft. We shall see. Six-foot-six defencemen who possess pretty much every tool scouts look for in a top-paring NHL blueliner – size, strength, mobility, passing and shooting, defending and physical play – are at a premium in any year.

Based on TSN’s survey of 10 NHL head scouts, and relative to the rest of this year’s field, Power is, at this moment, the clear and logical top prospect.

Four of our 10 scouts have Power at No. 1. Perhaps more telling, though, is that none of our 10 scouts ranked him any lower than fourth overall.

So while three other players — Swedish defenceman Simon Edvinsson; Edmonton Oil Kings forward Dylan Guenther; and Finnish centre Aatu Raty — each got two votes as the top prospect, those players’ other rankings were more all over the map, including some rankings outside of the Top 10.

Still, four prospects getting No. 1 consideration in the pre-season rankings is, as near as we can tell, is unprecedented. As is some of the top picks playing and some of them not playing.

So as you peruse our 2021 Pre-Season Top 20, remember it’s a year like no other. Ever.

Power, the Mississauga, Ont., native, is likely going to draw comparisons to other potential first-overall defencemen with similar physical stature. Such as towering Swedish blueliner Victor Hedman, who went No. 2 behind John Tavares in 2009.

Stylistically, it’s an apt comparison. To a point, that is.

“He’s not Hedman, not really, because Victor, at the same age, was elite in every category,” one NHL scout said. “Power is very good in every category, not elite. Could he use his size more effectively to be more physical? Sure. Could he produce more offensively? Sure. But when you look at the collection of tools he has, when you look at his offensive game, defensive game, the mobility, reading the play and how his overall game is tracking, you’re looking at a top-pairing, if not No. 1, NHL defenceman.”

Power knows he has to put in the work if he wants to go first overall

Owen Power says it's great to be listed as first overall on Bob McKenzie's Draft Rankings but knows the work still needs to be put in if he wants it to play out that way at the NHL Draft. He joins James Duthie to talk about his defensive idols and if he was disappointed after not being allowed to attend Canada's World Junior selection camp.

Here’s a look at the rest of TSN’s Top 10 to start 2021:

2. Simon Edvinsson: The 6-foot-4 Swedish blueliner has the size, mobility, puck-moving and offensive upside to project as a potential top-pair NHL defenceman. Two of our 10 scouts pegged him at No. 1, but four scouts ranked Edvinsson outside the Top 10. It’s that kind of year.

3. Dylan Guenther: The 6-foot Edmonton Oil King scored 29 goals as a WHL rookie last season and earned a reputation as a versatile goal-scoring/playmaking forward. Two of our 10 scouts ranked him No. 1 and two more had him at No. 2, but not playing full time yet this season in the WHL may, anecdotally speaking, start chipping away at his status. He did play a handful of games in the Alberta Junior League for Sherwood Park. His projection is as a top-six NHL forward.

4. Matthew Beniers: The University of Michigan freshman centre didn’t get a vote for first overall but he did get three rankings at No. 2 and/or 3. Because he’s playing such a strong two-way game for the Wolverines, his star is most definitely ascending. He’s pegged to play between Matthew Boldy and Cole Caufield on the U.S. national junior team at the World Junior Championship, which will be a terrific opportunity for him to enhance his standing. Scouts are currently projecting him as an NHL second-line centre.

5. Brandt Clarke: The Barrie Colts’ defenceman has not played since last March but, and this is a testament to how much NHL scouts like his game, seven of 10 ranked him as high as No. 3 and no lower than No. 7. Clarke’s hockey sense is said to be elite and he’s highly effective at both ends of the ice. The consensus seems to be that even though he hasn’t been playing, Clarke warrants serious consideration in the same universe as Power and Edvinsson as the top defenceman in the draft.

6. William Eklund: The skilled and pace-pushing sub-6 foot Swedish winger has taken full advantage of 2021’s uneven playing field by lighting it up versus the men of the Swedish elite league. He has seven goals and 13 points in 17 games. Eklund would have been on the Swedish national junior team at the WJC but he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be dropped, though he almost immediately resurfaced in the SHL. Again, 2020. Go figure. Six weeks ago, there was little chance Eklund would be ranked this high, but he’s made the most of his opportunity and scouts have taken notice in a big way.

7. Kent Johnson: The third Michigan Wolverine in our Top 10, Johnson is a highly skilled offensive forward who can be something of a human highlight reel. Three of our scouts ranked him in the top five and seven of 10 have him solidly in the Top 10. His game is flashier than Beniers but less well-rounded.

8. Aatu Raty: If Edvinsson and Eklund have benefitted from being able to play games while others can’t, Finnish centre Raty has effectively been penalized for playing. Or more precisely, not playing as well as expected. Raty still collected two No. 1 overall votes from our panel of scouts but even those who believe he still has a chance to contend for the top spot admit his game has been disappointing. He didn’t even get invited to Finland’s national junior team selection camp, even though he played in last year’s WJC as a 17-year-old. Those who like him believe Raty could project as a No. 2 NHL centre, but even before his disappointing start to this season, some scouts saw him more as a limited upside No. 3 NHL centre.

9. Mason McTavish: The Peterborough Pete 6-foot, 198-pound forward is a shoot-first goal-scorer who potted 29 in 57 OHL games last season. He garnered a pair of votes in the top three overall, but six of our 10 scouts had him just outside the Top 10. Which is to say there appears to be wide divergence of opinion on McTavish.

10. Luke Hughes: The third member of the USA Hockey Hughes clan — brothers Jack and Quinn, of course — is pretty much guaranteed to follow in their footsteps as an NHL first-rounder, but will Luke go in the Top 10 like Jack (No. 1) and Quinn (No. 7)? There’s certainly a chance. Luke has been measured at 6-foot-2, so that would make him the biggest of the three Hughes boys. And while he’s clearly an offense-first defenceman, no one is suggesting he’s as dynamic as Quinn. But there is considerable offensive upside there.

— Chaz Lucius at No. 11 is a distinct threat to displace someone in the Top 10. The U.S. U-18 forward is a dynamic scorer who led the U.S. U-17 program in goals last year. He hasn’t played this season but that’s not pandemic related. He reportedly is back skating now but has been hampered by a lingering knee issue that scouts want to see resolved. A month ago, Lucius would have unquestionably been in the Top 10 and may yet find himself there once he’s healthy and playing again.

— Swedish goalie Jesper Wallstedt, at No. 14, did get one vote in the top five overall. He’s one of three goalies on the Swedish national junior team at the WJC.

— Swedish winger Oskar Olausson, ranked at No. 16, has taken advantage of a strong start to rocket up the list. Like his countryman Eklund, Olausson appears a threat to be a Top 10 contender. He started this season as a B prospect on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s Players to Watch list.

— Only four of TSN’s Top 20 will be playing at the WJC in Edmonton — Beniers on Team USA; Russian defenceman Daniil Chayka (13); Swedish goalie Wallstedt (14) and forward Olausson (16).

 

The Top 20

Owen Power
1. Owen Power

Left Defence | Michigan (NCAA) | 6'6 | 214 lbs. | Nov. 22, 2002

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    10
  • G
    1
  • PTS
    4
  • +/-
    -1

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Outstanding command of the game in all areas. Excellent sense with a calm and poise that makes it look easy. Power has good skills and continues to progress significantly.

Simon Edvinsson
2. Simon Edvinsson

Left Defence | Frolunda (SWE J20) | 6'4 | 198 lbs. | Feb. 5, 2003

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    14
  • G
    1
  • PTS
    6
  • +/-
    N/A

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Elite skater with the ability to create advantages and impact the game. Assertive in his approach. Has all of the attributes to be a complete defenceman.

Dylan Guenther
3. Dylan Guenther

Right Wing | Edmonton (WHL) | 6'0 | 166 lbs. | Apr. 10, 2003

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    58
  • G
    26
  • PTS
    59
  • +/-
    26

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Sublime skill. Fast, quick and agile skater with puck skills who can thread a pass or unleash a dangerous shot. Smart, attacking player who produces offence.

Matthew Beniers
4. Matthew Beniers

Centre | Michigan (NCAA) | 6'1 1/2 | 174 lbs. | Nov. 5, 2002

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    8
  • G
    3
  • PTS
    6
  • +/-
    2

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Very smart with good skill. Plays everywhere on the ice and in all situations. Makes his teammates team better.

Brandt Clarke
5. Brandt Clarke

Right Defence | Barrie (OHL) | 6'1 | 180 lbs. | Feb. 9, 2003

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    57
  • G
    6
  • PTS
    38
  • +/-
    -6

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Excellent sense, creativity and imagination. Clarke has great puck skills and takes the play to the opposition. A bold player who plays with great confidence and competence.

William Eklund
6. William Eklund

Left Wing | Djurgardens (SWE J20) | 5'10 | 170 lbs. | Oct. 12, 2002

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    18
  • G
    7
  • PTS
    13
  • +/-
    8

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Very good skills with a competitive motor that revs at high RPMs. Smart, cagey and cunning in his approach to playing and finding ways to take advantage.

Kent Johnson
7. Kent Johnson

Centre | Michigan (NCAA) | 6'0 | 166 lbs. | Oct. 18, 2002

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    10
  • G
    2
  • PTS
    10
  • +/-
    0

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Can speed up or slow down accordingly and keeps defenders on their heels. Excellent puck skills and his feel for creating offensive opportunities is excellent.

Aatu Raty
8. Aatu Raty

Centre | Karpat (SM Liiga) | 6'1 | 177 lbs. | Nov. 14, 2002

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    6
  • G
    2
  • PTS
    2
  • +/-
    0

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Very good two-way centre who has speed, quickness, agility and power. Very good puck skills and balances playmaking and shooting nicely. A smart player who competes hard.

Mason McTavish
9. Mason McTavish

Centre | Peterborough (OHL) | 6'0 | 198 lbs. | Jan. 30, 2003

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    57
  • G
    29
  • PTS
    42
  • +/-
    -4

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Lethal release and shot. One of the best goal scorers in this draft. Finds the right spots at the right times to take advantage. Uses size to carve out and keep space.

Luke Hughes
10. Luke Hughes

Left Defence | USA U-18 (USHL) | 6'2 | 176 lbs. | Sept. 9, 2003

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    13
  • G
    1
  • PTS
    7
  • +/-
    -2

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Very good two-way defenceman who will anchor a top pair. Excellent skater who plays with a high-level blend of skill, smarts and physical competitiveness.

Chaz Lucius
11. Chaz Lucius

Centre | USA U-18 (USHL) | 6'0 | 172 lbs. | May 2, 2003

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    52
  • G
    31
  • PTS
    52
  • +/-
    -6

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Magic hands to score. Excellent in tight areas and spaces, Lucius scores in multiple ways. Smart offensive player who takes advantage when he gets a chance.

Fabian Lysell
12. Fabian Lysell

Right Wing | Frolunda (SWE J20) | 5'11 | 172 lbs. | Jan. 19, 2003

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    11
  • G
    3
  • PTS
    13
  • +/-
    N/A

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Very gifted offensive player with a deft touch in and around the net, plus a quick-strike capability. Excellent awareness of how to take advantage of opportunities and is elusive.

Daniil Chayka
13. Daniil Chayka

Left Defence | Guelph (OHL) | 6'3 | 187 lbs. | Oct. 22, 2002

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    56
  • G
    11
  • PTS
    34
  • +/-
    9

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Excellent skater who uses it to great advantage in all areas. Smart and competitive, Chayka plays with a great confidence along with a very high level of skill and tactical play.

Jesper Wallstedt
14. Jesper Wallstedt

Goaltender | Lulea (SHL) | 6'2 1/2 | 214 lbs. | Nov. 14, 2002

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    9
  • GAA
    2.06
  • SV%
    .920
  • SO
    1

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Has all the attributes to be a No. 1 goalie. High level of skill, smarts, size and technique are all in place for him to take his rightful place as a bona fide franchise goalie.

Zach Bolduc
15. Zach Bolduc

Centre | Rimouski (QMJHL) | 6'1 | 175 lbs. | Feb. 24, 2003

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    7
  • G
    3
  • PTS
    4
  • +/-
    -3

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Strong offensive player in all respects. Fast and quick with an attacking style. Smart and reads the play well. Creates scoring opportunities many ways and competes hard.

Oskar Olausson
16. Oskar Olausson

Right Wing | HV 71 (SHL) | 6'1 | 177 lbs. | Nov. 10, 2002

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    11
  • G
    3
  • PTS
    4
  • +/-
    N/A

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Very confident with his skill. Excellent puck skills. Very agile and quick, his mind works fast to take advantage of opportunities. He adds an exciting flair with his play.

Carson Lambos
17. Carson Lambos

Left Defence | Winnipeg (WHL) | 6'0 | 200 lbs. | Jan. 14, 2003

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    57
  • G
    8
  • PTS
    32
  • SO
    20

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Excellent skater who is very effective beating pressure defensively and moving play forward in transition. Calm and settled in his play but looks to exploit opportunities.

Zach L’Heureux
18. Zach L’Heureux

Left Wing | Halifax (QMJHL) | 5'11 | 196 lbs. | May 15, 2003

2020-21 Statistics

  • GP
    12
  • G
    7
  • PTS
    13
  • +/-
    -3

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Can play the game with skill, power and with an edge. Competes hard and makes life uncomfortable for opponents due to his willingness to find ways past obstacles.

Brennan Othmann
19. Brennan Othmann

Left Wing | Flint (OHL) | 5'11 | 170 lbs. | Jan. 3, 2003

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    55
  • G
    17
  • PTS
    33
  • +/-
    3

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

Exceptionally smart offensive player who knows how and when to get open to score. Excellent hands in tight areas. He’s more quick than fast but plays at high pace.

Cole Sillinger
20. Cole Sillinger

Left Wing | Medicine Hat (WHL) | 5'11 1/2 | 194 lbs. | May 16, 2003

2019-20 Statistics

  • GP
    48
  • G
    22
  • PTS
    53
  • +/-
    19

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s Analysis:

In the middle of so many positive things on the ice because he's so smart and astute. There may not be a lot of flash but there's significant substance and very good skill.