The reality was that Owen Power was on course and highly likely to maintain No. 1 prospect status for the 2021 NHL draft, but his performance at the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship in May sealed the deal in no uncertain terms.
Playing against men – and some of the top professional players in the world – the 18-year-old, 6-foot-6 University of Michigan freshman defenceman from Mississauga, Ont., was a top-pairing force, playing big minutes for Team Canada en route to the gold medal.
So, it was no surprise that — just as they did in TSN’s mid-season rankings in April — 10 out of 10 NHL scouts surveyed ranked Power No. 1 on TSN’s Final 2021 NHL Draft Rankings.
It was unanimous, obvious and fully deserving.
“If there was any debate who the No. 1 prospect was, and I’m not sure there was, but if you were looking to create or engage in a ‘Who’s No. 1’ debate, [Power] ended that at the Worlds,” said one NHL head scout.
“How could you not make him No. 1?” said another team’s head scout. “His game reached another level at the World Championship.”
“He reinforced, reaffirmed and erased any doubt,” said a third NHL team head scout. “He really earned it there. He didn’t start out the tournament as a top-pair, 20-to-30-minute guy, but he got to that point by earning the trust of [Team Canada head coach] Gerard Gallant. He did exactly in that tournament what he’s expected to do in the NHL — play top-pair minutes and impact the game in every situation, penalty kill, power play, 5 on 5 — and he did it against pro-level competition.”
Because of his physical stature and strong two-way game, Power often gets stylistic comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning star blueliner Victor Hedman. That said, the scouts generally temper that talk because they’re not necessarily convinced Power will be as elite offensively or defensively as Hedman.
“He’s not going to run your power play but he’s going to be on it,” a scout said. “He can kill penalties. He can defend or he can get the puck and himself up the ice and out of his own end."
Scouts don’t want to sell Power short either because, as he demonstrated at the World Championship, there’s every reason to believe he’ll develop into a 25-minute-a-night top-pair NHL blueliner. Power has said he isn’t ruling out returning to Michigan next season to further his development.
“He could do that, and it’s never a bad thing to go back for another year, but the way he played at the World Championships indicates he ready for the pro game if that’s what he wants to do,” another scout said.
The Buffalo Sabres own the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. They’ve not yet indicated their intentions but if they opt not to take Power, it will go strongly against the scouting community grain. It is worth noting, though, that TSN’s draft rankings do not take into account individual team preference or their order of selection.
TSN’s list is a consensus ranking, a mathematical exercise arrived at by surveying 10 (mostly) NHL club head scouts and assigning a collective numerical ranking. Unlike the multitude of independent scouting services that, like the NHL teams, are trying to forecast which prospects will be the best NHL players in years to come, TSN’s ranking is a more a barometer of when we might expect a player to be selected in this week’s (July 23-24) draft.
In large part because of the pandemic, this year’s draft class is showing signs of greater volatility and unpredictability. That was plainly evident when plotting the prospects ranked from No. 2 to No. 9. There’s very little separating the eight prospects immediately behind Power. It’s difficult to remember when, if ever, the No. 2 spot in particular and the top five to nine in general seems as jumbled as this year.
Power’s Michigan teammate, Matty Beniers, a freshman centre who played for Team USA at the World Championship in May as well as winning a gold medal at the World Junior Championship in January, is the consensus No. 2 prospect. Four of 10 scouts surveyed by TSN had Beniers at No. 2 and no scout ranked him lower than No. 6.
But four — count ’em, four! — more prospects also got consideration as the second-best prospect in this draft.
Swedish defenceman Simon Edvinsson, No. 3 on the TSN list, got three second-place votes and none outside of the Top 10.
Swedish forward William Eklund, tied at No. 4, received one second-place vote and nothing lower than No. 9, and Peterborough Pete centre Mason McTavish, tied with Eklund at No. 4, also received a second-slot vote and none outside of the top 10.
Edmonton Oil King scoring winger Dylan Guenther, No. 6 on our list, also got one No. 2 consideration, though one scout did rank him outside of the Top 10.
There’s not much at all separating Beniers, Edvinsson, Eklund, McTavish and Guenther. Any one of them may be worthy of No. 2 honours depending upon the preference of the individual teams ranking them.
And here’s where it gets even more interesting and/or confusing. While no other prospect than the five listed above got a vote at No. 2, the Nos. 7, 8 and 9 players on the TSN list also received notable support as top 3 to 5 picks.
Take Barrie Colts defenceman Brandt Clarke, No. 7 on the TSN list, for example. Five of 10 scouts ranked him in the Top 5, including one No. 3 vote. Clarke is an offensive defenceman with elite hockey sense and skill who is projected to run an NHL power play, although he has a bit of awkward, knock-kneed skating style.
University of Michigan recruit Luke Hughes, who played this season for the U.S. Under-18 program, is No. 8 on our list but he also received multiple Top 5 votes and none lower than No. 9.
Hughes, of course, is the younger brother of New Jersey centre Jack Hughes and Vancouver Canuck defenceman Quinn Hughes. He’s also, at 6-foot-2, the biggest of the Hughes boys and scouts see him a potential offensive defenceman who has the size and range to play a solid two-way game.
University of Michigan skilled freshman forward Kent Johnson, No. 9 on the TSN list, also got multiple Top 5 votes and none outside of the Top 10. The Canadian from British Columbia is widely hailed as having the purest skill level or best hands in the entire draft, with a penchant for scoring and creating highlight-reel goals.
If there’s virtually no separation on our list between Beniers, Edvinsson, Eklund, McTavish and Guenther, any one of Clarke, Hughes or Johnson could break into the Top 5 and supplant any of the top five prospects behind Power. It’s that tight.
TSN’s top 10 is rounded out by University of Minnesota recruit Chaz Lucius, a goal-scoring centre who bounced back from some significant knee injuries and illness as a member of the U.S. U-18 program this season. Lucius was ranked as high as No. 7 by one team and had four Top 10 votes, but as far as consensus goes, there was noticeable separation beyond the top nine on our list.
Because the No. 2 overall slot behind Power seemed very much up for grabs, we asked scouts to make the case for each of the five prospects who received No. 2 consideration:
The Case For Beniers: He’s the most complete two-way centre in the draft. He plays a relentless style with and without the puck. He can play any of the three forward positions and easily projects to slot into any NHL team’s top three lines. There is some mild concern about the extent of his offensive upside and how high, or rather limited, his skill and/or pro productivity may be, but as a couple of scouts pointed out: “Kent Johnson is viewed as maybe the most purely skilled prospect in the draft with a really high ceiling and Beniers’ productivity this season was right there with Johnson.”
The Case For Edvinsson: There are a lot of similarities between the games of Edvinsson and Power. The Swede’s size and skating ability also put him into the realm of being a big minute-munching pro when he’s fully developed. Edvinsson’s game is maybe not as refined as it will be and he’s still physically immature, but he’s a top-notch defender. The current debate on Edvinsson is whether there’s an appreciable offensive upside, but either way scouts who like him believe he’ll be a top-pair or top-three NHL defenceman who plays 20-plus minutes a night.
The Case For Eklund: The only knock on the dynamic offensive Swedish forward is that he isn’t 6 feet tall, but the scouts are convinced he doesn’t play small. In terms of overall offensive impact — scoring, making plays, quickness, agility, hunting and battling for pucks in the offensive zone — he is in the conversation for highest ceiling. His engine revs high all the time and the skill level is high, too.
The Case For McTavish: A year ago, the Peterborough Pete was viewed as a scoring winger with a pro release, but he’s now considered a bullish, physically mature, throwback type, two-way centre who can still snipe but goes to the hard areas to get his goals. He was outstanding at the U-18 World Championship.
The Case For Guenther: The Edmonton Oil King winger is a scorer who can make plays and is most dangerous off the rush. His vision, skill, shot and hockey sense are all way above average, and he wants to be a difference-maker every time he’s on the ice. He didn’t have the best U-18 World Championships but in terms of projections, some of the scouts believe his goal-scoring ability could make a top-line NHL threat.
One final note as it pertains to the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in this draft — if a team were to pick someone other than Power at No. 1, who would be the most likely candidate?
“Well,” said one scout, “the only rationale I can see for taking anyone other than Power at No. 1 is because you’re a team that really wants or needs a forward more than a defenceman. Because if you don’t care about position or you want a defenceman, Power should be the guy.”
The scout added that if a team is taking a forward at No. 1, the top three candidates would be, in no particular order: Beniers, because he’s the most complete centre in the draft; Eklund, because his energy and skill level give him enormous upside; and Guenther, because he has the tools to be a first-line scoring winger in the NHL.
But make no mistake, the consensus No. 1 in this draft is Power. It’s clear-cut and unanimous on TSN’s list.
The 2021 draft is interesting for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which include:
- Two goaltenders are ranked in the Top 15.
Sweden’s Jesper Wallstedt is at No. 12 and 6-foot-6 Edmonton Oil King Sebastian Cossa is at No. 15. If both are selected in the first round, and that is highly likely if not virtually certain, it would be the first time two stoppers were taken in the first round since 2012 when Andrei Vasilevskiy and Malcolm Subban were chosen.
Wallstedt is a decent candidate to crack the Top 10. Four of 10 scouts surveyed by TSN ranked him between No. 5 and No. 10. Cossa did not get any top-10 consideration from the scouts we surveyed, but four of 10 scouts did rank Cossa ahead of Wallstedt.
So, even though Wallstedt gets the higher consensus ranking, the prospect of Cossa going ahead of the Swede is by no means out of the question.
The scouts who like Cossa better than Wallstedt love his combination of size and athletic prowess. Those who prefer Wallstedt over Cossa cite the Swede’s elite hockey sense and more refined technical game.
- Carson Lambos is a wild card.
The Winnipeg Ice shutdown defenceman has been somewhat polarizing in terms of whether he’s viewed as a first-round or second-round pick. And that was even before he developed a condition this season that required a medical procedure to be performed in late April. Lambos’ doctor cleared him for full hockey activity in late May and NHL Central Scouting and all 32 teams were provided with detailed medical reports.
Many teams appear satisfied there’s no red flag here, but some indicated they wanted to do a deeper dive on his health.
Six of 10 scouts surveyed by TSN for the final draft rankings had Lambos in their top 32, as high as No. 16 in one instance, but four others had him well down the list into the second round, some closer to 60 than 33.
Finally, London Knights defenceman Logan Mailloux is ranked No. 35 on the TSN list, but whether he’s drafted in that range, or drafted at all, remains to be seen.
Mailloux’s draft status is very much in question, as first reported and outlined in detail by Frank Seravalli of dailyfaceoff.com.
NHL teams have been well aware of Mailloux’s legal issues. Some of those teams have already decided they will not draft Mailloux under any circumstances.
Some teams are awaiting instruction from ownership on whether they could draft him if they are so inclined. And some teams are still considering whether to draft Mailloux.
Mailloux’s name appears on the TSN final draft rankings list simply because even for the teams that have decided not to select him under any circumstances, the player was still ranked by those teams. Absent the legal issues, which of course is not the case, this is the range where he may have expected to have been chosen.
This is, of course, not a normal situation, but the process whereby teams rank and list a player they have no interest in actually drafting is not at all unusual. That is why Mailloux’s name still appears on the list. Of the 10 scouts surveyed by TSN, four had Mailloux in their first round, including one in the top 15. Five other scouts had him rated in the second round and one in the third round.
1 Owen Power
2 Matty Beniers
3 Simon Edvinsson
T4 William Eklund
T4 Mason McTavish
6 Dylan Guenther
7 Brandt Clarke
8 Luke Hughes
9 Kent Johnson
10 Chaz Lucius
11 Cole Sillinger
12 Jesper Wallstedt
13 Matthew Coronato
14 Fabian Lysell
15 Sebastian Cossa
16 Brennan Othmann
17 Fedor Svechkov
18 Isak Rosen
19 Zachary Bolduc
20 Xavier Bourgault
21 Carson Lambos
22 Corson Ceulemans
23 Francesco Pinelli
24 Nikita Chibrikov
25 Zachary L’Heureux
26 Daniil Chayka
27 Logan Stankoven
28 Aatu Raty
29 Tyler Boucher
30 Samu Tuomaala
31 Zach Dean
32 Simon Robertsson
33 Mackie Samoskevich
34 Oskar Olausson
35 Logan Mailloux
36 Sasha Pastujov
37 Scott Morrow
38 Prokhor Poltapov
39 Jack Peart
40 Wyatt Johnston
41 William Stromgren
42 Chase Stillman
43 Tristan Broz
44 Samuel Helenius
45 Olen Zellwegger
46 Samu Salminen
47 Evan Nause
48 Ayrton Martino
49 Shai Buium
50 Sean Behrens
51 Anton Olsson
52 Oliver Kapanen
53 Stanislav Svozil
54 Alexander Kisakov
55 Conner Roulette
56 Aleksei Heimosalmi
57 Brett Harrison
58 Vincent Iorio
59 Nolan Allan
60 Artyom Grushnikov
61 Colton Dach
62 Matthew Knies
63 Ryan Winterton
64 Danila Klimovich
65 Roman Schmidt
66 Josh Doan
67 Cameron Whynot
68 Brent Johnson
69 Benjamin Gaudreau
70 Riley Kidney
71 Cole Huckins
72 Ilya Fedotov
73 Kirill Kirsanov
74 Olivier Nadeau
75 Ryder Korczak
76 Aidan Hreschuk
77 Ethan Del Mastro
78 Dylan Duke
79 Ville Koivunen
80 Justin Robidas
81 Guillaume Richard
82 Redmond Savage
83 Tristan Lennox
84 Topias Vilen
85 Aleksi Malinen
86 Jack Bar
87 Jayden Grubbe
88 Dmitri Kostenko
89 Ben Roger
90 Ryan Ufko
91 Dmitry Kuzmin
92 Matvei Petrov
93 William Trudeau
94 Oscar Plandowski
95 Zack Ostapchuk
96 Jack Matier
HM Haakon Hanelt
HM Ryan Mast
HM Sean Tschigerl
HM Joe Vrbetic