Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “2021 NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we bring you part one of our 2021 NHL Mock Draft.
We are less than a month away from the 2021 NHL Draft, and with that in mind, we are ready to release the annual LWOS NHL Mock Draft. We will go through the first two rounds of the draft, in four parts, breaking up the non-playoff teams and playoff teams.
For those who haven’t read the LWOS mock before here are the rules.
1) No trades except for those that have already been made by NHL teams.
2) A two-round Mock draft will be done in four parts. The first part comes out today. More parts will be added in time.
3) Clicking the Player’s name will bring you to a full scouting report.
So with that out of the way, I present the LWOS 2021 NHL Mock Draft.
2021 NHL Mock Draft – The Lottery Picks
With all the uncertainty around Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, there will be a lot of temptation for the Sabres to take a forward here. Add in the fact that the last time the Sabres had the number one pick in the draft, they went with defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, and again there will be calls to add to the forward group. The Sabres need to resist those temptations and simply take the best player available. The Sabres may need to reset and rebuild once again. Power proved at the World Championships that he is the best player available. He might head back to Michigan next season, but this pick is about finding a top player for 3-5 years from now. With Power and Dahlin, the Sabres could have the building blocks for the best defence in the league.
Owen Power is already 6’5″ and combines his ideal size with outstanding skating. Power also has very good vision and passing skills. This allows him to start the breakout or to quarterback the play in the opposing end. His agility, lateral movement and quick stick allow him to change angles and open up passing lanes. Power is also strong in his own end. He is a smart player who reads the play well and is well-positioned. His skating allows him to maintain good gap control. Power is willing to play a physical game in the corners and in front of the net.
2.) Seattle Kraken – Matthew Beniers, Centre/Left Wing, University of Michigan Wolverines, NCAA Big Ten
Following the success of the Vegas Golden Knights, big things will be expected from the Seattle Kraken right away. It is difficult to predict what they will need, as this mock draft is released before the expansion draft. That said, expansion rules still leave Vegas with a real need for top centres. It will be the toughest position for Seattle to fill. They should also be looking for the best player available early in their franchise’s build. Fortunately in Matthew Beniers, they get both a centre prospect and the best player available.
Beniers’ game has been compared to Patrice Bergeron. He is already strong in both ends of the rink. He could develop into a player capable of playing against an opponent’s number one line. Beniers is an outstanding playmaker. He controls the puck with his soft hands and excellent stick control. Beniers can slow down the play or speed it up in order to create openings in the defence. His slick hands create passing lanes. While more of a passer than a shooter, Beniers also scores goals. His wrist shot has decent power but is helped by his excellent accuracy and quick release.
The Ducks have added a number of young forward prospects in recent drafts, they have a well-rounded group that will be led by Trevor Zegras in the near future. Meanwhile, the team’s defence has gotten older. Adding Jamie Drysdale one year ago was a good move for the team. However, they will continue to need more on the backend. Being able to marry that need with the best player available early in the draft is a nice coup for the club. At third overall, they take Clarke, who might be the best offensive defenceman in the group. With him and Drysdale in the top-four, the Ducks could have a big two, just like the Niedermayer/Pronger years.
Clarke pairs outstanding skating ability with great hands. This allows him to skate the puck up the ice and control it while moving at top speed. He can avoid forecheckers and clear the defensive zone. Clarke is also good at leading the rush through the neutral zone, creating odd-man opportunities. He can also move the puck with a strong first pass. Clarke is effective at gaining the zone, especially on the power play. The ability to enter the offensive zone cleanly and set things up is invaluable. Clarke has high-end vision and passing skills. He can feather the pass through a tight area. Clarke uses his mobility and quick hands to create passing lanes and set up teammates. He also has an excellent wrist shot.
With their recent draft day additions of Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, and Pavel Zacha taking another step in his development, the Devils seem set up the middle for the foreseeable future. Overall, the main roster and farm system is full of young, talented forwards. The team also seems set between the pipes with Mackenzie Blackwood proving to be a number one goaltender. On defence though, the Devils only have Ty Smith as a young player with high-end potential. Here they are able to add another Hughes brother, getting Luke from the US NTDP. Luke will join Beniers and Power with the University of Michigan this year.
Hughes has the ability to run the power play from the point. With his soft hands, he maintains good puck control. His quick feet and ability to toe-drag with the puck help him to make quick moves that open up passing and shooting lanes. He has good vision and can find an open teammate to set up a scoring chance. His ability to control the play and speed things up or slow them down allows his teammates time to get open. Hughes also has a very good slap shot and one-timer. Hughes understands how to keep the puck low and on the net, allowing teammates to get rebounds and deflections.
It is a new era in Columbus. Brad Larsen has replaced John Tortorella as head coach. Meanwhile, star defenceman Seth Jones is heading into the last year of his contract and there are many rumours that he will be dealt this summer. After a number of years in the playoffs, the Blue Jackets could be looking at a rebuild. They go to the board and take one of the best pure goal scorers in the draft in Oil Kings winger Dylan Guenther. Guenther had 12 goals and 24 points in 12 WHL games this year. He also had seven points in seven games at the Under-18.
Guenther is a threat both with and without the puck. He has good hands and can handle the puck and make plays while moving at top speed. He has very good vision and the passing skills to be a playmaker off the rush, or in the offensive zone. Guenther is a smart player who also finds open areas without the puck, allowing himself to be set up by teammates for a scoring chance. He is very good at give-and-go type plays. Guenther can also be a sniper. His wrist shot and snap shot are both powerful and accurate. He gets them off quickly and he can use his quick hands to change his shooting angle, fooling goaltenders.
With multiple picks in each of the first five rounds of the NHL Draft, the Red Wings can afford to take a gamble. Their rebuild is off to an excellent start with Moritz Seider, and Lucas Raymond proving to be absolute blue-chip prospects. They also have excellent depth in the system and are well-stocked at many positions. However, goaltending remains a bit of a question mark. When Steve Yzerman was the general manager in Tampa, he took goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy with a first-round pick and there is no doubt that the move has paid off for the Bolts. Here he follows that game plan and takes the best goaltender in the draft with Swedish sensation Jesper Wallstedt.
At 6’3″ Wallstedt has decent size for a modern goalie prospect. His rebound control is very good for a young goalie, far ahead of other prospects his age. Wallstedt swallows up a lot of shots and just doesn’t give rebounds. He is also extremely efficient in his movements and is almost always square to the puck. This helps him to make a second save when he does give up a rebound. He is pretty good at angling pucks to the corners when he can’t swallow them. Wallstedt’s technique is incredibly advanced for a young goaltender. He uses his size effectively, coming out to cut down angles and gives shooters very little net to look at. His strong legs take away the bottom of the net. They also make him an effective skater.
In recent years, no team has fallen faster than the Sharks. They went from true contenders, being in the Western Conference Final in 2019 to being playoff afterthoughts the last two years. The team aged quickly and needs a real rebuild at this point. With a number of big-money contracts on the books and a flat cap, this will be difficult. Add in the lack of top prospects in the system, and the Sharks simply need to add talent to their system. Eklund is the clear best player on the board and given the way this draft has broken is the easy pick here.
Eklund has spent most of his time in the SHL at left-wing, however played centre at junior levels and for the Swedish National Junior teams. Given his skating, playmaking ability, and defensive game, he could be a centre at the NHL level. With a year of professional hockey, against men, under his belt, Eklund is one of the more NHL-ready prospects in this year’s draft. It is not a sure thing and another year in the SHL and a World Junior experience would not hurt his development. I would not expect him to be more than a year away at most. Eklund’s game is reminiscent of Henrik Zetterberg but this is a style comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The Kings have one of the best prospect groups in the league right now. Their forward group is absolutely stacked and I expect them to start producing and help the Kings make big moves up the standings in the near future. Los Angeles could use some help on the blue line though and have the ability to gamble with this pick. They take one of the more hotly debated prospects in this draft in Simon Edvinsson. He clearly has all the tools to be a top pair defenceman but is a boom or bust pick.
Edvinsson’s combination of size, skill, and skating ability gives him a very high ceiling. He could become a top-pairing defender at the next level. There are areas of his game that need improvement, including his shot and his defensive game though. His game is still a bit raw and he will likely need more time in Sweden or the AHL before he is ready to make an impact at the NHL level. The raw traits here are very intriguing though, and with good coaching and development, the team that drafts him could have a real gem. Edvinsson’s game is reminiscent of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, however, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The Canucks would love a defenceman at this point in the draft but with the way the board has fallen, there just isn’t one here for them. I see a real drop-off after the top 10 picks in this draft, so the Canucks need to take a forward here in order to get the best player available. Lysell is a dynamic offensive talent and could become a top-line winger in two or three years. Lysell is one of the best skaters in this year’s draft. He has a very good first step and excellent acceleration. When there is an opening in the defence, Lysell is lightning quick, getting past his man and into an area to create a scoring chance.
Lysell pairs his outstanding skating with excellent puck handling skills. He can handle the puck and make plays while moving at top speed. Lysell’s skating and stickhandling ability generate odd-man rushes and effective zone entries. His stickhandling also helps him to slow the game down and protect the puck in the offensive zone. He cycles the puck well, giving his teammates time to get open and when they do he can hit them with a pass to create a scoring chance. Lysell has excellent vision. His quick hands change angles for the puck and create passing lanes. Lysell is good on the power play, directing traffic from the half wall.
The Senators have an excellent group of young prospects. If there is a weakness though, they need a future top-line centre. While there is no guarantee, Johnson has a chance to become that. He is also the best player available. Even if he tops out as a second-liner, it is good value for the pick. Offensively, Johnson is creative and fearless. He will try things that other players wouldn’t even dream of. This includes going for the “Michigan” or lacrosse-style goal or going between his legs to deke an opponent. He has high-end vision and can see the smallest of openings. Johnson is not afraid to try to pass through tight passing lanes, or saucer it to a teammate. He extends plays, waiting for teammates to get open with his puck control.
Johnson’s hands allow him to make plays at top speed. He is dangerous off the rush and beats defenders one-on-one. When defenders back off to respect his speed, he uses them as a screen and fires a shot on the net. His wrist shot is powerful and accurate and has a quick release. His ability to change the angle of his stick just before shooting also helps fool goaltenders. Johnson needs to get stronger and play in the dirty areas of the ice though. He’s willing to work in those areas, but isn’t always successful. As he gets stronger, he will win more battles on the boards and establish his position in front of the net.
11.) Arizona Coyotes – Forfeit
12.) Chicago Blackhawks – Mason McTavish, Centre/Left Wing, Peterborough Petes (OHL) and Olten (SuiB)
After years at the top of the NHL, the Blackhawks rebuild is now fully underway. In Kirby Dach, Stan Bowman has found the team’s future number one centre. Here he looks to find a future anchor of the second line. McTavish is a pure goal scorer. He has an outstanding wrist shot. It is very accurate and has very good power. His quick hands allow him to vary his release and fool goaltenders. McTavish also has a very good one-timer, getting himself open on the power play and firing it on the net.
Willing to play a gritty game, McTavish gets to the front of the net, causing havoc with screens. He can also score goals in tight, using his backhand to get the puck up and over the goaltender quickly. McTavish has the hand-eye coordination to get deflections, short one-timers, and pounce on rebounds. He is a smart player, always finding open ice without the puck and setting himself up to take a pass and get a scoring chance.
The Flames are also looking to bolster their depth down the middle and look to the top centre for the US NTDP this past season. Lucius is a pure goal scorer. He has a very good arsenal of shots, as he is effective with his wrist shot, snapshot, slap shot, one-timer, and backhand. His shots are accurate and show good power. Lucius has quick hands. He gets his shot off extremely quickly. He also has the ability to quickly change the angle on his release. Lucius can score in tight to the net, elevating the puck quickly and into small open areas. His high-end hand-eye coordination allows him to tip in pucks and pounce on rebounds. Lucius is a smart player, he finds open spaces on the ice and gets open to receive a pass from a teammate.
Lucius is also a very good stickhandler. He can control the puck in the cycle game, extending plays and waiting for teammates to get open. While more of a goal scorer than a passer, he has good vision and the ability to put the puck through tight areas and to a teammate. Lucius defers to teammates on the rush though. He prefers to give the puck to one of his wingers in the neutral zone and let them make the zone entry. Meanwhile, he finds open space to take a pass for a shot on net or a give-and-go.
Every team in the NHL is looking for more scoring punch and the Flyers are no different. Here they take Coronato, a player who had one of the best USHL seasons ever. He scored 48 goals and 37 assists for 85 points in 51 games this year. Coronato led the league in goals and plus/minus. He has added nine goals and 13 points in eight playoff games, helping the Steel win the Clark Cup. Coronato’s game is relatively simple. He plays a very “North-South” style, not trying a lot of fancy dangles or slick plays. Coronato is always driving the net, both with and without the puck.
Coronato has an outstanding wrist shot and release. He may have the best shot in the draft. He has real power and accuracy on his wrist shot, as well as the ability to quickly change the angle and release point. This extends to his snapshot as well, and he uses that as a weapon on the wing. Coronato has a very good one-timer and a knack for getting it on the net from the “Ovechkin Spot.” He is also able to establish his position in front of the net, getting deflections and pouncing on rebounds. He elevates the puck quickly and beats goalies in tight.
The Stars have an excellent group of defencemen right now but would like to keep that going in the future. On the roster that finished the season, only Miro Heiskanen is under 27 years old. In Carson Lambos, the Stars get a prospect who may be able to come into that top four in the next several years.
Lambos excellent skating ability helps him to play a strong two-way game. He has a great first step and excellent acceleration reaching top speed in just a few strides. His top-end speed is very good and allows him to carry the puck past forecheckers and out of the defensive zone. This strong speed is also true of his backwards skating. Lambos has very good agility and edgework. This helps him to maintain good gap control defensively and to walk the line laterally in the offensive zone. His pivots are crisp which helps him to transition from offence to defence and vice-versa. Lambos has a very good slap shot and one-timer. He generates excellent power. He also has a knack for getting the puck on the net despite facing traffic in front of him.
The Rangers have one of the best prospect systems in the game. However, they could still use a top centre prospect. Finding a number one centre with the 16th overall pick is difficult at the best of times. In this draft, such a player may not be available. However, given the strength of the Rangers system, this is a pick where they can afford to roll the dice. Aatu Raty was once seen as a possible first overall pick but had a disappointing draft season. The Rangers gamble that this was just a crazy year for everyone and hope he can find the form that had scouts thinking he could be that top-end talent.
Raty is much more of a playmaker than a scorer. His hands are outstanding. He can stickhandle in a phone booth and uses that ability to beat defenders on the rush as well as to create opportunities in the offensive zone. Raty protects the puck in the cycle game, extending plays and giving teammates the opportunity to get open. He has the vision and skill to pass the puck through tight areas and create scoring chances. Raty also has a powerful shot and a quick release. He needs to be better at getting to the middle of the ice though. He plays a bit too much of a perimeter game and this hurts his scoring potential. If he can get those shots off from between the faceoff dots more often, he will create more offence.
NHL Mock Draft Main Photo: SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 06: A general view of the draft board following the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020, in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)