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 our 2021 NHL Draft Grades.
The big day has come and gone, and now we look back to see how each team did in the NHL Draft. Look, we know that it is way too soon to evaluate a draft and that the true evaluation will be seen four or five years from now. However, we don’t want to wait, instead, we follow our yearly tradition and do our 2021 NHL Draft Grades now.
To be clear, our 2021 NHL Draft Grades are based on the quality and quantity of total talent added in the draft. It is not based on getting value for where you pick. For example, due to a lack of total picks the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to be given a very poor grade for this year’s draft regardless of how they use them.
LWOS 2021 NHL Draft Grades
Note: VALUE PICK does NOT mean the best player drafted. It means the best value. For example, Owen Power was the first player taken in this draft. However, he is not our best value pick for the Sabres. Why? Because anyone can take the best player with the first overall pick, we are looking for value here, what steal did the team get in the draft that went later than we thought he would? If it was merely an exercise in naming the best player drafted, might as well just name the team’s first pick, as that is who their own scouts felt was their best player.
The Predators re-stocked their cupboards nicely as a rebuild begins in Nashville. The only thing keeping them from an A is the lack of real blue-chip talent. Svechkov is an excellent defensive centre already. His offence is a bit of a question mark, but he showed real potential at the Under-18s and if that keeps up, he will be a steal. L’Heureux is a pest who gets under opponents’ skin. He can also provide offence off the wing.
If Olsson reaches his ceiling he can be an effective two-way defenceman playing in the top-four for an NHL team. His defensive game is likely to be better than his offensive game. Ufko is an undersized defender who loves to push the pace and is very aggressive in creating offensive opportunities. While he makes a good first pass and can hit a forward to start the transition game, he also loves to carry the puck and lead the rush himself.
The Devils had the feel-good moment of the draft with Jack Hughes’s excitement to see Luke Hughes join the team. Hughes is taller than his brothers but maintains a similar explosive skating ability. He is very fast in both directions allowing him to push the play offensively and still get back to the defensive end of the ice. Stillman plays a power forward style. He loves to drive the net, both with and without the puck. Stillman can finish when he gets there.
Salminen is a pure goal scorer. He has an outstanding one-timer. He is smart enough to find the soft spots in the opposing defence and set up for the shot. Malek is a second-year draft-eligible goalie. He is tall but slight. The pick is strange considering other goalies who were on the board at the time. Vilen can play the role of the distributor on the power-play. Vilen is also not afraid to get his nose dirty, playing physically in his own end.
In Aatu Raty, the Islanders may have gotten one of the biggest steals in the draft. One year ago, Raty was seen as a potential first overall pick. He had a disappointing season, but this last year has been trying for all of us. If Raty bounces back when life gets back to normal, the Islanders will benefit. Coming in at 6-foot-4, Lennox has the type of ideal size that NHL teams are looking for in goalie prospects now. He makes the most of that size by playing at the top of his crease. Malinen has many of the skills needed to develop into a top-four defenceman at the NHL level. However, his game is extremely raw right now. Berg is just six-foot but plays much bigger. He has a non-stop motor and is physical and aggressive at both ends of the ice.
New York Rangers: B-
Othmann has an outstanding arsenal of shots. It is amongst the best in this draft class. His wrist shot and snapshot are both powerful and accurate. He can also get them off very quickly with an excellent release. Grubbe has excellent size and plays a very effective two-way game. He is strong in the faceoff circle. He is also used against the opponent’s best lines and in killing penalties.
Korczak is a very good skater. He is a bit undersized, but his skating ability helps him to be an offensive threat. Korczak marries his skating ability with excellent stickhandling. Lamb has a powerful wrist shot and good playmaking skills. Vaisanen is 6-foot-4. He is a physical winger with good passing skills.
Ottawa Senators: D-
The Senators made some of the most unconventional picks I’ve seen in the years doing this draft coverage. Boucher is a big forward and plays a Tom Wilson-Style of game, but there are questions if his offence is good enough to play in the top six. Ostapchuk combines size, speed, and puck control. He is very good at carrying the puck through the neutral zone and generating effective zone entries. However, he needs work on his shot and his defensive game.
Ben Roger is a big defender with the London Knights. He has a good slap shot, but the rest of his game is very raw. He needs to work on his skating and defending against quicker opponents. Johansson is a Swedish centre who played just 15 games last year and wasn’t highly ranked by any scouting service. Latimer is hard worker and good penalty killer, but there are questions on his offensive game.
Picks: Samu Tuomaala, Aleksei Kolosov, Brian Zanetti, Ty Murchison, Ethan Samson, Owen McLaughlin
Tuomaala’s wrist shot has a lightning-quick release and he can quickly move his hands to change the angle on it, fooling goaltenders. He is very accurate as well as generating a ton of power. Tuomaala also has a good slap shot and one-timer. Kolosov is a smaller goalie who was passed over in 2020. He is athletic and has very good reflexes. Zanetti is a mobile defenceman, who is very good at moving the puck up the ice. Murchison is another smooth-skating defenceman. He didn’t put up big numbers as he was buried on a strong US NTDP depth chart.
The Penguins were hurt by a lack of draft capital. They had a second-rounder, a fifth-rounder, and 3 picks in the seventh round. Broz has many of the skills necessary to make an offensive impact at the next level but needs continued refinements in his game. He marries his skating ability with excellent stickhandling. He can score goals as well as be a playmaker. Belliveau thrives on the power play. He has excellent vision as well as the passing skills to create scoring chances for teammates.
San Jose Sharks: B-
The Sharks had a number of picks, but only two in the top 100. Eklund is one of the most NHL-ready players in this draft and an excellent two-way player. He can do it all in the offensive zone, whether it be handling the puck, creating on the rush, shooting the puck, and cycling the puck down low. Gaudreau has an outstanding glove hand. He also has a very good blocker. He plays a hybrid style, staying on his feet more than most goalies. This makes him very hard to beat up high. He can still drop into the butterfly when necessary. His quick legs do a good job of taking away the bottom of the net as well.
2021 NHL Draft Grades Main Photo: