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2021 NHL Draft Preview

Kent Johnson
Written by Ben Brydges and Luke Morey, NHL analysts for Tunnel Vision Sports.

Who is this year’s top prospect?

In a unique draft class without a true #1 prospect compared to the rest of the class, the Buffalo Sabres will have a lot of options with the first pick. The most enticing of these options has to be Owen Power from the University of Michigan. Power is a 6-foot-6, 214-pound defenseman who cuts through the ice with ease. Not many defensemen in the NHL can skate like Power does at his size.

Last season with Michigan, Power scored three goals and added 13 assists for a total of 16 points in 26 games. He was also selected to the roster for Team Canada at the World Championships, where he tallied three assists in ten games and proved that he can play with professionals. At only 18 years of age, Power is built for a long NHL career. He has already indicated he would like to return to Michigan for another season in the NCAA, but that should not stop Buffalo from calling his name first on July 23.

-BB

Owen Power is the best prospect this year. He’s young at only 18 and he already dominates the ice. He’s got a good game on both offense and defense, and he has really good vision. I really like his assists, and he could be a Victor Hedman clone on the power play, setting up at the point and finding the open man or getting his own shot. Defensively, he has a really good active stick and he’s fast enough to stay between the puck and the net. The Sabres would have a great defensive pairing with Power and 2018 No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin, who notched 23 points in 56 games. Power will only get better back in Michigan for another year, so it’s well worth the wait for the Sabres. 

-LM

(NBC Sports)

Surprises to Look Out For

The NHL offseason has already been quite crazy with a lot of trade rumors and roster moves, and it should only heat up even more as we approach the draft. The biggest name to watch right now is Jack Eichel from Buffalo. The Sabres already hold the first pick, and their disgruntled star player has hinted that he wants out. Elliotte Freidman has reported that teams like the Ducks, Kings and Wild will explore trade options for Eichel, meaning that Buffalo could end up with another pick inside the top-15, possibly even top-5. With several all-star names circling trade rumors, expect to see a lot of movement in the first round of the draft.

-BB

I think free agency will be quiet, but the trade market will be insane this offseason. It has already started with Duncan Keith being traded to the Oilers, and Ryan Graves traded to the Devils. It’ll amp up even more on draft night. The most notable one will be Jack Eichel. The Anaheim Ducks are rumored to be interested in Eichel, and they can offer the No. 3 pick to snag him. I could see goaltenders being traded on draft night as well, with the Hurricanes being an option. They have Calder Finalist Alex Nedeljkovic and stalwart Petr Mrazek both worthy of starter minutes. If a team can offer enough, I could see the Hurricanes move on from Mrazek and build around Nedeljkovic and their young core. 

-LM

Highest Ceiling in the Draft

(committedindians.com)

Aatu Raty is a name to look out for in my book. Around this time last year, many people were saying he would be the first pick in this year’s draft. After some troubles with his game this season, he has bounced around all over draft boards but is projected to be picked in the first round. Raty has shown his tremendous upside with elite skill and early sights at professional hockey with Karpat in Finland. Raty has tremendous speed and stickhandling ability that make him a real threat on offense. He also brings a lot of value on the defensive end playing a well-rounded 200-foot game. If Raty can look past his scoring struggles from this year he can certainly be the steal of this year’s draft.

-BB

(Michigan Athletics)

I really like center Kent Johnson out of the University of Michigan. He’s 6’1”, 165, but he’s one of the most technically skilled players in the draft. While he’s usually the ninth-best player in the draft rankings, he has a lot of upside. Johnson has one of the best stick-handling moves of the draft and the puck always finds him. He has a knack for the net but is happy to set up his teammates too. He has some of the Sydney Crosby and Connor McDavid knack of making something out of nothing, and he’s crafty to avoid bigger players.

While he will almost certainly return to the University of Michigan at least one more year, any team who gets him will have an absolute stud once he comes to the NHL. His moves are obviously honed over years of practice, so there’s no worry for complacency. He could pan out to be in the top five best players in this draft. 

Top 5 Mock Draft

Ben:

  1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)
  2. Seattle Kraken: Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)
  3. Anaheim Ducks: Matt Beniers, Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)
  4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets: William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (SWE)

Luke:

  1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)
  2. Seattle Kraken: Matthew Beniers, C, Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)
  3. Anaheim Ducks: Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)
  4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolounda (SHL)

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