The 2021 NHL Draft provides an opportunity for teams to strengthen positions of need with young talent.
The first round is scheduled for July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW). Rounds 2-7 are scheduled July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
Here are what Metropolitan Division teams could be looking to do at the draft (listed in alphabetical order):
Top priority: Goalie depth
First pick: No. 27
The situation: Goalies Petr Mrazek and James Reimer each can become an unrestricted free agent July 28, and Alex Nedeljkovic can be a restricted free agent. Pyotr Kochetkov, a second-round pick (No. 36) in the 2019 NHL Draft, is the only goalie selected in the first three rounds since 2017 and the 21-year-old was 2-5-1 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 10 games in the Kontinental Hockey League this season. Selecting a goalie could be the move here, or the Hurricanes could focus on a defenseman.
Possible fits: Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton (WHL); Jack Peart, D, Grand Rapids (HIGH-MIN); Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia (OHL)
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Top priority: Best available
First pick: No. 5
The situation: The Blue Jackets have been keyed the past several seasons by top defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. But Jones has one season left on his contract and has said he likely will test unrestricted free agency and Werenski can become a restricted free agent when his contract expires after next season. That could make it imperative for the Blue Jackets to use at least one of their NHL-high three first-round picks to stock their talent depth at defenseman. Columbus also has the No. 25 pick, acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Nick Foligno trade, and the No. 32 pick, acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the David Savard trade.
Possible fits: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (SWE-JR); Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL); William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (SWE)
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Top priority: Right-handed defenseman
First pick: No. 4
The situation: The Devils failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third straight season and the eighth time in the past nine, and though they received contributions from many young players, the organization needs to continue to target game-breakers. An emphasis needs to be placed on defensemen. Ty Smith (No. 17, 2018) led NHL rookie defensemen with 23 points (two goals, 21 assists) and 16 even-strength points (one goal, 15 assists) while averaging 20:07 of ice time. Kevin Bahl (trade, Arizona Coyotes, 2019) showed promise in seven games down the stretch. Defenseman prospect Reilly Walsh (No. 81, 2017) scored 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 33 games for Binghamton in the American Hockey League and could challenge for a roster spot. Shakir Mukhamadullin (No. 20, 2020) and Nikita Okhotyuk (No. 61, 2019) each are at least one season away from making an impact in the NHL. Perhaps the Devils will have an opportunity to select Luke Hughes, the brother of center Jack Hughes, who can play both left and right point. They also have the No. 29 pick, acquired from the New York Islanders in the trade for forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.
Possible fits: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR.); Luke Hughes, D, USA U-18 (USHL); Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL)
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Top priority: Depth at defenseman and forward
First pick: No. 52
The situation: Noah Dobson (No. 12, 2018), a 21-year-old who played 46 regular-season games and 19 postseason games, is the only regular defenseman under 25 years old. The Islanders have defenseman prospects in the pipeline: Bode Wilde (No. 41, 2018), who scored six points (three goals, three assists) in 22 games for Bridgeport (AHL) this season, and Robin Salo (2017, No. 46), who scored 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in 51 games for Orebro in the Swedish Hockey League, but that could be an area to fill. The Islanders have six picks in the draft, including No. 52 in the second round after acquiring the selection and forward Richard Panik from the Detroit Red Wings on Friday for defenseman Nick Leddy.
Possible fits: Stanislav Svozil, D, Brno (CZREP); Evan Nause, D, Quebec (QMJHL); Scott Morrow, D, Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep (HIGH-MN)
NEW YORK RANGERS
Top priority: Center depth
First pick: No. 16
The situation: There was a major shakeup at the top when the Rangers fired John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on May 5 and promoted Chris Drury to president and GM. Seven days later, they fired coach David Quinn, who was replaced by Gerard Gallant on June 16. Despite the changes, New York is in good shape for the foreseeable future with forwards Alexis Lafreniere (No. 1, 2020) and Kaapo Kakko (No. 2, 2019), Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Adam Fox (No. 66, 2016) and K’Andre Miller (No. 22, 2018), and pending RFA goalie Igor Shesterkin (No. 118, 2014). Defenseman Braden Schneider (No. 19, 2020) agreed to an entry-level contract March 4 and will likely begin next season in Hartford (AHL). New York may need to fill the prospect cupboard with centers since Ryan Strome and Mika Zibanejad can each become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and Filip Chytil could be an RFA on July 28. The Rangers agreed to a one-year contract with forward Brett Howden on July 9. They have nine picks in the draft, including one in the first round and three in the fourth.
Possible fits: Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL); Chaz Lucius, C, USA U-18 (USHL); Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (FIN)
Top priority: Depth at all positions
First pick: No. 14
The situation: Since qualifying for the playoffs five consecutive seasons from 2008-12, they Flyers have alternated reaching and missing it the past nine. They need to stock up at all positions. Defensemen Cam York (No. 14, 2019) and Egor Zamula (free agent, Sept. 20, 2018), and forwards Tyson Foerster (No. 23, 2020), Wade Allison (No. 52, 2016) and Isaac Ratcliffe (No. 35, 2017), should each challenge for roles next season. The organization may also consider a goalie to develop and grow within the system. Carter Hart is looking to rebound from an .877 save percentage that ranked last among the 29 goalies to play at least 25 games this season.
Possible fits: Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL); Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL); Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (SHL)
Top priority: Center depth
First pick: No. 58
The situation: The Penguins cannot rely on centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin forever. Crosby turns 34 on Aug. 7. Malkin will be 35 on July 31 and, along with center Jeff Carter, 36, could be a UFA after next season. Pittsburgh has drafted 10 players the past two years. None were centers, so that’s a position that needs to be addressed at some point. It doesn’t have a first-round pick this year and is expected to select the best player available, but don’t be surprised if the shopping list includes a center or two among the five selections. The top forward prospects in the pipeline are right wings Sam Poulin (No. 21, 2019), and Nathan Legare (No. 74, 2019), and left wing Drew O’Connor (free agent, March 10, 2020).
Possible fits: Ryder Korczek, C, Moose Jaw (WHL); Justin Robidas, C, Val-d’Or (QMJHL); Redmond Savage, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
Top priority: Depth on defense
First pick: No. 55
The situation: Alex Ovechkin played the final season of a 13-year, $124 million contract he signed Jan. 10, 2008 and can become an unrestricted free agent. The 35-year-old captain led Washington with 24 goals in 45 regular-season games but missed an NHL career-high 11 games, including seven during an eight-game stretch from April 24-May 8 because of a lower-body injury and four while in NHL COVID-19 protocol from Jan. 20-29. Center prospect Connor McMichael (No. 25, 2019) is expected to crack the lineup next season, and there are a few other forward prospects in the pipeline. The Capitals have made nine picks the past two years and one is a defenseman (Martin Has, No. 153, 2019). They have five picks in the draft, none in the first round.
Possible fits: Stanislav Svozil, D, Brno (CZREP); Logan Mailloux, D, London (OHL); Scott Morrow, D, Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep (HIGH-MN)
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