2021 NHL Draft first-round results, analysis


NHL.com staff writer Adam Kimelman will provide analysis of each pick.


[RELATED: 2021 Draft Tracker | NHL Trade Tracker]


1. Buffalo Sabres — Owen Power, D, Michigan (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 (North American skaters)

Power (6-foot-6, 213 pounds), the first player from the University of Michigan selected No. 1 in the NHL Draft, is a big presence with good vision, strength and the look of a top-pair NHL defenseman. The 18-year-old scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists), was plus-18, led Michigan with 40 blocked shots in 26 games and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team this season. Power helped Canada win the 2021 IIHF World Championship with three assists and 17 shots on goal, averaging 20:07 of ice time. He played 24:17, including a Canada-high 10:31 in the third period, during a 3-2 win against Finland in the championship game. Power could return to Michigan next season. The last player chosen No. 1 to not play in the NHL the following season was Erik Johnson, selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Draft. The defenseman stayed at the University of Minnesota and made his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season.

NHL.com analysis: The Sabres take the best player available, a defenseman with the size and skill who looked comfortable and poised playing with and against NHL players with Canada at the World Championship. Power could play in the NHL next season or spend one more season at Michigan working on his game. Either way the Sabres will be getting a top-four defenseman capable of impacting the game in all areas.


2. Seattle Kraken — Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 6 (North American skaters)

Beniers scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games this season, his first in college. He led first-time draft-eligible NCAA players in goals, goals per game (0.42) and shots on goal per game (2.38). Michigan received an at-large bid into the NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament but had to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols. The 18-year-old (6-1, 175) helped the United States win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship as the youngest player on the roster, scoring three points (one goal, two assists) and averaging 17:05 of ice time in seven games as a second-line center. He also scored one goal in four games as the only draft-eligible player for the U.S. at the 2021 IIHF World Championship.

NHL.com analysis: Beniers plays a skilled, two-way game similar to Kraken general manager Ron Francis. Successful teams are built through the middle and Beniers is the best center prospect available in the draft. He has top-end offensive skills and his smarts and determination will allow him to contribute on the penalty kill as soon as he gets to the NHL.

Video: Top Plays from Matthew Beniers


3. Anaheim Ducks — Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (North American skaters)

The 18-year-old (6-1, 207), a powerful skater with balance and solid puck-protection skills, scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games this season on loan with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest professional league in Switzerland. He also filled in as captain for Canada at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship when Shane Wright (2022 draft eligible) missed two games with an injury. He scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games to help his country win the tournament.

NHL.com analysis: The Ducks desperately need offensive players, and in McTavish they get high-end skill blended with size and strength through the middle. And McTavish was an impact player during his time in the Swiss League, playing with and against older, more physically developed competition.


4. New Jersey Devils — Luke Hughes, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 4 (North American skaters)

Hughes (6-2, 184) is a great skater capable of playing a smart defensive game with good poise and reads. He scored 34 points (six goals, 28 assists), had 68 shots on goal and was plus-11 in 38 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team this season. The 17-year-old has resumed skating after a lacerated tendon in his foot sustained from a skate cut March 7. The youngest brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes is committed to play at the University of Michigan next season. The Hughes family is the first from the United States to have three brothers chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft (Quinn, No. 7, 2018 NHL Draft; Jack, No. 1, 2019).

NHL.com analysis: Hughes brings the same top-end skating ability as his older brothers, Jack Hughes of Devils and Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks, but in a bigger package. He’s got a strong offensive game and high hockey IQ. His defensive play is solid and will continue to get better with at least one season at the University of Michigan.

Video: Top Plays from Luke Hughes


5. Columbus Blue Jackets – Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 3 (North American skaters)

A sniper who plays with pace, skill and creativity, Johnson thrived at left wing this season, scoring 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists), including a University of Michigan-best three power-play goals, in 26 games. The 18-year-old (6-1, 167) led first-time draft-eligible NCAA players in assists, points, and points per game (1.04). He led the British Columbia Hockey League with 101 points (41 goals, 60 assists) in 52 games for Trail in 2019-20.

NHL.com analysis: Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has said center is an area of need, and Johnson is a dynamic playmaker with elite vision and passing skills, and a lot of flash to his game. He also showed his versatility this season, excelling on the wing and at center in his first college season. As he gets stronger he’ll likely become even more effective.


6. Detroit Red Wings — Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (International skaters)

Edvinsson (6-4, 198) is a physical, left-shot defenseman with good tools that include mobility, skating and a strong shot. The 18-year-old had one assist and averaged 5:48 of ice time in 10 games for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League this season and scored six points (one goal, five assists) in Sweden’s junior league. Edvinsson scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games to help Sweden finish third at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.

NHL.com analysis: The Red Wings add a big, strong, right-shot defenseman to their prospect pipeline in Edvinsson, whose skills and smarts are reminiscent of Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones. With Edvinsson and Moritz Seider, the No. 6 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, Detroit’s defense corps looks to be in outstanding shape moving forward.


7. San Jose Sharks — William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (SWE)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 (International skaters)

Eklund has good speed, puck skills and vision. He scored 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) this season, including two power-play goals and three game-winning goals, had 63 shots on goal while averaging 15:29 of ice time in 40 games, and was named Swedish Hockey League rookie of the year. The 18-year-old (5-foot-10, 176 pounds) played most of the season on a line with good friend and New Jersey Devils forward prospect Alexander Holtz in the SHL, Sweden’s top professional league. He overcame adversity this season, including an emergency appendectomy and a positive COVID-19 test, and received the 2021 E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence, presented annually to the top draft prospect who best exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness, and athleticism.

NHL.com analysis: The Sharks need to get younger and more dynamic and Eklund showed high-end offensive skills playing in the SHL this season. He also has some bite to his game, showing a willingness to battle for his space along the boards or in front of the net.


8. Los Angeles Kings — Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 7 (North American skaters)

Clarke (6-2, 185), the younger brother of New Jersey Devils forward prospect Graeme Clarke, is a mobile, puck-moving right-handed shot who is an excellent passer and a playmaker with great vision. The 18-year-old scored 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and was plus-6 in 26 games on loan with Nove Zamsky this season in the Slovak Extraliga, the top professional league in Slovakia. He scored seven points (two goals, five assists) and was plus-12 in seven games for first-place Canada at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.

NHL.com analysis: The Kings have done well stockpiling young forward prospects, topped by Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft. Clarke is a strong skater with top-end offensive instincts who can make a smart pass to start transition or lead the rush. Clarke also has a developing defensive game, and got some professional experience playing in Slovakia.


9. Arizona Coyotes (from the Vancouver Canucks) — Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 5 (North American skaters)

Guenther (6-1, 175), an elite goal-scorer with quickness, scored 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists), including six power-play points (two goals, four assists) in 12 Western Hockey League games this season. The 18-year-old also scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship. Guenther led first-place Canada with 34 shots on goal, played a key role on the penalty kill, scored two power-play goals and tied for the team lead with two game-winning goals.

NHL.com analysis: Guenther might be the best pure goal-scorer in the draft, and the Coyotes certainly could use an offensive upgrade. Since 2010 they’ve drafted two players who scored 20 goals in a season for them, and they traded one of them, Conor Garland, to the Canucks to acquire this pick.

Video: Top plays from Dylan Guenther


10. Ottawa Senators — Tyler Boucher, RW, USA U-18 (USHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 25 (North American skaters)

The son of Brian Boucher, a goalie for 13 NHL seasons, Tyler has established himself as a power forward. The 18-year-old had a knee scope April 2 but has since returned to the ice. Boucher (6-1, 205) competes hard with an excellent work ethic and hockey sense. He scored 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 12 games (0.92 points per game) this season after scoring 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 43 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-17 team in 2019-20. He’ll attend Boston University in 2021-22.

NHL.com analysis: The Senators add a power forward-type player in Boucher, who combined skill and grit in a strong season with the NTDP. Ottawa’s prospect depth will allow Boucher to take all the time he needs at college to develop his game, and the ceiling for Boucher is high.


11. Arizona Coyotes – forfeited pick for violating the NHL Combine Testing Policy during the 2019-20 season.


12. Columbus Blue Jackets – Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 10 (North American skaters)

Sillinger (6-0, 197) began this season with Sioux Falls because of the uncertainty surrounding the start of the Western Hockey League season due to the coronavirus. When the WHL began play Feb. 26, the 18-year-old opted to remain in the United States Hockey League rather than return to Medicine Hat. Sillinger led Sioux Falls in goals (24), points (46), points per game (1.48) and shots on goal (113) in 31 games and was named USHL rookie of the year. He also scored five power-play goals, two game-winning goals and one shorthanded goal. Sillinger will return to Medicine Hat next season. His father is former NHL forward Mike Sillinger.

NHL.com analysis: Center quickly is turning into a strength for the Blue Jackets with the selection of Sillinger after Kent Johnson at No. 5. Sillinger stands out for his high-end hockey IQ, excellent vision, playmaking ability, an NHL-ready shot and the ability to control the game with the puck on his stick.


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