How do the top prospects eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft compare to current NHL players?
Owen Power is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters. The defenseman, who scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games with the University of Michigan, said he watches a lot of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.
“We’ve got similar attributes with our size and skating,” Power (6-foot-6, 213 pounds) said Tuesday. “Just how good he is defensively in closing gaps and killing plays. It’s a side I really watch and try and put into my game. Obviously, he’s really good offensively and on the power play.”
William Eklund (5-10, 176) is No. 1 in the final ranking of International skaters. The left wing was named Swedish Hockey League rookie of the year after scoring 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 40 games for Djurgarden in the SHL, He’s a fan of New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal.
“He’s amazing to watch,” Eklund said. “I try to look at how he uses his edges in the corners and how fast he turns and gets out with his speed; how good he is at finding his teammates too.”
The first round of the draft is scheduled for July 23, with rounds 2-7 on July 24.
[RELATED: Complete coverage of 2021 NHL Draft]
Dylan Guenther (6-1, 175), No. 5 in the final ranking of North American skaters, is projected to have one of the best shots of this year’s class. The right wing scored 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in 12 games with Edmonton of the Western Hockey League.
“My favorite player growing up was Sidney Crosby because I loved watching the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Guenther said. “Even though [Crosby] does think the game super fast, his compete level is really outstanding. I watch different players like Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) and David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) for their shooting tendencies. I like to implement that into my shot after practice and on my own time.
“Positionally, I think Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets) is good to watch. We have a similar frame and he plays with a lot of speed, and is able to open up a lot of time and space for his teammates to create offense when he’s on the ice with his evasiveness and his deceptional skating.”
Simon Edvinsson, No. 2 in the final ranking of International skaters, said he prefers watching tape of seven-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and four-time Stanley Cup champion Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, who is retired.
“He’s a legend here in Sweden,” Edvinsson said. “He’s a terrific guy. He’s an easy player that gives a great effort; I think that’s what every defender wants to achieve. Being there for the team, to be strong, aggressive, and in 1-on-1 situations be harder to play against. That’s what I like about him. And when he played, he was a leader. That’s the goal.”
Edvinsson (6-4, 198) had one assist and averaged 5:48 of ice time in 10 games with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League and scored six points (one goal, five assists) in Sweden’s junior league.
Michigan center Kent Johnson (6-1, 167), No. 3 in the final ranking of North American skaters, scored 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 26 games and was first among all first-time NHL draft-eligible NCAA players in assists and points. He said he enjoys watching Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane and Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson.
“Both those guys are really smart players and there’s just little subtle plays,” Johnson said. “Kane’s really good at delaying when he enters the zone, stopping up and kind of pulling defensemen to him and then finding a late guy or open guys. I love watching both of them on the power play, especially Pettersson.”
Luke Hughes (6-2, 184), a left-handed defenseman, scored 34 points (six goals, 28 assists) in 38 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team. The younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes is No. 4 in the final ranking of North American skaters.
“I have two comparable players,” Hughes said. “Miro Heiskanen (Dallas Stars) for the way he skates and his size and how he uses his stick to his advantage. The other one is Shea Theodore (Vegas Golden Knights) for how deceptive he is on the blue line. Both can play the left side and the right side, so those are two guys that I kind of compare to or like to watch.”