The 2021 NHL Entry Draft took place July 23rd and July 24th, and it was full of intriguing selections. Which teams did the best and which teams did the worst?
The grades for each team will revolve around how well I perceived them drafting within the first few rounds. It will include notable picks as well as the positives and negatives of each prospect and the prospect pool need/fit.
Here are my 2021 NHL Draft grades for all 32 teams:
Anaheim Ducks: A-
Mason McTavish, Olen Zellweger and Sasha Pastujov were all good hauls for the Ducks. Getting a player like Pastujov in the third-round despite his early/mid second-round expectations is a nice win for Anaheim. Zellweger was also a solid early second-round choice given his young age and versatility after going with a forward at three. With that in mind, I thought McTavish was a bit rich for me at the three spot. I understand Anaheim falling for McTavish’s combination of grit and offensive ability, yet I believed there were still a few better options on the board.
Arizona Coyotes: B-
Dylan Guenther may be one of if not the most well-rounded player in this draft. His Kyle Connor comparisons is certainly something that Arizona took notice of during their evaluation. It was an upside pick that was worth the risk for the Coyotes. Following Guenther was a feel-good pick who I both like and get the reasoning behind despite the fact there were multiple players I liked more still on the board. Altogether, Josh Doan’s powerful and heavy style should profile well for the Coyotes in the future.
Boston Bruins: C+
Fabian Lysell at 21 was a bit hard to pass up on given his potential ceiling. I’m not a fan of drafting players that have been dubbed to have character issues, but if any organization is primed to handle that, it’s the Bruins. In Lysell, they get one of the best skaters in the draft who also possesses immense offensive upside.
Buffalo Sabres: A-
As everyone expected, it was the big Wolverine Owen Power going first overall in the 2021 NHL draft. Although he doesn’t have the franchise altering generational tag associated with first overall picks, he is a solid addition to a Sabres blueline that can use his combination of size and skill. Furthermore, they added more talent to their forward group in Iask Rosen and Aleksandr Kisakov. In Rosen, the Sabres get a puck handling and smooth skating winger. Kisakov, meanwhile, brings more of a scoring touch. This combination of scoring and offensive skill gives a nice feather in the cap to the Sabres forward prospect pool.
Calgary Flames: A-
When all is said and done, I love the Matthew Coronato pick for the Flames. He’s a hardworking, competitive goal scorer whose shown this year that he deserves the meteoric rise. His ability to drive to the net and open up lanes should help create opportunities for his teammates. Following Coronato was William Stromgren. The Swede was another potential late first-round pick who fell to the second. The Flames got great value out of him, which ties their overall draft together.
Carolina Hurricanes: B
I was tempted to give the Hurricanes a B+ or A- considering they didn’t have a first-round pick and still ended up with solid talent. With that being said, however, they didn’t really end up with a super high-end prospect to give them enough of a nod into A range. I like the Aleksi Heimosalmi pick, as the Hurricanes have something of a eye for Finnish players. The Scott Morrow pick was a savvy one as well given how much room he still has yet to develop. While both these prospects may have a longer road to the NHL; the Hurricanes, given their D-core, have the time to let these youngsters develop into solid NHLers.
Chicago Blackhawks: C-
I almost gave the Hawks another D+ much like I did in my trade grades, but after their big day, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt here. Nolan Allan at 32 was way too big of a reach for me, as the Hawks could have scooped him up in the second or even third round. However, I think the Blackhawks had one choice and one choice only with their 62nd overall pick in Colton Dach. Much like the Doan pick for Arizona, I completely understand why the Hawks did what they did here. Dach was more of an early third-round target for me, but if he can utilize his size and skill to live up to Kirby’s style of play, he could be a nice middle-six player in the future.
WOOOOO HAWKS BABY
Big bro Kirby said it better than we ever could have as he crashed Colton Dach's first #Blackhawks media sesh! pic.twitter.com/Sionlf3g5T
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) July 24, 2021
Colorado Avalanche: C-
Much like the Hawks did with Dach, the Avalanche drafted Cale Makar’s younger brother Taylor, who seems to be more of a longshot feel-good pick than anything. They didn’t have many picks to work with, but did fairly well with their first two. They started off with Oskar Olausson, who has both a lethal shot and a smooth stride in his arsenal. Following Olausson was Sean Behrens, who should help to keep the Avalanche’s defensive prospect pool stocked with good play-making talent.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A+
Of all 32 teams, the Blue Jackets had the best weekend for my money. For a market needing a talented playmaker who has some flare to his game, the Jackets did very well in selecting Kent Johnson. The third active Wolverine off the board, Johnson brings high-end skill and upside thanks to his puck handling, creativity, skating, and vision. The Jackets then used the Blackhawks pick at No. 12 to select a forward with great upside and a scoring touch in Cole Sillinger. Sillinger possesses a deadly shot and could look great alongside the crafty Johnson in the future. Columbus topped off an excellent first-round in selecting the big, talented and mobile Wisconsin commit in Corson Ceulemans. To cap things off, I love the value of Stanislav Svozil in the third round.
Dallas Stars: A-
While they didn’t add a true eye-popping talent, the Stars drafted very well over the weekend. Wyatt Johnston is a player who has top-six upside and may have very well fallen too far in the draft due to a lack of playing time. Like Johnston, Stars second-round pick Logan Stankoven has quite the motor and work ethic. Pair that with his skill, and Stankoven could be an everyday NHLer. Furthermore, Artyom Grushnikov and Ayrton Martino fall into the “value” pick category for me and have the possibility to be NHL guys down the line.
Detroit Red Wings: A-
Stevie Y does it again. I love how committed Yzerman is on the guys he drafts. Trading up for Sebastian Cossa was one of my favorite moves of the draft. I like Jesper Wallstedt just as much if not better, but Stevie Y trading up for him lets me know the confidence he has in the Canadian netminder. The Wings have really rounded out their prospect pool with Cossa, who projects to be a number one goalie with an NHL frame already.
Moreover, it’s hard to pass up on a defender who possesses the size and skill combination that Simon Edvinsson does, which is why I like the Wings taking him at six. He may be a bit more of a long-term project, but once he finds his way to the NHL, he could be a menace to play against. Same deal with Shai Buium, who has similar size as Edvinsson, but not quite the same level of skill and skating competency. However, with time, he too can turn into a solid NHL D-man.
🚨 TRADE ALERT 🚨 #DRWDraft x #LGRW pic.twitter.com/bU6EYKtRuk
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) July 24, 2021
Edmonton Oilers: D-
That’s what you get for passing up on Jesper Wallstedt Edmonton. Given the recent struggles in net the last few years, Wallstedt would have been the long-term fix the Oilers desperately needed in net. Watching the draft, I was convinced the Oilers were going to draft him considering he fell all the way to the 20th spot. Oilers fans were licking their chops up until the trade came in. Regardless, the Oilers still got a solid player in Xavier Bourgault, who works hard and plays a mature game. The Matvei Petrov pick was decent as well, but overall, it’s an underwhelming class.
Florida Panthers: D+
I like Matthew Samoskevich and think he can thrive in a top-six role due to his skating and offensive skills. After that, I wasn’t really sold on much of the other Panther selections. Evan Nause is fine, as is Vladislav Lukashevich, but I just don’t see a big win here for the Panthers.
Los Angeles Kings: A-
Brandt Clarke profiles as a legitimate offensively minded defenseman prospect who can push the pace of play and create chances in the O-zone. His puck moving abilities paired with his vision gives him the tools to become an elite offensive defenseman in today’s NHL. Next, the Kings got a complete gift with Francesco Pinelli falling in their lap at 42. I think both he and Samuel Helenius have enough skill to carve out an NHL career. Finally Kirill Kirsanov, who has potentially to become a legit NHL prospect, should he curb some of his pre-draft concerns.
Minnesota Wild: B+
The move to get number one goalie prospect Jesper Wallstedt alone give the Wild a floor of a B- rating. The Swedish goalie at 20th is incredible value considering he was getting top-ten buzz leading up to the draft. I like Carson Lambos but do have some questions surrounding his ability to become a top four NHL defenseman. However, I like the Wild’s selection in homegrown Mr. Hockey winner Jack Peart.
Montreal Canadiens: No grade
Like many, I was left baffled at the Montreal Canadiens first-round pick of Logan Mailloux. I am not going to get into any more specifics; however, Montreal did have a fairly successful day two highlighted by QMJHL center Riley Kidney.
Nashville Predators: B
I’m not super high on any of the Predators selections. Despite that, I think a few of them, including Fyodor Svechkov and Zachary L’Heureux, have potential to be effective NHL players. The Preds did well to balance out their first two forwards selections with a slew of defensive prospects. I think they did well overall.
New Jersey Devils: B-
This draft had a lot of family ties with Luke Hughes, Josh Doan, Colton Dach, and Taylor Makar all being selected by teams with family members within the organization. I like the Hughes pick and think he has some upside with his combination of size, skill and skating. He should also have a more seamless transfer with his brother Jack already in Jersey. Chase Stillman and Samu Salminen round out this mediocre draft class for me.
Hear us out… @SportsCenter Top 10 Memes.
Have your people talk to our people, @ESPN. pic.twitter.com/OkZKvjr93N
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 25, 2021
New York Islanders: B+
I feel like the Aatu Raty selection could pay huge dividends for the Islanders down the road. It seemed like a no-brainer selection for the Islanders with the former consensus number one overall pick falling so far to the Islanders. While there may be concerns, I find it hard that someone who was projected to be such an impact player can magically fall off the face of the earth. It’s a good risky pick for the Isles. Definitely great value. While Raty leads this draft class, the Tristan Lennox selection feels like a nice under the radar choice who could turn into an NHL goalie.
New York Rangers: C-
I like Brennan Othmann’s combination of skill and grit but I don’t understand why the Rangers went with another left winger. They have Alexis Lafreniere, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and eventually Brett Berard down the left side. I like Othmann’s shooting ability, though, as he ranks one of the best snipers in the class. For me however, Chaz Lucius was the best player available at 16. Not only do the Rangers need centers, but I believe Lucius could have easily been a top-ten selection if it wasn’t for injuries derailing his draft year. Furthermore, I can’t say I like many of the other Ranger selections.
Ottawa Senators: D
Like many pundits and scouts around the league, I believe Tyler Boucher at the 10 spot was a bit of a reach, especially when considering the talent still on the board. He profiles as a Tom Wilson type of player, which means he does have some value for the Sens organization. If Boucher is able to rise to this type of playing style in the NHL, he could be an absolute nightmare to play against alongside Brady Tkachuk. As for the rest of the Senators picks, it seems like they’ll need a considerable amount of work before finding their way onto an NHL roster.
Philadelphia Flyers: C-
Given the Flyers didn’t pick until the second-round, they did well to salvage their 2021 draft with Samu Tuomaala. Tuomaala projected as a late-first early second-round pick who was one of the best snipers landing outside the first round. He’s got good hands and can make plays and create chances with his offensive arsenal. Aleksei Kolosov has potential to become an NHL backup thanks to his agility and raw athletic ability, but he’ll need a few more years in the KHL.
Pittsburgh Penguins: D-
The Penguins really didn’t have anything to work with, which is a huge disappointment considering their weak prospect pool. Minnesota commit Tristan Broz could pan out to be a nice top nine or middle-six forward. After that, I’m not sure the Penguins get any full-time NHLers.
San Jose Sharks: B+
William Eklund falling to the Sharks at seven was a huge win for them in my book. They get one of the most tantalizing and high-end prospects of the draft who had serious first overall consideration. The young Swede already profiles as one of the more NHL-ready prospects from this class. He could get time in California as soon as next season. The Sharks 2021 draft class hinges on how Eklund performs at the NHL level because there isn’t much to the Sharks selections after him. Benjamin Gaudreau is a good value pick who has likeable attributes as a goaltender.
Seattle Kraken: B
Seattle’s first ever draft pick was a great one in Matty Beniers, who profiles as the best complete center in this draft. He’s certainly a cornerstone piece for the franchise going forward. Beniers is possibly the best two-way player of the draft and is already very mature for his age. I don’t hate the Ryker Evans pick, but I don’t love it either. Like I’ve said before, there was a lot of talent still on the board, but I understand why Seattle went with a defenseman with their second-round choice.
when @ronfrancis10 calls you… accidentally send it straight to voicemail. 😂
second time's the charm @Matty_Beniers10! pic.twitter.com/MAuSyIdJWp
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 24, 2021
St. Louis Blues: C
The 2019 Stanley Cup champs didn’t have much draft capital to work with. Their first selection at 17th overall, Zachary Bolduc, profiles as a nice NHL player. He profiles more like a second line scorer given his goal-scoring prowess. Simon Robertsson in the third-round was great value as well, which has the chance to pay dividends at some point down the line.
Tampa Bay Lightning: D
When you sell your soul to win cups, it’s likely you won’t have much draft capital to work with. That was the case with Tampa Bay, as they didn’t pick until just shy of 100. They certainly weren’t able to draft any high-end talents, but leave it to the Bolts to find gems in the later rounds. Dylan Duke was their best selection for me, and hopefully for Tampa, he will pan out in the long run.
Toronto Maple Leafs: D
The Maple Leafs barely had any picks this year and had to make the most of what they had. The Matthew Knies pick is probably one of my favorites for where the Leafs got him at 57th. Other than that, it’s tough to imagine Toronto getting many full-time NHLers after him.
Vancouver Canucks: D-
After making a blockbuster trade that saw their ninth overall selection go to Arizona, the Canucks didn’t have too much to work with — and it shows. They bet high on Danila Klimovich, who seems to have a boom or bust type reputation. With that said, this class comes down to Klimovich’s development because there isn’t a whole lot after him.
Vegas Golden Knights: C+
It’s tough to get a good grade when your constantly picking outside the top-20, but Vegas has managed to find some late talent over the last few years. Zach Dean and Danii Chayka are both solid picks who have good shots at playing roles for Vegas in the future. Both Dean and Chayka have top-six and top-four potential if they can make the most of their development. The raw skill and skating is there for both players.
Washington Capitals: D+
Another team not starting their draft until the second-round, which makes it hard to really have a promising draft class unless your scouts hit a lot of homeruns. Vincent Iorio and Brent Johnson are both decent prospects coming from the second and third-rounds. Overall, there isn’t anything too inspiring for the Caps this year.
Winnipeg Jets: A-
The Jets took advantage of some very solid players falling to their respective picks. I love the Chaz Lucius pick and think he can be a steal at 18. He has top-six potential written all over him and is one of the best pure goal scorers of this draft class. He’ll have time to refine his game and shooting arsenal in college at the University of Minnesota next year. Meanwhile, the Jets got another great value with Nikita Chibrikov in the second round. While he slid due to his concerns about playing in North America, he was well worth the risk as he profiles as a first-round talent. This could be one of the best draft classes despite the limited selections due to the top heavy talents in the first two rounds.