The 2021 NHL Draft has come and gone, making dreams come true for 223 prospects from around the globe.
While it will be years until we know who the real winners and losers of this draft are, it’s an interesting exercise to provide some instant analysis and grades regarding the various NHL team’s performance in the draft.
Given the impact of COVID-19 on the hockey world, this year more than ever had many surprises throughout the annual event. Some players went much higher than expected, such as Tyler Boucher to the Ottawa Senators at No. 10. Some players found themselves sliding down further than anticipated like Aatu Raty who got drafted at 52nd overall to the New York Islanders.
Now that we what each team did, we can begin to analyze the selections and the team’s overall draft class. Of course, there is a lot to factor into this, such as how the picks occurred versus the FCHockey top-300 ranking, teams that addressed needs or consistently attempted to draft the best player available, or the reliance on overage prospects. Trading up or down for certain players can also impact the final grade for every team.
With all that in mind, FCHockey and Sporting News have the final grades and analysis for all 32 teams in the 2021 NHL Draft.
NHL Draft grades and analysis, alphabetically
Anaheim Ducks: B+
Best Selection: Sasha Pastujov (66th)
Mason McTavish was the big add for the Ducks at the No. 3 spot, but there is some question as to whether this was the best possible selection for them. Regardless, he should become a solid NHLer. Anaheim also landed some big steals with Olen Zellweger and Pastujov, the latter of which was projected as a first or high-second rounder. Their final pick of Kyle Kukkonen could be a sneaky good pick as well.
NHL DRAFT: Complete list of picks by team
Arizona Coyotes: C+
Best Selection: Dylan Guenther (9th)
The Coyotes made a big splash ahead of the draft with the Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade and adding the No. 9 pick after losing theirs as punishment for NHL scouting combine violations . They added the best player available in Guenther at that spot, who immediately becomes the best forward in their system. They then grabbed the son of a Coyote legend, Shane Doan, in Josh Doan, a breakout overager from the Chicago Steel. They ended up betting big on re-entries, taking two more. Taking swings on Ilya Fedotov and Manix Landry look promising.
Boston Bruins: B
Best Selection: Fabian Lysell (21st)
Lysell is the focus, widely considered a top-10 prospect in the public sphere. A highly skilled winger with a ton of speed, he is a good value selection. Brett Harrison is also an excellent value pick at No. 85. In the later rounds, taking a swing on OHL defender Ryan Mast could be interesting as he didn’t play this season and the selections of Andre Gasseau and Ty Gallagher are two of the better value selections in the seventh round.
Buffalo Sabres: A-
Best Selection: Owen Power (1st)
The Sabres did as expected here, selecting defender Power with the No. 1 selection. He should become a solid 2/3D behind Rasmus Dahlin. They bet big on high-skill, high-ceiling players, drafting Isak Rosen, Prokhor Poltapov and Alexander Kisakov before the end of the second. In the later rounds, QMJHL forwards Oliver Nadeau and Viljami Marjala both show high potential, as does Swedish forward William Von Barnekow. This was a strong draft for the Sabres who restocked the prospect cupboard in a big way.
NHL DRAFT GRADES: Full results, analysis for every first-round pick
Calgary Flames: B+
Best Selection: Cole Jordan (141st)
With Matthew Coronato, the Flames take one of the most competitive players in the class, with a nose for getting into the high-danger areas. Their next pick of William Stromgren also could turn into a solid NHLer although he is fairly raw. Picking up Cole Jordan down in the fifth round is one of the biggest draft-day steals as he is an intelligent defender and strong skater.
Carolina Hurricanes: A-
Best Selection: Aleksi Heimosalmi (44th)
Surprise, surprise, the Hurricanes had a good draft. This year, some savvy trades turned the 27th, 59th and 123rd picks into seven selections. With those, they went all-in on upside, no matter the floor. High school defender Scott Morrow was their first pick and is one of the best skaters in the class with impressive transition and offensive skills. Finns Aleksi Heimosalmi and Ville Koivunen are two more prospects with high-end skill. Jackson Blake, Aidan Hreschuk, Justin Robidas and Robert Orr also look like strong contenders to be future NHLers.
Chicago Blackhawks: C-
Best Selection: Victor Stjernborg (108th)
The Blackhawks bet big on overagers in this draft which is a risky decision that comes with limited upside. With their first selection at the end of the 32nd round, they drafted shutdown defender Nolan Allan, reaching fairly significantly for him. They did draft Kirby Dach’s younger brother, Colton, which is a nice story but again, possibly a bit too high. Their strong selections came in the fourth round with defender Ethan Del Mastro and Stjernborg.
Colorado Avalanche: C+
Best Selection: Oskar Olausson (28th)
With just four selections in the draft, there’s only so much the Avalanche could do. They started off strong, taking the skilled winger Olausson who should provide future secondary scoring. They bet on upside with USNTDP defender Sean Behrens, who has some work to do but has shown flashes of strong play. Their next two picks were used on 20-year-olds Andrei Buyalsky and Cale Makar’s brother, Taylor.
MORE: Complete list from 1-224
Columbus Blue Jackets: A
Best Selection: Kent Johnson (5th)
The Blue Jackets have one of the best draft classes of any team, looking through an instant lens. Johnson and Cole Sillinger are two of the most creative, offensive players in this class and Corson Ceulemans brings a mobile, physical game to the Columbus system. Stanislav Svozil and Guillaume Richard could both become NHL defenders, and James Malatesta and Martin Rysavy have the competitive edge that you wouldn’t want to bet against. This was an extremely strong weekend for the Blue Jackets.
Dallas Stars: A
Best Selection: Logan Stankoven (47th)
Another team that had an excellent draft, the only change that could really improve the weekend is swapping their selections of Wyatt Johnston and Stankoven. Either way, these two forwards are two of the highest-motor players in the class, who could both become middle-six NHLers. Ayrton Martino is another promising forward with sky-high skill. On the back end, both Artyom Grushnikov and Jack Bar have the makings of NHL defenders. This could be a game-changing draft for the Stars.
Detroit Red Wings: B+
Best Selection: Shai Buium (36th)
The Red Wings continue to show that they love their big defenders, drafting Simon Edvinsson with the sixth-overall pick and then adding Buium in the second round; both look to be on the path to wear the red and white. They traded up in the first to draft goaltender Sebastian Cossa, which was surprising given that Jesper Wallstedt was still on the board. Some of their swings in the later rounds could pan out as NHL regulars as well, such as Red Savage and Liam Dower Nilsson.
Edmonton Oilers: D+
Best Selection: Xavier Bourgault (22nd)
The Oilers started the draft off well, landing mature, skilled centerman Bourgault in the first round. Matvei Petrov is a great value pick down at No. 180 as a winger that loves to shoot the puck, but he has his work cut out for him to become an NHLer. However, the Oilers other selections make it appear like they reached at this point, highlighted by German defender Luca Munzenberger in the third round, who would be better served as a late-round target.
Florida Panthers: B-
Best Selection: Matthew Samoskevich (24th)
The Panthers kicked off their draft by selecting Samoskevich, a forward with top-six potential. Evan Nause is a great value selection down at No. 56 and could have top-four upside. Russians Vladislav Lukashevich and Kirill Gerasimyuk are also good selections, especially at where they got them. Behind Samoskevich, it’s not a flashy class, but there could be some NHL regulars here.
Los Angeles Kings: B+
Best Selection: Brandt Clarke (8th)
Like the Hurricanes, good drafts are pretty much expected for the Kings. With just four selections, they didn’t add as much as they have in past drafts, but they made it count. This is highlighted by Clarke, an offensive defender that was in the discussion for the No. 1 spot. It was surprising how far Francesco Pinelli fell, but it was right into the laps of the Kings at No. 42. They also added Samuel Helenius and Kirill Kirsanov, two boom-or-bust prospects but with promising ceilings.
Minnesota Wild: B+
Best Selection: Jesper Wallstedt (20th)
The Wild started off their draft extremely strong, trading up to land the highly-touted goaltender Wallstedt. Six picks later, they selected defender Carson Lambos. With both of these selections, Minnesota added players that have been in the conversation of first overall at one point this season. Their excellent draft continued in the second round, selecting homegrown defender Jack Peart. While the rest of their draft wasn’t as exciting after these three picks, there are some gambles that could pay off.
Montreal Canadiens: No grade
Best Selection: Oliver Kapanen (64th)
The Canadiens first-round selection of Logan Mailloux is not only highly controversial but wrong .
The rest of their draft class, however, was quite good. They put a heavy emphasis on the QMJHL, with Riley Kidney, Joshua Roy and Xavier Simoneau having real NHL potential. Kapanen was one of the top Finnish players available, and at No. 64 was an excellent value selection. Dmitri Kostenko and William Trudeau also look to have the tools to reach the NHL while betting on goaltender Joe Vrbetic in the seventh round is a good gamble. Aside from the first round, the Canadiens would have had a B+ grade.
Nashville Predators: A-
Best Selection: Fyodor Svechkov (19th)
The Predators are entering a turning point and they did well in this draft to help lead it into the future. With two picks in the first round, they landed one of the best two-way centers in the class in Svechkov and then the highly-skilled — and slightly reckless — Zachary L’Heureux. They then turned their attention to the blue line, selecting Anton Olsson, Ryan Ufko and Jack Matier. Even with their final pick of Simon Knak, there’s NHL upside here. This is a very strong class.
New Jersey Devils: B
Best Selection: Luke Hughes (4th)
The Devils started off their draft early at the fourth-overall pick, uniting brothers Jack and Luke. Their pick later in the first is slightly questionable, as it is a bit high, in OHLer Chase Stillman. Samu Salminen hasn’t been a favourite of FCHockey’s scouts, but his value is solid at 68th overall. The later picks are all fairly big swings, but the first three selections that the Devils made should pan out.
New York Islanders: B
Best Selection: Aatu Raty (52nd)
The Islanders didn’t have a selection until No. 52, but they made it count, taking a chance on Raty. If the once widely considered top prospect in the class reaches his ceiling, this could be the biggest steal of the draft. Goaltender Tristan Lennox is one of the stronger goalies available and the bets on Finns Eetu Liukas and Aleksi Malinen are promising. Without having a top-50 pick, this is a good haul for the Islanders
New York Rangers: C
Best Selection: Brennan Othmann (16th)
The Rangers started the draft well, landing sharpshooter Othmann. Their draft will likely rely heavily on that pick panning out though, as after they took some swings, on guys like Jayden Grubbe, Kalle Vaisanen and Hank Kempf. Ryder Korczak and Brody Lamb could be promising gambles and goaltender Talyn Boyko shows potential. Overall, the Rangers likely left some value and skill on the table, but there’s some upside in this class.
Ottawa Senators: D-
Best Selection: Carson Latimer (123rd)
The Senators have proven in their drafting record that they blaze their own path, and they’ve proven the public wrong many times. They could very well do it here too, as they put in more work and have more knowledge than the public sphere. The instant analysis of this draft doesn’t bode well for Ottawa, starting with a big reach at 10th overall with Tyler Boucher. This became a theme in the draft, making big reaches or even taking players not on the public’s radar. Zack Ostapchuk and Ben Roger seem a bit high in the second round; however, Carson Latimer could be an interesting name to follow as he develops. The Senators are building a team that other teams hate to play against, which is valuable, but you do need high-skill, top-line players to balance that out.
Philadelphia Flyers: C-
Best Selection: Samu Tuomaala (46th)
The Flyers didn’t get their draft started until the 46th selection after trading their first rounder to the Sabres, making it worth it by picking sniper Tuomaala. He works best in the offensive zone, and is a dual threat with his shot and his playmaking. Goaltender Alexei Kolosov is a bit high at No. 78, especially with Benjamin Gaudreau still on the board, but he’s a mature, promising netminder. Ty Murchison has potential, but again, the pick is a bit of a reach. This class will likely rely on Tuomaala to determine its value.
Pittsburgh Penguins: D
Best Selection: Tristan Broz (58th)
The Penguins might very well be allergic to first round picks, however, they do have a pretty good record of turning mid-round players into NHLers. They had to wait until No. 58 to make their first pick, and they selected highly skilled forward Broz. After that, the picks are questionable. Isaac Belliveau has some real issues defending and in his decision making. These two picks were their only selections outside of the seventh round. Daniel Laatsch is a name to watch from the final 32, but this class really depends on Broz.
San Jose Sharks: C+
Best Selection: William Eklund (7th)
Eklund fell right into the laps of the Sharks at seventh overall, as he was in the conversation for No. 1. One of the most NHL-ready prospects in the class, he could be playing in California sooner rather than later. They waited until the 81st pick for their next selection, landing one of the best goaltenders available in Benjamin Gaudreau; this might just be one of the best value picks in the draft. Ethan Cardwell and Liam Gilmartin have some potential, although there are a number of other picks they made that don’t have a ton of upside.
Seattle Kraken: C
Best Selection: Matty Beniers (2nd)
The Kraken kicked off their first-ever NHL Draft as expected, selecting top-forward Beniers to build their prospect pool around. After this pick though, the Kraken’s draft was less than exciting. They made Ryker Evans the first overager off the board, taking him much earlier than expected. Ryan Winterton could be a good depth player as well. Overall, the Kraken left a lot of skill on the table in their first draft, but Beniers could be good enough to carry the class.
St. Louis Blues: C+
Best Selection: Simon Robertsson (71st)
The Blues couldn’t do too much in the draft with just four selections. They landed Zachary Bolduc at No. 17, a goal-scoring forward with excellent reliability in his own end. Then landed one of the best value picks in the draft, taking Swedish winger Robertsson down in the third round after widely being considered a first rounder. They took two swings on Tyson Galloway and Ivan Vorobyov in the later rounds, so it will be on Bolduc and Robertsson to lead this class.
Tampa Bay Lightning: D
Best Selection: Dylan Duke (126th)
The Lightning had to wait longer than any team for their first pick and they used the 96th selection on USNTDP defender Roman Schmidt. This was a bit high for the defender, who really struggled this season. Sticking with the USNTDP for their next pick, the Bolts stole Duke after he fell two rounds further than expected. They finished their draft with some gambles that will have their work cut out to be NHLers. Duke is the key player of this class, but this could be an overall weak group for Tampa Bay.
Toronto Maple Leafs: C+
Best Selection: Matthew Knies (57th)
The Maple Leafs went into the draft with just three picks — and didn’t add any — so options were limited. They selected highly skilled forward Matthew Knies at No. 57. After waiting nearly 100 selections, at No. 153 GM Kyle Dubas and Co. selected undersized, promising forward Ty Voit. Their final pick was goaltender Vyacheslav Peksa, a name not on the radar in the public sphere.
Vancouver Canucks: C-
Best Selection: Lucas Forsell (201st)
While Danila Klimovich turned heads at the Under-18s, this is a surprising pick up at No. 41. It’s a big swing for the Canucks first pick of the draft, that looks like a high-risk, high-reward option. Goaltender Aku Koskenvuo has shown some potential this season, and Connor Lockhart might be one of the best skaters in the class. Forsell has been a favourite of FCHockey scouts, but the Canucks could only do so much with one pick in the first four rounds.
Vegas Golden Knights: C
Best Selection: Zach Dean (30th)
Dean is an excellent first selection for the Golden Knights as he has top-six potential — although the middle-six is more likely. Daniil Chayka was promising in his D-1 season, but really struggled this year. He is a rangy defender, but this is a bit of a risk. Vegas’ class will rely heavily on these two becoming NHLers as their other picks are big gambles.
Washington Capitals: C-
Best Selection: Brent Johnson (80th)
The Capitals waited patiently until the 55th pick in the draft to make their first selection, landing very promising defender Vincent Iorio. They followed that up with another strong defender, and a great value in his slot, in Johnson. The remaining selections aren’t the most exciting, so the weight will rest on the shoulders of the top-two draft picks.
Winnipeg Jets: B+
Best Selection: Chaz Lucius (18th)
The Jets had only four selections to make in the draft, but they did very well with what they had. Landing Lucius, a goal-scorer that was in the top-10 conversation, at 18 is one of the best value picks in the first round. They followed that up with Nikita Chibrikov (50th overall), another prospect that was considered a first rounder. They took a swing on Belarussian defender Dmitri Kuzmin, a purely upside pick. While small, this could be a strong class for the Jets.
NHL Draft grades, by grade
- Columbus Blue Jackets: A
- Dallas Stars: A
- Buffalo Sabres: A-
- Carolina Hurricanes: A-
- Nashville Predators: A-
- Anaheim Ducks: B+
- Calgary Flames: B+
- Detroit Red Wings: B+
- Los Angeles Kings: B+
- Minnesota Wild: B+
- Winnipeg Jets: B+
- Boston Bruins: B
- New Jersey Devils: B
- New York Islanders: B
- Florida Panthers: B-
- Arizona Coyotes: C+
- Colorado Avalanche: C+
- San Jose Sharks: C+
- St. Louis Blues: C+
- Toronto Maple Leafs: C+
- New York Rangers: C
- Seattle Kraken: C
- Vegas Golden Knights: C
- Chicago Blackhawks: C-
- Philadelphia Flyers: C-
- Vancouver Canucks: C-
- Washington Capitals: C-
- Edmonton Oilers: D+
- Pittsburgh Penguins: D
- Tampa Bay Lightning: D
- Ottawa Senators: D-
- Montreal Canadiens: No grade