2021 NHL Entry Draft: April Ranking

My initial top 32 for July’s draft.

Just six months removed from the 2020 NHL Draft, I’m back with my first ranking for 2021. This year, each round has expanded to 32 picks with the addition of the Seattle Kraken.

If you’re new to my process, my first ranking is one round, my second is two, and my third is three—96 players in total. As many of you have probably heard, this draft class is noticeably weaker than other recent ones. There is no clear first overall pick, and you could argue this year’s first pick would barely scratch last year’s top ten. If I’m being honest, there may only be a single franchise-altering player in this first round, and that’s goalie Jesper Wallstedt.

Finally, my yearly disclaimer: This is not a mock draft. It’s my evaluation of which players will have the best NHL careers. With no clear top-tier players plus seasons lost or shortened due to COVID-19, it’s a challenging season to scout. Regardless, enjoy.

2021 NHL Entry Draft April Ranking

1William EklundDjurgårdens IFSHLFDeceptive and effective puckhandler who moves through all three zones with good speed...Can evade defenders with good edgework and skill to map out passing and shooting lanes several steps ahead...Breaks out the puck with ease and is often a takeaway threat for opposing defenders...Good shooter who can expose small openings
2Luke HughesU.S. NTDPUSHLDExcellent skater with good four-way mobility...doesn't panic with the puck and eager to join - or lead - the rush...high-end puck skill for a defender with good foot speed but sometimes skates his way into dead ends or low-danger areas
3Brandt ClarkeHC Nove ZamkySlovakiaDSkates well in transition with his head up and can be as active as Hughes on offense...solid skating mechanics but there are some tune-ups to be made...Excellent balance on his edges and maintains good gaps but not always very physical
4Matthew BeniersMichiganNCAACHas refined a complete skill set at Michigan and looks ready to center an NHL line...Excellent skating mechanics that help him navigate the offensive zone with ease, analyzing passing and shooting lanes...Carves towards open ice to find good puck support positions...Won't make a name for himself off of shooting talent
5Jesper WallstedtLuleå HFSHLGMaintains good poise against the post but relies strongly on RVH positioning...Blocker side could be exploited there...Butterfly-to-stance speed is excellent...Seals off the bottom of the net without needing excessive cross-crease movements...Close to Askarov in potential
6Simon EdvinssonFrölunda HC J20J20 NationellDTons of raw talent in Edvinsson's game...Directs pucks to the net well for rebounds and tips...Decisive in transition and an excellent puck carrier who moves with his head up...Wingspan is a difference maker when it comes to forcing opponets to the perimeter of the zone
7Dylan GuentherEdmonton Oil KingsWHLWDoesn't try to dominate every play but excels at a pro-style game...Attacks open space without the puck, generating good speed with sound crossover steps...Doubles back to recover loose pucks or potential giveaways...Very effective passer who can freeze defenders with his skill...Powerful shooter and unfazed under pressure with his level of puck skill
8Fabian LysellLuleå HFSHLWCreative and tenacious in finding his way to pucks, using stick lifts and good forechecking angles to terrorize defenders...Stickhandling skill is near the top of this class but finds himself skating into dead ends at times...Very impressive knee bend and stride extension...Excellent hand-eye coordination in corraling the puck through traffic but will need to make quicker decisions at pro level
9Aatu RätyKärpätLiigaCHas suffered from rapidly dropping draft stock but there's an NHL player here...Shows good habits at pro level in finding good positioning and chasing the puck...Decent pace but knee bend could improve at times...Good puck handler but will need to improve foot speed for that to be a difference-making skill in the NHL...Decent shot with quick release...Needs to be more proactive in responding to puck movement
10Owen Power MichiganNCAADSize is a big draw for the Michigan defender...Communicates well on the ice and moves well for his size...Gap closures are good but angles can improve and pivot timing may be an issue against quicker competition...Needs to fill shooting lanes quicker...Lateral agility isn't amazing...Can use his size to be more suffocating in one-on-one battles and must be more cognizant of how skill players can expose his frame
11Oskar OlaussonHV71SHLWGood shooter from distance and doesn't rely too much on just his wrist shot...Navigates net-front real estate well and has a nice touch of skill with the puck...Crossover steps slow down his acceleration but can be fixed...Receives passes well and can move pucks into shooting or passing positions quickly
12Isak RosénLeksands IFSHLWSlippery player who can finesse his way through multiple layers of defense with impressive puck skill and explosive acceleration...Uses head fakes well in transition...Skating is good, as is dead-stop acceleration...Can be reckless when carrying out breakouts...Sometimes is too stagnant in puck support position but would be more impactful by just keeping his feet moving...Will need to work on passing skill in transition when deking doesn't work
13Kent JohnsonMichiganNCAAFSkating mechanics are good but doesn't have elite footspeed...takes him a few strides to get to top speed...Stick preparation is an issue and leads him to being more reactive to loose pucks...Edgework is excellent with good pace and puck control...Creative stickhandler who can wrangle away pucks most can't in tight board battles...Glides into dead-end positions too often when leading transition...Gives up on too many giveaways...High-event player, for better or worse
14Stanislav SvozilHC Kometa BrnoCzechDMature player who understands off-puck positioning against the forecheck well...Crossover steps are swift but skating form is interesting...Handles the puck well and can muscle off forecheckers...Sometimes makes silly decisions in transition, slapping the puck up ice with little direction...Moves very well along the blue line and directs low, hard shots to the net...Needs to establish more dominant positioning when fighting opponents in front of the net
15Zach DeanGatineau OlympiquesQMJHLCGood pace player who can be a pest on the forecheck...Smart puck carrier who draws defenders his way and can distribute difficult passes well...Underrated puck skills...Skating mechanics are good but his footspeed is average to slightly above-average...Good speed and angles when forechecking
16Nikita ChibrikovSKAKHLRWLoves his rink-wide stretch passes and isn't afraid to force defenders to match his speed by dumping in the puck...Will need to add muscle to win battles when recovering pucks...Stride extension can be choppy but he plays with good pace...Navigates offensive zone crowds well and has the tenacity to challenge opponents all over the ice on both sides of the puck
17Fyodor SvechkovTogliattiVHLFVery mature player but not a high-end skill guy...Adept passer and moves well with the puck in transition but can rush his own passes at times...Skating is average and he doesn't generate tons of separating speed...Would like to see him move his feet earlier when preparing for breakouts...Hunts down the puck well and gets creative in how he out-muscles defenders in one-on-one battles...Very solid defensive player
18Chaz LuciusU.S. NTDPUSHLCHigh-end scoring and stickhandling talent but much to be desired...Can be effective at using his body to seal off opponents from the puck or force turnovers...Skating is a concern with very inconsistent mechanics and average to below-average NHL speed...Can pot nearly any rebound but also score off the rush...Needs to make quicker puck decisions and enter the zone with better speed...Stickhandles too close to his body at times
19William StromgrenMODOAllsvenskanLWTempting combination of size and skill...Extremely impressive set of hands that he can control while moving with speed...Attacks defenders with furious north-south pace...Very good shooter who can come out of his dekes into a deceptive release...Uses good edgework to evade defenders but acceleration isn't always great...Takes him a few strides to get to top speed
20Zachary BolducRimouski OcéanicQMJHLCExtremely intelligent player who has underrated puck skill...Can be mismatched defensively or mitigated when playing center...Excellent skating mechanics complete with full extensions and smooth crossover steps...Frame could help him dominate in puck protection...Shooting skill is good not great but can clean up rebounds well and deliver pucks to high-danger areas from the perimeter well
21Samu TuomaalaKärpät U20SM-sarjaFHigh-pace player who is very smooth on his edges...Sweeps across the netural and offensive zones grabbing pucks off the wall and turning them into rush chances quickly...Flatter blade doesn't provide a very deceptive release but he's a forceful, accurate, and frequent shooter...Covers lots of ground from circles to point in the defensive zone...Can be stagnant off the puck at times
22Simon RobertssonSkellefteå AIKSHLRWSkating is good but breakaway speed is maybe average or slightly above...Shot release is top-notch and from different ranges too...Can legitimately score from medium and low-danger areas...Good forechecker but angles are inconsistent and would like to see him commit to an extra stride or two when attacking defenders
23Logan StankovenKamloops BlazersWHLFUnique shooting talent that doesn't require a set base or weight transfer to be effective...Has explosive wrists that he can launch out into a puck from nearly any angle...Pass reception to shot speed can be lethal, but he can delay and force defenders into decisions too...High-end motor and can build into strong strides but doesn't have elite speed...Wide skating base and generally keeps his feet moving in the offensive zone
24Carson LambosWinnipeg IceWHLDGood edges and lateral mobility that lets him confront puck-carriers high in the offensive zone...Adjusting his pivots to speed is sometimes good and sometimes not...Good skater but needs to work on puck protection and explosiveness in transition...Backwards skating relies on shallow C-cuts with a very wide base...Physical player but uses hands too much in one-on-one battles...Excellent shooting skill on display in the WHL
25Xavier BourgaultShawiningan CataractesQMJHLFNot always strong on the puck but has a good motor and can be tough to stop when entering the offensive zone...Also skilled at sliding into seams undetected and creating passing lanes for teammates...Slick with the puck and creative in how he navigates pressure...Wrists work faster than his feet often...Always disruptive on and off the puck
26Mason McTavishEHC OltenSLFExcellent catch and release shooting ability from nearly any angle...Edgework is solid but knee bend and stride extension need work...Doesn't generate much straightaway speed regardless...Puck skills are good as is forechecking...Doesn't rely on pick top-shelf corners to score always...Can clean up rebounds and beat out defenders in front of the net too
27Daniil ChaykaCSKAKHLDPlays a more hands-off offensive game in the KHL but can be more dynamic...Forceful passer who can come out of his pivots and step right into stretch passes...Doesn't panic with the puck but can rush into transition decisions...Size will help him manage zone entries but can work on pivot timing and stick activation
28Sasha PastujovU.S. NTDPUSHLLWVery skilled player with the puck...Passing talent is off the charts as he uses any tool at his disposal to distribute to teammates...Mesmerizing set of hands that can dazzle and freeze defenders but will need to add muscle for that to be a factor...Can deke his way through a crowded neutral zone but needs to improve transition speed...Excels at holding onto the puck for an extra second - with his hands - to make a pass or play others can't...Skating mechanics are a concern
29Brennan OthmannEHC OltenSLLWAverage skater but has the tools to be an effective NHL player...Receives pucks well in stride and works hard to recover pucks and win possession battles...Angles well on the forecheck...Sometimes can float too much or stare at the puck...Want to see him attack the middle of the ice more with and without the puck
30Cole SillingerSioux Falls StampedeUSHLCSkating is a major flag...Even at the USHL level, he struggles with speed and his mechanics are all over the place...Takes too many strides to get to top speed...Possesses good offensive zone vision and can feed incoming teammates into high-danger areas...Great shooting talent, but I think he's too predictable
31Matthew CoronatoChicago SteelUSHLFPowerful shooting base with good form in legs and hips...Can really drill his wrist shots home...Accelerating steps are awkward and strides can slip too far out underneath him but okay skater overall...Keeps head down too much in transition leading to dead ends or dump-ins....When he's at his best, he can be a trigger man on the power play or attack defenders with the puck to open up chances for his linemates
32Joshua RoySherbrooke PhoenixQMJHLCSkating strides can drive too perpendicular into the ice at times but his extension and recovery are solid...Footspeed isn't amazing but it isn't bad...Puck skills are very good and he's elusive, using excellent balance and edgework, with the puck on his blade...Very accurate shooter and is slippery enough in the offensive zone to pot rebounds and back-door chances too...Transition play is wonderful and can corral the puck in the tightest of challenges and battles

Several players have skated for multiple teams this year. The club listed is the one they’ve played the most games with in the 2020-21 season.