After a year of partial, truncated schedules, prospects travelling to Europe to play, and some not playing at all, 2021 has something not thought possible all that long ago: clarity.
About 10 players have separated themselves from the pack and another two have potential to break into the top 10 ahead of Wednesday's NHL Draft Lottery. With the Devils guaranteed to pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 6, we take a closer look at some of their options.
Clarity within this top group is still up in the air but that is more typical of any season. Specifically, at the top, University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power is the consensus top pick but not a slam dunk to go No. 1.
For NHL Central Scouting's full list of prospects click here.
Below is a look at that top 10 with two honorable mentions:
Owen Power, D, Michigan (NCAA)
Projected: Likely No. 1 overall
Season: 26GP-3G-13A; he missed the World Junior Championship but showed well in an expanded role with Team Canada at the senior Worlds.
Scouting report: Almost 6-foot-6 and about 215 pounds, Power moves well and checks all the boxes for what you want in a first-pairing defenseman in the NHL. Scouts caution that he's not a Norris-Trophy-in-waiting clone of Victor Hedman or Chris Pronger, but instead a minute-munching, franchise cornerstone.
Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan (NCAA)
Season: 24GP-10G-14A for the Wolverines; he helped the U.S. win gold at the World Junior and played at the senior Worlds.
Scouting report: A determined force all over the ice, Beniers will be a formidable two-way center at the next level. He plays hard, always, an attractive pro quality. A late-2002 birthday, he will benefit from one more year at Michigan and perhaps serving as captain for the Americans at the World Junior.
Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)
Season: 12GP-12G-12A; helped Canada win gold at World U18s.
Scouting report: Guenther was slightly off his best at the U18s but was virtually unstoppable for the Oil Kings. One scout we consulted said he considers Guenther the No. 1 prospect. He scores highlight reel goals but also goes to the dirty areas to hit paydirt. Projects as a throw-back offensive winger as a pro.
Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda Jr (SWE Jr)
Season: 10GP-0G-1A (Frolunda); 14GP-0G-5A (Vasteras); won bronze with Sweden at World U18s.
Scouting report: Power-lite, if you will. Scouts have been careful to not compare him to Hedman despite the obvious similarities in size (6-4, 200) and background. Sweden rallied to win bronze but Edvinsson slumped early with the rest of his teammates at the U18s. It was a difficult situation that is not thought to hurt his Draft status.
Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP (USHL)
Season: 18GP-4G-11A; missed World U18s due to a foot injury.
Scouting report: Along with Eklund, Hughes was the biggest riser in the draft class. He has excellent puck and skating skills and one asset that his brothers, Jack and Luke, don't possess: size (6-2, 180). He's raw and now recovering from injury but he'll be a top-flight NHLer, just like his brothers.
Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL)
Season: 26GP-6A-7A (Nove Zimky, SVK); won gold at World U18s, tournament all-star.
Scouting report: The most offensively gifted defenseman of this Draft crop, Clarke's hockey sense, his instincts moving the puck north and joining the rush are superb. It wasn't a fair fight at times when he QB'd the Canadian power play at the U18s. He needs work defensively in his own zone and on his skating. The younger brother of Devils prospect, Graeme.
William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (Sweden)
Projected: Top 10
Season: 40GP-11G-12A; missed both the World Junior (COVID) and Worlds (injury).
Scouting report: He's on a meteoric rise despite the missed opportunities at the World Junior and then the World Championship. Eklund gave the Djurgardens coaching staff little choice but to keep playing him a regular shift against men. He is the smallest player on this list (5-10, 175) but it is not a hinderance.
Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL)
Projected: Top 10
Season: 13GP-9G-2A (Olten, SUI); won gold at World U18s.
Scouting report: A two-way force who can score, he went to Switzerland this year and came back the same offensive player but an improved skater. He has a certain on-ice moxie that scouts love, an intangible that is difficult to describe but easy to see.
Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA)
Projected: Top 10
Season: 26GP-9G-18A for the Wolverines.
Scouting report: He's less talked about than teammates Power and Beniers, Johnson remains a coveted forward prospect. He has elite offensive skills and "really grows on you," according to one scout. Though he played most of a full season, his development could be on a steeper curve upward once the world returns to normal next season.
Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)
Projected: Top 10
Season: 31GP-24G-22A; made Team Canada but missed the World U18s due to COVID protocols.
Scouting report: Sillinger elected to go to the USHL after uncertainty delayed the Western Hockey League season, where he played for Medicine Hat a season earlier (48GP-22G-31A) as a 16-year-old. He was generally regarded as the best forward in the USHL this season.
Honourable Mention: Chaz Lucius (C, USNTDP), Fabian Lysell (RW, Lulea, SWE).