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Torie Peterson highlights 7 blueliners who could be diamonds in the rough in this year's draft

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson /

In addition to their first round pick, 12th overall*, the Flames own picks in the following rounds of the 2021 NHL Draft:

Round Two: 45th overall

Round Three: 77th overall

Round Three (via Edmonton): 84th overall**

Round Five: 141st overall

Round Six: 173rd overall

Round Seven: 205th overall

With this in mind,'s Torie Peterson has profiled seven defencemen who may be available outside of the first round and could end up being potential diamonds in the rough:



Vincent Iorio - Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 191 lb. Birthplace: Coquitlam, B.C. Shoots: Right

Final NHL Central Scouting Ranking (North American Skaters): 71

A strong two-way defender, Iorio already boasts an NHL-sized frame and plays with a physical edge. In his own zone, he's extremely steady thanks to his positioning, stick work, poise under pressure, and skating. He also boasts a quality first pass and works well in transition. On the offensive side of things, his production took a step forward this past season with five goals and 12 points through 22 games. Iorio has been a dependable presence on the powerplay for Brandon, with seven of his points coming with the man advantage.


Tweet from @TheWHL: Attention scouts ��� Vinny Iorio should be on your radar for the 2021 #NHLDraft ������ See below ������@bdnwheatkings | #SubwayWHLHub


Photo courtesy of Marissa Baecker



Evan Nause - Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 186 lb. Birthplace: White Rock, B.C. Shoots: Left

Final NHL Central Scouting Ranking (North American Skaters): 22

An extremely smart player, Nause excelled in his first year in the QMJHL with four goals and 22 points in 32 skates while playing in all situations with the Remparts. He has a plethora of skills that could make him an effective defender at the pro level: mobile skating, a high hockey IQ, an NHL-ready frame and a willingness to play physically, and proficient passing abilities. Defensively, there is no panic in his game, no matter the situation, and he is able to calmly break up plays and exit the zone without making rushed decisions.


Tweet from @JoshTessler_: Evan Nause ('21) with a deflection goal. While James Malatesta ('21) is stick-handling around traffic in low danger, Nause pinches and goes net-front. When Malatesta fires the shot, Nause re-directs it. Fourth goal of the season for Nause.#2021NHLDraft


Photo courtesy of Dany Germain / QMJHL



Artyom Grushnikov - Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 198 lb. Birthplace: Voskresensk, Russia Shoots: Left

Final NHL Central Scouting Ranking (North American Skaters): 24

Grushnikov was slated to play for the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2020-21 but due to the season being curtailed by COVID-19, the Russian defender did not lace up his skates. Scouts will have to base their evaluations on his play in Russia, where he last skated for Krasnaya Armiya Moskva in the MHL and represented his country on multiple occasions.


Tweet from @TPEHockey: Watch as Artyom Grushnikov makes an amazing stretch pass to Ivan Didkovski to tie the Russia with Finland at the #WorldU17. The game now remains at 1-1 in the 3rd period. Gushnikov is a 2003 born player not eligible until the #2021NHLDraft.


The blueliner is very effective in his own zone, playing a shutdown game and taking care of business on the defensive side. His positioning is strong, he's solid with his stickwork when it comes to blocking off lanes, plays a tight gap, and has a physical edge that keeps forecheckers honest.

Photo courtesy of Dave Reginek



Olen Zellweger - Everett Silvertips (WHL)

Height: 5-foot-9 Weight: 175 lb. Birthplace: Calgary Shoots: Left

Final NHL Central Scouting Ranking (North American Skaters): 45

While the 2020-21 season was a short one for the Calgary product, he was tremendous for the Everett Silvertips. In 11 games, he put up 13 points - a career high despite the fact he played 58 games in the WHL in 2019-20.


Tweet from @TheWHL: Notching his first goal of the season, 2021 #NHLDraft prospect @OlenZellweger rifles a shot from the blue line to start the game for the @WHLsilvertips!


He's not the biggest defender but his skating and skill should allow for him to thrive at the next level. His skating looks effortless and he never stops moving his feet, playing with a ton of pace. This past year, he better utilized his speed and puck skills to make him an effective player in transition and also chip in offensively.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Mast



Cameron Whynot - Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 180 lb. Birthplace: Kentville, N.S. Shoots: Left

Final NHL Central Scouting Ranking (North American Skaters): 44

Whynot took big steps in all aspects of his game in his second season. Offensively, he registered 23 points in 34 skates and was second in scoring among Halifax defenders. Defensively, he figured out how to play a physical, hard game in his own end without taking unnecessary penalties or making mistakes. And while plus/minus doesn't give a full scope of a player's season, Whynot went from being a -41 in 2019-20 to a +13 this year.


Tweet from @InStatHockey: #2021NHLDraft prospect Cameron Whynot has had a good draft year, putting up 6 goals and 23 points in 34 QMJHL games!


Photo courtesy of David Chan / Halifax Mooseheads



Luke Mittelstadt - Eden Prairie (HIGH-MN)

Height: 5'11 Weight: 175 lbs. Birthplace: Eden Prairie, Minn Shoots: Left

Final NHL Central Scouting Ranking (North American Skaters): 98

Mittdelstadt was dominant at the high school level this past season, putting up 35 points in 24 games with Eden Prairie. He also spent time in the USHL, suiting up for 12 games with the Lincoln Stars. An offensively gifted blueliner who has plenty of speed, he is excellent in transition, isn't shy when it comes to making a pinch, and is capable of quarterbacking a powerplay.


Tweet from @LincolnStars: Luke Mittelstadt also buries his first in the league with this power-play marker! @USHL #AllAboard🚂


The Eden Prairie product is committed to the University of Minnesota.

Photo courtesy of Josh Holmberg



Janis Jérôme Moser - ECH Biel-Bienne (Swiss)

Height: 6'0 Weight: 172 lbs. Birthplace: Biel, Switzerland Shoots: Left

Final NHL Central Scouting Ranking (European Skaters): 25

It's rare to see a 21-year-old drafted but Moser is very likely to hear his named called on Day 2 of this year's event thanks to rapid progression over the past season. Biel's captain played in every situation for his club, thriving no matter the situation, and was fifth in team scoring with 30 points through 48 games.


Tweet from @scottcwheeler: Janis Jerome Moser should get picked as a 20-year-old in the #2021NHLDraft. And I���m not talking like late-round flier. I���m talking worthwhile mid-round pick. Consistently one of the best players on the ice in a league that welcomed its fair share of NHL talent. 

Dependable defensively, he's positionally sound and uses his stick extremely well while defending. When he gains possession of the puck, his exceptional passing abilities allows his team to transition immediately. If he opts to carry it out of the zone, he's confident holding onto the puck and has no qualms about leading the rush. Offensively, he has shown he can provide ample production at the pro level both on the powerplay and at even-strength. 

Photo courtesy of RvS.Media / Robert Hradil

* The Flames technically hold the 13th overall position in the opening round but will select 12th due to Arizona forfeiting their first-round pick for violating NHL Combine testing policy during the 2019-20 season

** The Flames acquired the Oilers' third round pick in the trade that involved the acquisition of Milan Lucic in exchange for James Neal

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