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2021 NHL Draft Preview

Dive into some of the prospect storylines heading into this month's NHL Draft!

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

The 2021 NHL Draft takes place virtually on July 23 and 24. It's the second straight year that the event, usually hosted in one of the National Hockey League's cities, will be hosted online.

When Adam Lowry was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, the event may not have been virtual, but the 6'5" centre still elected to watch from home with his family.

His memories, which he shared prior to the 2020 NHL Draft, are still just as valuable. It's a reminder to those who are waiting patiently to have their name called this month.

"The advice I would have is enjoy the time with your family. They sacrificed so much to help get you where you are," said Lowry. "It's pretty special that you get to enjoy that moment with them. It may not be the same … you get that opportunity to spend it with your parents, your siblings, and the people you love. It still makes it a pretty special day."

Ditto, says Cole Perfetti - who the Jets selected 10th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. 

"To hear them cheer when I was picked, the place was kind of shaking it was so loud. It was amazing and it really felt good to know how much support I really have," said Perfetti.

"It's unbelievable knowing these people care for me and care for my career so much. I can't thank them all enough for being here and everything they've done for career so far. Even though it wasn't a traditional draft, it's something I'll never forget."

So who are some of the players waiting to become the next Perfetti or Lowry?

Here is a look at some of this year's prospects according to NHL Central Scouting:

The Top Prospects

Owen Power - The top-ranked North American skater stands at 6'6" and was a strong presence for Michigan in his freshman season in the NCAA. Power, a product of Mississauga, ON, finished his first collegiate season with 16 points in 26 games. That earned him a spot on the Big10 All-Rookie Team and the Second All-Star Team.

Power finished his season with Canada at the IIHF World Championship, helping the squad - which also included Perfetti - to a gold medal. He recorded three assists in the 10 games he played, which included 24:17 of ice time in the 3-2 overtime win over Finland in the final.

Earlier this season, Power said he planned to return to Michigan for his sophomore season.

He explained that during this month's Top Prospect availability.

"I feel like I'm in a good spot where if I do sign or if I go back, I'm making a good decision either way," he said. "I'm confident in myself that if I was to sign this season I'd be able to jump in the [NHL] and play a full season. Whether or not that's the best decision, I still don't know."

William Eklund - The Swedish left-winger is the top-ranked European skater heading into this year's NHL Draft. He played 40 games with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2020-21, scoring 11 times and finishing with 23 points. That performance earned him SHL Rookie of the Year honours, as his 11 goals were the most by a junior in the league.

During the top prospect media availability earlier this month, Eklund said he planned to return to the SHL in 2021-22 to help his development. Off the ice, Eklund was also awarded the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence for the adversity he overcame. He tested positive for Covid-19 and also had an emergency appendectomy.

"He's persevered through the school of hard knocks this year, but he's a player that's not going to be denied, which will make it a hard decision to go by him in the draft," said Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, to

Homegrown Products

Carson Lambos from the Winnipeg ICE of the Western Hockey League is the highest ranked player hailing from the Manitoba capital heading into the Draft.

It was a busy season for the 18-year-old, who started his 2020-21 campaign with JYP in the Finnish Liiga. Over a total of 17 games, Lambos played with JYP at the U-18 and U-20 level, before dressing in two games for the professional club.

When the WHL began in the Regina Hub, Lambos played two games with the ICE before having to leave due to a leg injury.

It was a tough way to end his second full WHL season, especially after his 2019-20 campaign that saw him post 32 points in 57 games.

Lambos is one of four defencemen in the top 11 spots of the North American skaters list.

Conner Roulette, ranked 36th, is the other prospect from Winnipeg inside the top 50.

The 5'11" winger capped off his draft season with a gold medal at the World Under-18s with Canada, accumulating five points in seven games.

He had two other stops this season. The first was with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League's Selkirk Steelers, where he played three games (scoring once and adding an assist) before rejoining his WHL team - the Seattle Thunderbirds - when that season got underway.

Roulette had 12 points in 11 games with the Thunderbirds, following up a 2019-20 season that saw him score 19 times in his first full WHL season.

Family Tree

There are a few prospects who may have a better feel for this whole draft process, thanks to their older brothers showing the way.

Brandt Clarke, a defenceman ranked seventh on the North American skaters list, said his brother Graeme (selected in the third round by the New Jersey Devils in 2020) has been a big help.

He said his brother's advice was simple.

"Be truthful with how you speak, speak from the heart," said Clarke. "When you're having these kinds of interviews with NHL clubs, just be truthful an say what you mean. Be direct. You want to put yourself on a pedestal, but you want to be respectful at the same time."

The two brothers briefly played on the same professional team in Slovakia in 2020-21. They decided to play in the top-tier league in that country when the Ontario Hockey League season was cancelled, but three weeks into it, Graeme was assigned to New Jerseys AHL affiliate in Binghamton, leaving the younger Brandt to learn what it takes to be a pro off the ice.

"He was telling me 'we're going to bed now, let's turn our phones off.' He was waking me up in the morning. I didn't have that anymore. I had to be more independent," said Clarke.

"It's the professional hockey feeling. In a sense, I think I did a lot of growing up while I was over there."

The Clarkes aren't the only set of brothers, either. In fact, another defenceman - Luke Hughes - has arguably had double the advice.

The 18-year-old Hughes watched as his brothers Quinn (seventh overall to Vancouver in 2018) and Jack (first overall to New Jersey in 2019) were selected in back-to-back NHL Drafts.

In fact, the Hughes family could make history if Luke - ranked fourth among North American skaters - is taken in the first round.

They'd become the first family from the United States to have three brothers chosen in the opening round.

"I think it would be super special," Luke said. "I mean, three brothers in the first round ... that's amazing. The three of us put in the work and are really dedicated to the sport, so if it happens it would be really exciting not just for us but our parents. They've done an unbelievable job raising us, not just as players but as people. It'd be a great accomplishment for my entire family and pretty cool."

Luke has committed to the University of Michigan for the 2021-22 season. He spent the 2020-21 campaign with the USA National Team Development Program. He had 34 points in 38 games with USNTDP, then had his season cut short by a laceration to a tendon in his foot in early March. He had surgery on March 17 and has been skating since May.

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