The 2021 NHL Draft provides an opportunity for teams to strengthen positions of need with young talent.
The first round is July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW). Rounds 2-7 are July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
Here are what Central Division teams could be looking to do at the draft (teams listed in alphabetical order):
Top priority: Playmakers
First pick: No. 37
The situation: Since 2010 the Coyotes have drafted two players who scored 20 goals in a season for them: forwards Conor Garland (2015, No. 123) and Clayton Keller (2016, No. 7). Recent draft picks still are maturing, among them center Barrett Hayton, the No. 5 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft who scored three points (two goals, one assist) in 14 NHL games this season and 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 26 games with Tucson of the American Hockey League. With general manager Bill Armstrong overseeing the draft for the first time (he agreed not to participate in the 2020 NHL Draft after being hired from the St. Louis Blues on Sept. 17, 2020, three weeks before the draft), Arizona could look to find the best available offensive performer with its first selection in the second round. They also could look at selecting a goaltender after trading Adin Hill to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday for goalie Josef Korenar. The Coyotes forfeited the No. 11 pick in the draft as a result of violations of the NHL Combine Testing Policy during the 2019-20 season.
Possible fits: Logan Stankoven, C, Kamloops (WHL); Samu Tuomaala, RW, Karpat Jr., (FIN-JR); Benjamin Gaudreau, G, Sarnia (OHL)
Top priority: Scoring depth
First pick: No. 12
The situation: Forward Patrick Kane remains one of the top offensive players in the NHL, and forward Alex DeBrincat was third in the League with 32 goals this season, but the Blackhawks need more to support them. Center Jonathan Toews' return after missing all season because of an illness will help, as will a full healthy season from center Kirby Dach, who was limited to 18 games because of a broken wrist. Forward Lukas Reichel, the No. 17 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, scored 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 38 games with Eisbaren Berlin in Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top professional league in Germany. The 19-year-old will get a chance to play in the NHL next season, and more will be expected from forward Brandon Hagel and centers Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev, who each had a solid rookie season. Adding another top-end forward high in the first round should be the priority.
Possible fits: Chaz Lucius, C, USA U-18 (NTDP); Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago (USHL); Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)
Video: Blackhawks Offseason Outlook after Keith Trade
Top priority: Prospect depth
First pick: No. 28
The situation: The Avalanche won the Presidents' Trophy as the top team in the NHL this season, and their prospect pipeline is among the League's best as well. Defenseman Bowen Byram (2019, No. 4) impressed when healthy this season, and forward Alex Newhook (2019, No. 16) adjusted well to the NHL pace after signing an entry-level contract March 31. Byram and Justin Barron (2020, No. 25) could be among the candidates to take the spot of defenseman Ryan Graves, who was traded to the New Jersey Devils on Friday for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 draft (No. 60). Forwards Martin Kaut (2018, No. 16), Shane Bowers (trade, Ottawa Senators) and Sampo Raanta (2018, No. 78) also could be close to NHL-ready. So how do the rich get richer? Taking the best player available.
Possible fits: Zach Dean, C, Gatineau (QMJHL); Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea (SWE); Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener (OHL)
Top priority: Defenseman
First pick: No. 15
The situation: At 21 years old, defenseman Miro Heiskanen led the Stars in average ice time at 24:58 per game, with defensemen Esa Lindell (23:11) and John Klingberg (22:42) next. Lindell is 27 and plays tough and physical, and Klingberg will be 29 when next season starts. Thomas Harley, the No. 18 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, could be ready for a full-time NHL spot next season, but in a draft stocked with talented defensemen, this could be the right time for Dallas to add another blue-chip prospect at the position. They could also seek forward depth after trading Jason Dickinson to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday for a third-round pick in the 2021 draft.
Possible fits: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL); Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL); Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL)
Top priority: Defenseman
First pick: No. 22
The situation: Calen Addison impressed enough as a rookie to average 12:16 of ice time in three games in the Stanley Cup First Round against the Vegas Golden Knights, but the Wild don't have top-end prospect depth beyond him; Ryan O'Rourke (2020, No. 39), Filip Johansson (2018, No. 24) and Daemon Hunt (2020, No. 65) each is at least a few seasons away. Finding a defenseman potentially with a quicker road to the NHL in the first round should be the goal. Minnesota, which also has the Pittsburgh Penguins' first-round pick at No. 26 from the trade of forward Jason Zucker, also could look to add to its prospect depth on the wing.
Possible fits: Shai Buium, D, Sioux City (USHL); Sean Behrens, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Nikita Chibrikov, RW, St. Petersburg (RUS)
Top priority: Defenseman
First pick: No. 19
The situation: Nashville traded 30-year-old defenseman Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers for 24-year-old defenseman Philippe Myers on Saturday, but their top two defensemen, Roman Josi (31) and Mattias Ekholm (31), are getting older, and Ekholm has one season left on his contract. In the past 10 years the Predators have selected a defenseman in the first two rounds three times, and only Dante Fabbro (2016, No. 17) remains on the roster after Seth Jones (2013, No. 4) and Samuel Girard (2016, No. 47) were traded. With several top-end defensemen likely available at their spot in the first round, selecting one likely will be a priority.
Possible fits: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL); Daniil Chayka, D, CSKA (RUS); Shai Buium, D, Sioux City (USHL)
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Top priority: Defenseman
First pick: No. 17
The situation: The Blues have a solid top four defensemen -- Torey Krug, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella -- but not much NHL-ready prospect depth behind them besides 22-year-old Scott Perunovich (2018, No. 45), who won the Hobey Baker Award as the top men's NCAA hockey player in 2019-20 but didn't play this season because of a shoulder injury. The Blues likely will look there with their top pick.
Possible fits: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL); Daniil Chayka, D, CSKA (RUS); Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)
Video: NHL Tonight on the Blues' offseason outlook
Top priority: Forward
First pick: No. 18
The situation: The Jets have done well bolstering their depth at defenseman the past few seasons with Ville Heinola (2019, No. 20), Dylan Samberg (2017, No. 43) and Logan Stanley (2016, No. 18) set to become key contributors. Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler comprise Winnipeg's core forwards; each is in his prime and signed through the 2023-24 season, but this could be a good time to start developing players to support them. Their first-round pick in 2020, center Cole Perfetti (No. 10), scored 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 32 games as a 19-year-old with Manitoba of the American Hockey League. The Jets should focus on finding more young forward talent with their first pick this year.
Possible fits: Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL); Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski (QMJHL); Nikita Chibrikov, RW, St. Petersburg (RUS)
Listen: New episode of NHL Draft Class