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NHL Draft

Mock 2021 NHL Draft: Power to Sabres at No. 1; Kraken take Beniers

Buffalo owns top choice after Lottery; Michigan center could join expansion team at No. 2

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Following the NHL Draft Lottery on June 2, writers Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale make their predictions for how the first 15 selections of the 2021 NHL Draft could turn out.

The Buffalo Sabres won the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery and the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft on June 2. writers Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale agree the Sabres will use that pick on University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power.

Their opinions vary widely on what could happen after that.

The expansion Seattle Kraken, who begin play next season, won the No. 2 pick. The Anaheim Ducks will pick No. 3.

The first round of the 2021 draft will be held July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW, TVA Sports). Rounds 2-7 will be July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).

The Kraken and the 15 teams that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs took part in the lottery drawing for the first two selections. The remaining teams were ordered based on the NHL standings.

The Arizona Coyotes were in the drawing but must forfeit their 2021 first-round pick (No. 11) for violating the NHL Combine Testing Policy during the 2019-20 season.

1. Buffalo Sabres

Kimelman -- Owen Power, D, Michigan (NCAA): Defensemen as big (6-foot-6, 213 pounds) and as skilled as Power don't come along very often, so it should be an easy choice for the Sabres. Power has the potential to be a top-pair defenseman who can play in all situations. His skating and hockey instincts should help him acclimate quickly to the pace of the NHL. He scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 NCAA games and has three assists while averaging 17:52 of ice time in seven games for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Championship.

Morreale -- Power: A big presence with good vision and strength who has the look of a first-pair NHL defenseman. The 18-year-old led Michigan with 40 blocked shots, was plus-18 and scored two power-play goals.

Video: Sabres, Kraken earn top two Draft selectons

2. Seattle Kraken

Kimelman -- Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan (NCAA): Beniers (6-1, 175) should become a fan favorite quickly in Seattle because of how hard he plays in all areas of the ice. He is an outstanding skater who is as relentless on the forecheck as he is on the backcheck. He was a key piece for the United States winning the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship as the youngest player on the roster and hasn't looked out of place playing with and against NHL players with the United States at the 2021 IIHF World Championship; he sustained a lower-body injury against Slovakia in the quarterfinals June 3.

Morreale -- Beniers: He scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games in his first college season and led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in goals, goals per game (0.42) and shots on goal per game (2.38). He stood out as the second-line center for the United States at the WJC, scoring three points (one goal, two assists), killing penalties and averaging 17:05 of ice time in seven games.

3. Anaheim Ducks

Kimelman -- Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL): The Ducks were last in the NHL this season in scoring (2.21 goals per game) and on the power play (8.9 percent), so adding arguably the most dynamic offensive player available makes sense. Guenther (6-1, 175) averaged 2.00 points per game in the Western Hockey League (24 points in 12 games) and can use a hard, accurate shot to score from anywhere in the offensive zone.

Morreale -- Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR): Edvinsson (6-4, 198) is a physical, left-shot defenseman with a good set of tools, including mobility, skating and a strong shot. He had one assist and averaged 5:48 of ice time in 10 games with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League and scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.

4. New Jersey Devils

Kimelman -- Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL): Clarke (6-2, 185) is an outstanding two-way right-shot defenseman capable of skating the puck out of trouble in his zone or making a smart, accurate pass. He played 26 games in the top professional league in Slovakia and showed a willingness to play physical against older, more developed players. Clarke also stood out helping Canada win the 2021 Under-18 World Championship, scoring seven points (two goals, five assists) in seven games. His older brother, forward Graeme Clarke, was selected by the Devils in the third round (No. 80) of the 2019 NHL Draft.

Morreale -- Luke Hughes, D, USA U-18 (NTDP): Hughes (6-2, 184) could have a chance to join his brother, Jack Hughes, with the Devils. Luke is a great skater capable of playing a smart defensive game with good poise and reads. He scored 34 points (six goals, 28 assists), had 68 shots on goal, and was plus-11 in 38 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team. He lacerated a tendon in his foot from a skate cut March 7 but has started skating.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

Kimelman -- Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda Jr. (SWE-JR): His outstanding blend of size, skills and smarts is reminiscent of Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones. His skating is effective in getting pucks out of his zone, and he's elusive with it in creating offensive chances for himself and teammates.

Morreale -- William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (SWE): Eklund plays bigger than his frame (5-10, 176) with good speed, puck skills and vision. He was named rookie of the year in the SHL after scoring 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) while averaging 15:29 of ice time in 40 games. He was expected to play for Sweden at the World Championship, but an injury sustained during an exhibition game sidelined him for the tournament.

6. Detroit Red Wings

Kimelman -- Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (SWE): The Red Wings need a goalie to add to their development pipeline and Wallstedt (6-3, 214) is the best available. Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman is fearless when it comes to identifying talent. Two years ago, the Red Wings had the No. 6 pick and went against the grain to select defenseman Moritz Seider, who now looks like a future top-pair player. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a similar move by the Red Wings here. Wallstedt has a calm, controlled style, tracks pucks well and already has experience playing in the top league.

Morreale -- Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL): A powerful skater with balance and solid puck-protection skills, McTavish (6-1, 207) scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games on loan with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest professional league in Switzerland. He scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games to help Canada win the U-18s.

7. San Jose Sharks

Kimelman -- William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (SWE): He showed top-end offensive skill combined with the ability to win battles along the boards and held up well against physical play in the SHL. The Sharks need to get younger and more dynamic as they look to contend for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Eklund has top-six potential.

Morreale -- Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA): An offensive sniper who plays with pace, skill and creativity, Johnson (6-1, 167) thrived at left wing this season, scoring 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 26 games. He led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in assists, points, and points per game (1.04).

8. Los Angeles Kings

Kimelman -- Luke Hughes, D, USA U-18 (NTDP): Luke brings the same top-end skating ability that his older brothers Jack and Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks, but in a bigger package. The Kings have done well stocking up on high skill forwards the past few years, including Quinton Byfield (No. 2, 2020) and Alex Turcotte (No. 5, 2019). Hughes is the kind of player that will be able to get them the puck in the right spots to be effective.

Morreale -- Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL): An elite goal scorer with quickness who scored 12 goals in 12 WHL games this season and helped Canada win the U-18s with seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games.

9. Vancouver Canucks

Kimelman -- Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA): A high-end playmaker with great vision and some flair to his game. He's elusive carrying the puck and strong enough to win battles along the walls. He also showed his versatility this season, excelling on the wing and at center in his first college season, and should get better as he gets stronger.

Morreale -- Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL): A mobile, puck-moving righthanded shot who is considered an excellent passer and playmaker with great vision. He scored 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and was plus-6 in 26 games on loan with Nove Zamsky in the Slovak Extraliga, the top professional league in Slovakia.

10. Ottawa Senators

Kimelman -- Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago (USHL): Coronato (5-10, 183) was a dominant offensive force who blended top-end goal scoring, strong skating, and a physical approach similar to United States Hockey Hall of Fame forward John LeClair. He led the United States Hockey League with 48 goals in 51 games and the league in scoring in the playoffs with 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in eight games.

Morreale -- Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (SWE): Central Scouting director of European scouting Goran Stubb said Wallstedt is the best Sweden-born goalie prospect he's seen in at least five years. The 18-year-old can read the game well, has good quickness and plays a hybrid butterfly/athletic style. He was 11-8 with three ties, a 2.23 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 SHL games.

11. Forfeited pick

12. Chicago Blackhawks

Kimelman -- Chaz Lucius, C, USA U-18 (NTDP): Lucius' skating is as good now as it was before he missed the first four months of the season with a knee injury. The forward (6-1, 185) is strong around the net in the offensive zone and has an NHL-caliber shot that he used to score 13 goals in 13 games this season.

Morreale -- Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL): Lambos (6-1, 197) is a two-way defenseman who has showcased good patience in the defensive zone and in transition. He played two games in the Western Hockey League before sustaining a lower-body injury. The 18-year-old scored 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 13 games on loan with JYP in Finland's junior league.

13. Calgary Flames

Kimelman -- Cole Sillinger, F, Sioux Falls (USHL): The Flames can continue to stockpile talented young forward prospects with Sillinger (6-0, 197), who led Sioux Falls with 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 31 games. He's a strong skater capable of controlling the pace of the game with the puck on his stick and has good bloodlines. His father, Mike Sillinger, played 1,049 NHL games.

Morreale -- Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago (USHL): The forward was second in the USHL with 85 points in 51 games and led the league with 19 power-play goals and eight game-winning goals. He'll continue his development at Harvard next season.

14. Philadelphia Flyers

Kimelman -- Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL): The forward was one of the more impressive players at the U-18s, after a solid tenure in the Swiss League. McTavish blends a skilled game with feistiness. He showed strength in battles along the boards and a willingness to stand his ground in front of the opposition net.

Morreale -- Cole Sillinger, F, Sioux Falls (USHL): He is a skilled offensive player with a great release on his shot, a high hockey IQ and excellent vision and playmaking ability. 

15. Dallas Stars

Kimelman -- Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL): The big (6-2, 198) right-shot defenseman is an outstanding skater who can lead the rush and use his speed to create chances in transition and the offensive zone. He also knows how to use his mobility and long reach to keep opposing forwards to the outside. With John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen already established NHL defensemen and top prospect Thomas Harley close to NHL ready, Ceulemans would give the Stars more top-end depth at a key position.

Morreale -- Nikita Chibrikov, RW, St. Petersburg (RUS): The 18-year-old forward (5-10, 170) is a playmaker with great speed and strong edges, capable of handling the puck and strong on the backcheck. Chibrikov scored two points (one goal, one assist) in 16 games in the Kontinental Hockey League and led 2021 draft-eligible players at the U-18s with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) for second-place Russia.

16. New York Rangers

Kimelman -- Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL): Othman (6-0, 175) is a strong forechecker because of his speed and willingness to play physical and has a quick release on a strong shot. The Rangers have several talented young forwards, including Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov. Othmann would bring a different element that could give them more open ice to work with.

Morreale -- Othmann: A two-way difference-maker with very good puck skills and the ability to make himself available in dangerous scoring areas. He scored 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 34 games on loan with EHC Olten in the Swiss League and six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games to help Canada win the U-18 World Championship. He scored one goal and had seven shots on goal in a 5-3 win against Russia in the championship game.


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