Ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft, Sportsnet prospect expert Sam Cosentino was asked questions about this year's collection of prospects, how deep the class is, and more.
1. We've had a consensus No. 1 overall pick for the past number of drafts, but is that the case in 2021? Is there any chance Owen Power isn't chosen first?
Sam Cosentino: I don’t think so. Regardless of whether he elects to go back to Michigan, it shouldn’t scare Buffalo away. Power cemented his status with his play at the worlds. At six-foot-six, 215 pounds, the expectation is that he will be a big-minute, all-situations type player very early in his career. Buffalo could really get on track if they do right by the Jack Eichel deal and draft Power to eventually play alongside Rasmus Dahlin on its top pairing.
2. At which pick does the draft really start to you?
For me it starts at 11. I think we have some predictability for the first 10 names, maybe not in exact order, but I do believe the names many prognosticators have going in the top 10 are very similar. One of the goalies may shake that up a bit. After 11 you have so many variables that it will get quite random, quite quickly. I think we will see a few Yegor Chinakhov (Columbus 21st overall in 2020) type surprises in the latter stages of Round 1.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 16, 2021
3. Who is a prospect not projected to be chosen in the first round that we could look back on and wonder why they weren't?
Two names, the first is Josh Doan, son of Shane. He had a monster year on that rock-star Chicago Steel team (31 goals, 70 points in 53 games), and is in his second year of draft eligibility. He’s experienced some growth and with the Doan name, you don’t have to worry about character. It’s not typical for re-entry players to go in Round 1, but not unprecedented either. Doan is a big right-shot, right-winger with great work ethic and obvious finishing ability.
The other is Olen Zellweger of Everett. His game grew so much at the U18’s that it didn’t take long for him to be running PP1 on Canada's gold medal team. He skates extremely well, is confident with the puck and by the end of that tournament realized he could handle the physical side of the game at that level, too. He’s laser focused on playing in the NHL and in terms of projection, we must remember he’s one of the youngest players in this draft class
4. Who is a projected first-round prospect that isn't being thought of highly enough?
Zachary Bolduc. The two strikes against him are the fact that he played with a powerhouse Rimouski team two years ago, which featured Alexis Lafreniere, then he was injured for a large chunk of the second half of this season. In a vacuum, he skates really well and has top-notched edge work. He has elite hand-eye coordination and he’s shown year-over-year improvement away from the puck and on the defensive side of it.
5. Do you have a favourite player (or players) to watch from this class?
I really like Zachary Dean of Gatineau. He plays an old-school type of game. He’s got speed to beat you outside, and he loves taking the puck to the net. He’s dangerous in the 20-foot radius around the net with the ability to find soft ice, anticipate rebound location and with hand-eye good enough to tip pucks.
6. We had been getting used to not seeing a goalie picked in the first half of the first round anymore, but it has now happened two years in a row with Spencer Knight and Yaroslav Askarov. Will Jesper Wallstedt or Sebastian Cossa make that three in a row, and how do they compare to Knight and Askarov?
I think one goes in the top half, and the other not far behind, but probably in that 18-22 range. The problem is, while Wallstedt has been the projected first goalie to go, it wouldn’t surprise me if Cossa was the first netminder off the board. A goalie comes into play as early as Detroit at pick six. Knight and Askarov are exceptional talents as are Wallstedt and Cossa. Both Knight and Askarov have better international resumes because the other two were stuck in the pandemic.
7. What is the defining characteristic of this year's class of prospects?
High-end D early, predictable names inside the top 10 and a wildman’s guessing game past pick 15. All told, it’s so hard to predict the depth of this class based on limited play in key developmental years leading up to the draft. Having said that, scouts were talking about the '02 draft class two years ago, and didn’t have much to say about the ‘03s a year later.