With the World U18 having come to a close, and NHL teams with a little more certainty as to where they will be picking in the 2021 draft, it’s time to get down to business.
Every scout will tell you that they must caution their assessments based on one short tournament. After all, the four medal teams played a grand total of seven games, the other four quarter-finalists played five games, while two teams played the minimum four preliminary round games. Anyone can see just how difficult it would be to place your future in the hands of seven or fewer live viewings.
The flip side to that is the 2003-born players have had very few opportunities to show themselves against one another. This tournament provided that opportunity and that can’t be discounted. Further, it gave many GMs and head scouts a chance to see the top 2003’s in-person as opposed to the mass amount of video that has already been consumed.
Some leagues have been able to continue through playoffs, and there have been showcase events planned for further in-person viewing for scouts. The rumours are the CHL will host a showcase event in Edmonton before the draft, but there’s still plenty of hurdles to jump before that becomes a reality. If that event comes to fruition, a handful of OHL players who didn’t get a season to strut their stuff, will get a mini two-game look. Regardless, the 2021 World U18 Championship was the marquee scouting event of the year.
Overall, when assessing this draft class, the narrative has not changed. It’s defence heavy at the top end. After the first 10 picks, it can go a number of ways. If nothing else, the lead-up to the draft and the two-day event itself will be appointment viewing based on how random this thing may go.
There’s plenty of work to still be done. In the meantime, here’s our May rankings.
1. Owen Power, D, U of Michigan (NCAA): Constantly amazed how agile and light on his feet he is. Has a great frame to work with and there’s plenty of room for growth.
2. Matthew Beniers, C, U of Michigan (NCAA): Plays a complete game and combines an excellent work ethic with fierce competitiveness.
3. Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (OHL): Sees the game two steps ahead. Is terrific on the power play, but takes calculated risks to be part of the offence at even strength too.
4. Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda Jr. (SWE): Aside from the obvious nationality connection, he won’t escape the Victor Hedman comparisons and those are legit based on where Hedman was at this time in 2009.
5. Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): Thinks the game at a high level and is constantly utilizing all resources to improve his game. While offence is what jumps out, the proficiency in his game extends the length of the ice.
6. Kent Johnson, C, U of Michigan (NCAA): May be the best-in-class when it comes to creativity and elusiveness with the puck on his stick.
7. William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (SWE): Of all the top Swedish prospects, it was Eklund who maintained a regular shift in the SHL with consistent production from start to finish (23 points in 40 games).
8. Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP: Skating and puck skills show top-pairing potential. Size (6-foot-2, 176 pounds) is an asset with his evolving defensive side.
9. Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes (OHL): Plays heavy and hard in every facet of the game. His great hockey sense makes him effective in all situations.
10. Chaz Lucius, C, USNTDP: Missed out on a big opportunity at the U18s. Will his outstanding 12-game stint with the USNTDP after returning from injury be enough to keep him in the top half of the draft?
11. Fabian Lysell, RW, Frolunda Jr. (SWE): One of the most skilled players in the draft class, but also one of the most inconsistent.
12. Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (SHL): Drafting a goalie this high is always concerning. How long will development take and how far down the line can you project the position? But, if Spencer Knight is the template, have at it.
13. Fedor Svechkov, C, Togliatti (RUS): Possesses a great blend of top-notched skill with the ability to play responsibly in the neutral and defensive zones.
14. Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Liiga): How much will teams weigh his 2021 season in the Liiga (just six points in 35 games) versus multiple strong international events from years past?
15. Cole Sillinger, LW, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL): At least one USHL coach referred to him as the top forward in the league, despite the fact he played 20 games fewer than most of the draft eligible competition.
16. Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): His skill set jumps off the page immediately. This player may need additional seasoning time, especially after being injured in 2021, but he can make plays and create offence consistently.
17. Samu Tuomaala, RW, Karpat Jr (FIN): A short, scoreless audition in the Liiga notwithstanding, the smallish, energetic forward is a threat from the blue line in.
18. Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (QMJHL): It’s expected medical issues are now in the rear view mirror and he can get back to being an all-situations stalwart when play begins next season.
19. Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): An excellent finisher who works best in the offensive zone. An underrated playmaker, too.
20. Nikita Chibrikov, RW, St. Petersburg (KHL): Smallish (5-foot-10, 172 pounds) and skilled, he continues to progress. Wore the “C” for Team Russia at the U18’s and that did not go unnoticed.
21. Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago Steel (USHL): Is considered one of the top skaters in the class. A driver of play and not a sidecar on the best team in the league.
22. Isak Rosen, RW, Leksand (SHL): There’s a power element in many phases of his game, be it getting off the mark or driving wide on the wing.
23. Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): Issuing hall passes to any team that takes a goalie in the first round this year, and this year only. Aside from that Cossa, a mass of humanity at 6-foot-6 and 212 pounds, is athletic, technically sound, and confident in his abilities.
24. Daniil Chayka, D, Guelph Storm (OHL): Somewhat of a wildcard based on a rollercoaster season, but he has size, skates well, has a bomb of a shot, and is still quite raw.
25. Zachary Dean, C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): There’s not a scout I’ve talked to who doesn’t love the way Dean approaches the game. Skill evaluation will determine how high up the draft board he goes.
26. Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL): Progressed well from the start of the U18s to the end, but at times he leaves you wanting more.
27. Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea Jr. (SWE): Despite a lot of movement between leagues and teams, his entire body of work paints a picture where a future third-line role is the absolute floor.
28. Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL): Produced through some early adversity for Canada at the U18. If NHL teams project him to his natural centre position, he may end up going higher than this ranking.
29. Logan Stankoven, RW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): In perpetual motion, another smaller (5-foot-8, 170 pounds), energetic type who works well in-tight. Size will concern some.
30. Logan Mailloux, D, London Knights (OHL): With a season in Europe behind him, there’s plenty to like from an on-ice perspective. Big right shot defencemen who move well, skate well and play with bite, are a rarity and valued.
31. Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (OHL): Has been on a nice trajectory from transitioning from minor hockey to Flint, then through Switzerland, and finally as a standout for Canada’s gold medal-winning U18 team.
32. Ayrton Martino, LW, Omaha Lancers (USHL): A prolific scorer for Toronto in Tier II two years ago, Martino took his act to Omaha and didn’t miss a beat. His 56 points in 38 games led all USHL rookies.