It’s Draft Season! This has been one heck of a year. The players not playing regular games in regular settings and having to inch and claw to get tape in order to evaluate some of these guys; it was crazy. Now that things are slowly going back to normal, it’s time for our yearly NHL Mock Draft. This year was exceptionally difficult for me for personal reasons, but I still made my due diligence in order to provide you with what I believe will happen on draft day.
This year’s crop is completely wild, due primarily to the nature of the season at hand. Such small or irregular sample sizes for players than in previous years are going to make for some pretty wild picks. That being said, I tried to keep this as realistic as possible, while providing you with all the reasoning behind each selection.
**Of note, I did not count the forfeit pick as a selection, so the order in the draft is from 1 to 31.
1. Buffalo Sabres : Owen Power
Owen Power is an absolute monster out there. At 6’5 and 214 lbs Power could likely already play in the NHL at 18, but I would caution against it in order to further develop his offensive traits at the University of Michigan. As a true freshman, the young rearguard put up 3 goals and 13 assists for 16 points in 26 games. Power started the year off well with Michigan and his talent was undeniable. A player of his size able to move the way he does (he can cover a ridiculous amount of ice rather quickly), immediately jumps out at you. He plays a rather mature defensive game for a true freshman and was very good at boxing out players and forcing them to the outside with his long reach.
Owen Power is good.— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) July 13, 2021
Watched a number of his shifts today from this season. Calm under pressure. Remarkable skater. Really has a feel for when to join the rush. Impressive goal here against Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/olGSv6a68a
Power is a machine at 5 on 5, as a rookie he was counted on for 20+ minutes a game and had a Corsi% over 60%. For a team that already had Philadelphia’s 2019 1st rounder Cam York at the top, it was actually Power who was the most reliable and effective player at 5 on 5. He did so by using his frame, skating ability and stupendous hockey sense to protect the puck and exit his zones with ease. There were some games where Power would just go for a skate, and nobody could touch him.
His offensive tools are really impressive when you factor in his defensive game. He doesn’t have a blistering shot, but it’s incredibly precise and it has eyes. However, it’s Power’s vision and ability to move the puck quickly, and with incredible deception, that make him destined to be a PP quarterback in the NHL. He can command a powerplay from the blueline and fake out penalty killers to open up lanes for his teammates, while also leaving the option open for him to take the shot himself. Furthermore, his ability to retrieve lose pucks in the offensive zone is a quality not many value, but I find extremely important for the maintenance and healthy distribution of the puck. Power is able to pounce on loose pucks or broken plays to retain possession and hurt the opposition in multiple ways.
Owen Power (2021) does a nice job using his stick to keep the oncoming attacker to the outside on the rush pic.twitter.com/GhTiGKF81o— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) December 2, 2020
I absolutely love the total package of Owen Power and I feel like Buffalo can’t pass up a player of his ilk at this stage, even if Center is the most dire need, should they trade Jack Eichel. However, Power has the potential to be a perfect compliment to Rasmus Dahlin and would finally give the Buffalo Sabres the defensive pillars they need to control play at 5 on 5 and dominate possession all game long. In short, Power is a top pair D in the making and one I’d be comfortable picking #1.
2. Seattle Kraken : Matthew Beniers
I’d like to stress Matt Beniers is going to be one hell of a two-way C, but that he is not whom I believe has the 2nd highest upside in this draft. With Seattle joining the NHL this season, the first place GMs like to shore up when their cupboards are bare is down the middle. Berniers fits that mold of a pick quite well, as he has exceptional hockey sense and electrifying skating ability. As a true freshman at the University of Michigan this year, he wow scouts with his exceptional puck handling skills and blazing speed. He was able to walk around players 4 or 5 years older than him with ease, as he overloaded them with his speed and left them in the dust as he would fake them out and cut through the middle to set up a streaking teammate.
Matt Beniers is primarily a playmaker. He has great vision and has a knack for attracting multiple opposing players, leaving his teammates free for a pass, which Berniers is skilled enough to put right on their tape. On top of his exceptional speed and passing ability, Beniers is one of the best two-way players in this draft. His positioning on the ice is second to none, with only Svechkov really coming close. He dominates the neutral zone with his speed and hockey sense and is a counterattack machine, often going end-to-end to create a scoring chance out of nothing.
I think Beniers needs to work on increasing the velocity of his shot, as a little more power on it could make him an even more dangerous threat offensively. However, this is a minor aspect he needs to correct in order to become that coveted top-6 C that can do it all.
Beniers reminds me so much of Matt Barzal at the same age due to his blazing speed and elite hockey sense. I feel his 2-way game will have him ready for the NHL faster than most believe, although one more season at the University of Michigan would likely do him wonders before making Seattle’s roster as a 19 yr old. Ultimately, I feel like he’s the surest bet in this draft to be an impact player, and it all starts with his skating and exceptional two-way play.
3. Anaheim Ducks: William Eklund
William Eklund is skill personified. He’s the most skilled forward of this entire class and could realistically challenge Beniers and Power to go #1, but ultimately falls to Anaheim who run up the virtual podium to select him. Putting up 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points with Djugardens IF of the SHL, Eklund hit the ground running in his draft year. He’s a dual threat offensive player that uses his his elite vision and great array of shots to burn you in ways you haven’t even thought of yet. On top of being extremely skills with the puck, Eklund is not shy to engage in physical content, also having a slight feistiness to his game, resulting in positive outcomes for him in tighter games.
Just a ridiculously skilled play by William Eklund (2021) to fake the one timer and complete a no-look touch pass between his legs for the assist in yesterday’s game. pic.twitter.com/74OIZV9VGJ— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) January 28, 2021
The deception in Eklund’s game is already NHL level, even I as the viewer have no idea what he’s about to do. When he enters the zone with speed, he’s able to use his great stickhandling and hockey sense to make the right play before the defenseman even has time to react. What’s better? To go with this solid package of shooting and playmaking ability, Eklund has a relentless motor, capable of pushing himself to the maximum on every play.
Eklund thinks the game at such an elite level and has the heart of a lion. The Ducks are building something pretty special in Orange Country and Eklund could come and compliment a Trevor Zegras quite well down the line. His combination of incredible skill and never-say-die play make him a sure bet to make the NHL and perform as a top-line player
4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes
The youngest Hughes brother is up to bat here and I feel like he will come in and complete New Jersey’s defensive corps quite nicely. Hughes has a really good frame already at 6’2 and 176lbs, while possessing electric skating ability. I don’t mean this lightly, he’s a better skater than Quinn was at the same age, his skating stride is damn near perfect already. He uses it quite effectively to skate off forecheckers and start breakouts. With the USNDP he was a zone exit/machine, often going end to end, slowing down the game once the zone entry was achieved and making an exceptional pass to a teammate for a scoring chance or extended offensive zone possession.
Luke Hughes is a bigger version of his brother, Quinn. Obviously, he has a long way to go before pushing to be an NHL All-Star, but he’s got the chops.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) June 2, 2020
Wears #43 like his big bro too. https://t.co/LT4cOGuzVi pic.twitter.com/fH23706dpj
Hughes doesn’t possess the strongest wrist shot, but it’s a shot that has eyes and often finds itself through traffic. He’s far more of a playmaker, utilizing great puck skills and exceptional vision in order to make highlight reel plays to setup his teammates. From the point he could QB a powerplay, using his great skating to toe the line and optimally distribute the puck to open up passing and shooting lanes. His hockey sense, couples with his great offensive tools, make him to pan out a s a #2 or #3, while being able to play in all situations, yes even the PK!
LUKE HUGHES. Spin and pass to Jack Hughes (no relation) and Jack scores. pic.twitter.com/pjlLJOiMlv— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) February 16, 2020
For New Jersey, they really need one more defensemen to add to their rapidly growing prospect pool. Hughes will come in and form one of the better 1-2 punches on the left side of New Jersey’s defense with Ty Smith.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Dylan Guenther
Guenther is that classic power forward type shooters that teams sell the farm to acquire. He was an absolute monster for the Edmonton Oil Kings in this shortened WHL season, putting up 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points in 12 games. As a pure goalscorer, he has one of the most powerful releases in the draft. I love watching him shoot, as the puck is often in the back of the net before you can say wow. That’s due to the fact that his shots get off very quickly, and the rise on his wristers, even in tight, are quite something to behold.
Guenther makes up for his lack of top-end speed by being really good at finding holes in the defensive coverage. He often glides in, pouncing on lose pucks or ready to unleash his wrister if his teammates can get him the puck. That’s not to say Guenther waits for the puck, far from it, he is going to be the first guy battling in the corners to get possession and cycle the puck back to the point. We got a full view of his talent against top competition at the U-18s for Canada, where he put up 4 goals and 3 assists for 7 points in 7 games. Although those aren’t insane statistics, it was evident to all that he already possessed an NHL worthy shot.
I believe that if Guenther can improve his explosivity and improve his deceptiveness by developing his playmaking game a little further, he’s a surefire 30G-30A type of guy that only gets better in tighter games. I might be higher on him than others, but I am a sucker for drafting pure goal scorers, and Guenther will be just that.