21. Minnesota Wild: Brennan Othmann
I love watching Othmann on the ice. Give him the puck and he takes off like a freight train up the ice for a quick transition and is a zone entry machine. His skating and explosiveness makes it so that Othmann can execute both breakouts and zone entries, but his offensive tools, most notably his precise and deceptive wrist shot, force defenders to back up further, opening space and allow him to seek out streaking teammates.
Although he couldn’t play in the OHL this season due to covid-19, he went off to Switzerland in order to get some playing time and didn’t look out of place at all, putting up 7 goals and 8 assists for 15 points in 34 games. During his time there it seemed he was able to grow his game and add more patience to his offensive zone strategy. He holds onto the puck long enough to bait the defending team into committing to checking him, only for Othmann to beat them with speed and rush toward a shooting spot for a scoring chance.
When I watched Othmann play for Team Canada at the U-18s, I saw a lot of growth in his game and honestly believe that he will take the OHL by storm next season. I believe Othmann has the speed and puck skills, and above all, shot, to be an effective top-6 forward for a team. He’s got to get stronger and improve his playmaking (often a shoot-first kind of player), but this will come as he matures as a player.
22. Detroit Red Wings (Via Washington): Aatu Raty
Raty was seen as the consensus #1 draft selection as early as last summer and ultimately fell rather quickly in the draft after concerns in the growth of his game began to surface early on in the season. Although he possesses good speed and above average shooting mechanics, it’s his ability to drive the play on a consistent basis that has hurt his value. The biggest critique was that he was often found floating on the ice, when he should have been player harder, and this became a consistent observation in the early part of this season.
Don’t look now, but Aatu Räty is looking more and more like his old self.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 26, 2021
A hard play and then a nice chance in front just misses. He’s having a game this morning. #2021NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/8JWssyW8W6
Although he does have really good speed with some solid puckhandling skills, the knock is that Raty is easily boxed out by defenders without much of a fight as he constantly tries to rush up the ice through the middle, rather than shifting to the outside or dumping the puck in. Although some of his offensive game may have stagnated, Raty’s defensive game did take significant strides. He plays much stronger against the opposition as he utilizes his skating to swarm the opposition in the neutral zone and create the counter attack.
I still think Raty is going to be a very capable top-6 C in the NHL, but I believe that the lack of growth throughout the first half of last season will scare some teams off in this draft. Detroit will scoop him up without a problem and will allow him to take his time and grow within their organization. It’s the perfect risk to take at this point in the draft.
23. Florida Panthers: Xavier Bourgault
Building on a monster 2019-2020 for the Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL, Xavier Bourgault formed quite the duo with 2020 Dallas 1st rounder Mavrick Bourque. In this very unusual QMJHL season, plagued with stops and gos due to Covid-19, Bourque was still able to build on last season, putting up 20 goals and 20 assists for 40 points in 29 games. Right out of the gate, the skill and puck handling of Bourgault is what wows you. He has really good shooting ability (that release is spectacular) and is able to find the open ice by evading coverage, making him one of the most dangerous triggermen in the entire QMJHL.
Vote (A) or (B) in the comments below for this week’s #TopPlayThursday! 👇— QMJHL (@QMJHL) December 3, 2020
A | Xavier Bourgault (@Cataractes_Shaw) shakes off his opponents before scoring.
B | Zach Dean (@LesOlympiques) dekes out the goaltender from the side of the net. pic.twitter.com/6daCeEjsKW
Where many question Bourgault’s potential will be primarily that he’s an unorthodox skater, creating a lack of consistency in his form, but also in his explosiveness. Obviously, this could be corrected with the proper coaching, but many wonder if there’s an extra gear to be found. I personally think it’s more a question of technique than ability, and that he will find that aspect of his game in due time (especially in the pros). Where I am a little concerned is how Bourgault shies away from traffic and tight areas in order to score his goals. He waits for the pucks to come to him (likely due to playing with such a gifted goal scorer) and thus is seem as too passive or not physically implicated enough. Again, minor issues that can be corrected through training and video coaching.
Beautiful goal from Xavier Bourgault this afternoon, his 7th of the season. I really like his progression since the Bantam Level. Never forget that he is a late. He’s consolidating the huge upside that he has. @Cataractes_Shaw #LHJMQ #QMJHL #2021NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/NXRvafye8G— Benoit Belanger (@BenoitGBelanger) November 26, 2020
Florida has a plethora of playmakers within the organization coming up around the same age as Bourgault, notably Denisenko and Lundell, so finding a triggerman for them in the top-6 was a necessity at this point. Bourgault could really provide value to Florida long term as he continues to work on his game next season before ultimately turning pro.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (Via Toronto): Nikita Chibrikov
Columbus has never been shy to pick out of the KHL and they use their 2nd of three 1st round picks to select the incredibly skilled Nikita Chibrikov. He was a standout for me at the U-18s on a line with Svechkov, and the two showcased their skills really well. In Chibrikov, you get speed and playmaking at top speed. He’s really good at moving the puck in open ice and his passing game is some of the best in this draft overall. His vision is quite exceptional, and he has a really good motor to go with that skill.
Russia’s captain wins it in overtime!— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) April 27, 2021
From down 5-1 to wining 7-6 in OT, Russia 🇷🇺 ttakes down the Americans🇺🇸!!!
Nikita Chibrikov (#2021NHLDraft) goes end to end and sneaks it through the U.S. netminders pads! What a way to kick off the #WorldU18s! pic.twitter.com/eAQGBdd2dy
Chibrikov is at his best when he<s moving his feet and on the rush. Many question his ability to play in tighter situations when the stakes are higher, as he tries to force plays along the boards or take low percentage shots toward goal. That being said, once Chibrikov gets stronger on his skates and a little more explosive, he will create that open ice for himself, and that is where he is able to pounce on the opposition. From his skating, vision, passing and surprisingly chippy game alone, he’s a 1st round draft pick in my eyes.
I personally see all the tools of a very successful middle-6 forward who will compliment a scoring line quite well. In Columbus, he’ll have all the time he needs to continue to grow and work on the other aspects of the puck, including his defense. I think Columbus see where the game is going, and will look at the total package and draft this young man.
25. Minnesota Wild (Via Pittsburgh): Daniil Chayka
Enter the most polarizing player in the draft among scouting services in Daniil Chayka. The massive Russian defenseman had quite the up and down year after playing the last two season in the OHL with the Guelph Storm. Although he looked like a surefire 1st round pick not one year ago, many within the scouting community were worried that his bouncing around from MHL to VHL to KHL potentially hampered his development and thus make him a risky pick at this junction. Personally, his talent is undeniable, as he is quite mobile for a big man, while possessing excellent offensive weapons, including his one timer and a monster wrist shot. On some nights, he could be the most noticeable defenseman on the ice, and on others less so.
On the defensive side, he is very good at boxing out forwards and forcing them to the outside with his long reach and active stick. Where many sour on him as a prospect is how consistently he does so at an effective rate. However, I feel like this was a difficult year for many prospects to truly progress, as even the top tier of this draft class would like to return to their respective teams for another year, and Chayka is no exception. I think another year in the OHL, after having matured physically and played with men could do him some good.
Ultimately, I feel Chayka has that top-4 D potential and the Minnesota Wild, who took a more defensive O’Rouke last draft, would love to add a more offensive minded rearguard of Chayka’s stature at this point in the draft. I feel like they have the ability to take a risk here, but make no mistake, this is a boom or bust style pick.