Nick Richard’s top 32 prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Nick Richard2 years ago
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The 2021 draft class has been an interesting and challenging one to evaluate. There was far less consensus than most years to begin with and with the hockey world turned upside down due to the pandemic, many prospects ended up playing fewer games than they normally would with some unable to get into any game action at all. Others such as Brandt Clarke, Mason McTavish, and Francesco Pinelli to name a few, were forced to pack their bags and travel halfway around the world to continue their development and build upon their draft stock.
This class lacks true star talent at the top like we have grown accustomed to in recent years and despite plenty of talk about it being a weak draft, I think the overall quality of the class is comparable to most years. While there may not be a true franchise player available this year, there are several players that have the potential to become core pieces for NHL teams in the future.
These rankings are based on a combination of my own personal viewings as well as discussions and debates with other scouts throughout the last year. Pace and skill level are of great importance but I also place a large emphasis on decision making and hockey sense while trying to balance a player’s floor against their upside and the chances of them reaching it.
1. Matthew Beniers
C | 6’2″ | 175lbs | Michigan (NCAA)
In a draft class that is short on elite talent and includes plenty of uncertainty, no prospect strikes a better balance of floor and upside than Beniers. He had an outstanding freshman season for a strong Michigan team, finishing with 10 goals and 14 assists in 24 games while playing in all situations and averaging over 17 minutes of ice time per game. He also had a strong showing for the gold medal winning American team at the World Juniors after being thrust into a larger role when other players became unavailable to play, and again represented his country at the World Championships where he held his own against more mature competition.
Beniers is a refined player whose game is built on intelligence, great skating ability, and a motor that never stops running. His defensive game is advanced for his age and the pace at which he plays puts constant pressure on the opposition, both with and without the puck on his stick. He is a force in both offensive and defensive transition, able to create entries for his team and disrupt plays on the backcheck through intelligent routes and tireless effort. He may never win a scoring title but Beniers projects pretty clearly as the type of two-way center that contending teams are built around.
2. William Eklund
W | 5-10 | 176lbs | Djurgården (SHL)
Eklund is a gifted offensive forward who was able to produce against difficult competition in the SHL as a first-year draft eligible, racking up 11 goals and 12 assists across 40 games before adding another pair of points in three playoff contests.
He doesn’t have blazing speed but he is very elusive in tight spaces and has the skill and processing ability to execute plays under pressure. Eklund’s vision is outstanding and he is able to complete difficult passes through layers, funneling pucks to high danger areas to create offense for his team. He creates space to make plays through deception, manipulating defenders with quick dekes or shoulder fakes and can finish scoring chances for himself as well. Eklund has all the makings of a dual offensive threat at the NHL level.
3. Simon Edvinsson
LHD | 6’4″ | 198lbs | Frölunda (J20 Nationell)
Edvinsson is perhaps the most divisive player in the top part of this draft, and while there is still a lot of projection in his game, his raw tools are among the most enticing in the class. He played across multiple levels this past season, including a stint in the SHL and a trip to the U18 World Championships where he played big minutes for Sweden.
Pegged by many as an offensive defenseman because of his mobility and puck handling skills, Edvinsson’s defensive game is every bit as exciting. He has great reach that he uses to maintain good gaps in transition while forcing attackers where he wants them to go and he is more than willing to engage physically. He does, however, still need to add strength to his frame and work on becoming a more efficient puck mover. I am admittedly higher on Edvinsson than many people I’ve spoken with and he still has plenty of developing to do in terms of his decision making with the puck on his stick but I am a big believer in the tools he possesses and I won’t be surprised if he ends up being the most impactful player from this draft when all is said and done.
4. Owen Power
LHD | 6’6″ | 213lbs | Michigan (NCAA)
Power has been tabbed by many as the top prospect in this draft, due in large part to his impressive showing playing big minutes as a freshman for Michigan and his role on Canada’s gold medal winning squad at the recent World Championships.
The 6’6″ blue liner is an intriguing package of size and skill who skates quite well for a player with his frame. Power’s skating shines most when he activates as a puck carrier or jumps up into the rush to support play but I have concerns about his change of direction and ability to defend in transition when opposing forwards attack with speed. He is far more creative as a passer in the offensive zone than he is in transition but still needs to improve his mobility inside the blue line to take full advantage of those skills. There is a lot to work with here and you can be sure that Power will be one of the first names off the board on draft day.
5. Jesper Wallstedt
G | 6’3″ | 214lbs | Luleå (SHL)
Wallstedt is a technically sound, mature goaltender who turned heads playing against men in the SHL this season. He was also a rare bright spot for the Swedish team at the World Juniors where he put up a .923 save percentage in the two games he got to play.
The young Swede moves well in his crease without being too active, relying on his technique to eliminate shooting areas. Wallstedt can also make athletic saves when the situation calls for it but he is more of a positional goaltender. He tracks the puck well and is able to maintain his composure as he fights through traffic, an encouraging sign for a young goaltender playing in one of the top professional leagues in the world. It may seem risky to take a goaltender this high but Wallstedt has as good a chance as anyone in this draft to become a franchise cornerstone for the team that selects him.
6. Kent Johnson
C/W | 6’1″ | 167lbs | Michigan (NCAA)
If William Eklund is the most talented offensive player in the draft, Kent Johnson isn’t far behind. He put up 27 points in 26 games as part of Michigan’s exceptional freshman class – many of the highlight reel variety.
Johnson can do just about anything with the puck on his stick, able to make defenders look silly with some of the moves he pulls off, and he is an elite passer as well. His raw skill is undeniable. He sometimes relies on that skill too much, however, and will have to work on picking his spots a little better as he climbs the ranks. The biggest area of concern with Johnson is his skating ability as he can be elusive but lacks the explosiveness to create separation consistently. Johnson will have to round out his game while improving his skating but the pure offensive skill and vision are elite.
7. Brandt Clarke
RHD | 6’2″ | 185lbs | Barrie (OHL)
A contender for the first overall pick to begin the season, Clarke was forced to head to Slovakia on loan when the OHL’s season was initially delayed. After an understandable adjustment period, Clarke acquitted himself quite well at the men’s level and finished with five goals and 10 assists in 25 games for Nove Zamky. Upon his return to North America, he starred for Canada at the U18 World Championships where he tallied seven points in seven contests to affirm his status near the top of the draft class.
Clarke is an extremely talented offensive defenseman who strikes an impressive balance between aggressiveness and patience. He is constantly pushing the play forward but has the patience to let things develop and find clean lanes. What holds him back is his ugly skating stride and one has to wonder just what he might be capable of if he is able to clean that up as he continues his development. Clarke has the brain and offensive skillset to be an impact defenseman at the NHL level but the extent to which he is able to improve his mobility could determine his ceiling.
8. Fabian Lysell
W | 5’10” | 172lbs | Luleå (SHL)
Lysell is another player that seemingly has scouts divided, and though he was unable to grab hold of a prominent SHL role in his draft year, he has been a force to be reckoned with at Sweden’s lower levels. I also thought he was quite impressive at the recent U18s where he tied for his team’s scoring lead with nine points in seven games.
Lysell’s game is all about pace. He has explosive speed that allows him to blow by defenders and agility to weave between checks with the puck on his stick. He is a slick playmaker with good vision and he doesn’t need a lot of time to find his target or get a quick shot off. His puck pursuit game is also a strength as he uses his skating ability, work ethic, and quick hands to disrupt plays on the forecheck or in defensive transition. Still working to find consistency, Lysell is a prospect that currently plays in quick lightning strikes but one that has the potential to develop into a full on storm in the coming years.
9. Luke Hughes
LHD | 6’2″ | 184lbs | U.S U18 (USNTDP)
The younger brother of Quinn and Jack, Luke possesses the skating ability that his brothers do and the size that they don’t. He was a standout for the USNTDP U18 team where he played big minutes and scored a total of 34 points in 38 games as one of the youngest players in the draft class. He is slated to begin his collegiate career at Michigan next season.
Hughes is a fantastic skater and he puts it to use creating clean breakouts and entries for his team. He doesn’t hesitate to join the rush or activate from the blue line and he has the offensive skill to create opportunities for himself and his teammates. He can be too aggressive at times, however, and his defensive game is still very much a work in progress. If he can improve his processing speed in defensive zone coverage and clean up some of his decision making, Hughes could develop into a high end NHL puck mover that can be trusted in big minutes.
10. Fyodor Svechkov
C | 6’0″ | 187lbs | Togliatti (VHL)
Svechkov isn’t quite at the same level as Matty Beniers but he is a very strong defensive center in his own right. He spent his draft year playing in Lada Togliatti’s system, splitting time between the MHL and VHL. He was a point per game player at the junior level and built off of that at the U18s where he finished with four goals and six assists in seven games for Russia.
The young pivot displays intelligence and strong habits all over the ice, responsibly supporting the play on defense and offense. Svechkov is constantly scanning the ice, aware of oncoming threats as well as opportunities to turn play the other way and he consistently engages the play low in his own zone. Those smarts translate to the offensive end as well, where he has good spatial awareness and vision to set up his teammates for scoring chances. Svechkov might not be a player that jumps off the screen but his advanced two-way game translates to the next level pretty safely.
11. Mason McTavish
C | 6’1″ | 207lbs | Peterborough (OHL)
Another strong two-way center, McTavish is also a prospect that had to pack his bags in order to play meaningful hockey in his draft year. Suiting up for 13 games in the Swiss pro league, he was able to find the net nine times while adding a pair of assists and he was even more productive at the U18 Worlds against his peers with five goals and six assists in just seven games.
McTavish is a mature player, both physically and mentally. He isn’t an elite skater and he may not be overly flashy but more often than not, he makes the right play with the puck on his stick. He uses his body and physical strength to his advantage in the cycle game and in getting to the net where he has a knack for boxing out defenders to get to loose pucks. His defensive game is strong as well and he won’t cheat you on effort. McTavish looks like a player that will make an impact in the top six of an NHL lineup, even if he is pushed over to the wing eventually.
12. Dylan Guenther
W | 6’2″ | 175 | Edmonton (WHL)
Guenther might be the best pure shooter in the draft. He scored 12 goals and 12 assists in just 12 games with Edmonton in the shortened WHL season and added another four goals through seven games at the U18s.
His shot is already an NHL caliber weapon, able to release it from multiple points and generate power while in stride. Like most good goal scorers, Guenther has a strong understanding of space and how to find soft spots in defensive coverage to get open for scoring opportunities. He is also a capable distributor but make no mistake, his shot will be his meal ticket at the next level. He may never be an impactful transition or defensive winger but Guenther has the tools to be a big time goal scorer in the NHL.
13. Aatu Räty
C | 6’2″ | 185lbs | Kärpät (Liiga)
It has been a difficult season for Räty after being considered as the consensus top pick as recently as a year ago. He was cut from Finland’s WJC squad after making the team in his draft-1 season, and was even sent down to the U20 Finnish league for a stint when he was struggling at the Liiga level.
Despite his down year, Räty still has the potential to be a good NHL center. He has good size and strength for the position, willing to play in the middle of the ice and battle through traffic. He is not an overly skilled puck handler but he does have a strong shot and will benefit from learning to use his teammates a bit better as he progresses toward the NHL. Räty’s off-puck game showed progression this year as well and he became a more reliable defender while causing more difficulty for opponents on the forecheck. There is still a wide range of outcomes for Räty but the potential is there for him to develop into a strong second line center in the NHL.
14. Cole Sillinger
C/W | 6’0″ | 197lbs | Sioux Falls (USHL)
With the WHL season on hold, Sillinger took his talents to the USHL where he regularly lit up the score board for Sioux Falls to the tune of 24 goals and 22 assists in just 31 games. Unfortunately, he was unable to compete at the U18 World Championships as the result of COVID protocols.
Sillinger’s shot is devastating, able to score in a variety of ways from all over the offensive zone. He often invites contact, playing a strong board game to establish possessions for his team, but also has the ability to navigate into space and get his heavy shot off. One concern is Sillinger’s skating as he lacks the mobility and explosiveness to beat defenders with his feet. Another concern is his apparent disregard for playing on the defensive side of the puck and those are areas he will have to make a commitment to improving upon if he is going to make good on his offensive upside in the NHL.
15. Oskar Olausson
W | 6’1″ | 180lbs | HV71 (SHL)
Olausson played across multiple levels this season, including a 16 game stint in the SHL and a trip to the World Juniors where he represented Sweden as a first-year draft eligible. He was extremely productive at the J20 level with 27 points in just 16 games for HV71’s junior squad.
The first thing that stands out about Olausson is his excellent skating ability and the rest of his game is built around that. He is an excellent transitional winger, generating speed through crossovers as he attacks defenders with diverse rush patterns through the neutral zone. His quickness and four-way mobility make him an effective small-area player in the offensive zone and he has the skill to generate chances for himself and his teammates as well. Olausson might not have the same pure offensive upside as some other players at the top of the class but he plays a well rounded game and his floor as a middle six NHL winger feels relatively safe.
16. Matthew Coronato
W | 5’10” | 183lbs | Chicago (USHL)
Coronato was a monster for Chicago this season, scoring 48 goals in just 51 games to lead the USHL. His 85 total points were good enough for second best in the league, just behind teammate and 2020 draft pick Sean Farrell. He went on to lead the USHL playoffs in scoring with 13 points in eight games, helping propel the Steel to a Clark Cup title.
His goal scoring acumen is obvious, consistently getting into scoring areas where his finishing ability often overwhelmed USHL netminders. He has a good shot but it isn’t on the same level as Guenther’s or Sillinger’s and he relies more on his work getting into dangerous areas to produce offense. Coronato’s playmaking is also a strength and his overall offensive profile projects him as a dual threat at the next level. His skating is average, however, and he will become much more dangerous if he is able to get off his heels a bit and become more explosive as he develops.
17. Simon Robertsson
W | 6’0″ | 190lbs | Skellefteå (SHL)
Another Swedish prospect that played across multiple levels in his draft year, Robertsson managed just a goal and an assist in 22 SHL games but was productive at the J20 level with 20 points in 15 contests.
Robertsson has a great shot, able to beat goaltenders from distance with a quick and accurate release. He can load up and pick his spots, fire rapid snap shots, or hammer one-timers from the half wall. He plays a well rounded game but he doesn’t have spectacular vision or playmaking ability and will need to improve his skating as well. Aside from his shot, Robertsson doesn’t have many standout attributes but he does a lot of things well and should have a long career as a middle six NHL winger.
18. Sebastian Cossa
G | 6’6″ | 210 | Edmonton (WHL)
Cossa put up some outstanding numbers in the condensed WHL season, finishing with a 1.57 GAA and .941 save percentage through 19 games for Edmonton. He may have been playing in a weak division but that kind of performance is hard to diminish.
Cossa has great size for the position and his big frame allows him to take away the bottom part of the net without leaving himself overly vulnerable to shots up high. He tracks pucks through traffic extremely well and his rebound control is advanced for a young goaltender. Where Wallstedt relies more on his technique, Cossa is a bit more reactive in his crease and will sell out for difficult saves more frequently. Goaltenders are never a sure thing but Cossa presents an interesting package and he has the potential to be one of the best netminders drafted in recent years.
19. Zach Dean
C | 6’0″ | 176lbs | Gatineau (QMJHL)
Dean is a high octane, two-way center who managed 20 points in 23 games for Gatineau this season. His production might not be at the level of some other top prospects in this class but his tools certainly are.
He is an incredible skater and puck handler who creates entries for his team with ease and he probably would have produced at a higher rate with a better supporting cast. Dean is relentless without the puck on his stick, always working hard to get it back and turn play in a positive direction. He is difficult to contain in tight spaces and that part of his game will only improve as he grows and adds lower body strength to his frame. Dean plays that “waterbug” style of hockey and I’m willing to bet he will be a fan favorite for whichever organization brings him in.
20. Nikita Chibrikov
W | 5’10” | 170lbs | SKA (MHL)
Chibrikov has been something of a polarizing figure in my discussions with other scouts this season. His raw skill is evident but he struggles with consistency in his game. His production across three levels in Russia this season doesn’t jump off the page but he was the fourth highest scoring player at the U18s with 13 points in just seven games.
Chibrikov’s game is all about skill. His skating is nearly flawless and he uses that in combination with his great puck handling ability to manipulate defenders in space. He is also a great passer, able to find teammates through layers but sometimes struggles when defenders take away his time and space. Chibrikov can run into trouble when he relies too much on that skill and he has a tendency to force plays to the middle at times. He has a bit of boom or bust potential but there is no denying that Chibrikov is one of the most talented players in the 2021 draft.
21. Francesco Pinelli
C | 6’0″ | 185lbs | Kitchener (OHL)
Pinelli took a trip to Slovenia in his draft year, getting into 13 games for HDD Jesenice and recording 11 points in the process. He suited up for Canada at the U18s to wrap up his season, tying Mason McTavish for the second most points on the team with 11 in just seven games.
Pinelli’s best attributes are his intelligence and hockey sense and, as a result, his game is a bit more subtle than some of the other highly ranked prospects in the class. He is a strong playmaker and does well to draw defenders to him and manipulate space to create passing lanes in the offensive zone, as well as in transition. My biggest concern with Pinelli is his lack of pace and the fact that he can sometimes look uninterested when his team doesn’t have possession of the puck. That said, he has the potential to be an effective two-way, dual offensive threat center and his brain gives him a pretty safe NHL floor.
22. Corson Ceulemans
RHD | 6’2″ | 198lbs | Brooks (AJHL)
Ceulemans has an exciting skillset for a modern day defenseman but there are holes in his game and his eight games at the AJHL level didn’t exactly erase those concerns. He was productive over a small sample this season, though, and finished with a combined five goals and 14 assists over 14 games between the AJHL and U18 World Championships.
He doesn’t have the cleanest skating stride but gets around the ice pretty well nonetheless and his puck handling ability has allowed him to elude checks at lower levels. Ceulemans has a heavy slap shot and a good wrister but sometimes struggles to find lanes to get the puck through from the point. He needs to improve his mobility at the offensive blue line and make better decisions to maximize his offensive contributions while mitigating turnovers. There is work to be done on the defensive side of the puck as well but he likes to engage physically and finish his checks. Ceulemans’ development path might be a bit longer and there are sure to be bumps in the road, but his tool kit will be enticing to teams on draft day.
23. Chaz Lucius
C/W | 6’1″ | 185lbs | U.S U18 (USNTDP)
Lucius missed a big chunk of the season recovering from a lingering knee injury but returned to the USNTDP U18 squad late in the year, tallying 13 goals and seven assists in just 13 games.
Lucius is a talented offensive player that can make things happen with his shot or by making a slick feed to a teammate in space. There are a variety of shots in his arsenal and they are already NHL caliber weapons that should help him find the back of the net at the pro level. Lucius has good hands and can execute under pressure but his lack of pace forces him to play under pressure more often than you would like to see. He’s going to score at the NHL level but he may not offer much else and his skating probably forces him to the wing as a pro.
24. Isak Rosén
W | 5’11” | 156lbs | Leksands (SHL)
Rosén was a productive player against his peers this season, scoring 12 points in 12 J20 games and adding nine points in seven games at the U18 World Championships, but was unable to leverage his skills into offensive production at the SHL level.
An excellent skater, Rosén layers his deft puck handling ability on top of his mobility to beat defenders in space. He is shifty and elusive with an understanding of where the soft spots are in the offensive zone. He has a good shot, especially for a player his size and he can set up his teammates in dangerous areas. The biggest issues for Rosén are his slight frame and lack of physical strength which have made it too easy to keep him to the outside at the pro level. The skill and IQ are there, though, and if he can maintain the elusiveness and speed that makes him effective while adding strength, he could blossom into a dynamic offensive player in the NHL.
25. Logan Stankoven
W | 5’8″ | 170lbs | Kamploops (WHL)
Stankoven didn’t play a lot of hockey in his draft year, taking the ice for just six WHL contests and another seven games at the U18s, but he made the most of his time and finished with 18 total points across his 13 games.
Standing at just 5’8″, Stankoven plays bigger than he is and his motor is always clipping off the limiter. He plays a straight ahead game and is relentless on the attack, wreaking havoc with one of the best shots in the draft class. His playmaking was on display a bit more this season as well, showing that he won’t have to simply rely on his goal scoring to produce at the next level. Stankoven has plenty of translatable tools and plays a responsible game but his skating isn’t great for a player his size and that will be an area of focus for him moving forward. Still, I won’t be surprised if he vastly outperforms this ranking when all is said and done in his NHL career.
26. Ville Koivunen
W | 5’11” | 161lbs | Kärpät (U20 SM-sarja)
Koivunen was an absolute force at Finland’s U20 level, scoring 23 goals and 26 assists in just 38 games. He also finished second in scoring for Finland at the U18s with four goals and six assists in seven contests.
A creative offensive player, Koivunen has a knack for making those around him better by making intelligent reads and crafty plays with the puck on his stick. His puck skills are elite and he has the hockey IQ to take advantage of those talents, taking the puck into scoring areas or finding a teammate with a heads up pass. Koivunen could stand to round out his off-puck game and add some more explosiveness to his stride but he can impact the game offensively in so many different ways that he should hear his name called near the end of the first-round or early on day two.
27. Zachary Bolduc
C | 6’1″ | 175lbs | Rimouski (QMJHL)
I’ve mentioned a few polarizing players in this ranking to this point already, but Bolduc might take the cake in that regard. He is a very toolsy player that has struggled mightily with consistency issues but still managed to tally 29 points in 27 games for Rimouski.
Bolduc at his best is a sure fire first-round pick. The problem is that his best didn’t show up nearly often enough and that brings questions about his habits, both in-game and off the ice. He is a strong skater, smooth puck handler, and he has a good release on his wrist shot but sometimes struggles to create his own opportunities. In my viewings, Bolduc’s transition game was really strong as he leveraged his speed and mobility to create entries while taking efficient routes on the back check to disrupt opposing rush chances but again, he needs to do it with more consistency. You might have to squint a bit to see it, and he may never reach it, but Bolduc has the potential to grow into a play driving pivot in the NHL someday.
28. Brennan Othmann
W | 6’0″ | 175lbs | Flint (OHL)
Othmann played on the same Swiss league club as Mason McTavish in his draft year, notching seven goals and nine assists in 34 games. He added another six points at the U18 Worlds, playing a significant role for Canada’s gold medal winning team.
Othmann plays an aggressive, straight ahead style of hockey and loves to make things happen off the rush. He has a good shot that he can release in stride with plenty of power and his aggressiveness keeps opposing defenders on their heels. Othmann is relentless on the forecheck and relishes opportunities to finish his checks, regularly causing takeaways or disrupting breakouts. His defensive game has it’s warts but if he can bring the same intensity to the defensive end that he brings off the rush or on the forecheck, he has the makings of an NHL caliber energy player with a bit of scoring punch.
29. Tristan Broz
C | 6’0″ | 178lbs | Fargo (USHL)
Broz had a big year in the USHL, leading the Fargo Force with 51 points in 54 games and added another 11 points in nine playoff games as he helped lead his squad to the Clark Cup Final. He is slated to join the University of Minnesota program next season.
Broz is a cerebral player, constantly hunting for the soft spots in defensive zone coverages when he doesn’t have the puck. He takes intelligent routes in transition to make himself available for a pass, identifies his options early, and can finish plays with his quick release or set teammates up with his creative passing ability. Broz’s limitations mostly stem from his average skating and puck skills but he is a very intelligent player who does so many little things well that I don’t think those issues will hinder him from having a successful NHL career. I’m a big fan of his game and if he doesn’t hear his name called in the first-round, some team could be getting a steal on day two of the draft.
30. Mackie Samoskevich
W | 5’11” | 191lbs | Chicago (USHL)
Samoskevich’s modest production of 13 goals and 24 assists in 36 regular season USHL games doesn’t do his skill level justice. He produced in the playoffs, however, finishing fourth in overall postseason scoring as a part of Chicago’s Clark Cup winning squad.
He is an elite puck handler with a wide array of moves in his repertoire and that makes him a dangerous player off the rush. He doesn’t need a lot of time or space to receive a pass or pick up a loose puck and quickly transition into a deke or touch pass. Samoskevich sees the ice well, both in transition and during sustained offensive zone sequences, and can make creative passes through layers in coverage. His skating isn’t a standout tool and he would benefit from adding some explosiveness to his stride but he gets around the ice well enough to become a scoring middle six winger at the next level.
31. Stanislav Svozil
LHD | 6’1″ | 182lbs | Kometa Brno (Czech)
Svozil spent most of his draft year playing in the Czech pro league where he tallied three points in 30 games. He played well at the World Juniors as an underager and also represented his country at the U18s where he showed well against his peers.
The budding Czech blue liner is a reliable, mature defensive presence that has been able to hold his own against pro level competition for two full seasons now. Though he may not have a ton of pure offensive upside, Svozil is a reliable puck mover. He is poised with the puck on his stick and can start a breakout with a good first pass or skate it out himself, eluding checks to push play forward. He maintains great gap control in the neutral zone and has an advanced understanding of how to defend in transition. He isn’t likely to develop into a first pairing defender or powerplay quarterback, but Svozil’s refined defensive game makes him about as safe a pick as you’ll find outside the top half of the first round.
32. Evan Nause
LHD | 6’2″ | 186lbs | Québec (QMJHL)
Nause showed continuous growth over the course of the season with Québec and finished the campaign with 22 in points in 38 games, steadily increasing his draft stock along the way.
Nause is a smooth skating defender with good size and defensive instincts. He excels on puck retrievals and breakouts, using his body to protect the puck while employing shoulder checks to identify his options. He can elude forecheckers on his own and he is a strong puck mover from the back end but he can be a bit conservative when it comes to pushing for offense. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and he did begin to show a bit more offensive flare as the season wore on so the potential for more is there. Even if he doesn’t become an offensive threat at the pro level, he has one of the more projectable defensive toolkits in the draft class.
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)
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