NHL Entry Draft 1st Round Pick Grades

Emerald City Hockey’s resident scout Dylan Travers gives his grades for all 32 1st round picks in the 2021 NHL Draft:

  1. Buffalo Sabres – Owen Power – Grade: A

It’s hard to argue with choosing the consensus first overall player. Even if he’s a total bust, at least everyone else is as surprised as you are. That said, I don’t think Power will be a bust. He might take a few years to reach his all star potential, but Buffalo should have found the true number one blueliner they’ve been searching for.

2. Seattle Kraken – Matty Beniers – Grade A

As much as I loved the potential of Brandt Clarke, I can’t say anything bad about Beniers. Center depth and scoring are the obvious needs coming out of the expansion draft and while I have questions about Beniers’ scoring potential, he’s going to be one of the most valuable centers in this league. His defense and motor will serve both the Kraken and himself well for years and he’ll be wearing a letter on his chest soon.

3. Anaheim Ducks – Mason McTavish – Grade B

The first big surprise of the draft, Bob Murray grabs the guy who he thinks can fix the Ducks’ biggest problem: scoring. McTavish isn’t a bad option to do that either as his hands and net-front presence are as good as anyone in this draft. I have questions about his two-way potential, but the real reason I have the picked graded as a B is because I think there were better scoring options on the board.

4. New Jersey Devils – Luke Hughes – Grade B+

I haven’t been the biggest Hughes fan throughout this process, mainly because we haven’t seen him play against top competition yet. That said, he fills a need for the Devils as a defenseman with good puck skills and confidence and the chance to have him join his brother Jack was just too good to pass up. My only knock on the pick is that I think Clarke had higher upside doing many of the same things. 

5. Columbus Blue Jackets – Kent Johnson – Grade C+

The draft’s second surprise was from Columbus as they snagged the dynamic winger in Johnson; and yes, I said winger. I don’t see Johnson’s skills translating to playing center at the NHL level. His creativity is good, but his lack of drive forechecking and the absence of strong two-way play makes me question what his future will actually be. With Eklund on the board, I can’t help but be skeptical of this choice.

6. Detroit Red Wings – Simon Edvinsson – Grade A+

Stevie Y does it again. Edvinsson may not be making an impact for the Wings this October (or even the next one) but his creativity moving the puck could be just what the doctor ordered to top off this rebuild. They are lacking depth on the blueline already but especially with the players they have upfront, they needed someone who could help drive possession going the other way and Edvinsson’s breakout passes will help with that a lot. 

7. San Jose Sharks – William Eklund – Grade A+

Sometimes, good things just fall into your lap and that’s what happened to Doug Wilson tonight. Eklund may have the highest offensive upside of all the forwards in this draft, but beyond that, he projects to be a top line center who can hold his own against anyone in the league. To get that at seven is steal.

8. Los Angles Kings – Brandt Clarke – Grade A+

My love for Clarke hasn’t exactly been a secret and for him to go to a team already overflowing with prospect riches seems unfair to the other 31 teams in the NHL. The Kings have handled their rebuild so well, but could’ve used a top tier puck mover on the back end. Enter Clarke who should be able to ease his way into the league with the rest of their youngins and take over top D-man duties for Drew Doughty as he ages. 

9. Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Guenther – Grade A

After trading back into the first round, Arizona had to grab whichever of the top nine or ten prospects that fell to them, and boy did one fall. The best pure goal scorer in this draft, Guenther could slot into the top of the Coyotes lineup right now if they wanted him to. While not one of the center/wing hybrids like some of the other top picks in this draft, Guenther still has plenty to offer besides just scoring goals. He’s made great strides in improving his two-way play and knows how to use his size driving to the net. The Yotes got a good one.

10. Ottawa Senators – Tyler Boucher – Grade D- 

The only thing I can think of is that they know something that we don’t. One has to assume that the recent hire of Pierre McGuire made an impact here as the Sens draft the son of his “between the glass” comrade Brian Boucher. Truly off the board, the highest ranking for him was at 25… out of only North American Skaters, Boucher projects as hard working forward with size that will no doubt be useful, it’s just that you can find a lot of players like that much later in the draft. Like, rounds later.

11. Arizona Coyotes – Forfeited

12. Columbus Blue Jackets – Cole Sillinger – Grade B

After their surprise earlier, John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen pulled a 180 and drafted one of this year’s safest players. Sillinger is the type of guy who does everything well, but nothing extraordinary; which honestly, is not a bad thing and should serve them well.

13. Calgary Flames – Matthew Coronato – Grade A-

The crafty forward who loves to go to the dirty areas despite his size disadvantage should flourish in Darryl Sutter’s system. His hands are top notch and his upside is being the next Alex DeBrincat. Not bad Calgary, not bad. 

14. Buffalo Sabres – Isak Rosen – Grade B+

I love Rosen as a player, but Buffalo, what are you doing? Rosen is the kind of responsible all-around guy that puts good teams over the top, not a centerpiece you try and build around. Still, the pick could have been much, much worse which is why the grade is a high B.

15. Detroit Red Wings – Sebastian Cossa – Grade A-

With both goalies falling farther than most expected, Yzerman did what he did best; he made his organization better. Trading up to grab a future star netminder is no easy feat as they have a high bust rate, but both Cossa and Jesper Wallstedt are as sure bets as there can be. Cossa is big and athletic with very good composure and mental makeup. He may need more time to develop, but that works for the rebuilds’ time table in the Motor City. 

16. New York Rangers – Brennan Othmann – Grade B

I love Othmann as a player. He’s big and nasty in all the right ways and plays with his heart on his sleeve. I just don’t know that he is what the Rangers needed right now. They already have size and grit. They need secondary scoring and there were players on the board who could have helped with that more.

17. St. Louis Blues – Zachary Bolduc – Grade C

A passing grade in the truest sense of the term, Bolduc is a good player but not anyone to write home about. Besides being a reach however, he is one of this draft’s true centers and that is the value here for St. Louis as they try and build back toward contention. 

18. Winnipeg Jets – Chaz Lucius – Grade A-

Secondary scoring is the name of the game for playoff teams looking to take the next step this year and Winnipeg is no different. Lucius is a solid forward with a good repertoire of offensive moves that could be the thing that puts the Jets over the top at some point. 

19. Nashville Predators – Fydor Svechkov – Grade A-

One of the best scorers in this draft, Svechkov should be a top-six staple for the Preds in not too long. A good organization with a solid history of development, yet always lacking a bona fide sniper, this is a match where both sides were made for each other.

20. Minnesota Wild – Jesper Wallstedt – Grade A+

It’s not often that one of the best players falls to 20th overall without suffering an injury or having a negative news story and yet, that is where Wallstedt found himself. Super polished and closer to making the jump to the NHL than most goalies are, I have to wonder if there was something the teams knew that we didn’t. If not, then Minnesota got the steal of the year.

21. Boston Bruins – Fabian Lysell – Grade A

Sometimes, it’s sickening how well some teams do. Lysell suffered from being buried on the depth chart in Sweden and the Bruins reaped the reward. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Lysell should bring responsible secondary scoring to the Bruins and I could see him really making a difference come playoff time for them in the not so distant future.

22. Edmonton Oilers – Xavier Bourgault – Grade C

Much like with Buffalo’s selection of Rosen earlier, this is for the team more than the player. Edmonton had Wallstedt fall into their laps at 20. Finally, it seemed like their long parade of mediocre netminders might come to an end and poor Mike Smith would be able to retire… But no. Instead, they draft a true center, which is a need of theirs don’t get me wrong, who is just average. I just don’t know that he can make a difference for them down the road.

23. Dallas Stars – Wyatt Johnston – Grade C+

The first player off the board to have sat out all of last season, Johnston is fine, just fine. He should be a decent role player for them down the road.

24. Florida Panthers – Mackie Samoskevich – Grade B

A speedy forward who drives possession, this is Florida looking to round out their offense, and who can blame them? With depth everywhere, Bill Zito took the player he felt will help his team overcome their rivals to the north.

25. Columbus Blue Jackets – Corson Ceulemans – Grade B-

Needing to round out their blueline after recent events, Columbus made a good pick here. Ceulemans was a hard prospect to mock this year with some having him in the early teens, and others out of the first round. I was in the latter category, but I don’t think this is reach at all. Good two way guy who should do well at Wisconsin next year.

26. Minnesota Wild – Carson Lambos – Grade B

After a year overseas, Lambos will come back to North America and continue his development in the Wild’s system that has a good track record of molding good-not-great defenders.

27. Nashville Predators – Zachary L’Heureux – Grade A-

David Polie had quite the night! After landing a goal scorer earlier, he grabs a fantastic third line center in L’Heureux. He’s physical and skilled and is the perfect replacement to Calle Jarnkrok.

28. Colorado Avalanche – Oskar Olausson – Grade A+

I knew Olausson would fall to a good team, I just knew it. With “steal” written all over him, the big forward will join the Avs in a year or two and make a lot of teams question why they let him slip through their fingers…

29. New Jersey Devils – Chase Stillman – Grade C

Add another mediocre forward to the list…

30. Vegas Golden Knights – Zach Dean – Grade A+

I love Dean’s combination of size, speed and scoring. Vegas added much needed depth to the center position and he’s going to be one to watch in future playoff series.

31. Montreal Canadians – Logan Mailloux – Grade F

I don’t really know what to say about this one. Mailloux recently was charged with invasion of privacy and defamation and fined $1,650 after sharing a photo of himself with a woman without her consent. He asked not to be selected this year and wanted to work on rebuilding his image over the course of the next year. Montreal obviously felt differently. Whether on the grounds that he was rewarded after his discretion or the fact that he would still have been available much later, this is an L for Montreal.

32. Chicago Blackhawks – Nolan Allan – Grade B

Excellent skater who needs time to finish his development, Allan should do well in Chicago’s system that has done a lot more with a lot less in the past.

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