Following an unusual NHL Draft process conducted in three phases in 2020, the stage was set on Wednesday night in a more normal fashion for this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
Alike 2020 due to COVID-19, the annual NHL Draft Lottery was held at the NHL Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey. Doing so in a remote fashion, deputy commissioner Bill Daly was on hand, meanwhile, 15 general managers called into the event via Zoom. Among those 15 executives was Hall of Famer Ron Francis, general manager of the Seattle Kraken.
Entering the televised event, which was carried on Sportsnet and NBCSports, Seattle, set to join in 2021-22, was tied for third-best odds for the first overall pick. The Anaheim Ducks were just two percent ahead of them, followed by Buffalo, up on the Kraken by six percent.
Starting from pick no. 15, the New York Rangers would be awarded that pick, being the fourth time they’ve picked from this spot in franchise history. Just one draft pick ahead of them was the Dallas Stars at fourteenth overall. For the Stars, it would be their third time picking from this spot in franchise history. The other two times were in 2014 and 2011. Holding the thirteenth overall pick is GM Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers, who finished the season placed sixth in the MassMutual East Division, have never historically picked at thirteenth overall. Inching closer to the top 10 picks, the Calgary Flames, led by GM Brad Treliving, will be selecting at twelfth overall. Calgary has picked at 12 on two other occasions, including in 1984 when they selected Gary Roberts.
That said, picking at eleventh overall is GM Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago has picked at 11 on three previous occasions, including in 2008 when they selected forward Kyle Beach.
As such, after picking third in 2020, the Ottawa Senators will select tenth overall. For the Sens, they’ve never selected in this spot, however, have had two recent top ten selections, both in 2020, with Tim Stutzle and Jake Sanderson. Sanderson was chosen at No. 5, meanwhile, Stutzle was later picked at No. 3.
Ahead of the Ontario rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, led by GM Jim Benning, will pick at ninth overall. Vancouver previously picked ninth three times, including in 2013 when they selected Bo Horvat, now the hockey club’s captain. They also chose ninth in 1983, when the Canucks drafted Hall of Famer Cam Neely.
As noted by Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino, Luke Hughes could join either of his brothers based on his personal projections for the NHL Entry Entry Draft. Much like the draft lottery, the draft itself will be conducted in a virtual setting.
Speaking of west coast teams, albeit different countries, the Los Angeles Kings will pick at eighth overall, a spot they haven’t picked from before in franchise history. That said, however, the team has loaded up on first-round picks, so it’s familiar territory for them, having moved up last year to chose at second overall. With that selection, the Kings added a forward in Newmarket native Quinton Byfield.
Staying out in California, the San Jose Sharks will pick at seventh overall, a spot they’ve never selected from in franchise history. This becomes their highest selection since they picked Milan Michálek back in 2003.
Having picked fourth in 2020, the Detroit Red Wings only moved down two, as they’ll pick sixth overall for the fourth time in the last five years. Being a spot they’re quite comfortable in, Detroit picked Moritz Seider, a German defensemen, in 2015. In 2018, they picked Filip Zadina, from the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL.
Heading outwards to Ohio, the Columbus Blue Jackets will pick at fifth overall, a spot they’ve never selected from in franchise history. The team’s last draft pick made in the top-five was Pierre-Luc Dubois, who was chosen third overall back in 2015.
Having picked seventh overall in 2020, the New Jersey Devils will pick fourth overall, a position they’ve picked from on one previous occasion. That was in 2011 when they drafted Adam Larsson, a defensemen, fourth overall.
Having picked ahead of New Jersey sixth overall, the Anaheim Ducks, this year, will pick at third overall, their highest selection in 16 years. Each of the last three years, the No. 3 pick has jumped immediately to the National Hockey League.
“It is obviously disappointing for us and for our fans not to remain in the top two of this draft, but we still have the opportunity to make a top-five selection for the first time in 16 years,” said Bob Murray, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Ducks. “The top part of the draft has some outstanding talent, and we will look to add to the exciting young prospects in our organizations for years to come.”
Picking for the very first time, the Seattle Kraken are slotted at second overall, the highest pick for an NHL expansion club. That said, this selection is four slots higher (sixth overall) then where the Vegas Golden Knights picked in their inaugural season.
“We’re going to make sure we take the best player available with the number two pick,” said general manager Ron Francis following the conclusion of the draft lottery.
That means last but not least, the first overall selection goes to the Buffalo Sabres. That being said, the Sabres will retain the top pick for the first time since 2018, when they chose Rasmus Dahlin at the NHL Entry Draft in Dallas. It will also be the fourth time Buffalo picks in this slot in franchise history.
As mentioned by the NHL, the Arizona Coyotes forfeited their first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft in sanctions announced announced back in August, 2020.
There’s certainly a lot riding on 2021, as Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino expects that Owen Power from the Michigan Wolverines is leading the way at the top of the draft board. This was also projected by NHL Central Scouting.
While chosen by Hockey Canada to attend the World Juniors in Edmonton and Red Deer, his team, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, did not allow the defensemen to take part in Selection Camp. Luckily, he got another opportunity, as he was named to the roster for the Men’s World Championship taking place in Riga, Latvia.
Behind him is another Canadian in Mason McTavish projected second overall. McTavish, a Peterborough Petes product, took part in the U18 World Championship in Texas, where he recorded five goals and six assists in seven games.
Another product of the Michigan Wolverines, Kent Johnson, a Canadian centreman, is projected to go this year at third overall. Johnson, along with McTavish and Shane Wright, took part at the U18 World Championship in Frisco and Plano, Texas.
While Cosentino said defensemen Luke Hughes could go between nine and four, NHL Central Scouting has him at four, which would be three ahead of Quinn (2018, Vancouver Canucks) and three behind Jack (2019, New Jersey Devils). Hughes spent 2020-21 with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL before committing to college. He’s set to attend the University of Michigan.
Projected to join the Columbus Blue Jackets is right-winger Dylan Guenther. Guenther spent 2020-21 with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL. Much like Mason McTavish and Kent Johnson, Guenther was on Canada’s roster for the U18 World Championship in Texas.
Seemingly a popular hockey program, centreman Matthew Beniers is projected to join the Detroit Red Wings from the Michigan Wolverines. Slotted for sixth overall, Beniers played major junior with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL. He also played with USA Hockey in Frisco and Plano, Texas at the U18 World Championship.
Just the second OHL product listed, Brandt Clarke from the Barrie Colts is projected seventh overall to the San Jose Sharks. Due to the challenges of COVID-19, Brandt ended up playing in Slovakia with HC Nove Zamky, where he played 26 games. Throughout that time, he scored five goals and 10 assists. A native of Ottawa, Ontario, Clarke scored two goals and five assists at the U18 World Championship with Hockey Canada in Texas.
Another talented OHL product, Brennan Othmann, Flint Firebirds right-winger, is projected to go eighth overall to the Los Angeles Kings. Due to the challenges of COVID-19, Brennan ended up playing in Switzerland with EHC Olten, where he played 34 games. Throughout that time, he scored seven goals along with nine assists. A native of Scarborough, Ontario, Othmann scored three goals and three assists at the U18 World Championship with Hockey Canada in Texas.
The first of two USHL projections, Matthew Coronato from the Chicago Steel is listed to go ninth overall to the Vancouver Canucks. In doing so, he’d join Quinn Hughes, who was picked fourth overall back in 2018. Residing in the United States, Coronato played 51 games with the Steel, scoring 48 goals along with 37 assists. Throughout that time, he’d tally 85 points and would later go on to win the raise the coveted Clark Cup. A native of New York, New York, the winger has since committed to the Harvard crimson in the NCAA.
Last, but not least, Cole Sillinger from the Sioux Falls Stampede is projected to go tenth overall to the Ottawa Senators. In doing so, he’d join the team’s youth movement, along with the likes of Jake Sanderson and Tim Stutzle. Both players were selected in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Originally a Canadian citizen, Sillinger, from Columbus, Ohio, played 31 games in his first year with the Stampede. Being his third year of major junior, he scored 22 goals along with 24 assists. Tallying 46 points, the centreman played two seasons prior with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL. In 2019-20, taking part in the World Hockey Challenge, he recorded six goals in five games with Hockey Canada.
The 59th NHL Entry Draft will take place on July 23-24, 2021. Whereas the two-day event typically is conducted in June, this year, it’s delayed by one month from its usual start time due to COVID-19 challenges. This includes a later-than-normal finish to the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Much like the NHL Draft Lottery, the draft will be hosted in New Jersey, with the hopes to return in person come Spring 2022. Whereas the Montreal Canadiens were set to host the last draft, the league will likely return to the Bell Centre in the city’s downtown core.
Another city the NHL has discussed is Seattle, WA, home of the league’s 32nd expansion team. Before making the decision to go virtual, Climate Pledge Arena had been considered if the arena was ready to hold spectators by a certain date. However, due to safety restrictions, those talks hit a roadblock. It’s feasible to imagine the Kraken are named as the host site for the NHL Entry Draft in 2022-23.
The draft will be broadcast in Canada, with coverage on Sportsnet and TVA Sports. In the United States, fans can follow along on NHL Network and NBCSports.