Just two days after picking their first players in team history at the expansion draft, the Seattle Kraken will be selecting a new batch of players to the organization, this time though, it will be at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The Kraken are entering their first Entry Draft in team history and are well equipped to make a big impact. On day one, the Kraken own the second overall pick, a pick that could define the draft. The 2021 NHL Entry Draft was always going to be tough to predict, even before the pandemic put hockey on hold. Scouts have had much more contrasting rankings than in previous years as the consensus top players could go in pretty much any order. At No. 2, the Kraken have no shortage of players available to them, but any guesses as to who they will take are up for grabs.
Assuming the Buffalo Sabres select University Of Michigan defenseman Owen Power, who as of now, is likely going to be the first name called at the draft, the Kraken will have a big decision to make. While there has not been a consensus ranking for the second overall pick this year unlike in previous years with players like Quinton Byfield, Kaapo Kakko, Andrei Svechkinov and others, there are plenty of high-end prospects available of which the Kraken will look to insert as a cornerstone piece in the construction of their franchise.
Brandt Clarke D, Barrie Colts, OHL
After Owen Power, Brandt Clarke is one of the top defenseman available in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and could very well be wearing a Kraken jersey on draft day. Clarke, like the other top prospects in the draft class, has been ranked anywhere from second overall to seventh, but is expected to be taken on the higher side. With the 2020-21 OHL season cancelled, the Barrie Colts defenceman played In Slovakia’s top hockey league with HC Nove Zamky. Clarke built off of his strong rookie season with the Colts during his first stint of professional hockey. He did not look out of place and quickly became a valuable presence on the blue-line for his new club. A large aspect of Brandt Clarke’s game and arguably the biggest reason why he was able to transition fairly quickly to European professional hockey is due to his offensive instincts. Clarke is a highly offensive-minded defenseman who will do everything he can to generate offence. Clarke is a high-end skater and uses it in all aspects of his game. He can join the rush and create high-danger scoring chances by using his elusive skills. He is a creative playmaker and can quarterback a power play like the best of them. His mobility and vision makes him a threat every time the puck touches his stick. When it comes to his defensive game, there is some room for improvement (like most prospects), but plenty to like. Clarke could benefit from at least another year of development in the OHL, but if he does return to Barrie, you can expect him to be one of the league’s top players, let alone, top defensemen.
Matthew Beniers C, University Of Michigan, NCAA
One of the three star-studded University Of Michigan products ahead of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Matthew Beniers has a strong shot at being the first forward called at the draft with the second overall pick. Beniers would not be a consolation prize for the Kraken by any means. In fact, some outlets such as Elite Prospects and Dobber Prospects to name a couple, actually have Beniers ranked first overall. There is a lot to like surrounding Beniers game and it could be hard for Ron Francis and company to pass up on the chance to select him when called to the podium. Beniers is one of the more mature and well-rounded forwards in the 2021 draft class. His skill and determination reaches both ends of the ice. He never takes a shift off and is always one of the hardest working players on the ice. He is aggressive on both the forecheck and backcheck and is a player who you cannot afford to take your eyes off. Beniers also possesses the offensive abilities to succeed at the next level. While he prefers to pass the puck more then he shoots it, he is no stranger to finding the back of the net. Beniers is one of the older prospects in the draft class, but being one of the older members of a group is relatively new for the 18-year-old center. Back in 2018-19, Beniers played for the USDP and suited up in 20 games with the U18 squad. Even as one of the youngest players on the U17 team, Beniers was called up to the star-studded U18 squad, a team that is widely considered to be one of the best in the history of the USDP. In 20 games, Beneirs scored 20 points and was able to carve out a roster spot on a team which featured the likes of Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Matt Boldy, Cam York and Cole Caufield to name a few. The following year, Beniers played for the U18 team once again as an underager and finished second in team scoring with 41 points in 44 games. In his draft season, Beneirs played for the University of Michigan, where he unsurprisingly played at a point-per-game pace with 24 points in 24 games.
Beniers’ game stretches well beyond his offensive contributions. It is his aggressiveness and hockey IQ which helps make him a reliable threat in any situation. He can kill penalties just as well as he can play on the man-advantage. Beniers not only earned a spot as the second-line center for Team USA at the 2021 World Junior Championship in which he helped his team win gold as the youngest player, but he even made Team USA at the 2021 World Championships in which he captured the bronze medal. Matthew Beniers has established himself as one of the top forwards in the 2021 draft class because of his play at both ends of the ice, his maturity and determination. He plays a well-rounded game and that has already proven to be a match for NHL’ers.
William Eklund C/LW, Djurgårdens IF, SHL
Another player on the older side of the 2021 draft class, William Eklund is amongst the best. His play in the SHL in his draft year has been historic. With 23 points in 40 games, Eklund’s draft season production in the SHL alone puts him ahead of some present day elite NHL players. Since 2008, only Elias Lindholm has recorded more points (30) then Eklund in his draft year playing in the SHL. Eklund has the highest primary points-per game percentage (0.5250) and the highest even strength primary points per game percentage (0.4250) of any SHL player in their draft year since 2008. His historic SHL statistics alone are not all that make Eklund such a promising young talent. His skills with the puck on his stick is everything that you can hope for from a top prospect. He can wire the puck past a goaltender with deadly speed and accuracy and he can pass the puck just as well as he can shoot it. Eklund’s puck-handling skills are enough to get around even the most experienced reargaurds. Defenders have a tough time reading Eklund when he possesses the puck. He can make split-second decisions with the puck, and when combined with his elusive skating and quickness, defenders have trouble anticipating his actions.
Eklund does have some areas of his game that could stand to improve but there is little cause for concern. Eklund could potentially even make it to the next level right away, however, he is expected to play in the SHL for the 2021-22 season, as he is currently under contract with his Swedish club. He could stand to improve his speed, however, his quickness and mobility are already at a high-end level. Eklund has the potential to become a first-line forward in the NHL if he lives up to his potential and could become one of the most productive forwards in the 2021 NHL Draft Class.
Luke Hughes D, U.S. National U18 Team, USDP
The third and final brother of the Hughes family is set to hear his name called early on day one of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Like his brothers Quinn and Jack, Luke is another top prospect in his own respective draft class who likely won’t be waiting too long before he hear his name called by an NHL club. While the youngest brother in the Hughes family has been linked with both the New Jersey Devils, who own the fourth overall pick, and the Vancouver Canucks, who hold the ninth overall selection, there is a chance Luke doesn’t make it passed the second pick. Luke’s name can be seen up and down the board on different draft rankings. He can be seen ranked as high as first overall and as low as eleventh on some rankings, but he is expected to go somewhere in the middle. Jack Hughes was drafted first overall and Quinn was drafted seventh overall. Luke is expected to go somewhere in the middle of that, however, Seattle could very well snag him earlier. As one of the youngest players in the draft, Hughes still has plenty of time to develop his game, which is already at a high level. He will be joining the University Of Michigan next season, where he will have time to develop his game the with the same team his older brother, Quinn, competed with.
What makes Luke such an intriguing prospect is not only his game, but the way he stacks up to his brothers. Alike both Jack and Quinn, Luke is an exceptional skater and possesses the high-end offensive awareness that have made his siblings successful in the NHL. Luke has been called the best skater in the family by his brothers and his father, which is a scary thought for the 31 teams that will have to play against him. What makes Luke stand out in his family happens to be his size. Unlike Quinn (5’10) and Jack (5’11), Luke is six-foot-two and already 172 pounds. He is already a similar player to Quinn when you compare their play on the ice, but when you take their size into account, the younger brother has the frame needed to protect the puck even better and uses his size to his advantage more than his siblings.
He had a slow start to the 2020-21 season, however, he quickly turned himself around and got back in the spotlight. Since then, he showed no signs of slowing down and solicited himself as a top prospect for the draft. Hughes is recovering from a foot injury that resulted in missing the last few months of the season and the U18 World Championship tournament. However, he is expected to make a full recovery and be set to start offseason training, as he puts the setback behind him.