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2021 NHL Draft: 10 best players who’ll be picked first

The Buffalo Sabres officially secured first place in the NHL draft lottery, which takes place on July 23 and 24. With the worst record in the league, the Sabres will look to the draft to select a top player.

The league’s newest expansion team, the Seattle Kraken, holds the second overall spot in the 2021 NHL draft, hoping to repeat the Vegas Golden Knights’ incredible success since their recent introduction into the league. The club’s expansion draft is slated to take place on July 21.

These are the top players to look out for in the 2021 NHL draft:

10. William Eklund, Winger

NHL: NHL Draft
Jun 22, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Rasmus Dahlin is presented with a team jersey after being selected as the number one overall pick to the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Sportsnet touts Eklund as the most improved draft-eligible player in all of Europe. The left-winger is currently playing in his native Sweden and is the sun of retired player Christian Eklund. The younger Eklund is the top-ranked international skater according to NHL Central Scouting and is comparable to the Carolina Hurricanes’ young star Sebastian Aho. He was named rookie of the year in the Swedish Hockey League and has good vision, puck-handling ability, and speed to make up for his smallish size.

9. Jesper Wallstedt, Goalie

The only goalie on this list, TSN lists Wallstedt’s NHL comparable as Ryan Miller, who had a long, illustrious career as the NHL’s winningest American-born goalie. The 6’3″, 214-pound netminder boasted a 2.23 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage through 22 games in the Swedish Hockey League. Hailing from Sweden, some scouts even peg him as the best goaltending pick of the decade, which is no small statement considering Spencer Knight’s success in Florida, among other hero stories.

8. Simon Edvinsson, Defenseman

Reminiscent of reliable, stay-at-home defender Seth Jones, the big defenseman brings exceptional skating skills to the table, and his 6’5″, 207-pound frame isn’t something that can be shoved off of the puck easily. He can keep up with the grind in the game and bring physicality to any team, without sacrificing playmaking abilities. This means he can play in important situations, and he can eat a lot of big minutes game in and game out.

7. Kent Johnson, Center

NHL: NHL Draft
Mar 14, 2021; South Bend, IN, USA; Michigan’s Kent Johnson (13) wraps around the net as Ohio State’s Evan McIntyre (7) chases him during the Michigan vs. Ohio State Big Ten Hockey Tournament game Sunday, March 14, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend. Mandatory Credit: Michael Caterina-USA TODAY Sports

Like many in the NHL Draft before him, Johnson brings incredible speed and skill to the table. He was given an A ranking by NHL scouting, and, like many of the top players, plays with Michigan. With deception and speed, the center’s play is reminiscent of Elias Pettersson’s or Mathew Barzal’s and could be a valuable asset to a team that is looking to rebuild around an offensive dynamo.

6. Carson Lambos, Defenseman

This two-way defenseman can carry a team and figure a way out of most difficult situations and has some offensive prowess to boot. His smarts make him an attractive 2021 NFL Draft pick. The Winnipeg native battled injuries this season, which made him miss the U18 tournament in Texas, but the left-handed, 6’1″ blue liner has a lot to bring to the table, and can throw his body around, too.

5. Brandt Clarke, Defenseman

Underrated defensively, the Canadian defenseman played in the Slovakian league because of the complications in the OHL and weighs in at 6 feet 2 inches, 185 pounds. He has experience in a variety of leagues, which he can bring to the NHL, and he very clearly can handle himself managing a top powerplay unit. He’s had some remote preliminary meetings with NHL clubs already, and playing against a range of players in a variety of different settings could be attractive to general managers, Clarke will definitely go early in the NFL Draft.

4. Mason McTavish, Center

This centerman’s name was thrown around at the U18 tournament thanks to the bite in his game. In fact, NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the top forward among this year’s NHL Draft. The Swiss-born Canadian was ranked second among all North American skaters by the same organization, and played for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL (though he went to the Swiss league while the OHL was on pause), and served as the alternate captain for Team Canada at the IIHF World Juniors tournament. He has an ability to put up points and sees the ice well, which can be attractive to many teams.

3. Luke Hughes, Defenseman

Speaking of Jack Hughes, we’ve already seen what his younger brother, defenseman Quinn Hughes, is capable of with his short tenure with the Vancouver Canucks. Their youngest brother, Luke, is slated to follow in their footsteps, also stepping in as one of the top picks in this year’s draft class. Also a defenseman, he’s a great skater and has a ton of confidence in his playmaking abilities, which likely stems from playing with his two extremely skilled brothers. Look for the New Jersey Devils and the Vancouver Canucks to give this defenseman extra attention, considering they each have one of his brothers on their roster.

2. Matt Beniers, Center

Many tout this centerman as the most poised of this year’s potential NHL Draft picks, and he is already expected to wear a letter as his NHL career progresses. He was, after all, offered the opportunity to be mentored by some of the best Americans to ever go through the program while playing for Team USA at the World Championships. He’s a reliable player with strong attention to detail and scored 24 points in 24 games with the University of Michigan. And, fun fact: his former roommate is New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes.

1. Owen Power, Defenseman

The Canadian defenseman currently plays collegiate hockey for the University of Michigan, and is widely regarded as the top pick in this year’s draft. In a pool of strong players, analysts look to Power’s play for Team Canada at the World Championships as a showcase of his skills. Solid defensemen are hard to come by, and his confident gameplay and strong skating draw most (but not all) NHL scouts to select Power, who stands at a whopping 6’5″ (making his skating that much more impressive), as the most attractive of all in this upcoming NHL draft.

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