Detroit — The 2021 NHL Entry Draft will be unique in many ways.
Rarely, if ever, has a draft class entered the NHL with so many question marks surrounding it.
Because of the pandemic, many junior (and some North American college) leagues in North America and Europe were severely impacted.
The vast majority of the prospects eligible for the July 23-24 NHL Entry Draft — which again will be virtual — saw limited actual playing time, and the amount of scouting information on these youngsters is likewise slim.
So, the guessing game with this draft class is more prevalent than in any draft class, possibly ever.
The Red Wings are picking sixth and 22nd in the first round, acquiring the latter from the Washington Capitals in the Anthony Mantha trade. The players the Wings are projecting at those first-round spots are likely much different than who other teams around them might have.
“More so this year than any other year, you’re going to have vastly different lists,” general manager Steve Yzerman said. “This one’s going to be, maybe there will be more surprises than ever. Sitting at six, there’s multiple players we think will be there and we’ll be excited about the pick.”
There’s likely going to be several trades that will involve early first-round picks that will change the draft order, and numerous players could slide or rise in scouts’ eyes before July 23.
But here in mid-June, let’s a first look at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft’s first round:
(Note: The Arizona Coyotes had to forfeit their first-round pick for violating prospect testing policy.)
► 1. Buffalo Sabres: Owen Power, D, Michigan. If there were any doubts — and there weren’t many — Power’s performance during the men’s world championships erased any. This is a safe, easy choice that will help the Sabres for years to come.
► 2. Seattle Kraken: Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan. Two Wolverines go in the top two picks. The expansion Kraken get the type of two-way, first-line center that is so rare to acquire.
► 3. Anaheim Ducks: Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL). The Ducks had an abysmal offensive attack, so adding a player many scouts believe could turn out to be the best goal-scorer in this class makes sense.
► 4. New Jersey Devils: Luke Hughes, D, United States National Team Development Program. Nepotism? Sure, his brother Jack stars for the Devils, but Luke Hughes is an excellent player in his own right and the Devils need defensemen.
► 5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (Sweden). The Jackets are rumored in many trade talks, but if they stay here, Edvinsson’s comparisons to Victor Hedman are difficult to pass on.
► 6. Detroit Red Wings: William Eklund, LW, Djurgardens (Sweden). Eklund simply appears to be the type of player the Wings like. Plays bigger than his size (5-10, 176), is improving rapidly, and is has elite skills (No. 1-ranked international skater by NHL Central Scouting). Eklund compares favorably to Lucas Raymond, the Wings’ top pick last year.
► 7. San Jose Sharks: Kent Johnson, C/LW, Michigan. The third Wolverine off the board, Johnson gives the Sharks desperately needed hope offensively.
► 8. Los Angeles Kings: Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL). The Kings have a plethora of forward prospects, and Clarke gives them a big-time prospect on the blue line. Excellent offensively, and underrated defensively, a future top-pairing guy.
► 9. Vancouver Canucks: Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL). Vancouver could use defensive depth, but McTavish is too good to pass on. McTavish fits nicely to what Vancouver needs up front, a determined, two-way forward.
► 10. Ottawa Senators: Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (Sweden). The Senators have a glut of fine prospects, but no potential goaltender like Wallstedt, who some scouts feel can be a game-changer.
► 11. Chicago Blackhawks: Chaz Lucius, C, USNTDP. There are several areas the Blackhawks could go, but Lucius is the type of offensive prospect the Blackhawks need.
► 12. Calgary Flames: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL). The Flames need some defensive depth organizationally, and Lambos seems like the type of player the Flames like, playing with a bit of bite.
► 13. Philadelphia Flyers: Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL). Just the type of mix of skill and grit the Flyers really like in their forwards. His dad Mike was a longtime, productive NHL player after he was a first-round draft pick by the Wings in 1989.
► 14. Dallas Stars: Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea (Sweden). GM Jim Nill knows Sweden, and Lysell is the type of two-way talent the Stars need with age creeping into the lineup.
► 15. New York Rangers: Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago (USHL). The Rangers are likely to trade this pick before it happens. But if they stay here, they’ll be tempted to go with the goal-scoring Coronato.
► 16. St. Louis Blues: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL). The Blues could use a bit of everything, and Ceulemans is the type of offensive defensemen that NHL teams are searching for.
► 17. Winnipeg Jets: Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL). Has skill, but also the grit to his game the Jets could use. The Flint Firebird product isn’t big (6-0, 175), but plays fearless.
► 18. Nashville Predators: Fyodor Svechkov, RW, Russia. The Predators could use more scoring potential, and Svechkov is regarded as a legitimate sleeper prospect by some.
► 19. Edmonton Oilers: Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa (OHL). Harrison played in Finland this past season, and is the type of player who might be overlooked by some. Has been able to score goals throughout his junior career.
► 20. Boston Bruins: Zachary L’Heureux, Halifax (QMJHL). The Bruins need quality prospects, and L’Heureux has been a big-time scorer in the Quebec junior ranks.
► 21. Minnesota Wild: Nikita Chibrikov, RW, Russia. The Wild were rewarded by selecting Kirill Kaprizov in 2015, and now find him a Russian linemate with high-end potential.
► 22. Detroit Red Wings (from Washington): Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton (OHL). If the Wings have a chance to select Cossa, you’d think they jump at it. Many scouts feel Cossa could go top-15.
► 23. Florida Panthers: Aatu Raty, C, Finland. Projected to be top-5 in this class some two years ago, Raty’s stock has fallen. But could the Panthers instill confidence back into his game and get a major steal?
► 24. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Toronto): Daniil Chayka, D, Russia. The Jackets like their Russian prospects, and Chayka has the flair to be a nice future addition.
► 25. Minnesota Wild (from Pittsburgh): Zachary Bolduc, center, Rimouski (QMJHL). At this point it’s more of a guessing game, but Bolduc’s offensive production has been impressive.
► 26. Carolina Hurricanes: Sasha Pastujov, RW, Notre Dame. The Hurricanes add to their collection of talented forwards in the organization.
► 27. Colorado Avalanche: Matthew Samoskevich, C, Chicago (USHL). Headed to Michigan, Samoskevich projects well with Colorado’s skilled forwards.
► 28. Semifinal-losing team with fewest points: Cameron Whynot, D, Halifax (QMJHL). Especially if this is Montreal, Whynot would be a nice future addition to an older Canadiens’ defensive group.
► 29. Semifinal-losing team with most points: Simon Robertsson, RW, Skelleftea (Sweden). Either Columbus (by way of Tampa Bay) or the Devils (who own the Islanders’ pick) would love to add the hard shot Robertsson possesses.
► 30. Stanley Cup final-losing team: Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener (OHL). A crafty, elusive playmaker who would be a nice find for a Cup finalist.
► 31. Stanley Cup champion: Danila Klimovich, LW, Belarus. Klimovich is a project, but the reward could be worth it for a Cup-winning team.