The 59th edition of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft is in the books. Held a month later than its normally scheduled time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 draft was held remotely, with teams meeting virtually and Commissioner Gary Bettman announcing first round selections. Let’s take a look at the top five picks in the 2021 NHL draft.
#1: Buffalo Sabres – Owen Power (Defenseman, University of Michigan)
The first player ever from the University of Michigan to be selected first overall in the NHL Draft, the 6’6” Power has incredible size with good strength and vision. As a freshman, Power blocked 40 shots in 26 games and scored 16 points.
Power was the top player on the board and looked at ease playing against NHL players with Canada at the World Championships. He hasn’t decided whether to stay at Michigan for another season or head straight to the NHL. In any event, the Sabres have a defenseman that is skilled at both ends of the ice. So keep this in mind while you are looking at the NHL point spread when Sabres are playing.
#2: Seattle Kraken – Matthew Beniers (Center, University of Michigan)
Beniers recorded 10 goals and 14 assists in 24 games this past season. The 18-year old was the youngest player on the United States roster that won the 2021 IIHL World Junior Championships. Beniers is capable at both ends of the ice and was the best center prospect available in the draft. Beniers already has upper echelon offensive skills.
#3: Anaheim Ducks – Mason McTavish (Center, Peterborough (OHL))
McTavish is a strong skater with great balance. The 18-year-old has solid size at 6’1” and 210 pounds. He filled in as captain for Canada at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and scored 11 points in seven games, learning Canada to the title.
In need of offensive firepower, the Ducks should see an impact from McTavish sooner rather than later. He has plenty of skills on the offensive end. He’s also shown he can be an impact player in the Swiss League against veteran competition.
#4: New Jersey Devils – Luke Hughes (Defenseman, USA U-18)
In 38 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18, Hughes tallied 34 points and 68 shots on goal in 38 games. His brothers, Quinn and Jack, both play in the NHL and Luke will be joining them, however he is committed to the University of Michigan next season.
Hughes follows in the footsteps of his brothers in terms of upper echelon skating ability. He has a strong offensive game and hockey intelligence. Not as accomplished on defense, Hughes is solid and will get better with a year of collegiate experience.
#5: Columbus Blue Jackets – Kent Johnson (Center, University of Michigan)
Johnson averaged over a point per game in his first season at the University of Michigan. During the 2019-2020 season, Johnson led the British Columbia Hockey League with 101 points on 41 goals and 60 assists in only 52 games.
With center being an area of need for the Blue Jackets, they got an elite talent in terms of passing, vision, versatility, and overall playmaking skills. Johnson can still muscle to his frame, which will make him more effective at both center and wing.