Who Could Go First Overall? Examining Potential Choices for the 2021 NHL Draft
Unlike recent years, the 2021 NHL Draft has no lock at the top spot. In fact, the closest year in similar uncertainty, 2017, which had Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick battling for first overall, pales in comparison. Whereas just those two players seemed to be in contention in 2017, at least five, if not more, can make their case to go number one. Here are seven names that have been mentioned:
Owen Power, Defense, University of Michigan
At 6’6”, 214 pounds, Power already has NHL size to go with his two way ability. Power is second among Michigan defenseman with 14 points in 20 games and also has a team leading 33 blocks to go alongside it. With a long reach and a big shot, he can play on both special teams units and is a great skater.
Matthew Beniers, Center, University of Michigan
Another one of many Michigan players or commits that look to go in the top ten, Beniers has established himself as a calm presence down the middle. With 16 points in 18 games, he’s put up plenty of offense for the Wolverines and has shown an excellent playmaking ability. Beniers also was a part of Team USA’s gold medal winning World Junior team, centering the second line and netting three points while averaging more than 17 minutes of ice time. . Once talked about as a top ten pick, Beniers has played himself into the first overall conversation.
Luke Hughes, Defense, United States National Team Development Program
Luke, brother to both Jack and Quinn, is looking to follow in his family’s footsteps and secure a high spot in the draft. Like Jack, he’s hoping to become the first overall pick, but like Quinn, he plays a smooth game on the backend. The biggest Hughes brother at 6’2”, 176 pounds, he has 45 points in 40 games for the USNTDP and will play at the University of Michigan next year.
Brandt Clarke, Defense, Barrie Colts/Nove Zamsky
Another mobile defenseman, Clarke has been ranked as a top 2021 prospect for a long time. In his first season in the OHL (2019-20), he led all rookie defenseman with 38 points in 57 games. With the OHL season postponed, Clarke has been loaned to the Slovak hockey club Nove Zamsky, where he has 6 points in 16 games. He’s known for his excellent passing ability and puck movement.
William Eklund, Left Wing, Djurgarden
Eklund is a smaller statured winger (5’10”, 172 pounds) who is one of the older players in the draft (born October 12, 2002). In 2019-20, he put up 36 points in 31 games in Sweden’s junior hockey league and has 18 points in 31 games in the SHL. He’s one of the better skating forwards in the draft and has been lauded for his great vision.
Simon Edvinsson, Defense, Frolunda
Rounding out the defensemen is Simon Edvinsson, who, like Power, already has NHL size (6’4”, 198 pounds). Also similar to Power, he has a heavy shot and plays with physicality in the defensive zone. While he hasn’t been lighting up the SHL offensively (1 assist in 10 games), scouts have praised his mobility and poise.
Kent Johnson, Center, University of Michigan
Last on the list is Kent Johnson, a shifty center for the University of Michigan. Although his name hasn’t been brought up as a contender for first overall in many mock drafts, his game tape and stats speak for themselves. He ranks second on the team and twenty seventh in the NCAA in points with 22 in 20 games. He also led the BCHL in points with 101 in 52 games, 30 points ahead of the second ranked player. A creative offensive player with slick hands, he’ll be a solid addition to any team in need of goals.
With four defenseman, two centers, and one winger, the options for first overall are likely to please any team. Although there won’t be any generational or superstar talents this year, there’s plenty of skill and high end hockey players to choose from. As their seasons continue, each one of these players will continue to make the case to hear their name called first overall, but for now, who it will be is anyone’s guess.
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