As a consensus group of top-nine prospects emerges — with only two goalies complicating matters — the Blackhawks may end up choosing their favorite prospect of the second-tier group.
The Blackhawks’ 11th pick in the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft may end up being the de facto first pick of the second tier.
There’s a growing consensus on the top nine skaters, and that group will likely form the top nine picks unless one of the top two goalies interjects. The bad news about that for the Hawks is they’ll miss out on all of those top-tier players unless both goalies are chosen before their pick arrives.
But the good news is the Hawks will have a relatively clear idea — in planning for the draft — who will be available at 11th and will be able to pick their favorite out of that bunch. Instead of navigating a mid-round domino effect leading up to their selection, as they did at 17th last year, they may start the domino effect this year.
Here’s a rough guess at how the first round might play out.
1. Sabres: Owen Power, D, Michigan (NCAA)
Power isn’t the slam-dunk No. 1 pick that Alexis Lafreniere was last year, but he’s still widely expected to be the Sabres’ selection. At 6-6, 213 pounds and well-rounded both offensively and defensively, Power is the first of many pieces the Sabres need in their latest rebuild attempt.
2. Kraken: Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan (NCAA)
The draft looks murky from No. 2 to No. 9, but with centers hard to acquire in the expansion draft, it makes sense the Kraken would choose one with their first-ever draft selection. Power and Beniers could make the University of Michigan the first U.S. college program ever to produce the first- and second-overall picks in a single draft.
3. Ducks: Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)
Many players in the Canadian junior leagues experienced little to no 2021 season but Guenther made the most of his, scoring 24 points in 12 games. The Ducks are picking in the top 10 for the third consecutive year.
4. Devils: Luke Hughes, D, U.S. N.T.D.P.
The reunion of Luke Hughes with older brother Jack in New Jersey would be a perfect draft storyline, since Luke is unlikely to slip to oldest brother Quinn Hughes’ Canucks at No. 9. Luke Hughes has the same elite skating ability his brothers share.
5. Blue Jackets: Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda (Sweden)
A Seth Jones trade would plunge the Blue Jackets into a rebuild, of which Edvinsson could become a big part. Power, Hughes and Edvinsson could make 2021 the first draft with three defensemen in the top five since 2012.
6. Red Wings: Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA)
It’d be a shame if Michigan’s banner year of top-10 prospects didn’t result in one being drafted by the in-state Red Wings. Johnson — a flashy, dynamic center trying to get his consistency to match his highlight reel — surprisingly finished No. 3 in the Central Scouting Service’s final North American rankings.
7. Sharks: William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (Sweden)
Draft-eligible teenage Swedes rarely score many points against men in the SHL, but Eklund — with 23 points in 40 games — broke the trend. The Sharks need a youth movement as soon as possible and Eklund, the CSS’s top-ranked European skater, would help that.
8. Kings: Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL)
McTavish was the other surprise in the CSS’s North American rankings, coming in second — behind only Power — despite playing his entire season in Switzerland with the OHL cancelled. He plays an aggressive north-south game with his husky 6-1, 207-pound frame. The Kings are building a quietly impressive prospect pool.
9. Canucks: Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL)
Clarke, a reliable 6-2 defenseman, rounds out the increasingly clear group of top nine prospects. The Canucks need defensive help, so they’ll happily accept him falling to the bottom of the tier.
10. Senators: Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (Sweden)
Wallstedt and Sebastian Cossa are the clear top two goalies this year. Both are likely top-20 picks, but there might not be another goalie taken until the third round. The Senators are a prime candidate to chose one, although the Wings at No. 6 and Sharks at No. 7 may also consider them — potentially complicating the top nine.
11. Blackhawks: Chaz Lucius, C, U.S. N.T.D.P.
If all goes as expected, the Hawks will choose between any of the second-tier skaters, or Wallstedt or Cossa if one or both are still around. Lucius, Matthew Coronato and Cole Sillinger seem like the most appealing forwards.
Lucius, a 6-1 Minnesota native, is a shoot-first forward who makes sense as a complement to Kirby Dach and Lukas Reichel down the road. He scored 20 points in 13 appearances with the U.S. national program this season despite struggling with injuries, which dropped his stock enough to make him attainable for the Hawks.
12. Flames: Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton (WHL)
If Cossa isn’t chosen in the top 11, it’ll be interesting to see where he lands. Both Cossa and Wallstedt are huge — 6-6, 210 pounds and 6-3, 214 pounds, respectively — but Cossa relies on his athleticism and reflexes while Wallstedt relies on his puck-tracking and positioning.
13. Flyers: Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago (USHL)
Coronato, the local Chicago Steel product, would be a fitting selection for the Hawks but won’t last long if they pass on him. His well-roundedness, work ethic and proven production make him a safe top-20 pick.
14. Stars: Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)
Sillinger, much like Coronato, is a well-rounded forward and therefore a safe pick. He’s bigger than Coronato but doesn’t skate quite as well. Sillinger scored 46 points in 31 USHL games; Coronato scored 85 points in 51 USHL games.
15. Rangers: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (Alberta)
The projected 10th-to-30th range lacks defensemen, boosting the stock of the three defensemen — Ceulemans, Carson Lambos and Daniil Chayka — who do fall in it. Ceulemans is the most naturally talented but least NHL-ready of the bunch.
16. Blues: Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL)
17. Jets: Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL)
18. Predators: Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea (Sweden)
19. Oilers: Daniil Chayka, D, Moskva (Russia)
20. Bruins: Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski (QMJHL)
21. Wild: Fedor Svechkov, C, Togliatti (Russia)
22. Red Wings (from Capitals): Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Finland)
23. Panthers: Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawnigan (QMJHL)
24. Blue Jackets (from Maple Leafs): Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA (Russia)
25. Wild (from Penguins): Isak Rosens, RW, Leksands (Sweden)
26. Hurricanes: Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener (OHL)
27. Avalanche: Wyatt Johnston, C, Windsor (OHL)
28. TBD: Zachary L’Heureux, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
29. TBD: Sasha Pastujov, RW, U.S. N.T.D.P.
30. TBD: Oskar Olausson, RW, HV71 (Sweden)
31. TBD: Zach Dean, C, Gatineau (QMJHL)