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A Stupendously Early Look at the 2021 NHL Draft for the Devils Fan

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With the New Jersey Devils idle for two weeks, it is a time as any to take a really early look at the 2021 NHL Draft class. This post highlights the top defensemen and forward prospect, the one top goaltender prospect, and even has a look at the potentially spectacular 2022 NHL Draft class.

Barrie Colts v Oshawa Generals
Brandt Clarke of Barrie (and now in Slovakia) are among the top prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft.
Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

There have been no games, practices, or training sessions involving the New Jersey Devils since the now-infamous January 31 win in Buffalo. The team’s COVID-19 Protocol List broke out to as many as 19 players as games over the past two weeks were postponed. Good news may be imminent. The team re-opened their training facility on Thursday, Sunday night’s update saw the list go down to just five players, and the Devils are expected to have practice on Monday. The Devils may actually get to play some games this week.

Of course, with no games or team activities, there is not a whole lot to discuss. Hence, I turned to you, the People Who Matter, to decide between two ideas. More of you wanted a Stupendously Early Look at the 2021 NHL Draft and so here it is. There is a lot to cover, so be forewarned before diving in.

When is the 2021 NHL Draft?

It is currently scheduled for July 23 and July 24, 2021. It is expected to be done virtually as the 2020 NHL Draft was done. Of course, plans can change.

What do you mean “plans can change?”

There have been increased chatter about making changes to the NHL Draft for this year. Per this recent article at TSN.ca with Frank Seravalli, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger, there are a number of issues involving the draft process:

  1. Some GMs are apparently unsatisfied with the NHL Draft Lottery process. While last year’s was different due to the Return to Play format, the concern is that truly awful teams could still end up losing the lotteries for either of the top three picks and end up picking fourth while better teams get the premium prospects. Per LeBrun, the NHL is working on changing the format of the lottery and will present something to the Board of Governors, who represent the teams, for their approval. What that could look like is unknown.
  2. Some GMs are apparently in favor of moving the NHL Draft. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the various responses to it all over the world, the amount of activity among hockey prospects is more disjointed than ever. The only international tourney involving the 2021 draft class scheduled is the World U18 Championships in Texas in April - and who knows if that actually happens. Only one of the three Canadian major junior leagues - who supply a lot of the prospects for the draft - has been active and even the QMJHL have been stopped multiple times. While college hockey, USHL, and European junior hockey has been ongoing, it has been limited to a point where scouts may not be able to get to these games in person. Moving the draft may return to some normalcy to the already-challenging process of projecting 17 and 18-year old hockey players to be picked in the NHL. That stated, the NHL has not indicated one way or another about this.

My understanding is that the NHL’s main goal for this year is to return to the normal cycle of activities for 2021-22. That is, to have camp in September, to have a preseason, to have an 82-game season with play across the divisions and conference, and to have a full offseason schedule - which would mean a June draft and a July 1 date for free agency. Personally, I think moving the draft or doubling up on the 2022 draft would go against that. But if the majority of the Board of Governors demand it, then the NHL will make it happen as the NHL serves them and not the other way around.

I also think the concerns about the results of the lottery process shows a lack of an understanding of what a lottery is. It is a random drawing. It does not care whether one team needs a first overall pick more than the other. Further, not every draft year has a Connor McDavid or a Jack Hughes or a Rasmus Dahlin or an Alexis Lafreniere where one or two prospects are so head-and-shoulders above everyone else that getting first overall is a cause for celebration. I think tinkering with the process to remove past winners may be the most logical approach but it will make it more complex.

Personally, if they want to give the edge to the truly awful squads, I would revert back to the older lottery of it being just for first overall and teams outside of the bottom five can only move up four spots. But the NHL did that and changed it to this format thanks to Buffalo selling out for McDavid/Eichel in 2015, so I am not holding my breath for that.

OK. Since you brought it up, who is expected to go first overall in 2021?

Great question. I cannot tell you.

For the first time in several years, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. There is no debate between just two players like in 2017 or 2019. There is no dominant 17 or 18 year old like there was in 2018 or 2020. While this opinion may change by the time the NHL Draft gets closer - whenever that is - there is no current favorite. Ask a bunch of services and prospect experts, and you will get a bunch of different answers.

Here are some potential favorites to go first overall among the class as of February 2021. Links go to the player’s profile page at Elite Prospects.

  • Owen Power, LHD, University of Michigan (NCAA) - Do you like your defensemen to be productive? Do you like them to have massive frames and yet be mobile as someone smaller? Do you like your defensemen to make good decisions on and off the puck? If so, then the smooth-skating 6’5”, 210 pound Michigan Wolverine may be the defenseman you want in this draft. He dominated on a supremely-dominant Chicago Steel team in 2019-20 before jumping to college. Against older players and on a powerful team like Michigan, Power is more than holding his own. Alex at MGoBlog already deemed him a unicorn and is already prepared for a short college career for Power. For the Devils fans who have been urging for a #1 defenseman prospect, Power may fit the bill.
  • Brandt Clarke, RHD, Barrie Colts (OHL)/HC Nove Zamsky (Slovakia - Loan) - Brandt Clarke, the brother of Devils prospect Graeme Clarke, stood out among the draft-minus-one players in the OHL in 2019-20. So much so that when Brock Otten did his first media/scout poll for the 2021 OHL Prospects, Clarke was the unanimous choice among all he polled. Which is more impressive given that the OHL has played zero games so far this season and Clarke had to secure a loan move - which he got - to even get some game action. Right-handed defenders who can be aggressive on offense and astute on defensemen can be worth their weight in gold. And Clarke is hanging as a recent 18-year old (he turned 18 on February 9) in a men’s professional league in Slovakia. The experience will only do him good. He is #1 on a lot of people’s boards in spite of the relative inactivity. That speaks well of his talents.
  • Luke Hughes, LHD, USNTDP - The younger brother of Quinn Hughes and Jack Hughes will be picked this year. After a bit of a down year for the United States National Team Development Program in the 2020 NHL Draft, Luke Hughes will ensure a top-ten selection in 2021. He’s bigger than both Quinn and Jack as he is officially listed at 6’2” and 176 pounds. (Aside: Get Jack’s diet, young Luke, and get Jacked up.) He is excellent on the puck at a young age like Quinn and Jack were. He is also a strong skater like Quinn and Jack are. Between the USNTDP being active throughout 2020-21 and Luke turning 18 in September, those slight edges in his favor could make a difference in getting selected in the top 5. Should the World U18 Championships happen, that could be his breakout tourney and end some of the debates of who should go first overall.
  • Carson Lambos, LHD, Winnipeg (WHL) / JYP (Liiga - Loan) - Similar to Clarke, Lambos was a standout as a 16/17-year old in the Western Hockey League as a rookie. It was enough for those looking at the 2021 draft to pay attention to him. However, as the WHL’s season was in doubt, Lambos secured a loan to JYP’s set-up earlier than the other CHL prospects. As such, the 6’1”, 205 pound defender has played in more games. And he established himself really quickly in a completely different league and situation. While the intention was to play with JYP’s youth teams in their U18 and U20 leagues, he has made two appearances with the senior team in the Liiga. While his rankings among the services are not as high, should he continue to get more games with the older teams and impress more in Finland, those rankings will rise.
  • Simon Edvinsson, LHD, Frölunda HC (SHL) / Västerås IK (Allsvenskan - Loan) - It would be a bit unfair to say he’s the Swedish Owen Power. But there are similarities. Both are huge defenders; Edvinsson is listed at 6’5” and 203 pounds. Both are playing in tougher leagues than most junior eligible players; but Edvinsson is already in pro hockey with appearances with Frölunda’s senior team (10 compared with 14 for Frölunda’s U20 team) and a loan to Västerås in the Allsvenskan. Edvinsson skates well, he handles and moves the puck very well, and he apparently loves to “activate” on offense (to a fault?). If a team is confident in their Swedish scouting and they love this player, then do not be shocked if he goes very high in 2021.
  • Matt Beniers, C, University of Michigan (NCAA) - Oh, hey, a forward. The World Junior Championships is not really a common place for draft eligible players to boost their profile. It is an under-20 tournament so most teams are filled with recently drafted players. However, Beniers made the United States roster for 2021’s WJC based on the fact he was a point-machine for the USNTDP in 2020-21 as he nearly averaged a point per game. He performed well in a limited role and demonstrated strong work in all three zones, driving play while seemingly not really slowing down. Beniers has done the same as a freshman with the Wolverines and, like he did in 2020-21, is just shy of a point per game rate with 14 in 15 as of this writing. Beniers may be a long shot to go first overall, but he will likely go in the top ten and whoever picks him will likely fall in love with his game really quickly.

With so many defensemen projected for a top pick, is it 2021 really that heavy on defensemen?

Maybe? While every draft class has a lot of defensemen available, this year could see three to five going in the top ten, the rest of the first round is a totally wide open field. Especially with no other U18 tourneys and two thirds of the CHL being inactive for most of 2020-21. Still, there are defenders to be had outside of the top ten (and I’ve seen some services rank Lambos or Evidsson outside of it.) The “best of the rest” would include Stanislov Svozil of HC Krometa Brno of the Czech league, Daniil Chayka of CSKA Moscow’s system in Russia, Corson Ceulemans of Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and Aiden Hreschuk and Sean Behrens of the USNTDP.

What about forwards? Who are the top-end forward prospects in 2021?

In addition to Beniers, here are some forwards to get familiar with as potentially high picks.

  • Kent Johnson, C, University of Michigan (NCAA) - Johnson scored an impressive 41 goals and 101 points in 52 games with Trail in the BCHL in 2019-20. Johnson sought the college path and so far it has paid off for the slick-skating and intelligent playmaker. He has six goals and 19 points in 17 games so far in college hockey. He has been playing significant minutes for a big name program in hockey. Johnson may already have the skillset to be a significant producer at the pro level. Once he adds strength to his slight frame, he could be set for at least a solid career.
  • William Eklund, C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL) - As you are likely a Devils fan, then you know Alexander Holtz pretty well. If you have followed Holtz this season, then you know who this player is already. Eklund has been a common linemate for Holtz and the two have already demonstrated on-ice chemistry that has led to points on the board for his team. Eklund is smart with and without the puck, he skates pretty well, he is unafraid to go to the “dirty” areas, and you cannot knock the results even if he is not the flashiest forward on the ice. He is currently fourth in the SHL in points among junior aged players and all those ahead or directly behind him have been picked. Expect Eklund to go high this year. (And if he’s available for New Jersey, then it may be too tempting to not pick a player who already meshes well with Holtz. Imagine, say, Eklund-Hughes-Holtz.)
  • Aatu Räty, C, Kärpät (Liiga) - Räty was projected to be the first overall pick for 2021 ahead of the 2020-21 season. It was easy to see why: his play warranted ice time in higher age groups, he played stronger than his frame would imply, and he was effective in both ends of the rink. Unfortunately, 2020-21 has saw other players develop to out-shine him while Räty struggled. After appearing the WJCs in 2020 as an underage player, the Finnish national team did not even pick him for 2021. He was sent down to the U20 team to get his mind right after poor performances with the senior Kärpät team. He is with the senior team again and playing about 10-12 minutes per game, but the bloom is off the proverbial rose. I do not doubt that Räty will be a top-15 pick, but it would be a shock if he went first overall like so many thought last year.
  • Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton (WHL) / Sherwood Park (AJHL - Loan) - Guenther had a fantastic rookie campaign with the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2019-20 with 26 goals and 59 points in 58 games. However, the lack of WHL hockey has kept him idle until recently when he secured a loan with Sherwood Park of the AJHL to at least get some game action. As you would expect from a WHL scorer at age 16, the 17-year old already put up three goals and five points in four games in Junior A. He plays aggressively, he dishes the puck with aplomb, and he played in all situations for Edmonton in his rookie season. Despite his mostly inactive 2020-21, he could very well be a top-ten selection.
  • Fabian Lysell, RW, Luleå HF (SHL) - Lysell is not particularly large with an official listing of 5’10” and 168 pounds, but his offensive skills are quite huge. Enough to command minutes in age groups older than most at his age would stay at. His strong shot and puck-handling abilities led to so many points with the Frölunda U18 team team in 2019-20 that he garnered time with the U20 team. Instead of sticking with the Frölunda U20 team this season, he has earned senior ice time with Luleå. Not a lot, which is common for most young players, but enough to get 19 appearances already. He scored quite a bit for Sweden’s youth national teams. If World U18s happen, then do not be shocked if Lysell explodes on that stage - and bursts up into the first third of this year’s first round.

There are several other forward prospects that could sneak into the top forwards for 2021, if they have not already. It is hard to fully ignore the impressive production of Sasha Pastujov of the USNTDP. Cole Sillinger also had a great rookie season in 2019-20 in the WHL and he is now producing quite a bit with Sioux Falls of the USHL on loan. Similar to Lysell, right winger Simon Robertsson has been very good at the U20 level with Skellefteå and garnered a lot of appearances with the senior team. HV71 winger Oskar Olausson and his current loan to the Allsvensaka has been promising to start. While injuries have kept him from playing a game for the USNTDP this season, the sheer talent of Chaz Lucius still keeps his name amid the first round discussion at forward.

Goaltenders? What about the goaltenders?

The rule of thumb for the better part of the last decade is that a team should not draft a goaltender high in the first round. The last two drafts have turned that phrase into: a team should not draft a goaltender high in the first round except... Because the last two drafts have featured two supreme prospects at the netminder position. Spencer Knight was the exception in 2019 as he backstopped one of the most talented USNTDP groups ever. He went 13th overall in 2019. Yaroslav Askarov was the exception in 2020 as he boasted a resume that few prospect goaltenders could ever hope to match. He went 11th overall in 2020 - the highest for a goaltender since 2010 when Jack Campbell went 11th. This year’s exception comes from Sweden: Jesper Wallstedt.

Wallstedt is a regular goaltender for Luleå HF of the SHL. The 18-year old was a dominant force in the crease for Luleå’s youth teams and made his SHL debut last season for one game. This season, he has played 19 of 32 games for the team and has posted a 91.83% save percentage - the fourth best save percentage among goaltenders in the league. The fact that the only goaltenders who have stopped a higher rate of pucks are possible candidates for SHL’s goaltender of the season should tell you how impressive Wallstedt has been this season. Wallstedt has also been a standout for Sweden’s youth national teams; it may have been a mistake he only received two games in the 2021 WJC tourney, where he did quite well as he did at the U18 levels in past seasons. He challenges skaters but not to a point where he puts himself out of position. His 6’3”, 214 pound frame is more than sufficient for the pro game, and he moves very well laterally to get his body in positions for saves. Between the resume and the skills, there is no other goaltender prospect in 2021 that is even close to Wallstedt’s level.

While I think Asakarov’s resume was better in his draft year, this may be the year for a goaltender to go in the top ten of a draft for the first time since 2005 when Carey Price was selected fifth overall. This year’s draft is filled with more risk than past years given that most of the top prospects have not played as much as they could have. I do not think there has been a single league not interrupted in some way due to the pandemic. Even if there was, it has been without fans and other ancillary factors that were common in past seasons. There certainly have not been the same number of international tourneys or showcase games that can help a prospect get in the eyes of some more and different scouts of teams. Further, NHL teams have increasingly moved to a 1A/1B goaltending tandem for the regular season. A quality goaltender is worth their weight in platnium, so having two is even better. Between that and Wallstedt’s consistency in the crease during this tumultuous 2020-21 campaign may be seen as more valuable than before. If keeps it up and finishes the SHL season as a top five goaltender, does well at the World U18s for Sweden, and stays healthy, then I think Wallstedt will be a top ten pick in 2021.

If you want a hot take, then there it is. I think there will be a goaltender selected in the top ten for the first time in 16 years and it will be Jesper Wallstedt.

What should the Devils be aiming for?

That is going to depend a lot on where they end up and what changes the NHL makes to the draft lottery. As well as they have started 2020-21, I fear they are going to struggle to get back into form if/when they return to games. Combined with the very compact schedule, I think they will end up where I think they would before the season. They will miss the playoffs, but they will not finish last in the East. Since the GMs were unhappy with past lottery results, I am not holding my breath on the Devils - who won the lottery in 2017 and 2019 - winning a high pick in 2021. I would love to be wrong, but I think the Devils may end up picking in the 9th to 15th range based on their season so far. I still think they are not a playoff team but they are not among the worst teams in the NHL.

I know some Devils fans are excited at the possibility of taking a defenseman with loads of potential to lead the blueline for years to come. They may be able to do so depending on how NHL teams view the draft class. I do not think they will see Power slip, but depending on who and what you see, they may get lucky and have the other top end defensemen available. I do not think Hughes or Clarke will fall that far (and if they do, I’d run to the computer to select them if I was Tom Fitzgerald), but Edvisson and/or Lambos might. If the Devils end up picking closer to the middle of the first round, then the defensemen-inclined fan should be pleased with someone like Svozil.

I think the real temptation would be their other options outside of defense. While I think Beniers could crack the top five this year, if he ends up slipping, then that is a very good prospect that is very tough to pass up on. I also think a team can never have too many offensively skilled forwards in their system and Johnson and Eklund fit that bill as well. Eklund would be especially tempting given that he already plays well across from Holtz, whom the Devils picked first last year. Räty could be a very shrewd pick up if his 2020-21 was more of a down season than just a sign of not meeting potential. Ditto for Guenther, whose only main issue this season has been not being active due to the thing that has caused global issues.

The biggest conversation-starter over this potential pick would be Wallstedt. As much as I believe Mackenzie Blackwood is a legitimately good goaltender, having two legitimately good goaltenders is better than one. And with Blackwood being 24, Wallstedt can develop at his own pace without putting unneeded pressure on Blackwood. Wallstedt’s contract ends after 2021-22 and he could end up in the NHL shortly thereafter. Then, Blackwood will be near the end of his current contract; he could still be paid to be the Devils’ top goaltender while Wallstedt could earn his way to a ‘1B’ role before he’s 22. If the group available at, say, 10th overall is between Edvisson, Wallstedt, Guenther, and Johnson, then I may actually prefer the goaltender.

Prospect-wise, the Devils can go in a lot of different directions as they have a lot of young players at each level right now. Somehow getting one of the top defensemen prospects this year would be a big help for the defensive side of things. But it is not needed right away, especially with Ty Smith in NJ and the potential growth of Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, and Reilly Walsh in Binghamton. There is never a bad time to add more offense. However, I think their biggest positional concern is in goaltender since I do not know how much faith to have in Nico Daws and I am unsure about whether Gilles Senn has a NHL future. But goaltending prospects are a shot in the dark among a whole process of shooting in the dark. Wallstedt would be an amazing get for 2021 as the other higher picks of recent years continue to grow and flourish.

Of course, there is a lot that can change between now and then. The Devils may continue to do well and end up being in the playoffs and, therefore, further in the draft. The prospects mentioned here may continue to shine or hit some issues whether they be injury or not being able to play. Other prospects may do so well to overtake some of these players. For all we know, the 2021 NHL Draft may be moved and that could lead to a total change in the draft class. Especially if it is moved to next year with its buzzier draft class.

Buzzier draft class next year? Who in 2022 is worth knowing now?

The 2022 NHL Draft class could be incredible. Some of these prospects were getting people’s attention last year when they were just 15 or 16 years old. Here are some of the big names to get a little familiar with now so you can impress people later when they become even more popular:

  • Shane Wright, C, Kingston (OHL) - Wright stepped into the OHL as a 15-year old under Exceptional Player Status. He got a letter on his jersey, played on a top line, and scored 39 goals and 66 points in his rookie season in the OHL and also led his team in scoring. He has already received comparisons to Sidney Crosby and I do not think they are unfair.
  • Brad Lambert, C/RW, Pelicans (Liiga) - Despite the name, Lambert is indeed Finnish. He has also put the hockey world on notice when the 16-year old made his Liiga debut in 2019-20 with two assists in four games. In this season, he has played his entire season with Pelicans, he is among rookies in scoring with 11 points in 28 games (and roughly 14 minutes per game), and he represented Finland at the 2021 WJC. All while turning 17 in December. Like Wright, the skillset is real and real special. He could very well be the first Finnish overall pick in NHL history in 2022.
  • Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg (WHL) / Dubuque (USHL) - Savoie was denied Exceptional Player Status in 2019, but he did go first overall in the WHL’s Bantam Draft that year. While his 7 assists in 22 games with the ICE as a 16 year old did not floor so many, his current performances are garnering more attention. With the WHL still inactive, Savoie has taken his talents to the AJHL and USHL, where he is currently at. He has scored a bunch in his short time there. When the WHL resumes, expect Savoie to hit the ground running and see his name come up more and more for 2022.
  • Simon Nemec, RHD, HK Nitra (Slovakia) - Nemec turns 17 today. So far this season, he has played in 25 games for for HK Nitra in Slovakia’s top league, put up 11 points over those 25 games, and featured for Slovakia’s WJC team with four assists in five games. The right-shooting defender could very well be Slovakia’s best prospect in years.
  • Tristan Luneau, RHD, Gatineau (QMJHL) - Laneau was the top pick in the 2020 QMJHL draft and was a top defenseman at the AAA level. He turned 17 in January and was already playing significant minutes for Gatineau with two goals and seven points in 17 games for the rebuilding Olympiques. Look out for Luneau next season should Gatineau get better quickly.
  • Elias Salomonsson, RHD, Skellefteå (SHL) - Salmonsson is one of the youngest members of the 2022 draft class with a birthdate of August 31, 2004. The defenseman has put up four goals and 15 points in 14 games with the U20 team and has made his debut for the senior Skellefteå team with three appearances already. Do not be shocked to see him at the World U18s for Sweden and do not be shocked when his name comes up more often next year.
  • Rutger McGroarty, C, USNTDP U17 Team - After a not so notable group in 2020 for the USNTDP, those in the know where not concerned about the program given what they were seeing for 2021 and 2022. For 2022, perhaps the biggest name to know is 16-year old forward Rutger McGroarty. He has been a standout scorer for the U17 team and has made a few productive appearances with the U18 team. McGroarty already has a pro-sized frame and he is in a great position to go to strength to strength on an extremely talented U17 team (with Jack Devine, Frank Nazar, Seamus Casey, Ike Thomas, the other Jack Hughes, and Bridgewater, NJ’s Devin Kaplan - in fact, get familiar with the USNTDP for next year and you’ll be fine for a chunk of 2022’s top prospects).
  • Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW, Omskie Yasterby (MHL) - The high-end Russian prospect for 2022 is this sizeable left winger who can hit hard and work well with the puck in tight places. He was supposed to be in Muskegon of the OHL this season but the pandemic kept him in Russia. If and when the OHL resumes, look out for the long named winger.

I know that is a hefty list and that is even downgrading a legitimately stacked USNTDP U-17 team to just one bullet point. Excitement has been brewing for this draft class since 2020 and it is only going to increase as these names and others prosper in this and next season. Should the NHL decide to move back the 2021 draft to go right before this one, this group may easily outshine the 2021 class in terms of top-end talent alone. The only similarity between this group and 2021 may be an uncertain #1 prospect, but there are a lot of stakes to that claim in 2022. My wild guess is that it will come down to Wright vs. Lambert. And anyone picking the top ten will be supremely happy about being there in 2022.

Should we be mad that the Vancouver pick was not a 2021 pick?

It depends on where it ends up. I know a lot of Vancouver fans are in a full-on panic. But the top four teams in the division will be playoff teams. Despite their awful record now, they are still in the mix with Winnipeg, Calgary, and a depth-challenged Edmonton team in the standings. If they can sort things out and get some luck, they can still be a playoff team. The North is still up for grabs past Toronto and Montreal. Furthermore, the potential changes to the draft may mean this pick may not be so worth it. The prospect available may end up being better than Shakir Mukhamadullin, but there was no way to know that last year and even no way to know that now. Personally, I am not mad about it. I also think Vancouver will finish fourth - Edmonton will crash out - and this February panic will be long forgotten in May.

What sites and people do you recommend following for draft coverage?

While the pandemic has undercut the hockey campaign worldwide, draft coverage for the fan has seen growth. Here are some resources that are worth checking out, although keep in mind some are paid and some are free:

  • Elite Prospects - Not only does it contain information on every player in the world, their paid EP Rinkside section has been continuously bolstered to provide more analysis and opinion about said players.
  • Dobber Prospects - Dobber has and is will be a huge site for fantasy hockey. But the group assembled to focus on prospects has been very good to keep tabs on future players. One prolific writer, Jokke Nevalainen, is now a scout for Carolina, so there are people of substance who pay attention to Dobber Prospects. It also has a frequent podcast about the draft for those who prefer to hear discussion.
  • The Draft Analyst - Steve Kournianos has always been bold about his opinion and willing to back them all up. He has made a concerted effort to grow his site, which now has a staff focusing on other leagues more closely. The Draft Analyst is no longer a one-man show and everyone will be better for it.
  • McKeen’s Hockey - The long-standing prospect guide continues to churn out content for its subscribers and will plan to have a yearbook, as usual, to make sense of the draft. Several of the people on this list contribute at McKeen’s. When they speak, people listen.
  • FC Hockey - The site formerly known as Future Considerations secured a really good URL (nhlentrydraft.com) and continues to be a solid alternative among the subscriber sites like McKeen’s. Between their interactive mock draft builder and free articles, there is plenty of reason to check them out from time to time even if you are not a subscriber.
  • Will Scouch - While his Scouching site is infrequently updated, his main platform is Youtube. He frequently makes videos for draft prospects and recently drafted players. He also livestreams most Wednesday evenings and takes questions from the watchers about prospects. Go forth and inundate the man with questions about Devils prospects.
  • Smaht Scouting - The Smaht Scouting group seems new to me, but they have been quite active with scouting reports and rankings.
  • Last Word on Sports - Their prospect rankings year after year are well done and deserve far more attention than they get.
  • FinnProspects - If you want a Finnish take on Finnish prospects then go to the unimaginatively-named FinnProspects to learn more.
  • OHL Prospects - Anyone who ever wants to make a blog about prospects should just look at what Brock Otten has done for years and do the same. When the OHL resumes, pay attention to this blog. Even if it does not, he has the connections to pull opinions from all over about one of the three Canadian major junior leagues.
  • The Athletic - You probably know this site by now. Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler lead the prospect coverage at The Athletic. Both are excellent at what they have done and will continue to do with prospects.

Among SB Nation, I would recommend to Chris Dilks & Co. at SBN College Hockey, the staff at Habs Eyes on the Prize around draft time, whenever Lauren Kelly posts something about prospects at Raw Charge, among others.

So what’s next?

Hopefully the New Jersey Devils will play some games this week and this New Jersey Devils blog will be more relevant in the hockey world as a result of it. You can only point out so many things from nine games so many times, such as how bad the Devils have been on special teams and how good the Devils goaltenders and the decent 5-on-5 play. I understand why the

For the draft, the eyes will be all over. The European and American leagues will continue on. The hope is that WHL and OHL will start sometime next month so at least something will be played resembling a season. Those following the QMJHL will hope there is not enough pause. And the next and perhaps only international tournament will be the World U18s in April and May this year. All the while, many will pay attention to what the NHL does, if anything to the draft lottery process and the 2021 NHL Draft itself. At least there is no shortage of intrigue.

Thank you to the People Who Matter who chose this idea over the other one (what I’m learning from Football Manager 21 about hockey management), which I hope to keep in my back pocket for longer than a week from now. Thanks to all of the people in the links in the prior section as I referred to their sites throughout putting this post together. Please leave any comments about your thoughts about the 2021 draft class, any other notable prospects I missed, and who you would want the Devils to pick. Thank you for reading.