As is tradition here at SB Nation, the site managers of the 31 (and soon to be 32) team blogs got together for a mock draft of the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Trades were made. Names were announced. And so this is the post that goes into why we picked who we picked. This was done in parallel with our own internal mock draft of the first round here at All About the Jersey. That one is done among all of us. Brian helped me make the choice for the SBN Mock Draft. Earlier in the week, I announced that Luke Hughes was our fourth overall pick in the SBN Mock Draft. Twenty-seven picks later - because Arizona forfeited their first round pick - it was time to pick again for the New Jersey Devils. With Brian’s support, we selected Skellefteå AIK forward Simon Robertsson.
Alex profiled Robertsson a few weeks back, stating that he has one of the best shots in the draft. Robertsson is more than a shooter though. He skates well. He can read plays well enough to do more on offense than just blast away. He can help move the puck forward in transition. He works well with his teammates going forward and can forecheck. Alex concluded that he thinks someone with his talents would not likely make it to the Devils’ second pick in the first round. As it turned out, he did in the 2021 SB Nation Mock Draft.
Part of what led this pick to being Robertsson was the first pick made in the first round. That pick was defenseman Luke Hughes. With the Devils taking one of the best defensemen in the class, the Devils could afford to address other needs of their prospect pool. Scoring wingers are seemingly a need with this organization. It is not so much that the Devils have not drafted them or that they do not have any. The existence of Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Nolan Foote, and Graeme Clarke shows otherwise. But with the Devils having been a relatively low-scoring team for the better part of the last decade, obtaining players who have great shots and can move well on the ice is seemingly a good option.
Another part of what led this pick to being Robertsson turned out to be his perceived value. As questioned in the comments to Alex’s profile, one could question where Robertsson’s production was if he had the best shot in the draft. A big part of that was due to the pandemic cutting short the Swedish Under-20 league’s (J20 Nationell) season. There, Robertsson was a point machine with nine goals and twenty points in just 15 games. He led the North league in scoring prior its shutdown. Like with a lot of Swedish prospects this year, he was thrown into the SHL where he played minimal minutes (and put up minimal results) with the men’s team. That could have hurt his cause (as it did for other prospects who would have been better suited in the U-20 leagues). He had a quiet performance at the World Under 18 Championships, which also hurts his perception. It may be enough to have Robertsson slide further where scouting services and evaluators like Will Scouch and Steve Kournianos rank the player. That slide could very well be the Devils’ gain.
Sure, Robertsson does need some work. He needs to improve his play off the puck and getting involved on defense. He will need to hone his strengths such that they can thrive at the next level in Sweden and eventually in North America. While he is not small at 6’0” and 190 pounds, Robertsson likely needs to get stronger like the vast majority of 17-18 year old prospects that gets drafted. Robertsson will have time to work on these things and do so as he is signed through 2023-24 with Skellefteå. When he is available, he could jump right over and he could step into a depth winger role with an eye for a bigger role in the future and/or compete for a top-six role with a little acclimation to the North American game. For as late in the first round the Devils are with this second first rounder, I think the weaknesses pale in comparison to all of his strengths. Strengths the Devils could always use more in their forwards and so Robertsson would be a great way to end their first day at the 2021 NHL Draft after taking Luke Hughes.
Other Options at #29 in the 2021 SBN Mock Draft
Brian and I had seriously considered two other forwards in place of Robertsson. Both for similar reasons: they had much higher probabilities for being NHL players and NHL “stars” as per Byron Bader’s model at Hockey Prospecting.
- Forward Sasha Pastujov (profiled here by Alex) of the United States National Team Development Program has been seen as a late first round or early second round option. The Norte Dame commit certainly produced throughout his two seasons with the USNTDP U17 and U18 teams while also performing internationally. There are differing opinions about how well he skates, how he defends, and, perhaps more importantly, how he projects. The Bader model gives him about a 77% chance of being a NHL player - which is based on his production with the USNTDP - but there are questions of how much of his potential he could realize. He is a skilled winger and he can handle himself well in tight spaces. But given that Robertsson has more notable traits and does not have skating to be a big concern (or as a big of one), the choice was made to go with Robertsson.
- Forward Ayrton Martino (profile scheduled for next week) of the Omaha Lancers may be considered to be a one-dimensional prospect, but it is a potentially fantastic dimension. Martino can blaze away on breakaways, pester opposing players in the offensive zone, and can pass and shoot the puck quite well to rack up points - which he did with Omaha with 18 goals and 56 points in 38 games. The concerns: defense and whether this can all translate to the next levels of hockey. Bader’s model gives him about a 62% chance of being a NHL player; but from what I’ve read I get the sense he is either going to be an offensive dynamo or he will not. For a late pick in the first round of this year’s draft, taking a swing on Martino and hoping his time at Clarkson University molds him further is far from the worst idea. Whether he ends up being in the top 31 this year is another question. That stated, Robertsson has a higher ceiling and has plenty of exciting offensive tools of his own. So we opted in that direction.
Bader’s model is based on NHLe, or NHL equivalency rates, which takes a player’s point per game in a league, multiply it the NHLe, and get an equivalent rate of production had the player been in the NHL. The model especially rewards productive players in their season before they are draft eligible and the season they are draft eligible. Given that Robertsson was in the Swedish junior league for last season and his only productive part of this season, I think the model underrates him (and other Swedish prospects). Based on the skills he has demonstrated and his performances beyond the boxscore, we settled on Robertsson over Pastujov or Martino.
As it is 29th overall (and technically 28th since Arizona had no first), there was a wealth of names to select. Obviously, this was guided by the other picks made in the 2021 SBN Mock Draft, which you can peruse right here. Rather than break them all down, here is just a few names that were available that were briefly considered and ultimately rejected for not being on the level of the others:
Forwards: Samu Tuomaala, Mackie Samoskevich, Dylan Duke, Prokhor Poltapov, Aleksi Heimosalmi
Defensemen: Scott Morrow, Stanislav Szovil, Daniil Chayka
With Luke Hughes going at fourth overall with our mock pick, we did not think another defensemen was necessary. I can see some clamor for Scott Morrow over the forwards based on the fact he is a right-handed defenseman. But I do not agree with taking Morrow over Robertsson or even Pastujov or Martino.
The second Devils selection in the 2021 SB Nation Mock Draft is Simon Robertsson. While there were other possibilities available, we felt that Robertsson was the best of the rest. One could wish that I traded the pick, but I do not believe that helps a mock draft, which has a purpose of gauging what teams could do in the actual 2021 NHL Draft on July 23 and 24. Plus, no one made any offers so the proverbial phone was quiet.
I encourage you to give us your take on our second mock draft pick for SBN. Who would you have picked at twenty-ninth overall (technically twenty-eighth)? Would you have also picked Simon Robertsson? Would have went someone else like Pastujov or Martino? Or perhaps someone else entirely? Why? Please let us know in the comments and/or even vote in our poll for our SBN Mock Draft pick. Our own mock will come out next week. Please check out SB Nations’ page for the 2021 mock draft for the other picks. Thank you for reading.
Our second pick in the 2021 SBN NHL Mock Draft is Simon Robertsson. Do you agree with our pick?
This poll is closed
No, it should have been Pastujov.
No, it should have been Martino.
No, it should have been someone else.