Last year, we put together our first ever mock draft of a first round of the NHL Entry Draft. It went quite well with the staff giving their takes on the three first round picks the New Jersey Devils had in 2020. We decided to do it again for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, which will begin with the first round tomorrow night. Assuming no first round picks were traded, Brian took the Arizona-less list of selections and graciously made the choices for all of the non-Devils picks in the first round. When it came time for the Devils, the floor was open for the writers to have their say.
One first rounder was easily decided. The other one, well, we actually did not. You can help us out with that. But, first, I will list how far we got. I want to thank all of the writers who contributed to this year’s mock draft. Especially Brian for his massive help to make this mock draft possible. About 90% of it is his work. Here is the All About the Jersey Mock Draft for the First Round of the 2021 NHL Draft. (Links in the player’s names goes to our prospect profile on the player if we did one for them.)
#1 - Buffalo - Owen Power, D, Michigan (Big 10)
#2 - Seattle - Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan (Big 10)
#3 - Anaheim - Dylan Guenther, LW, Edmonton (WHL)
#4 - New Jersey - Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP
The majority of the participating writers went with the brother of Quinn and The Big Deal, Jack. The future Wolverine, Luke Hughes. Here are selected quotes from those who picked him at fourth overall:
“For me this comes down to either Luke Hughes or Brandt Clarke. I would be thrilled to select either defenseman but I give the slight edge to Hughes based on his skating ability that could make him an elite puck mover and offensive producer. His defensive game may not be on the same level as his offensive game but I think he will still be solid enough in his own zone for him to be a potential top pairing guy when you factor everything together. I also like that Hughes is one of the youngest players in this draft with his September 9, 2003 birthday so you’re almost getting another year of development time for him. “
“Whether he’s related to Jack means nothing to me. What does mean something to me is that Luke Hughes is a fantastic skater, he has a strong set of offensive skills, and he is young enough to blossom even further. He should thrive at Michigan and quickly become the Devils’ best offensive defenseman prospect since Damon Severson. The Devils really do not have a lot of this kind of prospect in their current pool. I think it would make sense to get one now so they are not panicking to find one - who may not be as good as what Hughes may become - in two to three seasons.”
“What it comes down to for me is that I don’t see a ton of daylight between Hughes and the other players I like best in this range. And with all else being equal, I find it hard to ignore the Jack factor. Add in the fact that Luke is one of the youngest players in this draft and already looks as good as he does and it’s tough to pass him up.”
“Steve Kournianos, in his final rankings, writes that Luke is “just as dynamic” as his brother Quinn, but is “a step or two ahead” of his brother at this age in terms of defensive development. If that’s honestly the case, then how can you not take him? Add in the fact that NJ desperately needs strong defensive prospects, especially those that can produce offense, and it makes this pick a done deal.”
#5 - Columbus - Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie (OHL)
#6 - Detroit - William Eklund, C/LW, Djurgårdens (SHL)
#7 - San Jose - Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL)
#8 - Los Angeles - Jesper Wallstedt, G, Luleå (SHL)
#9 - Vancouver - Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (Big 10)
#10 - Ottawa - Simon Edvinsson, D, Frölunda (SHL) / Västerås (Allsvenskan)
#11 - Arizona - Forfeit
#12 - Chicago - Chaz Lucius, C, USNTDP
#13 - Calgary - Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)
#14 - Philadelphia - Matthew Coronato, LW/RW, Chicago (USHL)
#15 - Dallas - Fabian Lysell, RW, Luleå (SHL)
#16 - New York - Zachary L’Heuruex, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
#17 - St. Louis - Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL)
#18 - Winnipeg - Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL)
#19 - Nashville - Fyodor Svechkov, C, Lada Togliatti (VHL)
#20 - Edmonton - Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL)
#21 - Boston - Daniil Chayka, D, Guelph (OHL)
#22 - Minnesota - Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton (WHL)
#23 - Detroit - Isak Rosén, RW, Leksands (SHL)
#24 - Florida - Oskar Olausson, LW/RW, HV71 (SHL)
#25 - Columbus - Aatu Räty, C, Kärpät (Liiga)
#26 - Minnesota - Sasha Pastujov, LW, USNTDP
#27 - Carolina - Logan Stankoven, LW/RW, Kamloops (WHL)
#28 - Colorado - Matthew Samoskevich, C, Chicago (USHL)
#29 - New Jersey - Uh...
We could not come to a conclusion. I’m sorry.
We had four different opinions and none of them even held a plurality, much less a majority. Not only this year’s draft class wide open by this point in the first round, but the four options were legitimate ones. After discussing it with Brian, we decided to put the choice in your hands. What I will do is list out each of the four choices (while keeping the writer anonymous) plus how Brian would have mocked the remaining four picks if that person wins it. He did pick Scott Morrow (D, Shattuck St. Mary’s, Minnesota Prep Hockey) at #30 for Las Vegas and Samu Salminen (C/LW, Jokerit U-20, U-20 SM-Sarja) at #32 for Columbus. Only Montreal’s pick is affected by the four options. You will vote in the poll below as to which you would prefer.
Option #1: Nikita Chibrikov, LW, SKA-Neva (VHL)
Commentary: “I was tempted to pick Simon Robertsson (the SBN Mock Draft choice), then I saw this young man was still available. He’s a brave (to a fault, he is not big but he is not scared of contact in the least), swift, skilled, and occasionally nasty offensive winger. Chibrikov is able to forecheck and backcheck with intensity. He is good at moving the puck forward in transition and maintaining control. He does stand to improve his reads when passing the puck and his general consistency, but he has shown he can be fierce and productive as he did at the World U-18s amid his games in the SKA system. Chibrikov’s contract will end after 2023 so he can continue to grow with SKA and then jump to New Jersey to acclimate to the North American game. There are two other players available I liked a lot, but I cannot pass up on Chibrikov here.”
#30 - Morrow, #31 - Francesco Pinelli (C, Kitchener, OHL), #32 - Salminen
Option #2: Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener (OHL)
Commentary: “I think there are a few really solid options on the board here I like for the Devils but I am inclined to go with Francesco Pinelli at 29. Like many other prospects, Pinelli had his 2020-21 OHL season flushed by the pandemic, but he found competitive hockey in Europe, where he performed well in a lower-tier Men’s league. Pinelli was coming off a very strong rookie OHL season in 2019-20, where he showed the ability to be a scoring threat that can also be effective in all zones. Regarded as a very smart player, he can potentially fit well into the Devils pipeline as a well-rounded player that still clearly has strong upside. He was far from the only Canadian to put up big numbers at this year’s U18s, but his 11 points in 7 games were still impressive and showed how effective he is within the context of his age group. Pinelli has good size, is a shade toward the younger side of this draft, and has loads of potential on top of generally strong results, so he is my pick for the Devils at the back of the first round.”
#30 - Morrow, #31 - Matthew Knies (C/LW, Tri-City, USHL) #32 - Salminen
Option #3: Simon Robertsson, RW, Skellefteå (SHL)
Commentary: “When you’re at pick 29, and you can arguably get the player with the best shot in the entire draft, how do you not take him? I know this is the boring pick after AATJ took him in the SBN-wide mock, but it was the right pick then, and it still is the right pick now. Not only does he have a wicked shot, but he has a high motor, a good enough two-way game, good skating and ok agility, and has pro experience in Sweden. What’s not to like? Even if he never improves on his passing game, and his decision making remains inconsistent, his shot alone provides him a high floor. After taking a defenseman at 4, this has to be the pick in my opinion.”
#30 - Morrow, #31 - Pinelli, #32 - Salminen
Option #4: Olen Zellweger, D, Everett (WHL)
Commentary: “Zellweger is a 5’10”, 174 lbs. left-handed shooting defenseman that is days away from being a 2022 draft eligible due to his mid-September birthday. He was consistent in a depth role for Everett in his age 16 year and a star for them in his age 17 year. Recently, he was the 3rd highest scoring defensemen at the U18’s where he helped Canada win Gold. His game is built around his excellent skating and mobility. He’s mechanically sound, explosive in open ice, and possesses great edge work. He reads the game well in all zones due to his fine hockey sense. Defensively, he may be undersized but has shown the ability to maintain a tight gap starting in the neutral zone and either break up plays or force the opposition towards the boards to disrupt attacks. His progression year to year has been excellent, and with his age, he could develop into one of the best defenders to come from this draft class. The Hockey Prospecting model by Byron Bader has his Star Probability at 22% and NHLer Probability at 78%. That Star Probability is 2nd among all defensemen in this year’s draft, trailing only Brandt Clarke. That NHLer Probability is the 3rd highest in this draft class, only behind D Brandt Clarke and C Cole Sillinger. His comparables in the model include Ivan Provorov, Darryl Sydor, Oleg Tverdovsky, Philippe Boucher, and Drew Doughty. The Top Down Hockey model by Patrick Bacon has his Star% at 25.43% and his NHLer% at 82.23%. That Star% is the 7th highest in this draft class and 2nd among defensemen according to that model. That NHLer% is the 9th highest in this draft class and 4th among defensemen according to that model.”
#30 - Morrow, #31 - Pinelli, #32 - Salminen
Again, this year’s draft will become a lot more wide open once you get beyond the top eight picks or so. And even those picks could send this draft in a whole bunch of different directions. This makes it harder to do a mock draft (or a real one) since legitimate cases could be made for so many different players. Remember that these players are not likely to jump from the draft to the NHL, so the consideration is not so much about what a team needs today but what they could need or use in the future.
Luke Hughes was our collective choice at fourth overall and between the two first rounders, that is the one that the Devils need to be successful. The second one is up in the air and will be decided by you, the People Who Matter. Who knows, one of those options could be taken at 29th overall tomorrow. Assuming the Devils even have 29th overall tomorrow night.
Once again, I want to thank all of the writers who participated and especially Brian for doing so much with our prospect coverage for the draft as well as this mock draft. Thank you all for reading, please vote in the poll, and stick around the site this afternoon as the annual mock draft roundup will be up later today.
Who would you take at 29th overall in the AAtJ Mock Draft?
This poll is closed