We did it, folks. We mocked the whole first round of the 2021 NHL Draft.
A reminder again: our mock draft was done prior to the NHL releasing the full draft order. Since the Arizona Coyotes will forfeit their first-round pick, we’ve been numbering them in order of selection, while the NHL will simply not have an 11th-overall pick in the 2021 draft. It doesn’t affect the results of our mock draft, but the numbers will shift down when the actual draft comes.
Catch up on the picks so far here:
And now, we close out the first round.
25. Minnesota Wild — Francesco Pinelli
From Hockey Wilderness:
Described as someone with top-tier offensive vision and plays a very smart game, Pinelli saw some of his draft stock slip during his all-important draft year. He was seen as someone that could have been drafted in the first 10 picks and no one would bat an eye a year ago, but with the significant change to playing overseas, he just appeared like he wanted to do everything himself and got caught up with some mistakes. 13 games isn’t a lot to go off of, but it’s enough to mess up your reputation. [...]
Despite disappointing in Europe, Pinelli played an excellent game during the U18 World Championships in Texas earlier this spring, so he at least revived some of his former hype. At No. 26, it’s kind of a no-brainer to try and take someone that clearly still has some development but can be a serviceable NHL forward in the future with no real extreme weakness to his game.
26. Carolina Hurricanes — Brennan Othmann
From Canes Country:
I had to put myself in the mindset of the Hurricanes’ scouting staff for this pick. The three best players on the board, in my opinion, were Othmann, Xavier Bourgault and Zachary L’Heureux. L’Heureux has his problems and I don’t think the Hurricanes will want a player with maturity issues in their pipeline. Bourgault is a fine choice, but he lacks the upside that Othmann has.
For me, Othmann was the easy choice. The Hurricanes tend to select players that have some combination of the three S’s: Skill, Skating, Smarts (also known as Hockey Sense). Othmann possesses a lot of skill as a puck carrier and goal scorer as well as a power forward. His skating is only slightly above average but he can motor through the offensive zone and plow through defenses. His hockey sense is also above average, so he checks all three boxes that the Canes covet.
27. Colorado Avalanche — Olen Zellweger
Zellweger is already good enough to be one of the very best of his peers at every level he’s played, despite being much younger than many of them.
That extra strength to help his shot, skating, and physical defense is more likely to come than someone in this draft who is already close to a full year older than him. That extra year’s worth of experience he will get will also help him refine his abilities and hone his instincts. Heck, he may still grow another inch or two — he already apparently grew one between the start of this season and now.
That’s the kind of projection you bet on when it comes to someone with a later birthday, like Zellweger. You can take how good he already is, and mentally adjust for how much better he will be when he is as old as some of the older draft eligible prospects. If he was six days younger, how good would he look as a first time eligible player in next year’s draft? He could well be a consensus first rounder.
28. New Jersey Devils — Simon Robertsson
From All About The Jersey:
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.
29. Detroit Red Wings — Zach Dean
From Winging It In Motown:
The numbers don’t exactly jump out at you when you look at Zach Dean, but it’s important to note that he plays for a relatively low-scoring team in an otherwise high-scoring league. Having said that, just watching him for a few shifts you can see that he has a lot of offensive flare. Good hands, and a playmaker’s mindset. A comparable that comes to mind is Matt Duchene.
Dean also fills a need for the Red Wings, that’s why I took McTavish with the 6th pick.. Let’s face it, the Red Wings are weak up the middle and need to start kicking that can a little more. They’re flush with skilled wingers, so it would be nice to see them put some more investment in the center position.
30. Montreal Canadiens — Xavier Bourgault
From Habs Eyes On The Prize:
Bourgault is a bit of a project, and that’s usually the case outside of the top few picks of the draft, let alone one of the last ones of the first round. He’s quite elusive with his edgework, and his skating stride and physicality should improve as he builds up his strength over the next few years. He has the awareness and positional instincts to mitigate the effects of those deficiencies.
There’s no guarantee that he’s able to overcome his shortcomings, but that’s the risk a team takes at this stage of a draft. The offensive talent and sense for the game are there if he’s able to address the other parts of his game to take full advantage of it.
31. Columbus Blue Jackets — Daniil Chayka
From The Cannon:
I still wanted to get a center or defensemen, but this group included two centers in Pinelli and Dean and one defenseman in Zellweger. In most rankings, the next batch of centers could have been considered a reach at #31. For defenders, however, Chayka seemed to come up frequently as a late first round pick. The value is there, in addition to filling a major organizational need.
I wrote yesterday about the Russian factor with regards to Nikita Chibrikov, but Chayka is different. He has already played in North America, including two seasons with the Guelph Storm of the OHL. He went back home to Russia this past season, but only because of COVID. He could be interested in coming back to this side of the world sooner, and there won’t be any adjustment necessary for the North American ice size.
What do you think about how our first round played out? Any surprises? New possibilities? Sound off in the comments!
The first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft will be on Friday, July 23 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.