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SB Nation NHL Mock Draft 2021: Picks 1-6

The 2021 NHL Draft is coming up quick, with Round 1 airing on Friday, July 23. Each year, the SB Nation NHL team sites get together and project the first round of the draft, trying to get into the minds of the front office.

This year, 32 teams will gather virtually for the boy auction, as the Seattle Kraken draft their first player in franchise history.

Who might that be? Here are our first six picks in the 2021 Mock Draft:

1. Buffalo Sabres — Owen Power

From Die By The Blade:

Owen Power has become the consensus top pick in this draft among the mainstream draft pundits and NHL scouts. There has been some noise from people such as Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News that the Sabres are high on William Eklund. He is someone that I considered in this spot, but I went with Power.

I feel as though the Canadian-born defender has been overanalyzed over the last few months. There’s a narrative building that he’s not a good prospect, but that’s simply not true.

Don’t get me wrong, he has a good amount to work on in his game. Particularly in the defensive zone. That’s why it makes sense for the Sabres to send him back to the University of Michigan for one more year to work on his craft. He’ll receive big minutes playing in a tough college hockey conference. Power may have the highest ceiling of any player in this draft, but the Sabres will need to put him on the proper development path to reach that level.

2. Seattle Kraken — Matthew Berniers

From All About The Jersey’s draft profile:

In terms of statistical comparison, Beniers had 24 points in 24 games for Michigan in 2021. In 2005-06, Jonathan Toews had 22 goals and 17 assists in 42 games for the University of North Dakota. Beniers had one goal and two assists in seven World Juniors games, while Toews had two assists in six games. […]

It is extremely difficult to find anyone who proposes a downside to picking Matthew Beniers. In some ways, he is portrayed as one of, if not the safest pick in the Draft. His defensive ability is praised as well as offensive ability, and he has the skating ability and hockey IQ to be projected as a top center by some writers. But is that expectation earned?

3. Anaheim Ducks — Dylan Guenther

From Anaheim Calling:

But with Henry Thrun, Jackson LaCombe and, of course, Jamie Drysdale on the up-and-up, I went into this pick hoping to fix the fact that last year’s Anaheim Ducks couldn’t score to save their lives. Unless Owen Power falls to third, the Ducks should pursue a forward. […]

Armed with an explosive shot, the winger (who shoots right, but can play on either side) scored at a two points per game average in 12 games with the Oil Kings in 2021, who played just 23 total games due to coronavirus. He ranked third on the team in goals with 12, despite playing half as many games as the two players above him. […]

His speed and shot make him a type of complete player that will shortly be ready for NHL ice, something the Ducks will absolutely be looking for in their third-overall selection.

4. New Jersey Devils — Luke Hughes

From All About The Jersey:

In case you are totally unaware, Luke Hughes is indeed the younger brother of 2019 first overall pick and budding stud for the New Jersey Devils, “The Big Deal” Jack Hughes. He is also the younger brother of ace offensive defenseman Quinn Hughes of Vancouver. Hughes has been touted as a popular choice for the New Jersey for those reasons.

However, those are just peripheral as to why Brian and I ultimately chose Hughes. The bigger factors are what Hughes is as a prospect. In summary: he is a fantastic skater, he has a lot of offensive skill, and his relative youth – he is one of the younger prospects in this year’s draft class – suggests even more room for growth. It is common for drafted prospects to have a need or could use improvements to their skating. Hughes is one of the few prospects with potentially high-end skill where his skating mechanics and speed are arguably his best assets.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets — William Eklund

From The Cannon:

To learn more about Eklund, check out his draft prospect profile here. Among the players in the top 10, Eklund seemed to have the highest upside. His 200 foot game appealed to me, as did his experience playing in a pro league in 2020-21.

Beniers was at the top of my draft board, but Eklund was close behind. I was a bit surprised that Hughes went so high, but I understand that it’s hard to resist the urge to re-unite Luke with one of his brothers. Brandt Clarke and Mason McTavish were also considered in our draft room due to the need for defensemen and centers, respectively. At #5, however, I felt it most important to pick the best player available regardless of position.

6. Detroit Red Wings — Mason McTavish

From Winging It In Motown:

McTavish checks a lot of the boxes as a centerman, which I feel is a position of great need for the Red Wings. He’s good at the face-off, goes right to the net and isn’t afraid to park himself right in front of the goaltender. The big question is — will he be a center at the pro level? I don’t know if you’re getting a first-line guy, but he can play in any situation, which would make him a highly valuable building block for this team. The Red Wings are in dire need of young playmakers that can make an impact on the penalty kill. McTavish strikes me as the type of player you’d want in that role.

We didn’t hear too much about Mason McTavish this past season because he was one of the many OHL players who were left to find other opportunities due to COVID-19 halting league play. McTavish went overseas and played in one of Switzerland’s top leagues, and not a bad campaign for him — 9 goals, 2 assists in 11 games, not to mention his impressive performance in the playoff and at the WJC with Team Canada. I think playing in one of the Euro leagues was a great move, because it helps him develop at the next level. Quite frankly, I’m not sure why more North American junior players aren’t doing this.

The San Jose Sharks are on the clock for pick number seven.

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