• Alex Taxman

January Top 32 Breakdown

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Welcome to Future Scope Hockey’s January Top 32 Breakdown for the 2021 NHL Draft! There’s a short paragraph detailing the talents and play styles for all 32 of these players, and an NHL comparable who they match stylistically. This was a lot of fun to put together, and it's likely going to be one of the last large pieces I release on the 2021 Draft, due to all the extra circumstances of this year. Enjoy!

1 - Matty Beniers - C/W - University of Michigan - 6'1 - 174 - USA

Matty Beniers has been a dominant two-way force at every level he’s ever played at. As a member of the USNTDP for the past two seasons, he’s played above his age level at both the domestic and international levels. His speed and stick handling ability are both fantastic, combining to form a one man zone entry machine. In addition to that, Beniers never takes his foot off of the gas. He gives one hundred percent effort on every shift, forechecking and backchecking relentlessly. I had my doubts whether Beniers’ production would translate to the NCAA, but he’s been the best player on the ice in every Michigan game I’ve watched. In a draft year of uncertainty, Beniers projects to be a surefire top 2 all-situations centerman at the professional level, with no holes in his game whatsoever.

NHL Comparable: Jonathan Toews

2 - Kent Johnson - C/W - University of Michigan - 6'1 - 165 - Canada

Kent Johnson’s resume is extremely impressive for an eighteen year old college freshman. As an underager in the BCHL, Johnson scored 101 points in 52 games, finishing with 30 more points and 10 more goals than the next highest scorers in the entire league. Now playing with Beniers at the University of Michigan, he’s one of, if not the most electrifying players in this draft. When he’s got the puck on his stick, he takes it upon himself to find and ruthlessly exploit weaknesses in the opposing team’s defense. If there’s anyone who possesses “game breaking skill” in this draft, its Johnson. He projects as a highly productive top six forward at the professional level, with superstar potential.

NHL Comparable: Connor McDavid (without the speed of course)

3 - Jesper Wallstedt - G - Luleå HF - 6'3 - 214 - Sweden

I believe Jesper Wallstedt’s going to be the highest drafted goaltender since Marc-Andre Fleury went 1st overall in 2003. He’s been incredible in the SHL so far this season, currently holding a 10-3-0 record with a 1.82 GAA and a .928 SV%. He’s so poised in the net, using all of his 6’3 frame to his advantage. His athleticism is unmatched by any goaltending prospect drafted in recent years, but his best trait is his rebound control. When pucks hit Wallstedt, he either swallows them, or knocks them into oblivion. He will rarely ever leave a puck out in front of the crease, leading to extremely boring games for his opponents. He’s the real deal, a franchise goaltender that a team can build their future around. He seems like a prime candidate for Seattle, given that they’re guaranteed to pick no lower than sixth overall.

NHL Comparable: Pekka Rinne

4 - Brandt Clarke - RHD - HK Nové Zámky - 6'1 - 181 - Canada

Brandt Clarke has the highest offensive ceiling of any defenseman in this draft. He’s an elite four-way skater, with the ability to accelerate to top gear within seconds and turn on a dime. His light-footed style of skating allows him to walk the blue line in the offensive zone, and truly take command of the play. He has the vision and passing ability to break a defensive scheme wide open, and coupled with his skating, it makes for a dangerous combination. Clarke handles the puck like a top line forward, and can dangle his way through the neutral zone with ease, dodging forecheckers along the way. His defensive game is very solid, though not outstanding. His skating allows him to close gaps quickly and jump on pucks, but he doesn’t have a physical element to his game at this point. I think he’s a slightly better prospect than Jamie Drysdale, but their games are quite comparable.

NHL Comparable: Cale Makar

5 - Luke Hughes - LHD - USNTDP - 6'2 - 176 - USA

Luke Hughes is a heck of a wildcard. He’s hands down the best skater in this draft, and might even be a better skater than both of his brothers, which they’ll attest to. On top of that, Luke was blessed with size, currently standing at 6’2. When watching Luke, I see a player who has every physical gift, but I don’t think he processes the game at an elite level. He’s kind of a floater on both offense and defense, but can still take over a shift at will on either end of the ice. I think it comes from the fact that he’s always been an elite skater, and that’s carried him through youth hockey. He was probably going end to end with nobody touching him 10-15 times a game in AAA, so he hasn’t fully developed every area of his game yet. Hughes has been very good so far this season for the NTDP though , scoring over a point per game through 27 outings. He’s also only a few days away from being eligible for the 2022 Draft, which is another thing to consider. Like I wrote in my preseason rankings breakdown, it’s possible that when the draft comes around, Hughes is the near consensus #1.

NHL Comparable: Shea Theodore

6 - Owen Power - LHD - University of Michigan - 6'5 - 214 - Canada

Owen Power looked really, really good last season. I’m not sure if it was the Ryan Hardy magic touch, or the overall culture of that Chicago Steel team, but Power thrived in every moment. He was the clear cut best defenseman in the entire USHL, often taking over games on his own. Standing 6’5 and weighing over 200 pounds, Power is a truly incredible skater for a player of his size. He’s also very technically skilled with the puck, able to make long stretch passes with ease. This year at Michigan, Power hasn’t been quite the force that he was in the USHL, but he’s been good nonetheless. He’s got an elite shot from the point, and locks down his own end consistently. He’s got a bit of a mean streak too, and can give opponents fits with his physical game. If Power can put it all together, he’ll be a Victor Hedman type of player.

NHL Comparable: Dougie Hamilton

7 - Fabian Lysell - LW/RW - Luleå HF - 5'10 - 176 - Sweden

Fabian Lysell is Kent Johnson’s competition when it comes to pure skill and flash in this draft. Lysell is an elite skater and puck handler, with a blistering top speed, and a seemingly endless supply of dekes. He’s able to keep the puck on a string while navigating the ice at full speed, and has an engine that never stops. Whether it’s offense or defense, Lysell’s going to give one hundred percent effort, and drive his opponents crazy. He’s lethal in the offensive zone, and can circle for what seems like ages before finding the best option. He keeps an active stick at all times in the defensive zone, and forechecks as hard as any other player I’ve watched for this draft. He’s got star potential, but he’s averaging about 8 minutes of ice time a game for Luleå, who always seem to do that to their youngsters.

NHL Comparable: Mitch Marner

8 - Cole Sillinger - C - Sioux Falls Stampede - 6'0 - 187 - Canada

Cole Sillinger is the deadliest sniper in this draft class. He’s got pure goal scorer’s instincts, and can score in a plethora of ways. His wrist shot is elite, with a lightning quick release, and laser accuracy. Sillinger’s also extremely strong for his size, with elite puck protection, and top notch puck handling. Although he’s not the fastest skater, he’s got an elite offensive skillset. He’s the type of player who can score at near a point per game, and run the power play from the circles. He’s going to get a lot more eyes on him now that he’s one of the only top prospects currently playing hockey.

NHL Comparable: John Tavares

9 - Carson Lambos - LHD - JYP U20 - 6'1 - 201 - Canada

Carson Lambos is another very good, but not quite elite defensive prospect. He’s extremely tough to beat one on one, he’s strong, he’s physical, and he’s an excellent skater. In addition to that, he brings a sizable offensive impact to each game. He’s not flashy, but he’s one of those guys who just seems to make the right play every time. One of his most noticeable traits is his ability to put shots on net, leading to tips and rebound opportunities for his teammates. He’s one of the only top prospects currently playing, as he went overseas to join JYP in the Finnish U20 SM-sarja, which could tip the draft scales in his favor. I’m not sure how high the offensive ceiling is, but he’ll be a minute-muncher for sure.

NHL Comparable: Charlie McAvoy

10 - Corson Ceulemans - RHD - Brooks Bandits - 6'2 - 190 - Canada

Corson Ceulemans is one of the best kept secrets in the 2021 draft class, having played these last three seasons with the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL. He’s an incredibly dominant two-way defenseman, with zero holes in his game whatsoever. Ceulemans is an exceptional skater for his size, and he possesses the stickhandling and passing abilities of a top line forward. He’s also got a rocket of a shot, and consistently takes over shifts by himself in the AJHL. He’s excellent in his own zone, with the ability to close gaps in seconds, and he plays with a physical edge too. In my mental ranks, Ceulemans is in a similar position right now that Kent Johnson was in last year. He’s dominating Jr. A, but because I haven’t seen him dominating at higher levels yet, I can’t justify ranking him higher than 10 right now. I think he’s got all the potential to be an elite NHL defenseman though, and I’ll die on that hill.

NHL Comparable: John Carlson

11 - Dylan Guenther - LW - Sherwood Park Crusaders - 6'1 - 170 - Canada

Dylan Guenther’s one of the most projectable players in this draft class. He’s got great speed, size, stickhandling, and shooting abilities. He’s played both center and wing at the junior levels, showing versatility at both positions. Out of all the goal scorers in this draft, only Cole Sillinger and one other prospect shoot the puck better than Guenther. Guenther’s release is absolutely filfthy, and he’s able to pick corners from long distance. He also owns the best one-timer in the 2021 draft class, completing an enticing offensive package. He’s a high energy player who commits to both forechecking and backchecking on every play, and projects as a potential top line winger.

NHL Comparable: Filip Forsberg

12 - William Eklund - C - Djurgårdens IF - 5'10 - 172 - Sweden

William Eklund’s been my highest riser so far this season. Having started off the year in the low 30s, he’s skyrocketed up into my top 10, where I think he’ll stay. He’s a highly energetic forward who uses his quick-thinking and impressive skill to excel at both ends of the ice. Eklund’s very agile, and can burn defenders with a single deke or cut. He’s a top notch passer, with the ability to thread the needle through even the most crowded areas. To go along with that, he’s got a quick, accurate wrist shot, and a very good one-timer. He’s produced very well in the SHL this season, with 14 points through 22 games so far. Even though he’s on the smaller side, he’s consistently able to win puck battles with his smarts. Eklund’s able to be flashy yet responsible at the same time, and he’s a prospect who would be getting a lot more hype if he was 6’2. Able to play anywhere up and down the lineup, and loaded with skill, he’s got a high floor, and a high ceiling as well.

NHL Comparable: Jake Guentzel

13 - Matthew Coronato - LW/RW - Chicago Steel - 5'10 - 181 - USA

Matthew Coronato is another player who seemingly just does everything right. He’s a high energy forward with some standout skills that allow him to be productive. First, he’s extremely smart. Coronato rarely makes mistakes on the ice, and is more likely to cover for somebody else’s mistake than make one himself. Secondly, he’s very technically skilled. He’s super fast, he’s got a really quick pair of hands, he’s an excellent passer, and he can shoot the puck extremely well. Coronato’s also a relentless forechecker, and responsible in his own zone. He’s the whole package as a forward, and his record scoring pace in the USHL is proof.

NHL Comparable: Kyle Connor

14 - Oskar Olausson - LW/RW - HV71 - 6'2 - 181 - Sweden

Oskar Olausson is option number three for any team that needs a sniper, and fails to land Cole Sillinger or Dylan Guenther. I wasn’t extremely high on Olausson coming into this season, but he more than won me over with his torrid start in the J20 Nationell. He earned a call up to the SHL pretty quickly after scoring 14 goals in 16 games, and has fared decently well so far with 3 goals and 4 points in 15 games. Olausson is an absolute weapon with the puck on his stick. He’s got blistering speed for a 6’2 player, and has an array of dekes at his disposal. He’s so effective carrying the puck in transition, and it was nearly impossible for anyone to touch him in the J20 this season. Once in the offensive zone, Olausson can score at will. He’s got a sick wrist shot, a heavy and accurate one-timer, and the skills to beat a goaltender one on one. He’s a bit of a one dimensional player, but that one dimension is scoring, and he’s damn good at it.

NHL Comparable: Denis Gurianov

15 - Aatu Räty - C - Kärpät - 6'1 - 181 - Finland

Aatu Räty was “the guy” for this draft, and then he had a somewhat disappointing D-1 season. Then, he was not great to start this season, and was left off Finland’s WJC roster, which led me to drop him all the way down to the mid-teens range at one point. The rough start wasn’t too worrying, but Finland leaving him off a roster that included more than a handful of players he’s better than was a head scratcher. He’s played two games in January so far, and he was fantastic in both. He’s a strong, fast skater who can handle the puck at top speed, and he uses his size to his advantage in holding defenders off with his body. Räty’s also an elite shooter, with a quick, whip-like release. He feasts around the front of the net and slot area, but he can score from long range as well. He’s got all the tools to be a productive NHL forward, but the only question right now is consistency.

NHL Comparable: Mika Zibanejad

16 - Simon Edvinsson - LHD - Frölunda HC - 6'4 - 185 - Sweden

Simon Edvinsson’s another really intriguing defensive prospect in this class. He’s 6’4, but he’s a lanky kid who’s still yet to fill out. For his size, he’s an exceptionally smooth skater and puck handler, with impressive offensive skills. The drawback is Edvinsson’s defensive game. He’s not very aggressive, and can get caught out of position. He also doesn’t use his reach to his advantage enough, as he could be one of the most dominant defenders in the SHL with his size and skating ability. Despite his occasional lapses, Edvinsson is one of the best puck carriers in the draft, with the ability to go coast to coast consistently. He also owns an extremely powerful shot, and has shown the ability to score with both his wrister and slap shot from the point. He projects as a solid top four defender who can run a power play, but his potential is much higher.

NHL Comparable: Philippe Myers

17 - Xavier Bourgault - C - Shawinigan Cataractes - 6'0 - 172 - Canada

Xavier Bourgault is one of the smartest and most offensively gifted players in this draft. He caught my eye last season when I watched Mavrik Bourque, and I couldn’t believe he was a D-1. I already know that there’s going to be a handful of people who attribute Bourgault’s production to playing on a line with Bourque, and I couldn’t agree/disagree more. Yes, Bourgault’s point totals are likely much lower had he not played with Bourque, but Bourque’s would have been much lower as well. Bourgault drove that line in a lot of games last season, and looked like the best player on the ice in plenty. He’s one of the best playmakers in the draft, and possesses a strong and accurate shot as well. The one thing that Bourgault lacks is high end speed, but he’s not slow. He could be a big point producer at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Claude Giroux

18 - Zachary L’Heureux - C - Halifax Mooseheads - 5'11 - 196 - Canada

Zachary L’Heureux is a throwback style power forward. He’s highly skilled, but he’s also one of the most effective defensive forwards in this draft. L’Heurex is super aggressive, and throws his body around like it’s a weapon. He’s really strong on both his skates and his stick, making him extremely tough to take the puck off of. He sees the ice very well, and can make plays along with finishing them. He can play center or wing, power play or penalty kill, he thrives in all situations. His top speed isn’t the fastest, but the other aspects of his game make up for it. He’s another very projectable player, with a high NHL probability.

NHL Comparable: Bo Horvat

19 - Sean Behrens - LHD - USNTDP - 5'9 - 175 - USA

Sean Behrens does everything right. If he was 6’1 or taller he’d be in the conversation with all the other defensemen for who’s going to be the first one selected. However, Sean Behrens is not 6’1, which means he probably won’t even go in the first round. Regardless, Behrens is one of the top skaters in the draft, with an effortless, gliding stride. He’s got the rare ability to walk the blue line at full speed with his head up, and he can make plays like a forward. He can be depended on to skate the puck out of trouble in the defensive zone, and can lead the rush all by himself. Despite being 5’9, Behrens is an extremely good defender. He uses his agility to close gaps quickly and snatches pucks with his quick stick. Even though he doesn’t have the size, Behrens has all the other tools to be a productive NHL defenseman.

NHL Comparable: Sam Girard

20 - Mackie Samoskevich - LW/RW - Chicago Steel - 5'9 - 172 - USA

Mackie Samoskevich has been one of my favorite prospects to watch for a long time. He’s incredibly dynamic, and is blessed with some of the most impressive pure skill in this draft. When he’s got the puck on his stick, it’s nearly impossible to steal it away, and he can dangle through coverage at will. In addition, Samoskevich owns a laser of a wrist shot, with a very quick release, and incredible accuracy. In the offensive zone, he seems to see the play a step ahead of everybody else, and it gives him the ability to break the ice wide open. He projects as a super productive top six forward at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Nikita Gusev

21 - Chaz Lucius - C - USNTDP - 6'0 - 172 - USA

Chaz Lucius has been one of the top ranked NTDP players in this draft for a while now. He’s blessed with size, skill, and smarts, and blends them together to form an enticing package. Lucius is prone to scoring highlight reel goals, and scoring in clutch moments, but he’s a somewhat one dimensional player. Lucius doesn’t have elite speed or skating ability, and he isn’t a defensive stalwart by any means. However, he can pull you out of your seat from time to time with his stickhandling ability, and has undeniable raw talent. The hype has somewhat cooled around him since the start of the year, and I’m interested to see if he can heat it back up.

NHL Comparable: Rickard Rakell

22 - Scott Morrow - RHD - Shattuck St. Mary's - 6'2 - 192 - USA

Scott Morrow is currently the single best kept secret in this draft class. He’s playing for Shattuck St. Mary’s, so it can be tough for most people to get eyes on him. Morrow is the single best high school hockey player in the country, and for good reason. He’s an elite four-way skater, and walks the blue line as well as any defensive prospect in recent years. He’s also a fantastic passer, with some of the craziest pass attempt to danger zone completion numbers I’ve ever seen. He’s a commanding presence on the ice from the back end, and can be relied on in all situations. He’s got a solid physical element to his game along with a very good overall defensive skillset. He’s going to be an interesting one to watch in college, as he currently projects as a very good top four defenseman at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Keith Yandle

23 - Daniil Chayka - LHD - CSKA Moskva - 6'2 - 187 - Russia

Daniil Chayka’s yet another high floor defensive prospect projected to go in the first round of this draft. He had an excellent D-1 campaign in the OHL last season, trailing Brandt Clarke’s point total by only 4, and scoring 6 more goals than him. Chayka’s a smooth skater and poised puck handler who can play 20+ minutes a night while chipping in offensively. Due to COVID, he went back to Russia, where he’s currently splitting time between the KHL and MHL. Chayka’s got an extremely impressive shot, and will likely be a power play quarterback at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Ryan Pulock

24 - Anton Olsson - LHD - Malmö - 6'1 - 183 - Sweden

Anton Olsson is your steady, go-to all situations defenseman. He’s a smooth and agile skater with good size and solid passing ability. Olsson’s already playing full time in the SHL, and has performed well. The most impressive aspect of Olsson’s game is his defense. He keeps a tight gap at all times and is able to disrupt passes with his stick consistently. He’s pretty physical too, and is a very tough player to get past one on one. I don’t think he’s got a ton of offensive potential, but he’s going to be a good professional defenseman.

NHL Comparable: Hampus Lindholm

25 - Aidan Hreschuk - LHD - USNTDP - 5'11 - 182 - USA

Aidan Hreschuk is one of the more offensively gifted defensemen in this draft class. He’s an elite skater with impressive edges and escapability, and can handle the puck well under pressure. He’s not the biggest of players, but he doesn’t shy away from physical battles despite a lack of size. Hreschuk’s transition ability is excellent, and he’s one of the more proficient passers in this draft class. I’d like to see him use his skating ability to truly dominate defensively, which he hasn’t done yet, but I believe he has the potential to do. His offensive game is polished, but he still needs to work on the defensive side of the puck. I think he’s got the potential to be a solid top four defenseman, and a power play quarterback at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Nate Schmidt

26 - Samu Tuomaala - LW/RW - Kärpät - 5'10 - 165 - Finland

Samu Tuomaala is a pure scoring winger, with a deadly one-timer. In addition to his shot, he’s got quick feet, and a quick pair of hands to match them. Tuomaala has the ability to dangle defensemen and goaltenders one on one, and either finish the plays himself or find a better option. He forechecks hard nearly every shift, and he keeps an active stick in the defensive zone. He hasn’t been quite as good as I hoped he’d be so far this season, but he’s produced fine in the U20 SM-sarja. Tuomaala has a knack for shining on the international stage, which likely won’t be an option this season, so we’ll have to see what he does in the Liiga and U20 for the rest of the year.

NHL Comparable: Tomas Tatar

27 - Sasha Pastujov - LW/RW - USNTDP - 6'0 - 175 - USA

Sasha Pastujov is a speedy, skilled winger with some of the best finishing abilities in the draft. He’s also one of the top danglers in the draft, able to pull off complex moves in game situations. Pastujov’s a slippery skater and puck handler, so when he’s got the puck on his stick, it’s hard to judge where he’s going or what he’s going to do. He’s able to make plays to the net using his speed and he has a fantastic set of hands in tight. Pastujov can also pick corners from far out in the offensive zone using his wrist shot, but more notably, he’s got an uncanny ability to finish in front of the net and slot area. There’s some warts in his game, but he’s got the potential to be a top six forward at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Nikolaj Ehlers

28 - Jimi Suomi - LHD - Jokerit U20 - 5'9 - 152 - Finland

Jimi Suomi’s a true jack of all trades. He’s currently a defenseman, but he grew up playing forward, and it’s quite evident when watching him play. He’s another highly gifted skater, with crazy edges and a very impressive top speed. He’s also got the hands of a top line forward, and the playmaking ability too. He was one of the best defensemen I watched in the U20 SM-sarja last season, and he’s still one of the best this season. Suomi can rush the puck end to end by himself, and he can command an offense from the point. He’s solid in the defensive zone too, using his skating ability to keep a tight gap at all times. He projects as either a very good offensive defenseman, or even a forward at the next level.

NHL Comparable: None

29 - Isak Rosén - LW/RW - Leksands IF - 5'10 - 154 - Sweden

Isak Rosén is a pure playmaker and scorer, in all ways. He’s fast, strong, has excellent hands, and can finish. Rosén is super dangerous in transition with the puck on his stick, and has the ability to dangle while handling the puck at top speed. He can score off the rush with his dangerous wrist shot, and he can also drive his way to the net with his speed. In the offensive zone, he can set up his teammates in a multitude of ways, having excellent vision. He’s a hard working player, constantly battling for pucks and putting pressure on opposing defensemen. He projects as a potential top six forward at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Gustav Nyquist

30 - Hugo Gabrielsson - LHD - Frölunda J20 - 6'0 - 159 - Sweden

Hugo Gabrielsson is a player who I don’t think has gotten near enough attention this season. When watching his Frölunda teammate Simon Edvinsson play, there were often times when Gabrielsson was the clear-cut better player. However, he’s been somewhat underwhelming in his HockeyEttan stint. Regardless, he’s a very skilled skater and puck carrier who loves to lead the rush. He’s got good size, he’s decently strong, and he keeps a tight gap at all times. He’s a really solid passer, and has an accurate shot from the point. There’s not much flash to his game at all, but he’s effective in all three zones, projecting as a potential top four defenseman at the next level.

NHL Comparable: T.J. Brodie

31 - Nikita Chibrikov - LW/RW - SKA 1946 - 5'10 - 161 - Russia

Nikita Chibrikov’s one of the most creative and dangerous offensive players in this draft. His top speed is fantastic, and he can make quick cuts and moves that not many other players can pull off. His hands are silky and deceptive, giving him the ability to protect the puck despite a lack of size. Chibrikov’s net front finishing ability is excellent, and he can shoot from mid range too. He sees the ice a level above the rest of the MHL, and hasn’t looked out of place at all in both the VHL and KHL this season. He’s got the potential to be a top six forward at the next level.

NHL Comparable: Jonathan Drouin

32 - Manix Landry - C - Gatineau Olympiques - 5'11 - 179 - Canada

Manix Landry’s another one of my favorite players in this draft class. He’s a centerman who does absolutely everything, and gives full effort on every shift. When watching him, you’ll notice that he’s a huge pest on the forecheck. He’s super reliable defensively, and he’s somebody that a coach can send over the boards for a must-win faceoff, or a big defensive zone matchup. While being his team’s number one shutdown center, he also contributes offensively. He’s got a nice set of mitts and a quick, powerful wrist shot, but his playmaking is his best offensive trait. Landry’s very strong on the puck, and is able to hold onto it for extended periods of time to create plays. He projects as an effective shutdown center at the next level, who can contribute offensively as well.

NHL Comparable: Phillip Danault

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