When we talked about your preferences for this year’s draft coverage back in May, you voted to have briefer coverage of more players as opposed to detailed profiles of a few. The comments’ section confirmed this, with many preferring a comprehensive post-draft recap on the players the team actually selected — especially for those not drafted in the first-round. The option that got the second-most votes was a league-by-league check-in.
In my final two articles covering this draft class, I’m going to try and combine these options. Consensus rankings get very messy after the first-round, with the a ton of variation between teams’ lists in a normal year, let alone one impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, much of this will be subjective — I’ll go league-by-league and provide some information that interests me about a few players for you to chew on, and you can let me know if you have any favourites in the comments.
This piece will focus on players ranked in the second-round. Tomorrow, we’ll follow the same format, but for later-round targets. Let’s begin!
- Chase Stillman (RW) finished second in even-strength primary points per 60 in his rookie OHL season to Mason McTavish (via Pick224) and stood out at the U18s this season (2G, 2A: 4P in 8G) after putting up 16 points in eight games with a Danish U20 team. Standing at 5-foot-10 last season, Stillman is now 6-foot-1 — a better frame to suit his in-your-face style of hockey and consistent motor. The son of one-time Senator Cory, Stillman’s physicality, smarts, and high-octane motor could put him on Ottawa’s radar.
- Trevor Wong (C) is me pouring a glass for Colin, who always had a soft spot for undersized players who feature a lot of skill. That’s the name of the game for the 5-foot-8 Wong, who, despite his size, scored 16 points in 16 games for Kelowna this season and features one of the best motors in the draft class. Wong is a three-zone player, akin to Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He goes low on retrievals and is active in the defensive zone — breaking up plays with his stick, stealing the puck in the neutral zone, and anticipating the play with his sense. While he needs to get more patient on zone exits, Wong’s forward-thinking is his strength in the offensive zone, where he pushes the pace constantly and creates simple offence for his teammates that should be projectable.
- Olen Zellweger (LD) was the best draft-eligible defender in the WHL this year, playing strong, three-zone hockey for the responsible Everett Silvertips. Zellweger only played 11 games this season, but his 13 points outscored his 12 in 58 games in his rookie year. He followed it up with eight points in seven games at the U18s and looked much better than likely first-round pick, Corson Ceulemans. He’s an advanced skater and utilizes it to command the neutral zone, closing quickly on gaps or entering the zone with control. For my money, the best of the defencemen ranked in the second-round.
- Matthew Knies (C/LW) is headed to the University of Minnesota next season after two strong seasons in Tri-City, where he has 87 points in 90 games across two seasons of hockey with nearly identical production. He features a pro-ready, 6-foot-3 frame and is an aggressive forechecker and puck protector playing a straight-line brand of hockey. Per Pick224, Knies finished just behind the likely first-round duo of Coronato/Pastujov duo in USHL scoring at even-strength last season and was sixth this year.
- Ayrton Martino (LW) scored 56 points in 38 games this season for the Omaha Lancers, using his hockey sense to manipulate defenders in the offensive zone and always working collaboratively with his teammates. Those habits should serve him well despite his 5-foot-10 frame, as only Coronato scored more primary points per 60 this season in the USHL, and only Pastujov and Sillinger outscored him at even-strength.
- Dylan Duke (C) is this year’s pick from the USNTDP, a staple among Sens scouts in recent years. Duke was the first-line centre for the U18 group, scoring 29 goals and 49 points in 50 games, and adding another four points in five games at the U18 World Championships. Like Brady Tkachuk, Duke is an elite net front player — using all of his 5-foot-10 frame to win pucks, anticipate a forecheck, and battle away. Scheduled to play with the skilled group of forwards at the University of Michigan next season, look for Duke to improve his skating so that he isn’t a liability in transition.
- Brent Johnson (RD) is this year’s “North Dakota” highlight, and is extremely fun to watch. He’s an adept, confident puck-handler, fearlessly taking the biscuit into areas of the ice that other defenders wouldn’t dare to try and succeeding a lot of the time. He ranks as one of the draft’s most dangerous playmakers and channels his aggression to being a dual-threat from anywhere in the offensive zone. Defensively, Johnson has some cleaning up to do, particularly when defending the rush. He can be too overzealous, and lacks the skating to recover when he is beat. This can lead to him being too passive sometimes — which also isn’t a good result. Playing within North Dakota’s structured system will hopefully help Johnson refine his defensive toolkit while giving him clear instructions to activate in the offensive zone. It’ll be interesting to see if he wrestles away powerplay time from Jake Sanderson this upcoming season.
- Ville Koivunen (LW/RW) is the standout Finnish forward when you look at Lassi Alanen’s tracked data for the country’s U20 league. He led all draft-eligible skaters in scoring, and followed it up with a dynamo performance for Finland’s U18 squad at the Worlds. He’s a leader, wanting the puck in transition and can beat you with his hands, vision, and shot in the offensive zone. He’s going to need to improve his skating to be a puck carrier at the next level, but I’m generally a fan of betting on players with skill and sense.
- Oliver Kapanen (C) was one of just five players to suit up in Roby Järventie’s Mestis this past season, scoring five points in five games after putting up 41 in 37 in the U20 league. The nephew of Sami and cousin of Kasperi, Oliver’s best tools are his shot and his hockey sense. He’s capable of beating goaltenders from long ranges, and often showcases good habits to finish off from close range through a combination of rebounds, deflections, and turn-and-shoots. He’s able to utilize space and his 6-foot-1 frame to protect the puck on exits or retrieve the puck on the forecheck, before popping into a quiet space. Kapanen needs to improve his skating to be an NHL pivot, and the hope is that it’ll help with his in-zone consistency by allowing him to get to more pucks; as is, he’ll need more refinement to drive any sort of entries at the NHL level.
- Samu Salminen (C/LW) led all draft-eligible skaters in points-per-game in Koivunen’s U20 league and scored seven goals in seven games at the U18s as Finland’s captain. Salminen’s sense is off the charts. He shows Stone-like anticipation during an offensive zone forecheck, works off the puck to retrieve it, and is a threat to pass or shoot when he gets it. Salminen’s skating isn’t quite NHL average, and it limits his ability to pull off some of the ridiculous moves he can try. Simplifying his game and playing as a box-to-box winger with a 6-foot-3 frame is probably the safer bet as a top-nine winger at the NHL level.
- Victor Stjernborg (C/LW) is one of the few draft-eligible forwards to receive SHL time this season, suiting up in 30 games with Växjö and 10 in the playoffs. While he only recorded five points, that kind of playing time is notable for the May-born Stjernborg, especially given that he had a 0.95 points-per-game rate in the U20 league at the start of the season, and four points in five games at the World U17s last season. He can score, and he’s often doing it because his skating allows him to both push pace and control the play when he has the puck. A defensively reliable player, Stjernborg has all the tools to be an NHL centre — with good scans of the ice in all three zones and consistently able to make the right reads on the puck.
- William Strömgren (LW) is a 6-foot-3 winger with speed to burn. He generates a ton of power through his stride and is a crafty, puck possession winger — capable of doing more than just playing straight-line hockey as he manipulates through defensive schemes. Strömgren started the season in the U20 league at above a point-per-game pace, so when the league went on pause due to COVID-19 concerns, he spent much of the season playing among men in the second-tier Allsvenskan (27G:9P) and third-tier HockeyEttan (11G:12P).
- Scott Morrow (RD) would’ve been this year’s UND pick, but opted to transfer to Greg Carvel’s NCAA Champions UMass in the offseason. It’s always hard to rate players in the U.S. prep circuit, but Morrow garnering the attention of two premier collegiate programs is notable. He’s one of the best puck handlers in the draft class, changing pace, misdirecting opponents, and consistently able to beat the first forechecker on exits. He’s got an NHL frame at 6-foot-2, but doesn’t have the skating to play as aggressive as he’d like to, leading to some gaffes when defending the rush. College should be a fantastic experience for him to get used to defending much stronger players and will give us a worthy test as to whether coaches will be able to put him on the ice. In the offensive zone, he could be special.
- Danila Klimovich (C/RW) was the breakout star of the U18s, putting his home country of Belarus on his back like Tim Stützle did for Germany. Despite being not having a developed skating profile, Klimovich showed creativity and determination — leading all forwards in the tournament in successful zone exits and entries per 60 minutes. He had six goals in five games, showcasing a quick release that surprised opposing netminders. He competes to get to the middle of the ice and uses his teammates to bait the opposition and buy space. A fascinating player to take a gamble on with one of the two second-round picks.
- Dmitri Kuzmin (LD) was Klimovich’s compatriot on defence, playing aggressive, rush defence that denied more entries than all but one other defender during his U18 tournament according to tracked data from Mitch Brown and Lassi Alanen. Kuzmin was the only Belarussian defender to play all season against men in the country’s top league and it showed, as he was calm with the puck, composed under pressure, and consistently looked to make positive decisions with the puck. Ranked in the second or third-round, there are few players who intrigue me more than Kuzmin, especially on defence.
- Artyom Grushnikov (LD) is a throwback defender with the shutdown qualities that would make D.J. Smith fall in love with him. Expected to suit up for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs last season, Grushnikov didn’t play a single game this year as he missed the U18s due to quarantine issues and is still rated in the second-round by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. He’s a high-end thinker in the defensive zone, able to shut down plays with his 6-foot-2 frame and anticipation on the cycle. While he’s not offensively creative, he can certainly pass the puck on exits or skate it out — with great four-way mobility.
So there you have it: a brief look at 16 different players rated in the second-round for the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft. Who interests you? Is there someone I didn’t mention that you’re curious about? Let’s discuss in the comments section!
Thank you to EliteProspects and Pick224 for the statistics cited in this article!
More Draft Coverage
|--- Player Profiles ---||--- Grouped Profiles ---|
|--- Player Profiles ---||--- Grouped Profiles ---|
|Kent Johnson, Mason McTavish, & Chaz Lucius||Second Round Players|
|Cole Sillinger, Aatu Räty, & Fyodor Svechkov||Later-Round Standouts|
|Fabian Lysell, Oskar Olausson, & Matthew Coronato|
|Simon Edvinsson & Carson Lambos|
|Stanislav Svozil & Corson Ceulemans|
|Jesper Wallstedt & Sebastian Cossa|