To round out our coverage of the 2021 NHL Draft on Silver Seven, we turn our attention to some options that might be available for teams in the mid-to-late rounds of this weekend’s draft.
It was interesting to hear Chief Amateur Scout Trent Mann muse about this draft class on TSN1200 earlier this week. He shared that some teams might choose more overagers (players eligible for the draft for a second or third time) because they have more data on them, while others might gamble on players with a bit more developmental upside as they might slide more this year relative to others given the increased uncertainty.
I’ve tended to prefer players in the latter group throughout my time following the draft; players who showcase skill, however flawed, and might be able to be a surprise top-six or top-nine forward or second-pair defenceman, as opposed to players with a safer floor. I think that’s especially true for an organization like Ottawa, where there’s plenty of depth, but always a need for elite skill.
- Avery Hayes (C/RW) was supposed to have a breakout season with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He ended up playing just 14 games this season with HK Levice in Slovakia’s second-tier men’s league. Hayes stood out in his Draft-1 season, trailing only likely top-64 picks Mason McTavish, Brennan Othmann, Chase Stillman, and Wyatt Johnston in even-strength primary points per game. He was the only OHL player to suit up for Team USA at the 2019-20 Hlinka Gretzky and has primarily played at centre thanks to an array of passing options in his skill repertoire. Hayes has his age working against him as an October-born player, but has enough skill to be worth a shot to me.
- Ryan Winterton (RW)’s only games this season were the seven he played for Team Canada at the U18s, but he didn’t disappoint — scoring four points and showing off a 6-foot-2 frame, three inches taller than he was last season. Winterton and Avery are opposites; he plays straight-line hockey, aggressively pursues the puck on the forecheck, and is a volume shooter. He’s also one of the youngest players in this year’s class, and might have more developmental time to work with despite the missed season.
- Ty Voit (C) could’ve been the best draft-eligible playmaker out of the OHL this season after a 20-assist rookie year, but didn’t play a game. Voit grew two inches — up to 5-foot-10 from 5-foot-8 — and had the ninth best even-strength primary points per game rate as compared to his peers in their Draft-1 season. Voit has four-way mobility and uses it to play at a high pace in all three zones. He’s fearless despite his size, and while he obviously needs to get stronger, I’m willing to bet on the June-born player to improve next season.
- Riley Kidney (C/LW) had a breakout season for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, scoring 38 points in 33 games and adding an additional 17 in nine playoff contests. He led all draft-eligible skaters in even-strength primary points per game thanks to his offensive habits: handling the puck in space, attacking with pace, and solving problems creatively. Kidney can be forced to the perimeter and can over-pass at times, but I appreciate his willingness to take risks even if they didn’t get rewarded. Rated as a mid-round pick, if Kidney learns to manipulate the play better and be more in control, he has the profile of a middle-six scorer.
- Sean Tschigerl (LW) is the type of winger who shoots first and asks questions later. It worked for him this season, where he went from scoring 13 points in 56 games to scoring 13 goals (!) in 21 games, playing at a point-per-game pace and ranking among the league leaders in even-strength scoring. Tschigerl was reliable on zone exits and was a rush scorer — capable of beating goaltenders from range. He could stand to improve on his off-puck game in-zone and becoming a more deceptive player on entries to add another layer to his offence. Goal scoring is hard to come by, especially outside the first two rounds.
- Kyle Masters (RD) is a physical, responsible defenceman with an untapped offensive upside as his 0.5 points-per-game this season indicates. His game relies on his hockey sense, where he’s an effective transition defender and strong on retrievals. By the end of the season, he was able to be a puck carrier offensively, using his vision to beat layers of opposing forecheckers and scout out his teammates for a rush chance. The 93rd rated North American skater by Central Scouting, right-shot defenders never last long. If he’s there for Ottawa, I’m fascinated to see what he becomes in three years.
- Jimi Suomi (LD) a slick, smooth skating defenceman who showcased strong playmaking tendencies in Finland’s top U20 league during his last two seasons. Suomi was noticeable at the U18s, finishing with four points as he utilized strong mobility to carry the puck and be a positive player in transition. Suomi measures in at 5-foot-10 and could continue to work on his overall strength to be a reliable defensive option, but could provide value long-term if his playmaking continues to advance.
- Valtteri Koskela (LD) played 56 games this season: 23 with JYP’s U20 team (12 points) and 33 in the Liiga (8 points). He’s a reliable, versatile player who’s capable of moving the puck on exits to beat oncoming pressure and deny controlled entries against. An October birthday, Koskela’s game is advanced as you’d expect. His pro play in Finland brings a lot of value as someone who could help your AHL or NHL roster within the next two seasons, a rarity among later-round picks.
- Marcus Almquist (C/RW) was born a day before the cutoff date for the 2022 NHL Draft, and is the definition of a late-round pick. Standing at just 5-foot-7, the Danish player lit up HV71’s U18 squad as a 16-year-old with 24 points in 18 games, and was above a point-per-game with their U20 team this season. When the league shut down in the fall, Almquist went back to his home country to Denmark to play against men, managing to score six points in 19 games. Almquist has speed to burn and relies on it to make up for his size. If I’m drafting a player that small, he needs to play fearlessly and with pace, and I saw both from him this season.
- Liam Dower Nilsson (C) was Sweden’s captain at the U18s and had an eventful season, suiting up for five different teams. Nilsson started the year with 17 points in 16 U20 games with Frölunda, and got five games with limited minutes at the SHL level. After the winter break, Nilsson was loaned to the third-tier men’s league, HockeyEttan, where he put up 14 points in 14 games before finishing with four in seven at the U18 Worlds. A smart, two-way centre who can play both special teams, Nilsson has a safe floor as a bottom-six centre, and could be more as his playmaking ability grew this season.
- Hugo Gabrielsson (LD) is my choice for a late-round defender out of Sweden, mainly because of his offence. A top scorer at the U18 level for the past two seasons, Gabrielsson scored 13 points in 20 games with Frölunda’s U20 team before moving to the HockeyEttan for playing time like his teammate, Nilsson. Seven points in 24 games against men is nothing to scoff at for a player who often needs to earn the trust of his coaching staff, and Gabrielsson was able to diversify his offence to embrace taking chances when he got them instead of purely passing them up to his teammates.
Did any of these 11 players catch your eye? Was there someone else who you were curious about as you watched games, viewed highlights, or read profiles from other sources? Let us know in the comments!
Thank you to EliteProspects and Pick224 for the statistics cited in this article!
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