Draft Aftermath – a reaction to the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft

Owen Power was the first overall draft pick, snapped up by Buffalo Sabres (PHOTO: NHL)

by Georgia McCann

Last night, teams made their pre-draft trades and selected the first 31 players from this year’s draft. There was some shocks, controversy and sheer dominance from once junior team, all of which can be found here.

TRADES, TRADES AND MORE TRADES

As usual, plenty of teams made trades in the hours leading up to the draft and during.  Earlier in the day, the Buffalo Sabres sent Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Robert Hagg the 13th overall pick and a 2023 second round pick. 

We then saw the New York Rangers also added the gritty Sammy Blais and a 2022 second round pick, by sending pending RFA winger Pavel Buchnevich to the St Louis Blues. 

Once the draft loomed closer Arizona, who had previously forfeited their own first rounder for violating the league’s combine testing policy, acquired Vancouver Canucks’ ninth overall pick plus Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle. 

Heading to Vancouver was the Coyotes’ captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and winger Connor Garland – the ‘Yotes retained 12% of Ekman-Larsson’s salary. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets had their own business to attend to and sent star defenceman Seth Jones, the 31st overall pick and 2022 sixth round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for youngster Adam Boqvist, their 2021 first (11th overall) and second rounders, plus a 2022 first rounder. 

The Blackhawks have subsequently signed Jones to 8 year, $76m extension. Columbus immediately flipped the second round pick and another promising young defencemen in Jake Bean from the Carolina Hurricanes. 

During the draft we didn’t actually see many picks changing hands. However, the Minnesota Wild traded up to selected pick 20 and in return, the Edmonton Oilers received picks 22 and 90. 

Many of these trades can look lopsided right now. However, Arizona look to have been very savvy, with the three huge Vancouver contracts coming their way expiring next year, while Ekman-Larsson’s having a large number of years left. 

That said, it does seem a shrewd bit of business from Columbus and Minnesota, who both acquired top, young talent as a result of these transactions.

POWER TO THE TOP

It was always going to be him. Owen Power, the star prospect of this draft is now a member of the Buffalo Sabres after being drafted first overall. 

Power had an excellent season with the University of Michigan, before it was cut short due to COVID-19. 

Although Canada had an uncharacteristically shaky start in the World Championships, they returned to form taking home the gold and Power looked strong and confident playing against men, solidifying predications that he would be taken first. 

Unusually for the top pick, Power has stated he will likely return to the University of Michigan, which will be excellent for his development, especially as defencemen can take longer to become NHL-ready.  

WOLVERINE PACK

Four current or soon-to-be University of Michigan Wolverines were drafted in the top five of the first round – the aforementioned Power, Matthew Beniers, Kent Johnson and Luke Hughes. 

Last season Michigan would have had the opportunity to work their magic in the playoffs, but were robbed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. 

Fortunately for Michigan fans, Power, Beniers and Johnson are all predicted to return and Hughes, who missed the end of the season due to injury, will likely follow big brother Quinn (now a defenceman for the Vancouver Canucks) and be a star on the blueline. 

This stacked Wolverines team will likely compete to reach the Frozen Four finals and take home the national championship. Could we even see one of the four win the Hobey Baker as the best player in the country?

FAMILY REUNION

Although Luke and Quinn will both be Wolverines alum, Luke will have the opportunity to play with the middle Hughes brother, Jack, having been selected fourth by the New Jersey Devils. 

The Hughes brothers are the first American family to have three brothers be taken in the first round – all in the top 10 no less – and based on the live reactions, 

Jack is delighted to welcome Luke to Newark. Could this mean Quinn heading to the Devils…it’s unlikely, but one can only dream.

OFF THE BOARD SELECTIONS 

As with every draft, there were a couple of head-scratchers this year. Peterborough Petes’ centre Mason McTavish – a former team-mate of GB’s own star, Liam Kirk – was ranked the number two North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and generally predicted to go towards the end of the top 10. 

Not a huge reach, but the Anaheim Ducks passed on some top talent to select him third overall and likely see him as a future replacement for Ryan Getzlaf or Adam Henrique. 

The prospect who was predicted to go third was Swedish winger William Eklund from Djurgarden, ranked as the number one European skater. It seems him and McTavish swapped places, with Eklund falling into the jaws of the San Jose Sharks at seventh overall. 

Eklund’s compatriot, Jesper Wallstedt was for me one of the biggest surprises. Ranked as not only the best Eurpoean goaltender, the Lulea goalie was generally perceived as the best at his position in the draft, with many having the Ottawa Senators taking him at 10th overall. 

Instead, the Edmonton Oil Kings’ Sebastian Cossa leapfrogged him and was selected 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings. 

Wallstedt is now a member of the Minnesota Wild, who traded up to secure his services. With Kaapo Kahkonen already showing great promise between the pipes in Saint Paul, the Wild may potentially have a top tier goaltending tandem on their hands. But it was at pick 31 by the Montreal Canadiens that we got the biggest surprise.

CANADIENS CONTROVERSY

It was a shock for the majority of us when the Montreal Canadiens selected the London Knights’ Logan Mailloux at 31st overall. 

Whilst Mailloux’s pure talent on the ice justified positon in the draft – a he was ranked as the 23rd best skater coming out of North America – Mailloux’s off ice issues did not justify selection at all. 

This year, when playing for SK Lejon in Sweden due to the OHL being cancelled, Mailloux shared a photo with his teammates of him and an 18 year old girl having sexual relations. 

The act itself was consensual, the sharing of the photo was not. Mailloux was charged and required to pay a fine. He has also issued an apology and renounced himself from the 2021 draft, with at least 11 teams having him on their ‘do not draft’ lists. 

Despite the clear issues present here, Montreal selected him in the first round, with Greg Wyshynski of ESPN has reported a number of team were considering taking him in the second round. 

General manager Marc Bergevin issuing a statement which you can read in full on the Canadiens website, which claims they will assist him develop as a person and player. 

Hopefully this will happen but you can help having a sour taste in your mouth after watching so many deserving young men achieve their dreams.

Currently, teams are on the clock for the remaining rounds, which can unearth some true gems – Vegas have just snagged a interesting talent in Russian Daniil Chayka (ranked the number five European skater). 

Keep a watch out, especially if your team get some good pickups.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*