So the 2021 NHL draft has come and gone, just as it has every year since 1963. The bright young stars of the future have been weighed up and assessed and many teams have staked a great deal on them living up to the promise they’ve shown in the amateur game.
As always, some teams have done better than others in the draft, on paper at least. But we’re going to have to see how it turns out on the ice, and in the fierce heat of competition, to discover just how shrewd those picks were for these six teams in particular.
The Sabres had a 2020-21 season that can only be described as disastrous finishing bottom of the East Division with a 15-34 record and a lowly 37 points - fully 40 below league leaders the Pittsburgh Penguins. So they will be hoping that their No.1 pick in the whole draft, Owen Power, will shore up their defense next season and beyond. The 6’6”, 214lb player from the University of Michigan was picked for not just his power, but his speed as well, with many predictions that he’ll take to the pro game like a natural.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are one team that are being widely regarded as big winners in this year’s draft. As a team that many agree is in urgent need of a rebuild, they have laid some very good foundations in taking on Adam Boqvist, Jake Bean and Jakub Voracek. Boqvist already has two seasons’ experience with the Chicago Blackhawks so should be ready to step up straight away while Bean should be happy with the prospect of getting more ice time than he ever did with the Carolina Hurricanes. For veteran Voracek, it’s a return to the Blue Jackets some 14 years since he was last drafted by them.
The Jets had a reasonable 2020-21 season coming 3rd in the North Division and making it through to the 2nd round of the playoffs before falling to the Canadiens. Considering that they only had four draft picks overall, they used them wisely by snapping up Chaz Lucius and Nikita Chibrikov. The former impressed for USNTDP averaging a goal a game but was hindered by recovery from knee surgery last season. Now back and fully fit, we can expect great things. Chibrikov’s promise is obvious from the fact that he’s already captained the Russian Under-18s. With these two on board, their odds are -130 to make the playoffs in the sports betting markets, clearly the sportsbooks see it as good business.
After a very poor season, the Canucks are desperate to rebuild and avoid another bottom-of-the-table finish. Whether they’ve made the right decisions, we’ll have to wait and see. The consensus of opinion is that they have waved farewell to the right players. But whether it’s been a good idea to draft in the very expensive - $7.26 a season expensive – Oliver Ekman-Larsson is another matter altogether. Their thinking may have been that this provides some insurance in case Alex Edler decides to leave as, whether or not you think OEL is really worth the money, he does have that game-changing potential. One draft that no-one is questioning is Conor Garland from Arizona. In the last season he scored 39 points in 49 games and if he can keep up that performance in Vancouver a brilliant future is assured.
Tampa Bay Lightning
What about a team that must surely be looking for three Stanley Cup victories in a row following their defeat of Montreal Canadiens in early July? Well, they had to deal with the Canadiens again to trade their fourth-round pick in next year’s draft to take on Dylan Duke who had already been in the Montreal team’s sights. Duke, an 18-year old member of the National Team Development Program, had already caught the eye in the Under 18 World Championships in Texas as a player with huge potential. In defense, they have also picked up the 6’6” right-hander Roman Schmidt as well as Canadian center Cameron MacDonald, a player who has been compared to Barclay Goodrow and Cedric Paquette in the past.
The Blackhawks last season was undeniably a disappointing one, finishing 6th in the Central Division but they are very much a team in the rebuilding phase. So it seems like they have decided that the quickest route to this, like the Canucks, is to spend big and hope to see results. This must be why they have taken on Seth Jones at $9.5 million a season. This makes him the 3rd-highest-paid defenseman in the league, but probably not the 3rd most talented. So going into the 2022-23 season they will be paying over $30 million a season for the services of Jones, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. With overheads like that, they’re going to need to see results.
While the dust has hardly settled on this year’s draft, already there is speculation about next season’s crop of players likely to feature. Leading the way is Shane Wright. Currently playing for Kingston in the Ontario League, he’s hotly-tipped to be the No.1 pick. Assistant captain from the age of 15, his potential is said to be virtually unlimited.
But this is in the future. What remains to be seen before then is just how good, or bad, this year’s draft will be for the teams in the League – and that’s going to be anyone’s guess.Keywords: