In a normal year, trying to predict how the opening round of an NHL draft will unfold is a fool’s errand.
Trying to do that in a season that saw partial and complete league shutdowns, prospects crossing oceans to get playing time, and a significant shift from in-person scouting and interviews to video? Ha, yeah, good luck with that. Yegor Chinakhov would like a word.
But hey, there’s no fun in not trying, right?
The Dallas Stars will pick 14th overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, bumping up one spot higher than they would have selected otherwise after the league dinged the Arizona Coyotes for trying to gain an unfair scouting advantage. While the scouting community is mostly confident about which players are going to get picked up until about the 9-12 range, everything after that starts to get really hairy.
So with the release of the Mighty Bobfather's final list today, I believe the final list of average rankings I track is now complete, and it looks like this: pic.twitter.com/4aa0MYrYQH— Will Scouch (@Scouching) July 19, 2021
Like I have done for the past few seasons here at Defending Big D, I have written a few specific draft profiles over the past few weeks about different prospects who maybe, probably will still be available when it comes time for Dallas to pick and could end up being the organization’s choice. Here are the links to those articles:
Link to Aatu Räty profile
However, due to time constraints — and, of course, the aforementioned surprises that are sure to occur on Friday night — I am doing things a little bit differently this season. Here, instead, is a quick rundown of seven different players who, in the eyes of this humble scout, have a high-ish chance of getting picked by Dallas at 14th.
Just don’t get mad at me when they go wildly off the board and choose Niko “Who?” Huuhtanen instead, okay?
Nikita Chibrikov — Right Wing — SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
Few prospects in this draft class have the raw skill and upside as Chibrikov does. When he is “on” he is absolutely lethal, able to use his speed and puck skill and attack mentality to do a lot of offensive damage, especially off the rush. The tricky part is that he switches between “on” and “off” like a light switch, not just game to game, but also shift to shift. And when he’s not driving play offensively, well, he’s not exactly doing a whole lot else. If the Stars want to make a homerun swing with their 1st-round pick then Chibrikov is certainly an interesting option.
Matthew Coronato — Center/Wing — Chicago Steel (USHL)
Few — if any — prospects made as huge of leaps and bounds this season as Coronato did. After many of Chicago’s top forwards departed over the summer he filled their shoes and just took off running, scoring 48 goals in 51 games as one of the top offensive threats not just in the USHL, but all of junior hockey. He’s not that big and he’s not that high-end of a skater, but then again, neither was Alex DeBrincat. He will most likely be a player who maximizes his strengths as a way to overcome his weaknesses. The recent selections of Ty Dellandrea and Mavrik Bourque show that the Stars have a lot of appreciation for competitiveness and work ethic, so it’s fair to assume that they are big fans of the one who is referred to as “the Bison.”
Sebastian Cossa — Goaltender — Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Okay, the Dallas Stars absolutely don’t need to draft a goaltender thanks to how good Jake Oettinger is. But if they wanted to take a purely best-player-available approach to the 14th overall pick then you can’t discount Cossa, who is one of the more intriguing goaltending prospects to come along in a while. It’s just so rare to see a netminder of his enormous size who also possesses such quick movements and reflexes, and his 17-1-1 record and .941 save percentage are absolutely eye-popping. I guarantee there is at least one NHL team out there, if not more, who would take him over Jesper Wallstedt.
Zachary L’Heureux — Left Wing — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
If you watched Brenden Morrow play a lot when he was younger it’s hard to not see a lot of him in Zachary L’Heureux. The stocky winger is hyper competitive, has fantastic puck protection, is deadly in an offensive cycle and plays with a serious physical edge. That physical edge is also his biggest risk factor, however, as he missed 13 games of his team’s 43-game season due to four separate suspensions. If he can dial that side of his game in just enough and become less like Tom Wilson and more like Matthew Tkachuk or Brad Marchand — two of the players that he emulates — then he has the potential to develop into a pretty special player.
Carson Lambos — Defense — Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Coming into the 2020-21 season considered one of the very top prospects, Lambos ended things with more questions than answers. He headed over to Finland early on to get game action while the WHL was on hiatus and didn’t look particularly good. And then once he arrived back in Canada he only played two games, with his season getting cut short due to a medical procedure, which has been rumored and softly reported as an ablation (to help restore a normal heartbeat). He doesn’t have a true calling-card skill and he’s not a specialist in either end of the ice, leading to some questions about exactly what type of player he will be once his development is complete.
Isak Rosén — Left Wing — Leksands IF (SHL)
The annual IIHF U18 tournament is a place where prospects can boost or tank their draft status at the last minute based on how they perform, and few others did as much for their draft stock in that tournament as Rosén did. Playing on Sweden’s second line without much help alongside him he was just as dangerous as the more highly-regarded Fabian Lysell, who played on the top line. After playing a Bottom 6 energy role for 22 games in the SHL he really spread his wings at that tournament, showing what he could do when given a little extra runway, finishing with seven goals and nine points in seven games. While there are still some questions about his long-term offensive upside, his ability to play up or down in a lineup is a definite plus.
Fyodor Svechkov — Center — Lada Togliatti (VHL)
True centers are hard to come by in this draft class, and Svechkov is one of the safest bets to play this position at the NHL level, maybe even moreso than Mason McTavish. Nothing about his game really pops, but there’s also nothing that you could point to as a weakness, either. He just goes out there on a consistent basis and makes a really positive impact in all three zones, which is so much harder and more rare than it might seem. He’s the type of player who could be your second-line center or your third-line center and look good in either role.