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NHL Draft 2021: Grades and Analysis for All 32 Teams


Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Boston Bruins

Boston's choices on Day 2 were pretty ordinary. Brett Harrison was fair value in the third round and has a chance to become the exact kind of checking forward the Bruins have won with in the past. Some of their later picks were underwhelming, but in five years their 2021 draft will live and die by what Fabian Lysell turns into.

On talent alone, he was arguably a top-10 player in this draft class. The way he skates with the puck borders on elite, but he needs to diversify his game and mature off the ice. If he gets it together, he'll be a steal. If not, that failure will overwhelm anything else.

Grade: B

           

Florida Panthers

I love Mackie Samoskevich's game. His combination of skating and puck skills makes him an exciting player to watch, and while there are players who get overrated because of their highlight compilations, his abilities are translatable to the NHL. He has top-six upside.

There were a few players available I'd have preferred to Evan Nause at 56th overall, but it's still nice value, and he has the puck skill to become a defenseman who transitions the puck up the ice in the NHL. The rest of the picks are a mixed bag, but the Panthers did well with their top selections.

Grade: B+

         

Toronto Maple Leafs

Having traded most of their picks, the Leafs didn't have much to work with here. Nevertheless, they made lemonade out of lemons. The Matthew Knies selection is already looking like a wise choice, as the 6'3" American winger produced three goals and two assists in three games at the World Junior Summer Showcase. He won't be a superstar, but it's possible to imagine him eventually replacing Zach Hyman as Toronto's rugged winger who thrives around the net. 

Tyler Voit fits the profile of players who make the NHL as late-rounders. He's a talented but raw winger with questions about whether he can overcome his 5'9" height. The Leafs did about as well as they could have in the circumstances. 

Grade: B+

       

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay won back-to-back Cups in part because of success in collecting talent in the later rounds of the draft. Their 2021 class doesn't inspire the same hope. The one pick to celebrate was Dylan Duke. Serious concerns about his skating abound, but the winger works hard and has a knack for finding the puck in scoring positions around the net. He fell 40-50 picks later than he should have. 

The rest of their choices were suspect. The defining trait for defenseman Roman Schmidt is that he is big. He struggles with the puck on his stick and the skating is poor. He was a sixth-round value at best. He was among some baffling selections by the team.

Grade: D+

          

Ottawa Senators

Tyler Boucher is fun to watch and, if he makes the NHL, is a lock to become a fan favorite in Ottawa. He's pound-for-pound one of the most physical prospects I've ever seen and has the skill set to make it matter. It's easy to imagine him as a third-liner who produces 35 points and gives his team a jolt. Tenth overall is way too early to draft a player like that, however.

And that was one of Ottawa's better decisions. It went all-in on low-upside grinders, and there's an argument to be made that not a single player they took after Boucher should have made the board at all. Most draft picks after Round 1 bust, but you have to at least give yourself chance.

Grade: D-

        

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs' first-round choice of Logan Mailloux, an albeit talented prospect but one who had asked not to be drafted after a conviction in Sweden for taking and distributing a photo of a woman performing a sex act without her knowledge, was a disgrace. There was nothing the team could have done on Day 2 of the draft to make up for that decision.

Regardless, their choices in Rounds 2 through 7 were nothing special. Riley Kidney has talent but is a major project. While Oliver Kapanen fits the mold of someone drafted 64th overall, the Canadiens left a ton of better players on the board such as Simon Robertsson and Stanislav Svozil.

Had the Canadiens taken a different player at 31st overall, this draft would have graded out as a C. But some things are more important than hockey, and there is only one grade this organization deserves.

Grade: F

          

Detroit Red Wings

I caught a lot of grief from Red Wings fans after giving bad grades to both of their first-round selections. Simon Edvinsson projects more as a No. 4 shutdown defenseman in the NHL. I'm confident enough to proclaim that a huge error passing on William Eklund and Brandt Clarke. While Sebastian Cossa has upside, goaltending prospects are volatile, and his mechanics are a major work in progress. To me, Detroit whiffed on two significant selections.

Perhaps their other selections can get me back on good terms with the fanbase. Shai Buium was market value at 36th overall. Red Savage all the way at 114th is one of my favorite picks in the draft. He's a great skater, has decent puck skills and plays with energy. Everything about him screams NHL third-liner, and an NHL scout from a different Eastern Conference team told me he had Savage as a top-four prospect in this draft.

I also like Liam Dower Nilsson, picked in the fifth round. There's not much upside, but his defensive prowess lends credibility as a potential bottom-six shutdown center. 

Grade: C-

           

Buffalo Sabres

Owen Power wasn't my choice for first overall, but it's a defendable pick, and he should be a good player in Buffalo for a long time. Other scouts will think Buffalo reached for Isak Rosen at 16th overall, but I loved this swing for the fences. He's a crafty winger with a ton of offensive upside, and Buffalo needs impact players if it's going to turn around the team's dire situation. 

Buffalo had a ton of picks in later rounds. Some picks were good. Some not so much. Inevitably, I wasn't going to agree with all of them. Although 33rd overall was too early for me, I love Prokhor Poltapov's game. He's a tremendous forechecker and cycle winger. Winger Olivier Nadeau was a savvy pickup in Round 4. There were some other questionable picks, but Buffalo badly needed an infusion of pillars to build around, and they got the job done.

Grade: B


Source: NHL Draft 2021: Grades and Analysis for All 32 Teams

NHL Rumors: Latest on Vladimir Tarasenko Trade Market, Marcus Pettersson, More


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Joe Puetz/Associated Press

After a flurry of moves and transactions over the past few weeks, the NHL offseason has slowed down. That doesn't mean things can't pick back up, though, even if many of the major free agents have already decided where they will play next year.

Some notable players remain on the free-agent market, and there's always the potential for noteworthy trades to occur before the 2021-22 season begins in October.

Here's some of the latest offseason buzz from around the NHL.

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David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade from the St. Louis Blues earlier this summer, but he is still on the team's roster. However, it appears that discussions could still be taking place and the 29-year-old forward may be on the move soon.

During a recent appearance on NHL Network, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported that the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders are "in a battle" to land Tarasenko (h/t Kyle Cannillo of Penn State Radio).

"It sounds like there's progress in this particular process of trying to get Tarasenko out of St. Louis and to a new club," Pagnotta said.

Tarasenko has been limited to 34 games over the past two seasons because of injuries. But if he is healthy, he would likely provide an offensive boost to any team that acquires him.

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Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Marcus Pettersson has four years remaining on his contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he's set to earn a little more than $4 million each of those seasons. And that's the why the Pens may be looking to trade the 25-year-old defenseman despite his solid play.

It also could be the reason why Pittsburgh hasn't been able to. According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, the Penguins have been trying to move Pettersson, who was acquired when former general manager Jim Rutherford was still at the helm. However, they have been unsuccessful.

"The Penguins have attempted to package Pettersson in other transactions, but no team is willing to take him at full cap hit," Seravalli wrote. "Retaining salary would make teams more interested, but that would also mostly defeat the purpose."

Pettersson has played 173 games for Pittsburgh over the past three seasons. During the 2020-21 campaign, he had two goals and seven assists in 47 games while posting a plus/minus rating of plus-eight. He's had a positive plus/minus in each of the first four seasons of his NHL career, which began with the Anaheim Ducks.

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Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

Timo Meier has spent his first five NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks, and he's developed into a strong player over that time. But could the team be looking to move the 24-year-old, who is under contract until 2023?

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said during a recent episode of his 31 Thoughts podcast that he had "heard some rumblings" about Meier getting traded to the Devils. However, Friedman also indicated that he heard it also may not happen.

"Those [rumors were] flatly denied to me. Someone said, 'You’re way off. Don't go down that road,'" Friedman said (h/t Sheng Peng of San Jose Hockey Now).

Meier has tallied at least 31 points in each of the past four seasons, posting 12 goals and 19 assists in 54 games during the 2020-21 campaign. And the right winger, who was selected No. 9 overall by the Sharks in 2015, will likely be a key part of the team's future as it looks to return to Stanley Cup contention after two years without making the playoffs.


Source: NHL Rumors: Latest on Vladimir Tarasenko Trade Market, Marcus Pettersson, More

Gordo on the NHL: Devils invest in Tatar while Tarasenko remains on trade block


So Eichel sits. His agents have tried to step up pressure on the Sabres, but that franchise is impervious to criticism. The Sabres have been awful for a long, long time and now they are entering another long-haul rebuild.

Fans are mad, but they’ve been mad for many years. The Pegulas have been taking high heat, but they shrug it off from their well-insulated executive suite.

If Eichel’s injury situation drags on well into the season – which seems increasingly likely – then the Sabres will lose some trade leverage. So maybe that will move general manager Kevyn Adams.

Then again, how many teams have the salary cap flexibility to make that trade without having to jettison other salaries?

Anaheim seems like a no-brainer, since Eichel is still young enough to blend into that ongoing rebuild. Maybe the New York Rangers could pull it off, since could throw an attractive forward prospect in with center Ryan Strome and build a presentable package.

The San Jose Sharks have apparently been shopping power forward Evander Kane for a while. Kane is a fantasy hockey darling, since he 22 scored goals in 56 games last season and 36 in 64 games the season before. He is a high-volume shooter who racks up lots of hits and penalty minutes for fantasy leagues that count such things.


Source: Gordo on the NHL: Devils invest in Tatar while Tarasenko remains on trade block



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