2021 NHL Draft: Western Canadian Preliminary Top 10

The 2020 draft has now come and gone and what a weekend it was in Montreal!  It’s crazy how that draft went, isn’t it?!  Can you believe what some of the teams did?!!  Or what’s even crazier is what some of the teams didn’t do!!  And how bout those players who fell?!  Can you believe how high some of those other players went?!  Just a crazy weekend!!

That’s about what I would have written had the draft happened, wouldn’t it?

Well, this might be it for this piece!  SPR is going with new and better-looking people for his site this year, and I really just started doing these for him.  So, I’m not sure if I’ll still keep covering the WHL/tier-II kids this upcoming season.  But having said this, I had a blast doing it, and given that I love the talent that is coming out from the West for the 2021 draft, it is pretty likely I keep going with it.

How good is the talent in the West for the 2021 draft?  To put it into context, Hockey Prospects Black Book has their top 32 prospects for the 2021 draft.  If you include the guy I talk about off the top (who won’t count for these lists beyond this one), five of their top seven show up from this list.  That’s for the entire draft.  It’s funny, 2018 was a dreadful year for the West.  Since then, 2019 was their big resurgence, 2020 has ended up being a sneaky good season for the West, and now 2021 has the potential to be the best of the bunch.

Now, while it’s top-heavy, I’m not seeing the ’21 class to be anywhere near as deep as ’20’s class has been for the West.  We’ll see how kids develop, but I could make a case for nearly 20 kids from the West going in the top 62 of this year’s draft, and right from the get-go last year I was seeing it having that type of potential.  This year, it’s extremely top-heavy, I like my top 10, but when I got to the HM’s I wasn’t a big fan of what I was finding.  But again, I stress, at this point.

If you want to have a better idea of how I look at things and do my rankings, give this piece a read and it explains things much better.

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Special Mention

Kent Johnson

Team: Trail Smoke Eaters

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 41  A: 60  P: 101

Born: 10/18/02, North Vancouver, BC

This is a “special mention” because this is the last time I’ll get to put him on a Western Canadian list as he’s off to Michigan in the fall (assuming there is school) and if not, I’m sure he’ll be off to the USHL for the 20-21 season.  Johnson put up nearly identical numbers this season to Alex Newhook’s 18-19 numbers if you need a barometer.   In the case of Johnson, however, he won’t have any of the size concerns some may have had with Newhook.  It looked like that would be the case when Johnson was taken in the bantam draft and stood just 5’6 and weighed 120lbs.  He’s had a BIT of a growth spurt you might say…And while I will go much more off someone’s birth year than draft year when comparing statistics, it is noteworthy that Johnson was nearly 10 months younger this season than Newhook was last season.  It’s a strong pre-draft year showing, but the fact is that we’ll get a MUCH better look at what Johnson can do next season should he be suiting up for the Wolverines.  I’m not planning on going too in-depth on players in this write-up, but since this is the last time Johnson will be on this list…he reminds me a lot of John Tavares.  The skating needs work.  Not a bad skater, but he doesn’t skate overly well.  Maybe a 6/10, so above average.  How much of that is because of the growth spurt though?  And seeing he’s still pretty thin, how good will the skating be once he gains strength?  But what I love about this kid is the IQ appears to be off the charts and combines that with tremendous vision and patience with the puck.  He’s willing to wait that extra little bit for a seam to open up, and then can find his man.

 

Peter Reynolds

Team: Chilliwack Chiefs

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 14  A: 33  P: 47

Born: 01/20/03, Fredericton, NB

Like Johnson, Reynolds is done in the BCHL as he de-committed to Boston College and instead will play for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Q.  I won’t pretend to be anything of an expert on Reynolds.  With Johnson, he was on my radar by about November given he was obliterating the BCHL.  I mostly got aware of Reynolds back in late March as I went through the league looking for kids for the 2020 draft.  Speedy and skilled though, it’ll be much easier to get a read on what he’ll be playing in Saint John.

 

Now onto the kids who’ll be playing out West this coming season…

 

1. Carson Lambos

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: L

I believe there are going to be four kids vying for this spot, so it isn’t to suggest that Lambos is a slam dunk to stick here.  But the way it sits at the moment, Lambos isn’t just my top prospect from the West, but at this point (which I can’t stress enough a year out) he is a legit threat to challenge for 1st overall in the draft as the 2021 draft class currently does not have anyone who stands out.  Lambos brings a very complete game to the table and logged a lot of tough minutes for the Ice this season as a 16 year old.  The amount of complete defenceman in this 2021 draft class (overall, not just the West) is absurd.  Two guys in my top four here, another in the top ten, Owen Power, Luke Hughes, Simon Edvinsson, Sean Behrens, Brandt Clarke, Daniil Chayka, it’s RIDICULOUS.  A year out, looking extremely similar to the 2008 draft.

 

2. Dylan Guenther

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Nobody is more pumped about Guenther than Bob Stauffer.  If you regularly listened to Oilers Now this season, Stauffer is geeked up for what is still to come from the Edmonton native.  And it is understandable.  Guenther has a terrific shot, great hands, and skates very well.  He isn’t a one-dimensional sniper, though he is a shoot-first guy.  He can create his own shot, which is rare.  I’d like to see him away from Jake Neighbours this season to see how much damage he can do driving his own line, but I can’t see that happening.  The Oil Kings are going to be one of the favourites to take home the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the 20-21 WHL season.

 

3. Corson Ceulemans

Team: Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Got to see him in person back in January and…WOW!  You see his numbers on a team like Brooks, and you can’t help but wonder if it’s just a result of the team he plays with.  It is not.  He was the Bandits number one D-man at just 16 years old.  He’s an effortless skater, a terrific puck mover, physical down low and in front, he looks like the complete package as a D-man.  He’s a legitimate contender for 1st on this list, and perhaps would be in a normal season.  Not doing comps here obviously, but Alex Pietrangelo immediately came to mind watching Ceulemans, and I’m much higher on Pietrangelo than most as I see him as that all world legitimate number one defenceman.  Committed to Wisconsin, but obviously has a year left in Brooks.

 

4. Cole Sillinger

Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Son of the most traded player in NHL history, I doubt many…if any…teams will be trading the opportunity to take this kid at the 2021 draft.  Over a PPG player in his 16 year old season.  That’s pretty damn impressive.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t do that and he was the last WHL player to go 1st overall.  The skating isn’t the greatest, and nearly half the production was on the 3rd best PP in the league, but I wouldn’t put it past him to improve his skating which would likely take his five on five production to another level.

 

5. Sebastian Cossa

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 212  Glove: L

As it currently stands, Cossa is the best netminding prospect we’ve seen in the WHL since Carey Price (I’m talking pre-draft here, save your “CARTER HART!!!” screams…)  Big, can really move, stays square to the shooter, and what I’ve seen he tracks it pretty well too.  Obviously we don’t know what will happen with IIHF tournaments next season, but with a camp invite from Canada, Cossa is obviously very much on their radar.  I think he’s a mid-late 1st round pick, but we have 12 months to go here.

 

6. Fabian Lysell

Team: Vancouver Giants

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 176  Shot: R

First things first, we’ll see if he comes.  As of writing this, just a day after the CHL import draft and though these players have been drafted, they still have to come.  You’ll see I have a few other players who were picked in the import draft in the honourable mentions.  Anyway, the Lysell pick perhaps got overshadowed by the Blades taking 2022 potential top-five pick Brad Lambert, but Lysell is a very exciting player who has a lot of skill and a terrific shot.

 

7. Logan Stankoven

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: W  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 170  Shot: R

He is the ’21 classes Connor McClennon, who started my list last season as the number two guy.  Stankhoven is similar in stature, has similar concerns about the skating for that stature, and plays a very similar fearless/in your face game.  I would guess at this point that he’ll replace Zane Franklin on the Blazers top line this season with Orrin Centazzo and potential 2020 1st rounder Connor Zary.  If so, the numbers will definitely be there to support his case.

 

8. Ryder Korczak

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 159  Shot: R

The numbers are great, but something troubling with Korczak was that once Brayden Tracey left, Korczak’s numbers really dropped too.  Still, someone to keep an eye on.  I doubt he’s a centre in pro hockey, and his skating needs work, but that kind of production in his 17 year old season (on a terrible team) is going to get a lot of notice.

 

9. Graham Sward

Team: Spokane Chiefs

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Only 9th right now, but I’m telling you I am really excited about what Sward might be next season.  His ability to move the puck is off the charts.  Add to this, there is so much weight that he still has to put on, and he’s one of the youngest in this draft class.  The one thing I’m not a big fan of at this point is the skating is ok, not great.  But I wonder how much of that is a result of a 6’2 16 year old lacking strength?  Ty Smith is now gone, so it’ll essentially be Sward’s blueline next season and with the extra opportunity, I believe he actually has a chance (a small chance, but a chance) to jump into the Lambos/Ceulemans discussion.  It’s a long shot at this point, but a LOT changes in a year.

 

10. Zack Stringer

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Stringer is maybe the forward version of Sward, except that Stringer’s skating is worse at this point.  But again, how much of that is a 16 year old who stands 6’1 not having the strength to carry that frame?  I really love Stringer’s game and I’m sure anyone who has coached him feels the same way as he’s a kid who plays hard every night and goes to all the tough areas on the ice.  He’ll get drafted thanks to that alone, but if that skating improves he’s pretty damn intriguing!

 

Honourable Mention

* = taken in the CHL import draft, I don’t believe as of writing this that we know whether any of these kids will come to the WHL teams which selected them

Nolan Allan

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

 

Jake Chiasson

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: R

 

*Nikita Chibrikov

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Colton Dach

Team: Saskatoon Blades

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

 

Jayden Grubbe

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: W  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 190  Shot: R

 

Vincent Iorio

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 203  Shot: R

 

Gabe Klassen

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Tyson Kozak

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Dru Krebs

Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: L

 

Kyle Masters

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: R

 

Jack O’Brien

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 154  Shot: L

 

Conner Roulette

Team: Seattle Thunderbirds

Pos: W  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: LW

 

*Martin Rysavy

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

 

*Stanislav Svozil

Team: Regina Pats

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

 

Sean Tschigerl

Team: Calgary Hitmen

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

AJHL

Other than of course Ceulemans, keep your eye on Sherwood Park Crusaders forward Ty Mueller this season.  Showed flashes last season (specifically in October), and I really wonder how much of his production was limited by playing on such a stacked team?  Looked great in the three live viewings I had of him last season and will be a kid the Cru lean on heavily this season.  Committed to Nebraska-Omaha, was taken by Prince George in the 2018 bantam draft.

BCHL

I will not pretend that I know the BCHL well.  I can track guys once I’m aware of them, but I basically manufacture my own list of guys based on points, scholarships, etc.  One kid who has my eye is Finlay Williams who plays in Prince George.  Right shot centre, good size and put up good PPG numbers in his 16 year old season.  Committed to Michigan, was taken by Swift Current in the 2018 bantam draft.

 

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