NHL draft preview: The top 31 players on the board, per the experts


The create the consensus poll, we took each ranking and assigned points to each of the top 31 players listed — Seattle joins the draft this year but Arizona has forfeited its pick, leaving 31 teams choosing in the first round. The top player in each draft ranking received 31 points, the second 30, and so on until one point was given to the No. 31-ranked player. 

We then combined all the results from there to come up with a consensus poll of the top 31 players in the draft, the kinds of players the Jackets will be looking at as they go about making their first-round choices. 

The rankings used include those produced by Chris Peters (Hockey Sense), Scott Wheeler (The Athletic), Corey Pronman (The Athletic), Ryan Kennedy (SI/The Hockey News), Sam Cosentino (SportsNet), and Craig Button (TSN) as well as Hockey Prospect, The Draft AnalystMcKeen’s Hockey, Draft Prospects HockeySmaht Scouting, Elite Prospects, FC Hockey and ISS Hockey

In all, 57 players appeared as first round-rated choices in the rankings, with 13 players appearing in the top 31 of all 14 lists. Of course, the Blue Jackets could go off the board — as they did last year with the choice at No. 21 overall of Russian winger Yegor Chinakhov, who did not appear in the first round in any projection — but this should be a good start for CBJ fans looking to become familiar with the top names on the board. 

Stats and profiles of the top 31 players in our consensus poll follow. 

1. LHD Owen Power 

6-6, 213/University of Michigan (NCAA)/No. 1-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting Bureau 

Stats: Power is coming off a season in which he shined as a freshman at U-M, totaling a 3-13-16 line in 26 games while amassing just six penalty minutes and finishing plus-18. He then played with Team Canada at the World Championships this spring, placing third on the team in minutes with more than 20 per game while helping the squad to a gold medal. 

What to know: Generally thought of as the most likely player to be taken No. 1 overall by Buffalo, Power placed first in 12 of the 14 rankings used in the consensus poll. A smooth-skating two-way defenseman with tremendous size, Power is projected to be an ice-time eater in the future who can play in all situations. Barring a major surprise, though, it won’t be in Columbus. 

2. C Matty Beniers 

6-1½, 175/University of Michigan (NCAA)/No. 6 North American skater 

Stats: Beniers was a standout in both zones as a freshman at U-M, posting a 10-14-24 line in 24 games while leading the Wolverines with a plus-21 rating. He also skated with the gold medal-winning USA World Juniors team (1-2-3 in seven games) and won bronze with Team USA at the World Championships (1-1-2 in six games). 

What to know: Thought to be the top pivot in the draft, Beniers has been lauded as a player whose game is mature beyond his years, and he was the No. 1-rated player in the two drafts Power was not. He combines uncommon hockey smarts with offensive skill and defensive prowess, a winning combination that almost guarantees he’ll be off the board in the top five. 

3. LW William Eklund 

5-10, 176/Djurgardens IF (Sweden)/No. 1 International skater 

Stats: Eklund got first-line minutes at time at the top level in Sweden and didn’t disappoint, totaling an 11-12-23 line in 40 games while taking just a single minor penalty. That point total placed him fifth all-time among draft-eligible players in the SHL. Unfortunately, because of injury, Eklund didn’t get a chance to suit up at the World Juniors. 

What to know: A dynamic offensive forward with great passing skills, Eklund is coming off a season in which he was named the SHL’s rookie of the year. That experience at Sweden’s top level will surely do him good as he has experience against pros, and his speed, confidence and vision likely make him a top-six forward down the road. 

4. RHD Brandt Clarke 

6-2, 185/HC Nove Zamky (Slovakia)/No. 7 North American skater 

Stats: Clarke headed overseas because of the pandemic this past year and had offensive success in Europe, posting a 5-10-15 line in 26 games with the Slovakian squad. He also had a 2-5-7 line and was plus-12 in seven games with Team Canada’s gold medal squad in the U-18 Worlds, and Clarke previously played with Barrie of the OHL, where he had 38 points in 57 games in 2019-20. 

What to know: Clarke might be the most skilled defenseman in the draft, having shown the ability to rack up points in juniors, in a foreign pro league and at the international level. It’s thought that he’ll have to improve on his skating, but Clarke thinks the game at a high level and should be an excellent puck mover as he moves up levels. 

5. LHD Luke Hughes 

6-2, 184/U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP)/No. 4 North American skater 

Stats: Hughes racked up points from the blue line while playing against both USHL competition and for the U.S. national team, totaling a combined 10-39-49 line in 56 games.  

What to know: The latest Hughes brother to enter the draft — New Jersey took Jack Hughes at No. 1 overall in 2019, while Quinn Hughes went seventh to Vancouver in 2018 — he brings a competitive nature honed at the highest levels, both with the USNTDP and in his own house. An excellent skater with size to fill out, the University of Michigan-bound defender is poised and creative with the puck on his stick and is thought to have a high ceiling. 

No. 6 RW Dylan Guenther 

6-1½, 175/Edmonton (WHL)/No. 5 North American skater 

Stats: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Guenther is a dynamic offensive threat, as he played 12 games for the Oil Kings this season and posted 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points, one year after posting a 26-33-59 line in 58 games at age 16. He also played on Canada’s U-18 Worlds team and had four goals and seven points in seven games for the gold medal winners. 

What to know: If you’re looking for dynamic skill, Guenther is your guy, as he brings an excellent shot to the table as well as the ability to set up teammates on scoring chances. He also boasts some decent size and skating ability, and it’s not hard to see him as someone who can be a top-tier offensive player down the road. 

7. LHD Simon Edvinsson 

6-4, 198/Frolunda (Sweden)/No. 2 International skater 

Stats: Edvinsson spent the season split between three different levels in Sweden, playing 14 games for Vasteras IK of the Allsvenskan (minor leagues), 14 games with Frolunda’s U-20 team and 10 games with Frolunda’s senior team in the SHL, his first action at Sweden’s highest level. In those 38 games, he combined for one goal and 11 assists, and he also had a 1-3-4 line with Sweden’s team at the U-18 Worlds. 

What to know: What stands out immediately with Edvinsson is his size, as the Swede is a towering presence along the blue line. He also boasts some pretty good skill for a player of his size, and while he lacks polish at this point, Edvinsson could be a high-end player down the road because he checks off so many boxes. 

8. C Kent Johnson 

6-1, 167/University of Michigan (NCAA)/No. 3 North American skater 

Stats: The Vancouver native had little trouble adjusting to the NCAA level, playing 26 games for the Wolverines and topping a point per game. Coming off a 101-point campaign with Trail of the BCHL, Johnson had a 9-18-27 line in 26 games with Michigan and was plus-16 on the season. 

What to know: Thought to be one of the most creative and skilled players in the draft, Johnson is the kind of player who pulls off things other players don’t even think of. He’s adept at creating on his own one-on-one as well as distributing, but there seems to be concern whether he’ll be able to play center at the highest level or will be best as a scoring winger. 

9. C Mason McTavish 

6-1, 207/EHC Olten (Switzerland)/No. 2 North American skater 

Stats: McTavish had 29 goals at age 16/17 for Peterborough of the OHL in 2019-20 but because of the pandemic had to play in Europe this past year, posting nine goals and two assists in 13 games with Olten at the second level of Swiss play. He also had an impressive showing with Canada’s gold-medal U-18 squad, notching a 5-6-11 line in seven games and serving as team captain. 

What to know: The son of longtime pro Dale McTavish, Mason is a good combination of size and skill and also already boasts excellent strength. McTavish has a high-level shot and plays a 200-foot game, but skating is something that is said to need some work.  

10. G Jesper Wallstedt 

6-3, 214/Lulea (Sweden)/No. 1 International goalie 

Stats: Despite his youth, Wallstedt spent much of the season in the SHL this past year and acquitted himself well, playing in 22 games with Lulea. He finished with a 12-10-0 record, a 2.23 GAA and .908 save percentage, and took part in two playoff games. Wallstedt also played for Sweden at the World Juniors, seeing action in two games and notching a 2.40 GAA and .923 save percentage. 

What to know: Generally thought to be the top goaltender in the draft, Wallstedt is noted for an impressive ability to read the game already at his young age. Some simply won’t want to take a goalie this high, but Wallstedt already has impressive experience at the pro level and size you can’t teach. Wallstedt is thought to be a future starter at the NHL level.  

11. C Chaz Lucius 

6-1, 185/USNTDP/No. 12 North American skater 

Stats: Let there be no doubt, Lucius can put the puck in the net. In a combined 25 games with the U.S. U-18 team playing both internationally and in the USHL, Lucius combined for 26 goals, not to mention 12 more assists for a total of 38 points. A year earlier, he had seven goals in six games at the U-17 Worlds. 

What to know: A Minnesota native headed to be a Golden Gopher at the college level, Lucius missed much of last season with a knee injury and also illness that kept him from the U-18 Worlds but is one of the most dynamic forwards in the draft. With excellent quickness and great hands, he’s expected to be someone who can produce points at the NHL level. 

12. C Cole Sillinger 

6-0, 197/Sioux Falls (USHL)/No. 10 North American skater 

Stats: Thought by many to be the top USHL player in the draft, Sillinger placed fourth in the league with 1.48 points per game, posting a 24-22-46 line in 31 games with the Stampede. Previously, he had 53 points in 48 games the year prior with Medicine Hat of the WHL, so he certainly has some scoring touch. 

What to know: One of the most consistently rated players in the consensus poll — he checked in as a mid-first round pick in every poll — Sillinger is a skilled forward with a great release and the ability to score. The son of former CBJ forward Mike Sillinger, Cole is thought to need to continue coming along defensively, but he profiles well as an NHL forward thanks to his size and skill.  

13. LW Fabian Lysell 

5-10½, 172/Frolunda/Lulea (Sweden)/No. 9 International skater 

Stats: The forward split the season, playing 26 games with Lulea in the SHL in his top-level debut while also playing 11 games with Frolunda’s U-20 team. He was a consistent scorer with Frolunda as he has been throughout his junior career, notching a 3-10-13 line in 11 games, but he found the sledding tougher in the SHL as he had just two goals and an assist. Lysell had a 3-6-9 line in seven games at the U-18s Worlds. 

What to know: Lysell is thought by a number of the rankings to be someone who can jump into the top 10. The Swedish winger is rated the fastest skater in the draft by Peters, something that is key given how fast the game is becoming. He also boasts skill to go with it and is dangerous off the rush, and a team looking for a scorer could pick him higher than many think.  

14. C Fedor Svechkov 

6-0, 187/Lada Togliatti (Russia)/No. 5 International skater 

Stats: The forward split time between Russia’s top junior league as well as its version of the AHL in the Lada Togliatti organization, posting a combined 9-21-30 line in 53 games. He scored 15 points at each stop along the way and also had a 4-6-10 line in seven games with Russia’s silver medal-winning squad at the U-18 Worlds. 

What to know: Just how highly regarded is Svechkov in Russia? He’s headed to traditional power SKA St. Petersburg — where Vladislav Gavrikov plied his trade and where 2018 second-round pick Kirill Marchenko still skates — thanks to his abilities as a strong, two-way center with a high motor.  

15. C Aatu Raty 

6-2, 185/Karpat (Finland)/No. 3 International skater 

Stats: Long thought to be one of the top young players coming out of Finland in recent years, Raty instead had a bit of a tough year, failing to qualify for the country’s World Juniors squad after taking part in 2019-20. Raty spent most of the year with Karpat of Finland’s top-level Liiga and posted a 3-3-6 line in 35 games, but one has to remember he was playing against men at such a young age. He had seven points in eight games with the U-20 club, showing the offensive skill is still there.  

What to know: The brother of Arizona 2019 fifth-round pick Aku Raty, Aatu has gone from a potential No. 1 overall pick a few years ago to a mid-first round choice in the eyes of many. It’s been a tough go for him of late, but Raty still has good size, a good shot and excellent defensive instincts. 

16. RW Matthew Coronato 

5-10, 183/Chicago (USHL)/No. 9 North American skater 

Stats: The New York native is coming off one of the top-scoring seasons in USHL history, as he torched the league for 48 goals — 16 higher than the next highest scorer in the league — as well as 37 assists for 85 points for the champion Steel team.  

What to know: Well, anyone who can score nearly 50 goals in the USHL is an elite goal scorer, and Coronato fits the bill. The Harvard-bound winger does a lot of it on smarts, savvy and effort, which is one reason he’s not quite viewed as a top-10 pick, but you know you’re getting someone who does the little things to score goals.  

17. G Sebastian Cossa 

6-6, 210/Edmonton (WHL)/No. 1 North American goalie  

Stats: One of two goaltenders with a first-round rating by many (Wallstedt being the other), Cossa has spent the past two years with the Oil Kings, playing a combined 52 games. This past season, he made 19 appearances, going a dominant 17-1-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .941 save percentage. 

What to know: You can’t argue with Cossa’s numbers at the WHL level this past season, and you certainly can’t teach the size he brings to the table, either. He also has some explosiveness in his skating to go along with it, and while some just aren’t sure whether he’s worth taking in the first round — two of the rankings didn’t give him a top-31 grade — he’s gained believers as the years have gone by. 

18. LHD Carson Lambos 

6-1, 197/Winnipeg (WHL)/No. 11 North American skater 

Stats: Another player impacted by the pandemic, Lambos spent most of the season in Finland playing for JYP, but he did suit up for two games with the Ice when the WHL season began. Overseas, he got in two games with the Liiga squad but was impressive with the JYP U-20 team, posting a 2-9-11 line in 13 games. In 2019-20 with Winnipeg, he had eight goals and 32 points in 57 games.  

What to know: It was tough for Lambos to find a ton of ice time this year but he didn’t seem out of place wherever he ended up. His skating needs some work but Lambos has confidence to make plays from the blue line thanks to his smarts. A question remains how much offensive upside there is, but Lambos has high defensive IQ. 

19. RW Nikita Chibrikov 

5-10, 170/SKA St. Petersburg (Russia)/No. 4 International skater 

Stats: Chibrikov was most impressive this past year while serving as a captain on Russia’s silver medal-winning U-18 Worlds team, posting a 4-9-13 line in seven games at the tournament. He played at three different levels for SKA this year, including 16 in the KHL, where he had just a goal and an assist playing at age 17 in the second-best league in the world. He had a combined 6-11-19 line in 31 games with SKA’s junior and minor league teams. 

What to know: A polarizing prospect, some see Chibrikov as a high-end point producer going forward and others had him barely rating as a first-round pick. The Russian uses quickness, great hands and skill to put up excellent numbers against his peers, though defensive effort will have to get better.  

20. LW Brennan Othmann 

6-0, 175/EHC Olten (Switzerland)/No. 8 North American skater 

Stats: The talented forward joined McTavish with this squad in Switzerland’s second division thanks to the pandemic and had some offensive success, posting seven goals and 16 points in 34 games. Othmann also played for Team Canada’s U-18 Worlds squad, compiling a 3-3-6 line in seven games. Previously, he skated in 2019-20 with Flint of the OHL, notching a 17-16-33 line in 55 contests. 

What to know: Othmann is the lowest-ranked player in the consensus poll to show up in each one of the 14 ratings, meaning just about everyone sees him as a lower-first round talent. His shot is the first thing that stands out, with Othmann boasting one of the better releases in the draft.  

21. RHD Corson Ceulemens 

6-2, 198/Brooks (AJHL)/No. 14 North American skater 

Stats: The pandemic wreaked havoc with Ceulemans’ season, as the blueliner got only eight games with his Alberta Junior Hockey League team, though he impressed with a 4-7-11 line in eight games with the Bandits. He showed his skill level, though, with Canada’s U-18 Worlds team, posting a goal and eight points in six games.  

What to know: A two-way defender, Ceulemans has some impressive skills from the blue line including one of the better shots among defensemen in the draft. As with any young defenseman, he continues to need to get better at things in his own zone, but Ceulemans is now headed for Wisconsin, which is putting together quite a stretch of producing NHL-level defensemen in recent years. 

22. RW Oskar Olausson 

6-1, 180/HV71 (Sweden)/No. 13 International skater 

Stats: Olausson made his SHL debut this past season and showed some offensive abilities, notching three goals among his four points in 16 games with HV71. He also dominated U-20 competition (14-13-27 in 16 games) with the club and had six points in 11 games in the minor league Allsvenskan. Olausson also played in four games with Sweden as a youngster at the World Juniors, notching zero points.  

What to know: A bit of a polarizing prospect who some see as a top half of the first round talent and others see as a second-rounder, Olausson is a big winger with speed who has impressed against those his age thus far. While he also has a good shot, creativity might be lacking, as he projects as a power winger. 

23. RW Isak Rosen 

5-11, 156/Leksands (Sweden)/No. 8 International skater 

Stats: Another high-level Swede available in the draft, Rosen notched seven goals in seven games with his home country at the U-18 Worlds, a record. He wasn’t able to do much offensively in making his SHL debut, posting a 0-1-1 line in 22 games at his home country’s highest level, but Rosen was also a point-per-game player at the U-20 level in Sweden. 

What to know: Noted for his speed, Rosen is viewed as someone who can get up into the middle of the first round according to some ratings. He’s not big, but Rosen has those wheels, an accurate shot and good hands. The concern seems to be with hockey IQ and defensive skills, which makes some wonder if he’ll stick at the NHL level.  

24. C Zachary Bolduc 

6-1, 175/Rimouski (QMJHL)/ No. 17 North American skater 

Stats: The Q eventually got its season under way and for the second straight campaign, Bolduc was a around point-per-game player, finishing with 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points in 27 games with the Oceanic. He was just as good the previous season, posting 30-22-52 in 55 games. 

What to know: Bolduc is much like Rosen in that some view him as a mid-first round talent. The centerman battled injury this past season but is thought to be someone who can play a two-way game with some skill. He also competes hard in a way that rubs off on teammates. 

25. C Logan Stankoven 

5-8, 170/Kamloops (WHL)/No. 31 North American skater 

Stats: This Western Canadian standout got to play only six games with the Blazers this past season but followed up a 29-goal season with a 7-3-10 line in six games with his junior team. Stankoven also skated in the World U-18 tournament, wearing an “A” and scoring four goals among his eight points in seven games. 

What to know: To be projected as a first-round pick at Stankoven’s size means he has to have some skill, and that might be an understatement. One of the most creative players in the draft with both playmaking skills and an excellent shot, Stankoven also brings some speed to the table and could be the next smaller forward to hit it big in the NHL, but he’ll have to get better defensively. 

26. C Xavier Bourgault 

6-0, 172/Shawinigan (QMJHL)/No. 13 North American skater 

Stats: The pivot has impressed in three seasons in the Q with the Cataractes, with a 33-goal, 71-point season in 2019-20 then matching totals of 20 goals and 20 assists in 29 games last year. 

What to know: Skill is what stands out with Bourgault, as he is a driver of play who also can shoot the puck, and he is one of the top scoring CHL players in the draft. Creativity is more the name of his game than high-end goal-scoring skill, but Bourgault could be a top-six forward in the NHL. 

27. RW Samu Tuomaala 

5-10, 174/Karpat/No. 10 International skater 

Stats: Tuomaala had a breakout showing at the World U-18 tournament, placing tied for fifth at the event with 11 points on five goals and six helpers in seven games. He also had a big year with Karpat’s U-20 team, posting a 15-16-31 line in 30 games, but went scoreless in five games with the big club in his Liiga debut. 

What to know: He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but Tuomaala brings excellent speed to the table to go with a high-level shot. The shot is what could propel him to the next level as it’s one of the top releases in the draft with some excellent versatility to it. 

28. C Francesco Pinelli 

6-0, 185/Kitchener (OHL)/No. 15 North American skater 

Stats: Another player to stand out at the U-18 Worlds — Pinelli had a 4-7-11 line in seven games — he’s also one who saw the pandemic throw a wrench in his plans. A year after posting 41 points in 59 games with Kitchener of the OHL, he was unable to play for the Rangers this year and ended up playing just 13 games with HDD Jesenice in Slovenia, posting 11 points.  

What to know: Pinelli is a solid player who brings creativity to the table, including in one-on-one battles. His U-18 World Championships showing was at a high level, and Pinelli is dangerous both shooting and passing the puck. Skating will need to continue to get better, and he plays the game with a ton of emotion. 

29. LW Zachary L’Heureux 

5-11, 196/Halifax (QMJHL)/No. 30 North American skater 

Stats: The scoring centerman has had little trouble with the Q over his two seasons, posting more than a point per game in his career. After a 53-point debut season in 2019-20, he got in 33 games with the Mooseheads this past year and posted 19 goals and 39 points. 

What to know: Described as a power forward with skill, L’Heureux is thought to be one of the more talented players in the draft, though there’s not a ton of subtlety in his game. The ding on L’Heureux right now seems to be that emotions can get the best of him, but he can score and also play a 200-foot game. 

30. RW Simon Robertsson  

6-0, 190/Skelleftea (Sweden)/No. 11 International skater 

Stats: Robertsson has followed a similar path to the other Swedish forwards available, making his SHL debut a season ago but finding scoring hard to come by as he had a 1-1-2 line in 22 games with Skelleftea. He had no trouble at the U-20 level, though, posting 20 points in 15 games, and had a 3-1-4 line in seven games with Sweden’s U-18 Worlds team. 

What to know: Robertsson is noted for his shot, plus tremendous skating ability. The concern is he’s not necessarily a play driver, but Robertsson didn’t look out of place in the SHL this year, and a number of the ratings see him as someone with the talent to be taken in the top half of the first round. 

31. LW Matthew Samoskevitch 

5-11, 191/Chicago (USHL)/No. 26 North American skater 

Stats: The forward known as “Mackie” was a key part of the Steel’s USHL title, as he scored 13 goals and added 24 assists for 37 points in 36 games, then added 10 points and a plus-11 rating in eight playoff contests. 

What to know: The University of Michigan-bound winger with a great one-timer should fill up the net with the Maize and Blue, as Samoskevitch can rip a shot in transition or flat-footed and also is an excellent skater. As with any player with his skill, he’ll have to get better defensively, but there’s little doubt he can be an electric player on the offensive side of the ice. 

The next 10: C Zach Dean (Gatineau, QMJHL), F Sasha Pastujov (USNTDP), LHD Daniil Chayka (CSKA Moscow, Russia), LHD Kirill Kirsanov (SKA St. Petersburg, Russia), LHD Sean Behrens (USNTDP), LHD Stanislav Svozil (HC Kometa Brno, Czech Republic), LW Matthew Knies (Tri-City, USHL), LW Ayrton Martino (Omaha, USHL), RW Prokhor Poltapov (CSKA Moscow, Russia), RHD Scott Morrow (Shattuck St. Mary’s, U.S. high school) 


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