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2021 NHL Draft Profiles: The Honourable Mentions

Other prospects that interest me, but I didn’t have time to write full profiles about

Lausanne HC v SC Bern - Swiss National League Photo by RvS.Media/Monika Majer/Getty Images

For this year’s draft, I would maintain a rough list of players I wanted to profile leading into draft day. I wound up picking 12 of them to write full profiles because of time constraints to research and watch each of them for 2-3 games. But there were several others that still interested in me.

So here are several other players that still interest me, but I didn’t have time to see them enough, or they didn’t excite me as much as the others.

FORWARDS

Here are some guys I’m interested in for the second round — or higher if the Leafs acquire another pick like last year:

Simon Robertsson is a 6’0” Swedish sniper who was ranked in Bob’s midterms 28th overall, but the narrative around him since the World U18 hasn’t been as rosy. I know quite a few scouting people have been very high on him all year, but it’s hard to really say with him just looking at his points since he spent more than half the year in the SHL or Ettan (third-tier). In 15 games in the U20 juniors, he had 9 goals and 11 assists. At the World U18s, he only had 4 points in 7 games which was pretty disappointing. But short-tournaments on the big stage are rife for overreaction to a player’s performance in both directions. If he drops into the second round, I would put him in the same tier as Stankoven and Morrow as guys I would love for the Leafs to take if he falls as far as 57th, or if they acquire a higher pick before the draft. But Bob’s final rankings had him 32nd, so I doubt he falls that far. From Swedish scout Mikael Holm:

The most underrated Swede in the draft? That is quite possible after seeing a lot of lists and rankings going around. I have heard weird comments about him not being a good skater which is preposterous. Robertsson is a good skater with fine hands that works hard consistently and that creates a lot of offense on every team that he is on. He has a wicked release that can beat goalies clean from far out. I think he is one of the smartest players to come out of Sweden this draft and he has tools that will make him lovely to use in a top-6 for a long time.

Dylan Duke is a 5’10” center who played on the US National Development Program team. So he played on the U18 team, where he put up 49 points in 50 games which was good for second on the team. He put up another 17 points in 26 games against USHL teams, and 4 points in 5 games for Team USA at the World U18 Championship. By all accounts he plays the kind of game you want a player too: aggressive, goes to the dirty areas, takes dangerous shots, makes dangerous passes, doesn’t slack in the neutral zone or defensive zone, and so on. The big concern with him is his skating is just okay. Not great, but not bad either. Him improving that could make him a lot more dangerous, which is why I like him at the Leafs’ 2nd round pick. I just didn’t have time to watch any of his games to see him for myself. From Will Scouch, who ranked him 32nd on his list, where Bob McKenzie had him 61st on his mid-season rankings but knocked him down to 78th in his final rankings:

He’s aggressive, quick, gets to the net and drives results. He’s an energy guy, but he produces. I think a team willing to look past his frame will be rewarded with a hard working player who can get the job done in crunch time through both net front shot generation and underrated playmaking. He’s part of the 30+ club in offensive threat (dangerous shooting combined with dangerous passing), and sits fourth in that metric, with the 3rd highest rate of dangerous shots for.

Cole Huckins is an example of a player type that I like: big forwards (6’3”) that can skate and play a skilled game. While I do love me a small zippy winger that can rip a hard shot, guys like Colton Dach and Samu Salminen this year, and Brandon Coe last year, are examples of big forwards who I find interesting. Huckins is a center/winger who played mostly wing this season in the QMJHL, where he had 32 points in 33 games for Acadie-Bathurst. He had a much stronger start to the year for point production and faded a bit down the stretch, which is one of the reasons I wound up dropping his profile and writing about Dach instead. His strengths are with playmaking and transitions, in part thanks to his above average skating which you love to see from a bigger player. He’s someone I’d be interested in if the Leafs trade down and get an extra pick in the late second/early third round. From Scott Wheeler, who has him ranked 66th overall:

Huckins is a versatile forward who has had success playing both centre and wing in the QMJHL through two seasons. He’s an aggressive forechecker who extends through his pushes to elongate his stride and push up ice. Moving forward, he’s an above-average skater for his size, though, that can break down when he has to change directions or stop and start. He finishes his checks, stays on top of opposing players to apply pressure and force board battles, and then excels at taking possession from the wall and making a play, primarily as a passer.

Oliver Kapanen is the cousin of former Leaf Kasperi Kapanen, but plays a much different game. He’s a 6’1” center that played in Finland’s U20 junior level for most of the year, then another 5 games on loan to their second-tier pro league (Mestis). He had 41 points in 37 games, including 25 goals which tied for the league lead. He also played in four games for Finland at the U18 championship, where he played a bit down the lineup and behind the likes of Ville Koivunen, Samu Tuomaala, and Samu Salminen. Where his cousin Kasperi was all blazing speed and raw skill, Oliver is more intelligent, crafty, and is good at being where he needs to be on the ice so he doesn’t have to use speed to recover. He makes plays efficiently, and while he’s a good skater he is not at that same level. He’s another guy I have followed pretty much all year and has always interested me, but I just never really got a chance to watch him. From Derek Neumeier at Future Considerations:

You will be hard-pressed to find many forwards in this draft who are better 200-foot players than he is. He is Kalpa U20’s No. 1 center and does everything for that team — top power play unit, top penalty kill, defending a lead in the dying seconds, you name it. His focus, attention to detail and work ethic are superb in all three zones. He just always seems to be involved in the play in a positive way for his team. He’s a very sticky player without the puck, both on the forecheck and in the defensive zone, leading to steals, turnovers and pressuring opponents into lower-percentage situations.

William Strömgren is a big (6’3”) lanky (174 lbs) Swedish winger who has a level of skill, puck handling and skating you wouldn’t expect from someone his size. He played in three levels in Sweden this year: the U20 junior level (18 points in 14 games), the third-tier pro (12 points in 11 games) and second tier-pro (9 points in 27 games). He also played for Sweden at the World U18 Championship, where he had 5 points in 7 games, good for third on the roster. He’s ranked in the early second round by Bob McKenzie as of writing this, so he may not even be around when the Leafs pick. But I am intrigued by him, in part thanks to Mikael Holm who is a Sweden-based scout:

Strömgren is a 6’3 guy with crazy hands that can dangle his way past any defender. He is very good a locating loose pucks in the offensive zone and turning them into goals. He has a great shot which he can shoot great one-timers with, especially on the power play.

Now here are some forwards I’m interested in at later rounds in the draft:

Ethan Cardwell is an overager prospect in this draft, having gone unselected last year. I almost wrote a profile about him, because I was interested in him. In fact, a lot of people were and he was ranked as a solid mid-round guy on many lists. So it was surprising to see no one take him at all. He’s a 5’11” center that was traded from Saginaw (21 points in 37 games) to Barrie (26 points in 26 games) in his draft year, and it was the pick up in production when he was given a bigger role and more ice time with Barrie that caught my interest. This year, with the OHL season never getting started, he was loaned to Sweden’s third-tier pro league (Ettan), where he torched the league for 27 points in 18 games. It’s also intriguing that as an August 30th birthday, he was 16 days away from being eligible for this year’s draft. So he is still relatively young. But he does have the stigma of being an overager this year, and he won’t have gotten a lot of hype or notice playing in Sweden’s third-tier pro league. So he may go undrafted again, but I’d be interested in him as a late round pick if he’s available. From Scott Wheeler:

Cardwell looked like the best of the bunch in my viewings, manufacturing plays to dangerous areas with relative ease. He’s a crafty playmaker who knows his way around the ice, plays fast, and works hard to win his races, gain the inside lane, and come away from the wall with the puck to make something happen.

Sean Tschigerl is a guy I almost wrote a full profile about, but ran out of time. He’s a 6’0” winger who played on Calgary in the WHL, where he had 13 goals and 21 points in 21 games in the pandemic-shortened season including 18 points in his final 12 games. He is not a high-skill forward, but more about being efficient and effective. He is an aggressive forechecker, doesn’t keep the puck on his stick very much and looks to keep it constantly moving, especially on a cycle where he is pretty effective. For a late-round pick, he plays an intriguing style of game that has the ability to produce points and be a good supporting winger. From Mitch Brown at Elite Prospects in their 2021 Draft Guide (paywall):

Sean Tschigerl followed up an unremarkable rookie season by emerging as the Calgary Hitmen’s most lethal scorer, leading the team with 13 goals in 21 games. Along the way, he improved his stride, defence, and transition game. Now, Tschigerl is a projectable NHL skater from his ankle and hip flexion, along with full extensions and under-the-shoulders recovery. More consistent mechanics ensures he gets the most for his effort on the backcheck and defensive zone. Where many players go to block the shot, he charges toward the puck carrier to prevent the shot, often stealing possession for quick-strike offence in the process.

Pavel Tyutnev is a 5’10” Russian center born in July 2002, making him the second overager on this list. He is with Cardwell on a list of players who were the most surprisingly not taken prospects last year. He had 22 points in 36 games in the MHL last year, plus 12 in 15 games for Team Russia in various international tournaments. This year, he played in the MHL (19 points in 25 games), VHL (3 points in 14 games), and KHL (0 points in 5 games). He also got into 8 playoff games in the KHL, where he registered a goal, and 10 in the MHL for Loko Yaroslavl’s teams. From the EP Draft Guide:

Tyutnev might not bring any one special ability to the table, but he possesses pretty much all the qualities a professional team wants in a middle-six centre or winger. There are better defensive forwards, but he scans for attackers, helps teammates on the walls, reloads high ahead of possession changes, and supports teammates in transition by exchanging the puck and skating into pockets of space. The puck stays patiently on his stick until he can find a productive play to make, one that would advance his team toward a scoring chance

Oliver Johansson is a 6’0” Swedish center/winger that is a July 26th, 2003 birthday. He played at the U18 junior level in Sweden (9 points in 7 games), in only 3 games at the U20 level (1 goal), and 5 games in the second-tier pro league (3 goals in 5 games). So he has only played a total of 17 games this season. He can play center and wing, and is a good puck handler and skater, but he also gets good reviews for being a hard worker on the ice and being willing to go to areas where he’ll get hit in order to make plays. He’s an intriguing if relatively unknown commodity going into this draft, and with a late July birthday he’s got a bit more runway for development than many of his peers in this draft. From Mikael Holm’s Substack:

Johansson is a good skater whose mobility can create a lot of chances and space offensively. He is gifted with the puck and while he isn’t the best of shooters, he has a goalscorer’s touch. He was quite anonymous to everyone until about a month after he made his debut with Timrå in HockeyAllsvenskan in February this year. At the end of the regular season he got the chance to replace Jonathan Dahlén as a first liner when Timrå rested their star ahead of the playoffs. Johansson didn’t disappoint and scored three goals in two games to finish the season off for Timrå.

Ivan Björkly Nordström is a real big boi, and one of the older prospects for this draft as a late September 2002 birthday. He’s listed as 6’7” and 216 lbs, and was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Despite his size, he is reportedly a good skater. Not just good for being so big, but actually good. He can dangle, he can evade defenders, he can get up to speed. He’s probably a better playmaker than anything else, as he can sling some good passes and is a good puck handler. He sounds like a longer-term project, but as a later pick I don’t mind that. Plus he has the Scottish connection and an awesome name. From Mikael Holm’s Substack:

Björkly Nordström is, despite what one would think, a fast skating dynamo with really nice vision and hands. He might not be at the same level as Elmer Söderblom when it comes to his hands but Björkly Nordström is just a notch below Söderblom. Björkly Nordström came a little bit out of nowhere for me but when I watched him I got all giddy. It is very rare to see a 6’7” guy like him move the way he does. He isn’t the best shooter but he shows that there is some quality to his shooting but it is his passing that stands out.

DEFENSEMEN

Jake Martin is a 6’0” right shot defenseman who spent some time playing on the left for the US National Development Program. His bread and butter is defense, in that he is actually an effective defensive defenseman — on transitions especially, and also in the defensive zone. While he did have 20 points in 59 total games for the team this year, he’s not likely to be much of an offensive threat at higher levels. He is committed to the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA next year, which is one of the stronger programs. From Will Scouch:

Martin isn’t a fast skater, but he’s mobile, and above all, he seems extremely intelligent with his mobility and reads. He can anticipate dump attempts well, but he picks up opponents in the neutral zone and sticks to them extremely well with his lateral mobility and fluidity. He combines reach with his feet to pressure opponents outside and force decisions on entries and board play. There’s excellent ability to lead stick-first into a challenge, and immediately establish body positioning to erase cycles along the boards, and this multi-layered approach to defense is something that always sticks out when evaluating defensive talent, rather than solely relying on reach, or physical imposition in isolation.

Simon Motew is a 6’1” right-shot defenseman who was born in Illinois, but played last season in the OHL for Kitchener. Since the pandemic wiped out the entirety of the OHL season this year, Motew managed to play some games in the USPHL Premier league where he finished with 16 goals and 45 points, in 21 games. So that gives you a good idea of his strengths (offense) and the level of difficulty in the league.

There have been two other noteworthy defensemen who played in that league in their draft year: John Marino (28 points in 49 games), and Joey Duszak (57 points in 50 games). Marino wound up being a solid NHL defenseman, and had little offense in the league. Duszak’s game has always been offensively focused, but he seems to have settled in as a nice AHL defenseman and nothing more. Motew obliterating the league may indicate that he is at least a better-calibre prospect than Duszak was at the time, and he gets high praise from McKeen’s Brock Otten, who is primarily an OHL scout:

At the heart of Motew’s game is his skating ability. For my money, Motew has the potential to be the best skating defender available from the OHL this year. His top speed and ability to generate speed quickly is only a little above average, however I think the potential is there for him to really become more powerful as he gains lower body strength and learns to utilize those lateral crossovers more effectively and consistently. However, he is dynamic and fluid on his edges.

Janis Moser is a Swiss-born, 6’1”, left shot defenseman who is also a double overager. He was first eligible for the 2019 NHL draft, but he went unpicked then and in 2020 as well. He has been playing in the National League, Switzerland’s professional hockey league, since his first draft season in 2018/19. He recorded 7 points in 40 games as a 17 year old rookie, and then 9 points in 40 games as an 18 year old in his D+1 season. This year, he had a big step forward: 30 points in 48 games, used on the penalty kill and the powerplay, and was named captain of the team as a teenager. He actually finished fifth on the team in points, and only four back of the leader. He’s also played for Switzerland at ever World Junior Championship since he was 17 and every World Hockey Championship since he was 18.

I was able to watch his final game this season, a playoff game before all hockey in the country was shut down due to the pandemic. It was the highest quality of hockey I’ve watched for any draft prospect this year, and he didn’t look out of place. He played on the powerplay and the penalty kill, and seemed to be used on the right side the whole game at even strength. He was a smooth skater more than a fast one, and while he never seemed flashy or highly skilled he was solid and reliable the whole game. As an older player, he would be interesting just from the perspective that he would be more “safe” as a pick in the later rounds than others. I can see him being a bottom pair defenseman who could probably play big minutes on the Marlies right away.

From Will Scouch’s final draft ranking article:

He’s got solid reach, mobility, but above all, he’s safe in the best way. His route selection and skill to create easier passing lanes result in great on-ice impacts driven through strong defense and flashes of aggression in the offensive zone to attack the middle.

Christopher Merisier-Ortiz is a 5’11” left shot defenseman playing in the QMJHL, and he’s another two-time overager like Moser. Like Jake Martin, Merisier-Ortiz’s calling card is his defense — especially defending transitions. In his draft year, he had 33 points in 66 games in the QMJHL as a defenseman. Good, but not great. He also had a strong reputation already for defense, so it was already odd he wasn’t picked. The next year he had 45 points in 64 games and even better defensive numbers. This year he had 36 points in 39 games, and outstanding defensive numbers. Now, you’d expect that a double overager would get bigger, stronger, and better as they get older so their offensive and defensive numbers would improve. However, my point would be that he’s given no indication since his draft year that he may not be worth a pick in the mid to late rounds. I do think that his size as a defenseman (5’11”), the league he plays in (QMJHL), and his race (black) are things that could all have led to him being undervalued. And for what it’s worth, the Elite Prospects team being so high on him the past two years is why I’m interested in him now as a late round pick:

His neutral zone defence is as solid as ever both in terms of stick and footwork. The trademarks of his game are solid posture, no reaching, and a gap almost always closed before the defensive blue line He is the top defenceman at denying entries in Elite Prospects Dir. of North American Scouting Mitchell Brown’s data set, a project that encompasses hundreds of players and multiple CHL and USHL teams. Ortiz is simply that good of a defender.

Dmitri Kuzmin is a 5’10” left shot defenseman from Belarus who is just a whole bunch of fun. He was set to play in Flint this year for his draft year, and on the OHL stage with his speed and skill he is someone many thought may have been the defenseman in the league this year. Instead, the OHL didn’t play due to the pandemic, so he stayed home to play in Belarus’ professional men’s league where he had 12 points in 46 games. He also played for Belarus in the World U18 Junior Championship where he had 5 points in 5 games as a defenseman. He’s an effective skater, he is a good passer, and has a whole bunch of fun skill. If you like this sort of thing, you should know that he has scored the lacrosse goal three times in his young career, including at the U18s. He seems like the kind of player that would be undervalued in this draft, and someone that Kyle Dubas likes to draft: skill, skating, transition, and defensemen who play like forwards. From Elite Prospects:

In transition, Kuzmin’s one of the draft’s more advanced thinkers. Perhaps not quite at the same level as the top players in terms of individual skill, but he shows a similar mindset. Here’s how he does it, in the words of Elite Prospects lead scout David St-Louis: “He has a forward’s mentality, activates up-ice the reception, carries up-ice, uses teammates, give-and-gos, scans for next option, patience to let lane opens, an ability to attract and beat forechecks with moves or passes, to create space for teammates with deception and by attracting. He also protects the puck by cutting in front of opponents after he steps past them.”

Man, there are quite a few other players I could have included in this, but it’s already getting pretty long. If the Leafs draft them and I’m excited, you’ll notice in my writeups for them. So I’ll cut it off here at these 15 players.

Poll

Which of these fifteen players interests you the most?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Simon Robertsson
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    Dylan Duke
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    Cole Huckins
    (2 votes)
  • 16%
    Oliver Kapanen
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    William Strömgren
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    Ethan Cardwell
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Sean Tschigerl
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Pavel Tyutnev
    (0 votes)
  • 9%
    Oliver Johansson
    (4 votes)
  • 26%
    Ivan Björkly Nordström
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    Jake Martin
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Simon Motew
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Janis Moser
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Christopher Merisier-Ortiz
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Dmitri Kuzmin
    (0 votes)
42 votes total Vote Now