I love reading Bob McKenzie’s draft rankings. It’s a great resource to look ahead to the NHL draft because it shows where a player will be taken. There are some guys who go way higher or lower, but in general it is the most accurate rankings that reflect how NHL teams will actually draft players.
In December, Bob released his first rankings for the 2021 draft. It only included his top 20 rankings, so not even a full round. On Monday morning, McKenzie released his second round of rankings for the season. It included 96 rankings and four honourable mentions. So by now, it covers the first three rounds.
What I like doing is mining McKenzie’s list and comparing them to what public scouting people say — more specifically, the scouting people whose opinions I have come to trust for identifying good players. We all know that NHL teams draft with certain biases, whether it’s pro-North American, anti-European, pro-Big, anti-Small, anti-overagers, and so on. It’s fun to see who seem to get over-hyped by NHL teams in Bob’s rankings, and who are hidden gems that are likely to fall.
So what I wanted to do this year is start looking at guys who I have mentioned in my watch lists, and see where Bob has them ranked. That can help me (and you) realize who may actually be in range where the Leafs will pick, and who won’t be. I’m also going to throw in a few more names that I didn’t write about in the watch lists, but who I am still following with interest.
Here’s my four watch list articles for reference:
Early 2021 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch — October 2020
2021 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch 2.0 — February 2021
2021 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch 3.0 — March 2021
2021 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch 4.0 — April 2021
In the interest of being transparent, the scouting people or outlets who I have come to trust the most include:
- Will Scouch (@Scouching) — (partial paywall) http://scouching.ca/
- Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) — (paywall) https://theathletic.com/author/scott-wheeler/
- Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) — https://mapleleafshotstove.com/author/kevin-papetti/
- Lauren Kelly (@laurkelly24) — contributor to Elite Prospects and Future Considerations
- Elite Prospects (@EPRinkside) — (paywall) https://eprinkside.com/
- Dobber Prospects (@DobberProspects) — https://dobberprospects.com/
- Smaht Scouting (@SmahtScouting) — https://smahtscouting.com/
- McKeen’s Hockey (@mckeenshockey) — (paywall) https://www.mckeenshockey.com/
- Future Considerations (@fchockey) — (partial paywall) https://nhlentrydraft.com/ /
All of this out of the way, let’s dive in.
FIRST ROUND RANKINGS
The Leafs traded away their first round pick to acquire Nick Foligno at the deadline. That isn’t a guarantee that the Leafs will be without a first round pick going into the draft. Last year, after the season was over they traded Kasperi Kapanen to the Penguins and got the 15th overall pick in return. If the Leafs decided to shed more cap, they could hypothetically deal Alexander Kerfoot and his $3.5 million cap hit and sign a cheaper alternative, like Mikael Granlund who has been linked to the Leafs multiple times and is a UFA. There’s no guarantee the Leafs would get a first rounder back, but it is possible. Especially if it’s part of a larger deal.
For that reason, I am still going to look at some guys who are likely locks to be first round picks. But I will limit it to second half first rounders, since no team is realistically going to give up a top 15 pick for Kerfoot.
Here’s who Bob ranks in that range, who I also mentioned on my watch lists:
- Jesper Wallstedt (G) — 10th
- Sebastian Cossa (G) — 14th
- Corson Ceulemans (RD) — 18th
- Aatu Raty (C) — 20th
- Matthew Coronato (W) — 21st
- Isak Rosén (W) — 23rd
- Simon Robertsson (W) — 28th
- Fyodor Svechkov (C) — 30th
- Matthew Samoskevich (C/W) — 31st/
Right away, both of the top goalies at the top of the list are going to be off the board. Jesper Wallstedt is someone who does interest me a lot, but he’s moved up from Bob’s early season ranking and I see him being a top 10 guy. Sebastian Cossa is the top Canadian goalie, since he’s 6’6” and has great numbers in a very small sample on a very good WHL team. That’s far too high for my liking, even if he did fall to where the Leafs could hypothetically pick.
Getting into the skaters, Corson Ceulemans is someone I mentioned who would be interesting in the second round. There will likely be less risky players available in the first round, so I’d pass on him that high.
Now we’re getting into the good stuff. Aatu Räty was a favourite to be the top ranked prospect going into the season, but his stock has fallen a lot. While there are legitimate reasons why he’s not considered among the best anymore, dropping him all the way to 20th seems like an overcorrection. It may be possible that he falls even more, which seems mind boggling. He’d absolutely be someone I’d love the Leafs to snag with a late first round pick.
The other guy on that list who I think is greatly underrated on Bob’s list is Simon Robertsson. Just about every other major scouting outlet has him ranked between 10th and 20th. Two of them (Scouch and Dobber) have him in their top 10. He’s had fantastic results in the SHL this year playing against men. He’d be a big steal if he falls to 28th, where Bob has him ranked.
The others on the list above are guys I also like, but the rankings between Bob’s list and public outlets are more varied and in line with each other. If the Leafs got them with a first round pick, I would not be upset. At the end I will share a table with my full watch list and all the various rankings and basic information I have compiled on them.
SECOND ROUND RANKINGS
Now we’re getting into guys Bob has ranked in the second round. Some of them are guys who I’d be happy with in the first round, but hey if they fall to the Leafs in the second round I won’t complain!
- Alexander Kisakov (W) — 35th
- Scott Morrow (RD) — 36th
- Oliver Kapanen (C) — 41st
- Logan Stankoven (C/W) — 44th
- Logan Mailloux (RD) — 45th
- Ayrton Martino (W) — 47th
- Cole Huckins (C) — 48th
- Ryder Korczak (C) — 53rd/
Guys on this list who I like, but are probably too high for my liking: Alexander Kisakov finished 2nd in the MHL in scoring with 73 points in 61 games, finishing one point behind the leader who is 20 years old. While Kisakov certainly has skill, his skating isn’t great for someone as small as he is, and there’s some concern about his projectability at higher levels.
Oliver Kapanen is a guy who I really like, but has similar concerns — he’s a borderline case for me, I’d probably take him before I took Kisakov. He’s the cousin of Kasperi Kapanen but has a very different style of play and set of skills.
Logan Mailloux is an interesting name but has a lot of question marks. He’s a 6’3” right shot defenseman who played in Sweden’s third professional tier on a really bad team. He has some good results considering the bad team, but he’s got some holes too. I’d be interested in him in the later rounds, but not in the second round.
Onto the guys I really like, and I’d be happy to take in the first round: Logan Stankoven is the top of that list. I know why he’s not ranked in the first round, it’s because he’s listed at 5’8”. But he has everything you want a small player to have to make up for his size. He’s fast, he can shoot, he can skate, and he can play responsibly at both ends. He is a guy who I hope either gets taken by the Leafs in the first round if they do somehow acquire a pick there, or somehow falls to the Leafs in the second round. But I do think that with so many other smart teams with two picks before the Leafs (Carolina, Minnesota, Detroit), Stankoven won’t last to the 50’s.
Ayrton Martino is another guy who is a borderline first rounder for me. He’s only small-ish, but is just a lot of fun offensively. He gets more breakaways than anyone I’ve ever seen, and even if he doesn’t keep up the same amount at higher levels, he has skill to spare. He’s more likely to be available when the Leafs pick in the second round, I think, but not by much.
Cole Huckins and Ryder Korczak are both centers who play in the CHL who I like, though for different reasons. Huckins is a point per game, is 6’3”, and can skate well so I doubt he falls below his ranking by Bob. Korczak is smaller, but has been compared to Alexander Kerfoot in terms of his profile. He’d make a solid second round pick for the Leafs.
THIRD ROUND RANKINGS
- Aleksi Malinen (LD) — 65th
- Vincent Iorio (RD) — 70th
- Samu Salminen (C) — 72nd
- Brent Johnson (RD) — 84th
- Ville Koivunen (W) — 91st/
For these third round guys, the two that I would take even in the second round are Brent Johnson and Ville Koivunen. Johnson is just a smart two-way defender in the USHL, who drives great results at both ends. He profiles like a Travis Dermott in that sense, since it’s more his defense than his offense that will likely carry him to the NHL. Koivunen is just a solid all-around forward who led Finland’s U20 junior league for draft eligibles in points with 49 in 38 games. But he has a very strong defensive profile for a forward as well. He just seems to have no major weakness in his game.
Samu Salminen is someone I really liked early in the year, and even if that’s diminished a bit I still do like him. He’s big (6’3”), he is a pure center, and he produces offensively. Unfortunately for him, he’s only played in 17 games this year in Finland’s U20 level because the pandemic hit his team’s home city hard. He hasn’t played in a single game since November 2020. There are some concerns with his skating and consistency for executing plays, but he does have an interesting profile and would be an interesting roll of the dice with the Leafs’ late second round pick if no one else is available.
Vincent Iorio and Aleksi Malinen are both nice prospects, but lack the high end ability of the others mentioned so far. Iorio was someone who had a fair amount of hype before the WHL started their season, but so far he’s just been okay. Malinen has played his whole season in the Liiga, like Topi Niemela and Mikko Kokkonen in the last two drafts. He’s ranked about in the same area as they were, which sounds about right. I wouldn’t reach for either of these two.
- Ethan Del Mastro (LD) — Honourable Mention
- Hugo Gabrielsson (LD)
- Jimi Suomi (LD)
- Aleksi Heimosalmi (RD)
- Jake Martin (RD)
- Kalle Ervasti (RD)
- Jiri Tichacek (LD)
- Lukas Gustafsson (LD)
- Elias Stenman (C)
- Oliver Johansson (C)
- Caedan Bankier (C)
- Marcus Almquist (W)
- Kirill Gerasimyuk (G)
- Semyon Vyazovoy (G)
- Owen Bartoszkiewicz (G)/
This list is a lot longer. Of the skaters I listed above, the ones I really like include Gabrielsson, Heimosalmi, Martin, Ervasti, Tikachek, and Almquist. Jiri Tichacek is someone I haven’t mentioned in my published watch lists, because it’s hard to find much about him. I know why he will likely be available in later rounds: he’s a 5’8” defenseman playing in the Czech leagues. But his skills and profile compare to Samuel Girard of the Colorado Avalanche. Girard isn’t quite that small (5’10”), but he can succeed in the NHL because he has the skill to do it. Tichacek is a longer shot, but as a late round pick he’s someone you might want to roll the dice on.
Marcus Almquist will also likely be available in the later rounds, because he is even smaller (5’7”) and plays in Denmark. He’s also a very young birthday (September 13th with a September 15th cutoff) to keep in mind. He did start the year playing in Sweden’s U20 junior league, where he had 23 points in 19 games. He has skill and a wicked shot, and can be a little waterbug on the ice. As a winger he has an easier path to the NHL than Tichacek, and I always love small wingers who can rip it.
Kalle Ervasti and Jake Martin are both normal sized defensemen who drive strong defensive results. Ervasti likely has a stronger offensive profile, where Martin has a stronger defensive game. Martin also has the advantage of playing against better competition in the US National Development Program. I’d be happy with either in later rounds.
As for the goalies, Kirill Gerasimyuk is who I really want. He has the size you want in a goalie (6’2”), he’s one of the younger goalies in the draft (August 22nd, 2003), he had the third best save percentage (.931) in the MHL despite playing on one of the worst defensive teams in the league, and he managed to get into 5 games in the VHL with good results as well. Russian goalies who don’t have major profiles, like Askarov last year, don’t tend to get taken very high. Especially if they don’t play for the big teams in the MHL. I don’t know if Gerasimyuk falls to the fifth or sixth rounds, but I want him to.
NHL 2021 Draft Watch List
|Oliver Kapanen||C||29-Jul-03||FIN U20||6'0"||161||41||59||HM||43||75||98|
|Samu Salminen||C||09-Apr-03||FIN U20||6'3"||190||72||69||34||53||37||27|
|Ville Koivunen||W||13-Jun-03||FIN U20||6'0"||165||91||34||56||61||63|
|Ethan Del Mastro||LD||15-Jan-03||OHL||6'4"||205||HM||96|
|Jimi Suomi||LD||01-Mar-03||FIN U20||5'10"||154||HM||72||81|
|Aleksi Heimosalmi||RD||08-May-03||FIN U20||5'11"||154||76||63|
|Kalle Ervasti||RD||07-Mar-03||FIN U20||6'0"||181||57||HM|