The EliteProspects Rinkside pre-U18 2021 NHL Draft Ranking
The U18 World Hockey Championships, set to start in less than a week from now in Frisco, Texas, signals that preparations for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft are about to kick into high gear. Consider this ranking our entrance to the fray.
It's a landmark tournament in any season, but in a year so fraught as this one, its shockwaves are going to permanently alter the complexion of the draft. How could it not? Some of these prospective NHLers are playing their first competitive hockey of the season. Others are playing for the first time this season in a setting populated by their peers, whether using age or ability as the measuring stick.
It's an opportunity for the players destined for the middle and late rounds of the draft to really distinguish themselves. Take Ethan Del Mastro, our No. 43 overall prospect, for example. We have about a 15-game sample to draw from Del Mastro as a 17-year-old. The vast majority of our reports account for OHL games that he featured in at the ripe age of 16. The sample of players who fit that profile only expands as we scale further into the second and third rounds. How does one rely on a 16-year-old season for insight into a player's career?
The opposite might be true at the top of the draft though. Take our ranking, for example. Brandt Clarke is the only player in our top-five eligible to wear his country's colours in Texas.
Perhaps most important of all is that -- like TSN's Bob McKenzie, who reported this yesterday -- I'm hearing from league sources that Michigan defenceman Owen Power has consolidated his grasp on the No. 1 overall spot. It felt like we were destined to arrive at this point all season long, and now we're there. The scouts I consulted regularly lamented the prospect of passing up the high-end floor that Power offered. That he kept improving all season long in Michigan titled the scales. Now the industry is beginning to recognize a tantalizing ceiling fitting of the top spot.
Where we deviate from the NHL is in the fact that we failed to arrive at a consensus on that file.
Michigan centre Matthew Beniers, a teammate of Power's, came within one voting point (the tiebreaker method when we couldn't arrive at a consensus) of the first overall spot.
Ultimately, though, the top-four could've shaken out in just about any fashion, so long as it included Power, Beniers, Clarke, and William Eklund in some order, and everyone would've left the proceedings more or less satisfied. It's that tight at the top. It's been that way for much of the season, so why stop now?
There's a lot more moving and shaking from about 10 onward. It's not how we usually go about this, but in a year like this one, breaking from orthodoxy to arrive at the most sound conclusions is a necessity. We had to act decisively, often on relatively small samples, because that's the game this year. Even if we're not especially wont to yo-yo players up and down our board at this stage in the game. These are extraordinary circumstances, and so on.
This board doesn't happen without the tireless work of the EliteProspects scouts. So, before we get into the nitty-gritty of the list, let's spare a moment to acknowledge the hard work of everyone involved.
A due of thanks to Mitch Brown, Lassi Alanen, Cam Robinson, David St-Louis, Jimmy Hamrin, Daniel Gee, Russ Cohen, Joey Padmanabhan, Rachel Doerrie, Lauren Kelly, and Dylan Griffing for their contributions. Now, let's check 'em out!
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