The Journey: Round 1 Recap – 2021 NHL Draft

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-07-24

Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way.

The 2021 NHL Draft's first round is now complete, and a plethora of news broke the internet before the first pick was even announced; teams were quick to move picks for players prior to the start of the first round of selections, with Philadelphia and Vancouver ridding themselves of their top selection altogether.  Here are the four major trades that occurred hours before the start of the draft:

  • The Buffalo Sabres traded defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers for the 14th overall pick in this year's selection, a second-round pick in 2023, and defenseman Robert Hagg.

  • A short time later, the New York Rangers traded Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for Samuel Blais and a 2022 second-round pick.

  • The Canucks then acquired Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes for Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson and Antoine Roussel, along with the ninth-overall pick in this year's selection, a second in 2022 and a seventh in 2023.

  • Probably the biggest trade of them all, the Columbus Blue Jackets moved Seth Jones, the 32nd overall pick and a 2022 sixth-rounder to the Chicago Blackhawks for Adam Boqvist, the Hawks' 12th overall pick, a first-round pick in 2022, and the 44th overall pick in 2021. The Blue Jackets added to the trade by swapping that 44th overall pick for Jake Bean from the Carolina Hurricanes. 

This changed the first round's outcome entirely, as the picking order changed by the hour. Teams like Vancouver and Philadelphia sacrificed their draft selections in favor of immediate help, and given the perceived lack of true high-end talent in the top half of the first round, this was to be expected.

After a mind-boggling draft day full of surprises, I saw fit to recap and grade each team's selection based on the player's upside, and how they fit within the organization's system and needs.

  1. Buffalo Sabres – Owen Power, LD, U, of Michigan, NCAA (B+)

Likely the safest pick of this draft, the Tower of Power plays a skilled, poised defensive game predicated on smart stick usage in 1-on-1 situations. He also shows above-average skating and hockey sense, and his passing ability is quite strong as well.  His shortcomings are in specific areas of the game that are essential to NHL defending, such as his slow reactions along the boards and a lack of agility on his pivots, but the rest of his toolkit makes him one of the most surefire prospects in this draft in terms of reaching the big league. The Sabres get a B+ for helping to rebuild their poor defensive line with this selection, which fits their needs with Ristolainen leaving the team.

  1. Seattle Kraken – Matthew B