2021 NHL Draft Rankings: Final 65-96 (May)

Steve Kournianos  |  5/25/2021  |  [hupso] 

Rank Name Pos DOB Team League Ht Wt S/C NAT
65 Victor Stjernborg C 22-May-03 Vaxjo J20 Nationell 5’11 202 L SWE
A powerful two-way center and throwback who plays with a lot of intensity, Stjernborg parlayed a scoring role for Vaxjo J20 into 30 SHL games plus 10 more in the playoffs. He’ll do whatever it takes to either poke a puck loose or tip a shot from the slot, and Stjernborg is willing to use unconventional methods to get the desired result. He also uses his deceptive speed to deliver hard hits on the forecheck
66 James Malatesta RW 31-May-03 Quebec QMJHL 5’9 179 L CAN
An aggressive pest who causes all sorts of problems for the opposition whether he’s on or off the puck, Malatesta continues to silence the critics who claim he’s not big enough to be a difference maker. Quebec’s best run of the season in the victory column was driven by Malatesta’s hustle, hitting, and top-end speed, but he also knows how to get himself into scoring position and fire accurate shots on net.
67 Evan Nause LHD 20-Jan-03 Quebec QMJHL 6’2 186 L CAN
Nause (pictured) is a smooth, effortless skater who finds a way to be one of the best players in a given game without needing to fill up the box score. He exudes a pro style and constantly thinks one and two plays ahead of everyone else, which is why this ranking is probably a good round lower than where Nause ends up going on draft day.
68 Jack Peart LHD 15-May-03 Fargo USHL 6’0 181 L USA
A highly-intelligent minute eater from the blue line who seamlessly transitioned from Grand Rapids High School to the USHL’s Fargo Force, where he led the latter to the Clark Cup Final as their No. 1 defenseman. Peart won Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award and was the first defenseman to receive the honor since New York Islanders’ rearguard Nick Leddy in 2009.  He’s committed to St. Cloud State.
69 Ryan Ufko RHD 7-May-03 Chicago USHL 5’10 176 R USA
Ufko is a tough two-way blueliner from Long Island who served as Chicago’s on-ice general while spearheading the defense corps as the Steel sliced their way to a Clark Cup championship. It’s not easy to distribute pucks equally when there are multiple premier forwards on almost every line, but Ufko learned quickly to maximize their strengths while showing off his own agility, quickness, and playmaking in the process.
70 Ty Gallagher RHD 6-Mar-03 U.S. U18 NTDP 6’0 190 R USA
One of the better goal-scoring defensemen in the 2003 year group, Gallagher fired home 14 goals on only 86 shots for a gaudy 16.3 shooting percentage. But there’s a lot more to his game than filling the net, as the Notre Dame-bound defender packs a punch in the physicality department and has strong skating mechanics to keep his gap tight against quick forwards.
71 Colton Dach C 4-Jan-03 Saskatoon WHL 6’3 186 L CAN
He may not have as strong a pre-draft reputation as his older bother Kirby did in 2019, but Colton’s a player and then some. He has the same size and long reach that helps him dominate the puck in the possession game but also shows slickness and soft hands when working the puck to his linemates. Dach spent most of the season as a wing alongside skilled playmakers Kyle Crnkovic and Tristen Robbins, so the big guy slots nicely into a role as a slot or net-front presence, especially on the power play.
72 Chase Stillman C 19-Mar-03 Sudbury OHL 5’11 170 R CAN
A team-centric player who will battle hard, Stillman does solid work on and off the puck but his stickhandling and creativity can make the most noise during a given shift. He had the unenviable task of being coached by his father Cory in Sudbury, but Chase never once played or acted like anything was owed to him. He’s going to succeed in becoming an NHL’er but it won’t be until next year where he’ll have his first full-time role as a go-to option.
73 Aleksi Malinen LHD 26-May-03 JyP SM-Liiga 6’0 176 L FIN
Few draft-eligible defensemen can glide across the ice as effortlessly as Malinen, who outside of a three-game playoff against SaiPa played every second of his season in the elite SM-Liiga with last-place JyP. This stud easily ranks as one of the draft’s elite skaters, and his time as a regular for a rebuilding squad seems to have helped him round out his game, especially in the physicality department.
74 Artem Grushnikov LHD 20-Mar-03 Hamilton OHL 6’2 174 L RUS
A super-steady two-way defenseman whose commitment to the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs last September effectively killed his chances of playing hockey in his draft year, Grushnikov was earmarked as a potential first-round pick before the pandemic drove leagues to cancel their entire schedule. He’s an effortless skater in all directions and delivers a crisp first pass.
75 Liam Gilmartin LW 7-Jan-03 U.S. U18 NTDP 6’2 190 L USA
The intimidation factor is very real with this two-way power winger, who delivers a consistent effort every shift and skates well enough to win most of his 50/50 foot races. A Virginia native who is committed to Providence, Gilmartin hits like a freight train and is an underrated stickhandler, but expert penalty killer probably is the most effective weapon in his arsenal.
76 Brett Harrison C 7-Jun-03 Oshawa OHL 6’1 175 L CAN
Harrison had a promising rookie year for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals before he packed his bags for a brief stint in Finland’s SM-Sarja, where he was an instant success. Although he doesn’t have a particular skill hat jumps out at you and his skating is average, Harrison is an effective two-way forward who can play center or wing and provide a consistent shift from start to finish.
77 Eric Alarie RW 27-Jan-03 Moose Jaw WHL 6’1 197 L CAN
A soft-mitted winger who serves as a dual threat on Moose Jaw’s most consistent scoring line, Alarie knows how to use his thick frame to protect the puck and dominate play along the boards. He was the 22nd pick in the 2018 WHL bantam draft so it isn’t like he’s not on anyone’s radar, but the fact that he’s leading the Warriors in scoring while displaying a solid work ethic and tight-quarter quickness makes him even more appealing.
78 Shai Buium LHD 26-Mar-03 Sioux City USHL 6’4 205 L USA
Although this playmaking defensman with size is not a rarity in this particular draft class, Buium offers NHL teams a solid foundation to build on. He was Sioux City’s primary power-play quarterback and did a decent job keeping things clear in the crease, but he’s also massive risk taker who will lunge towards the puck in an attempt to intercept and counter. The good news is that this is more a sign of intelligence than recklessness, as are his vision and passing.
79 Tristan Lennox G 21-Oct-02 Saginaw OHL 6’3 198 L CAN
Size and athleticism are at the forefront of Lennox’s puck-stopping game but he hasn’t played in a meaningful game since the OHL shut down over a year ago. This probably is a reputation-based ranking but it’s hard to punish a quality goalie prospect who in the past has delivered unforgettable performances.
80 William Trudeau LHD 11-Oct-02 Charlottetown QMJHL 6’0 189 L CAN
One of the QMJHL’s top scoring defensemen this past season, Trudeau was a critical piece to strong Charlottetown squad that is closing in on a QMJHL final appearance. He is steady, smooth, and has a tremendous grasp of playing the position, and it’s quite obvious that he and partner Oscar Plandowski compliment each other perfectly. Trudeau also plays in all situations — penalty kill, power play, and in late-close scenarios.
81 Olen Zellweger LHD 10-Sep-03 Everett WHL 5’9 170 L CAN
With all due respect to Winnipeg’s Carson Lambos, you can make a strong argument that Zellweger was the WHL’s top first-year eligible defensemen during the shortened season. Playing for Everett automatically makes any rearguard more than capable in their own end, which therefore allows the focus to shift on Zellweger’s superior playmaking and power-play quarterbacking. He was one of the leading point producers among WHL defensemen before joining Team Canada at the under-18 worlds, where Zellweger was both productive and clean as a minute-eater.
82 Nolan Allan LHD 28-Apr-03 Prince Albert WHL 6’1 174 L CAN
Every offensive defenseman needs a safety net, which is exactly the role Allan performed quite admirably alongside Brandt Clarke on Canada’s top pairing at the U18 worlds. He wasn’t given the same role with Prince Albert but was still effective on the middle pairing in terms of holding his line and finishing checks with authority. The points produced will likely be minimal as Allan advances in his development, but every team could use a defenseman like him.
83 Brent Johnson LHD 20-Mar-03 Sioux Falls USHL 5’11 165 L USA
Johnson is an agile offensive defenseman with impressive stick skills who can quarterback the power play and breakout without issue. His skating is a noticeable strength and not only in straight-line speed or agility. Johnson is a fluid backskater who changes speeds accordingly while wielding a very active stick.  Whether he’s underrated or not isn’t the issue — the kid has a high ceiling. Johnson shares styllistic traits with current New York Ranger prospect Zac Jones.
84 Peter Reynolds C 20-Jan-03 Saint John QMJHL 5’10 167 L CAN
A skilled offensive forward with soft hands and impressive vision, Reynolds did more than his share to earn a spot on Saint John’s top line alongside Ryan Francis and Vladislav Kotkov, and the trio quickly became one of the league’s most dangerous. Reynolds is a quick thinker who doesn’t dawdle with the puck whether he’s shooting or passing — most of his attempts are in one motion.
85 Vladislav Lukashevich LHD 23-May-03 Loko Yaroslavl MHL 6’2 175 L RUS
Caught in a logjam for a title-hungry team, Lukashevich was forced to the sidelines as Loko Yaroslavl bit deeper into the MHL playoffs. But that shouldn’t detract from his strong playmaking and shooting abilities. Although he isn’t as polished or reliable defensively as fellow 2003-born prospect Artyom Grushnikov, Lukashevich has point-producing upside thanks to his hands, clean passes, and occasional creativity.
86 Linus Sjodin C/W 2-Oct-02 Rogle J20 Nationell 5’10 170 L SWE
A reliable puck handler who makes calculated decisions while showing a high panic threshold in neutral zone traffic, Sjodin’s maturity and surehandedness likely played a role in his promotion to a loaded Rogle roster in the SHL, where he appeared in 22 games. His role obviously was more prominent in the J20 Nationell, as he registered 5 goals and 13 assists as a top-six center.
87 Riley Kidney C 25-Mar-03 Acadie-Bathurst QMJHL 5’11 168 L CAN
Kidney is a reliable playmaking center who has a strong understanding of play development and positioning. He had a nice close to his regular season then followed up with a ridiculous playoff stretch where Kidney recorded 15 assists and 17 points in only nine games.
88 Vasily Machulin (OA) LHD 7-Aug-02 Dynamo MSK MHL 6’4 194 L RUS
Machulin is a very intelligent rearguard who not only breaks out on his own, but does so with sound intentions and effective short-distance movements through or around traffic. Much like Flyers’ defeneman Ivan Provorov, Machulin has that confident look as he deliberately moves up the ice where you just know he’s scanning beyond 180 degrees. He was critical in Dynamo MSK’s title run in Russia’s MHL.
89 Albert Sjoberg LW 13-Apr-03 Sodertalje J20 Nationell 6’0 180 R SWE
A thick winger with a deadly wrister who is more than willing to battle in the trenches, Sjoberg was a top-line winger for Sodertalje J20 before he was promoted for 15 games in the Division-II Allsvenskan. He’s physical and will finish his checks, but the amount of damage he does along the boards is driven by his quick feet as much as his stickhandling or strong frame.
90 Ryan Winterton RW 4-Sep-03 Hamilton OHL 6’1 170 R CAN
A strong skater with excellent balance, Winterton is the perfect option to summon for a late-period penalty kill or to throw an opposing breakout off kilter. He certainly did his part to get as much ice time as possible on a veteran Hamilton squad in 2019-20, and the string of graduations should feature him in a prominent role where he can put his high IQ and high battle level to better use.
91 Henry Nelson LHD 25-Mar-03 Maple Grove HS-MN 6’1 170 L USA
Nelson was just as worthy as Jack Peart to win the Mr. Hockey Award but there should be no shame in coming up short. He was outstanding as a minute-eating two-way defender for a Maple Grove squad which dominated the Class 2A slate before losing to Eden Prairie in the state semifinal. Nelson is a brilliant playmaker with sharp vision and soft hands but he also has quick feet to maneuver his way into an open lane.
92 Verner Miettinen C 7-Apr-03 K-Espoo U20 SM-Sarja 5’11 165 L FIN
Speedy and aggressive is the best way to describe Miettinen, who can run a power play from the half wall and anchor a top penalty-killing unit. Although he’s been a prominent figure among 2003-born eligibles for several years, Miettinen played for a thin Kiekko-Espoo squad that struggled throughout the season. The benefit was that he was on the top line and played well over 20 minutes a game.
93 Nico Huuhtanen RW 26-Jun-03 Tappara U20 SM-Sarja 6’2 204 R FIN
Huuhtanen as a top-line winger for Tappara’s junior team delivered 11 goals and 8 assists to rank among the top first-year-eligible scorers in Finland’s SM-Sarja. His skating ranks between average to below average in practically every facet but he makes up for it with pure goal-scoring instincts and a nice touch when delivering passes across long distances. Huuhtanen is your typical one-way winger who is far more effective on the puck than off it, but he does chip in a big hit every now and again.
94 Ilya Ivantsov C 27-Jan-03 SKA-1946 MHL 5’10 154 L RUS
A pure playmaking center who next season should take over as SKA-1946’s top-line center, Ivantsov never once looked like he was one of the younger forwards on a loaded team, and he was rewarded with an increased role and bigger minutes. Ivantsov finished second on the team in assists (26) and ranked fourth in overall scoring with 34 points. He’s an excellent passer in any situation and his keen vision can make any teammate a threat, to include stay-at-home defensemen.
95 Viljami Marjala LW 29-Jan-03 Quebec QMJHL 6’0 178 L FIN
A sturdy dual-threat winger from Finland with an excellent shot and a low center of gravity, Marjala with Quebec has been more of a set-up type than finisher, posting an impressive 27 points (5 goals, 22 assists) in 30 games to rank among the QMJHL leaders in rookie production.
96 Cameron Whynot LHD 5-May-03 Halifax QMJHL 6’1 180 L CAN
Blessed with smooth, effortless skating, good hands, keen vision, and smarts under pressure, Whynot can be classified as a pure offensive defenseman. Although he is prone to the occasional mishap, Whynot is a reliable defenseman who appears to understand his errors and avoids repeating them. His skating, smarts, and positioning have allowed him to steadily improve this season.
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