The 2021 NHL Draft will be held on July 23-24. NHL.com is counting down to the draft with profiles on top prospects and other features. Today, a comparison between top draft-eligible defensemen Simon Edvinsson of Frolunda and Luke Hughes of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.
Simon Edvinsson and Luke Hughes are two of the top-draft eligible defensemen, but who has the potential to be the better NHL player?
Scouts debated that question and discussed who they think should be selected ahead of the other in the 2021 NHL Draft.
The first round will take place July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW), and rounds 2-7 will be July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
Edvinsson (6-4, 198), No. 2 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters, had one assist and averaged 5:48 of ice time in 10 games for Frolunda in Sweden’s top professional men’s league and scored six points (one goal, five assists) in 14 games in Sweden’s junior league. He scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.
“Edvinsson’s a great skater with all the essential parts of being a really good defenseman,” said Craig Button, TSN director of scouting, NHL analyst and a former NHL general manager. “I don’t think he’s going to be a 50-to-60-point producer, but he competes under pressure and makes every right play. As the game got harder, he got better.
“I’d compare him to (Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman) Seth Jones … a 40-point player logging 25-plus minutes a night in all situations.”
Hughes (6-2, 184), No. 4 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, scored 34 points (six goals, 28 assists) in 38 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team. The younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes is committed to play at the University of Michigan in the Big Ten next season.
In a poll conducted by NHL.com of 10 NHL scouts who were asked which player they would choose if given the option, Edvinsson earned an 8-2 advantage.
NHL.com sought the opinion of NHL evaluators who have watched Edvinsson and Hughes this season. They promised honesty in exchange for anonymity.
In favor of Simon Edvinsson
“Both excellent skaters with mobility and very good hockey sense. The skill set is a bit higher on Edvinssson. They both see the ice and make good decisions, but I see Edvinsson as a top power-play guy. He’s got great range and defending ability. I feel Hughes will be a top-four defenseman but doesn’t possess the same level Edvinsson does.”
“Edvinsson’s skating is already at the NHL level. As he grows and settles in, it’ll become even better. I might make a case for Luke Hughes if he had more of a Quinn Hughes-type offense ability, but I don’t see that.”
“I just think [Edvinsson’s] hockey sense is off the charts. The skating’s there, the size is there. I just think the way he’s able to process the game, whether it’s a play coming at him or him carrying the play the other way, he’s just able to process it on a different level.”
“It’s too bad Hughes wasn’t at the U-18s (due to injury), but watching him last year, and then on video, I love the kid. Scouts always sort of go back and say, ‘What did we see last?’ So, now we have Edvinsson that we’ve seen live (at the U-18s) and Hughes during the regular season. I really like Hughes, and if somebody stepped up and took him early, I wouldn’t be shocked, but I’d take Edvinsson right now.”
In favor of Luke Hughes
“This is a very hard one to choose but I think I’d go with Luke Hughes. I just feel his ceiling is very high. He’s still on the raw side of things and has shown dominance. His skating is excellent and has a great feel for the game. He might need a bit more time to get to the NHL; he’ll need to fill in and gain physical maturity. But he has all the tools to be a star down the road.”
“I think Luke Hughes is different than brother Quinn Hughes. I think he’s more like (Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman) Morgan Rielly. That’s the type of defenseman I see Luke at in terms of that style of play. Do I think he’s going to be a big-time point producer like Quinn? I don’t. But I don’t have any doubt Luke can kill penalties, play solid defense and do all the things necessary to become a top-pairing defenseman.”
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