2021 NHL Draft: Top 10 forwards

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Mason McTavish, a center for Peterborough in the Ontario Hockey League, made the most of his opportunity to play at one of the biggest scouting events of the season, the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.

McTavish (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) is No. 2 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters. That placement came in part because of his play at the tournament, where he scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games for first-place Canada.

The showcase of future NHL stars was critical for McTavish since the OHL, one of the top suppliers of talent for the NHL Draft, announced the cancellation of its season April 20 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“NHL Central Scouting views McTavish as that coveted power center that possesses the elite package of size, smarts, skills and compete which all NHL clubs look to add,” Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said.

Here are NHL.com’s top 10 forwards available for the 2021 NHL Draft (positions according to NHL Central Scouting):

 

1. Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 (North American skaters)

Beniers (6-1, 175) scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games in his first college season. He led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in goals, goals per game (0.42) and shots on goal per game (2.38). Michigan received an at-large bid into the NCAA men’s ice hockey tournament but had to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols. The 18-year-old did help the United States win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship as the youngest player on the roster, scoring three points (one goal, two assists) and averaging 17:05 of ice time in seven games as a second-line center. He also has scored one goal in four games as the only draft-eligible player with the U.S. at the 2021 IIHF World Championship.

 

2. Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough (OHL) 

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 (North American skaters)

The 18-year-old, a powerful skater with balance and solid puck-protection skills, scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games on loan with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest professional league in Switzerland. He also filled in as captain for Canada at the U-18s when Shane Wright (2022 draft eligible) missed two games because of injury.

 

3. William Eklund, LW, Djurgarden (SWE)

NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 (International skaters)

Eklund (5-10, 176), who has good speed, puck skills and vision, and was named rookie of the year in the Swedish Hockey League. The 18-year-old scored 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists), two power-play goals, three game-winning goals, had 63 shots on goal and averaged 15:29 of ice time in 40 games. Eklund also scored two points (one goal, one assist) in three SHL playoff games. He missed a chance to play for Sweden at the WJC because of a positive COVID-19 test, and an injury sustained during an exhibition game prevented him from playing for Sweden at the World Championship.

 

 

4. Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 3 (North American skaters)

An offensive sniper who plays with pace, skill and creativity, Johnson (6-1, 167) thrived at left wing this season, scoring 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists), including a Michigan-best three power-play goals, in 26 games. The 18-year-old led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in assists, points and points per game (1.04). Johnson led the British Columbia Hockey League in 2019-20 with 101 points (41 goals, 60 assists) in 52 games with Trail.

 

5. Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 (North American skaters)

Guenther (6-1, 175), an elite goal scorer with quickness, scored 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists), including six power-play points (two goals, four assists) in 12 Western Hockey League games. He scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games at the U-18s. Guenther led first-place Canada with 34 shots on goal and tied for the lead with two power-play goals and two game-winning goals.

 

6. Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago (USHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 9 (North American skaters)

Coronato (5-10, 183) led the United States Hockey League with 48 goals, 19 power-play goals and eight game-winning goals, was tied for first with four shorthanded goals, and was second with 85 points and a 1.67 points-per-game average in 51 regular-season games. The 18-year-old also led the USHL playoffs with 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in eight games. Coronato is committed to play at Harvard next season.

 

7. Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls (USHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 10 (North American skaters) 

Sillinger (6-0, 197) began the season with Sioux Falls because of the uncertainty surrounding the start of the Western Hockey League season due to the coronavirus. When the WHL began play Feb. 26, the 18-year-old opted to remain in the USHL rather than return to Medicine Hat. Sillinger led Sioux Falls in goals (24), points (46), points per game (1.48) and shots on goal (113) in 31 games. He also scored five power-play goals, two game-winning goals and one shorthanded goal. Sillinger, who will return to Medicine Hat next season, is the son of former NHL forward Mike Sillinger, who played 1,049 games with 12 NHL teams.

 

8. Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (FIN)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 3 (International skaters)

Raty (6-2, 185), a good skater with speed, balance and excellent puck control, scored six points (three goals, three assists) and had 80 shots on goal while averaging 11:38 of ice time in 35 games in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league. As a 17-year-old, he scored three points (two goals, one assist) as Finland’s youngest player at the 2020 World Junior Championship.

Tweet from @mikemorrealeNHL: NHL Draft: Goran Stubb, NHL director of Euro Scouting, joins me and @NHLAdamK for a discussion of the projected top international prospects eligible for the 2021 draft, including center Aatu Raty of Karpat (FIN) –Apple: https://t.co/MvdvovInHeSpotify: https://t.co/DWTMrcqHp7 pic.twitter.com/qGqI6l8Pk5

 

9. Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 8 (North American skaters)

Othmann (6-0, 175) scored 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 34 games on loan with EHC Olten in the Swiss League. The 18-year-old adds to his offensive skills with a willingness to blocks shots and makes things tough on the opposition. He scored six points (three goals, three assists) in seven games to help first-place Canada at the U-18 World Championship. He scored a goal and had seven shots on goal in a 5-3 win against Russia in the championship game.

 

10. Nikita Chibrikov, RW, St. Petersburg (RUS)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 4 (International skaters)

The 18-year-old (5-10, 170) is a playmaker with great speed and strong edges, capable of handling the puck and strong on the backcheck. Chibrikov scored two points (one goal, one assist) in 16 games in the Kontinental Hockey League, and nine points (three goals, six assists) in 11 games in the MHL, Russia’s junior league. He led 2021 draft-eligible players at the U-18s with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) for second-place Russia.

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