I'll start this post by wishing you all a very Happy New Year, and I hope you and yours are well. Things are still very strange, but hopefully before too long, we're all able to start the road back to some kind of normalcy. That goes for both the hockey world and in our respective personal lives.
To say this 2021 draft class comes off as equal or an improvement on the classes of 2019 or 2020 might be a bit unlikely, but I'm not counting myself among the people who think this is a historically poor group of draft eligibles. The groups in the first two tiers should be solid core members of an NHL team, with the third and fourth being reliable complimentary pieces, or nice swings to take with high end individual traits. I'm personally very interested in the fifth tier and where they end up, as many players in that range are, in my opinion, quite undervalued and may be players you could draft late and end up with a contributing piece to a roster.
This list is driven largely through production data from www.eliteprospects.com, with my Cat% and ESG rates derived from data graciously provided by Dave MacPherson of Pick224.com. If you're unaware, I build my own database of prospect data that is available to any Patron of the project. As of time of writing (Feb 16, 2021), I've tracked 268 performances across 99 players from all over the planet, which is already well on the way to surpassing my database for the 2020 Draft. That's largely thanks to your support and motivation to continue the work, so I hope that what I provide in return is valuable. All of this provides the backbone to how I construct my list, while also considering what I'm seeing with my eyeballs saved as 6 gigabytes of MP4s.
If you're unfamiliar with my data, here's a brief outline of what I'm indicating below:
If you're a Patron of the project, you can view my rankings as they change over the year, with the full rankings at the $25 tier along with my full data sheet of >800 skaters and goaltenders' data. A demo version of the rankings and full data sheet is available at the $5 tier and above.
If you're new here, I generally tend to think of my rankings in "Tiers", which attempts to group players into a pool from which I feel the order could be interchangeable, with the numbers ordering the players as how I might push for them in a draft discussion. I find that it creates much more balanced and nuanced discussion, especially considering these players are so young and may have wildly different potential trajectories that may differ reasonably depending on which NHL organization picks them up.
With that all taken care of, here's the list!
Tier 1 - I Just Like 'em a Bit More...
Tier 2 - A.K.A. Tier 1B
Tier 3 - The Rock Solids
Tier 4 - Big Time Maybes
Tier 5 - The Meat of the Draft
Tier 6 - Big Bois and Big Swings
Tier 7 - Whipping Cupcakes
Tier 8 - Really Digging Deep...
This year's draft has as significantly higher amount of shrugging from me than I'm used to. I get the feeling that if I'm working for an NHL team, I'm waiting for unheralded guys in the higher tiers to slip later than they should such as Tichacek, Johnson, Gucciardi, Martino, or even names like Scott Morrow or Logan Stankoven could. I'm most interested in the 2nd round range of my list and what might come out of that group. There are re-entries that I'd push for, but in terms of draft eligibles, there are only a few players that are flying under the radar that I truly feel confident about in terms of their projection. I'm really curious to see where this group ends up in 5-10 years, though. As I said, I don't believe it's as bad as some might say, but it's definitely not as exciting as the last two years where I've really dug into the group.
The 2021 Scouching Reports start in March, so stay tuned for those, NHL Rookie Reports are rolling in, and stay in the loop for more What Actually Happened To... installments both here on Scouching.ca and at McKeens.
We're still not out of the woods yet with COVID-19, so I'll take a bit of time to remind you to stay as distanced as you can, wear a mask whenever you do leave your domicile, and do your part to look out for your community. It's been a really, really hard year for everyone, but the less careful we are, the longer this goes on. I want to get back into the rink just like everyone else and meeting all of you lovely people, but there's still work to do that starts with the individual.