The 2021 NHL Draft may be one of the hardest drafts in recent history to really get a feel for in terms of prospect rankings. With many prospects playing limited amounts of games, if not having their seasons cancelled entirely, there’s very little agreement among experts in terms of draft rankings, outside of the top two or three players. It’s anyone’s guess as to who may be available for the Hurricanes outside of the first round, but here are a few names projected to fall later in the draft who you should keep an eye on.
Defense, University of Massachusetts
2020-21 Stats: 30 games played, 8 goals, 40 assists (Shattuck St. Mary’s)
Morrow is a 6-foot-2 defenseman with a penchant for jumping up into the play, fooling opposing defenders with his deceptive playmaking and for making creative plays to teammates. He also has a penchant for clearly taking shifts off, getting visibly frustrated when the game isn’t going his way and overall displaying low on-ice energy at times. He’s an intriguing prospect because of the offensive side of his game, and how clearly he was able to dominate at the high school/prep level, but it’s unclear so far as to how he will adapt to tougher competition.
At his best, Morrow makes opposing players look silly as he steals pucks and races off for highlight reel goals. At his worst, he looks disengaged and out of sync with his teammates. Morrow is committed to UMass, where he will have the opportunity to mature as a player and develop his game. His creative, offensive upside makes it easy to see why he’s worth a pick in the draft, particularly if you can afford to be patient with his development. Morrow is ranked anywhere between 27th (Dobber Prospects) and 80th (FCHockey),
Some team is going to draft Scott Morrow pretty high, right? You pretty much have to— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) July 21, 2021
You can take a guy who plays like this and maybe iron out the creases in his game over time. But it's a lot harder to take someone vanilla and develop their raw skill up to a level like this pic.twitter.com/2ds6WSoM7b
Defense, Chicago Steel (USHL)
2020-21 Stats: 53 games played, 10 goals, 29 assists
With the powerhouse Chicago Steel, Ufko is developing into a two-way defenseman, dangerous on either side of the puck. His offense exploded recently, as he went from nine total points in 43 games in 2019-20, to 39 points in 53 games in 2020-21, plus seven points in eight playoff games en route to capturing the Clark Cup with the Steel. Ufko falls into the undersized defenseman category, listed at 5’10”, but despite his size, he wins his fair share of battles along the boards and can protect the puck well from opposing players. Next season will be a big test for Ufko to see if he can continue the upward trajectory in his development. Like many young, smaller players, Ufko could stand to gain some strength/weight as he progresses in his career. Ufko is also committed to UMass, but intends to play one more season in the USHL before heading off to college. Ufko is ranked anywhere between 50th (The Puck Authority) and 90th (TSN/Bob McKenzie).
#2021NHLDraft eligible Ryan Ufko (#7) @ChicagoSteel has some intriguing offensive skill and displayed some strong edge work here. He currently has 25 points (7G,18A) in 25 games #USHL pic.twitter.com/5al0IhKfb7— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) February 4, 2021
Forward, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
2020-21 Stats: 20 games played, 11 goals, 9 assists
Like his older brother Kirby, Colton Dach is already a big guy, standing at 6-foot-4. Both Dachs are known as forwards who can play in all three zones, with Colton having a bit more grit to his game than Kirby. The biggest limitation in Dach’s game is his speed, which keeps him from truly projecting out as a top-six NHL forward. He’s played as a center in the WHL but could easily be shifted to wing and would excel at a role where he’s expected to provide a lot of net-front presence. Dach’s shooting ability is excellent, with Elite Prospects describing him as being one of the better shooters in the draft. Despite just playing 20 games this season thanks to the shortened WHL schedule, Dach’s performance gathered enough attention from scouts to push him up the draft board. Initially projected as a late draft pick, Dach has mostly recently been ranked anywhere from 50th (Draft Prospects Hockey) to 95th (FCHockey).
Center, Erie Otters (OHL)
2020-21 Stats: Did not play
2019-20 Stats: 57 games played, 9 goals, 18 assists
One of the most challenging aspects of this year’s draft is deciding what to do about players who were unable to play in 2020-21. This largely impacts OHL players, who were unable to have any sort of season. If players were unable to go to Europe, get the attention of their national team, or find a showcase to play in, then they were left behind their peers who may have had more opportunities. This is the category Lockhart finds himself in. Lockhart is creative offensively, great at creating space for his teammates to make plays, and isn’t afraid to play with a little bit of physicality. There’s just no way to know how he’s improved his game since his first OHL season, but what we saw in 2019-20 makes him an intriguing player to spend a late draft pick on. Due to the uncertainty around where he is in his development, Lockhart has been ranked from 58th (FCHockey) to 114th (McKeen’s), in addition to being unranked by several other draft analysts.