The 2021 NHL Draft: 10 Possible Red Wings Targets

brandt clarke carson lambos kent johnson 2021 nhl entry draft detroit red wings
By Jeff Watters

November 4, 2020

It’s that time of year again for Red Wings fans — with the 2020 draft in the books, it’s now time to turn our attention to this year’s draft class and the 2021 NHL draft.

The draft has been the highlight of the year for Wings fans in recent years as the team continues to trudge along through the rebuild. It’s been the light at the end of the tunnel. Each draft has given the Red Wings the opportunity to restock their system with potential impact players, and 2021 will be no different.

Although the 2021 draft does not have the clear-cut, number one superstar like an Alexis Lafreniere, there will be some serious, high-end talent available when the Wings inevitably pick 6th overall (hey, this would be the year to do it!).

With no consensus number one, and almost a dozen prospects that could be vying to be the first overall selection in 2021, let’s take a look at 10 (5 forwards, 5 defensemen) of those names and what they could potentially bring to the Red Wings.

Aatu Räty, C (Oulun Kärpät, Liiga)

Räty (pronounced Ratu) had been projected to be “the guy” in this draft up until last season. The Finnish centre had an excellent draft-minus-two season, putting him in the conversation for first overall. Räty wasn’t nearly as impressive in 2019-20, however, scoring just 2 goals in 30 games for Kärpät U20. 

Räty has been compared to 2020 draftee Anton Lundell, as he’s a 2-way centre with a strong 200-foot game. Räty should put up better offensive numbers than Lundell, however. He’s extremely skilled with the puck and has a very good shot. Räty is also an excellent skater, and we know the Red Wings love their strong skaters. If Räty is able to show more consistency, he could be the top-line centre the Red Wings so desperately need.

Räty will spend his draft year in Liiga playing with men, and as a 17 (soon to be 18) year-old, he will have to earn his minutes. 

Kent Johnson, C (University of Michigan, NCAA)

Johnson will suit up for a formidable Michigan squad in 2020-21, joining the likes of Cam York (PHI), Brendan Brisson (VGK), John Beecher (BOS), and fellow 2021 draft prospects Owen Power and Matty Beniers.

Johnson may well turn out to be the best of the bunch.  He put up 101 points in 52 games in the BCHL in 2019-20, leading the league in scoring as a 17-year-old. Johnson is very creative and patient with the puck and may be the most skilled forward in the draft. He is an excellent playmaker and although he doesn’t have the greatest shot, he does have the ability to get his quick, accurate wrister off in tough areas.

Johnson isn’t the strongest skater but is able to dictate play with his patience and vision. The hockey IQ is off the charts with Johnson. Like Räty, Johnson would have the potential to be a #1 centre in Detroit.

Chaz Lucius, C (U.S. National U18 Team, USDP)

If the Red Wings want to go with a pure goal scorer, Lucius could be their guy. Lucius is a very skilled forward with an absolutely lethal shot. He scored 31 goals in 46 games for the U.S. U17 National team in 2019-20.

Lucius is an exciting player — a guy who can score from just about anywhere. In addition to his great shot, he has the hands needed to execute crafty moves in tight areas. He has playmaking ability as well, but certainly isn’t one to look pass-first. Lucius doesn’t have the best top-end speed and will need to put in some work to become more explosive in his first few strides as well.

Lucius will also have to improve defensively if he is to stay at centre, but a potential 40 goal-scoring winger wouldn’t be a bad pick, would it? Lucius probably ranks near the back end of this list for now, but a guy with his skill set was definitely worth mentioning.

Dylan Guenther, LW (Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL)

Guenther was a point-per-game player as a 16-year-old for the Oil Kings in 2019-20. The dynamic winger played on the team’s top line with 2020 draftee Jake Neighbours and showed that he could consistently be a line driver.

Guenther won’t blow you away with any one skill, but he also won’t let you down with any one weakness. He does a lot of things very well – from his shot to his playmaking; his transition game to his creativity with the puck – Guenther is very skilled. He’s a very smart player who is able to see plays in the offensive zone before they develop.

He’s a very lean 6-2, 171 lbs, and although he currently shows the ability to use his frame to his advantage, he will need to add a lot of strength to see this translate to the next level.

As a winger, and because Guenther doesn’t have elite skill, I can’t see the Wings going this direction; especially in such a wide-open draft with so much talent at other positions. 

Fabian Lysell, LW (Frölunda HC J20, J20 Nationell)

Another dynamic forward, Lysell is playing his draft year alongside Theodor Niederbach and Elmer Soderblom on the Frölunda J20 squad. He’s been over a point-per-game so far and will look to maintain that pace throughout the season.

Lysell is a smaller winger, but is very creative with the puck and plays with a furious pace. He’s an exceptional skater who identifies lanes and capitalizes on defender miscues with both his skating and passing.

Lysell is a very exciting prospect, but like Guenther, not likely the pick for Detroit at this point.   

Brandt Clarke, D (Barrie Colts, OHL)

Clarke has tremendous upside. He has the most offensive talent of all defensemen in the draft, and if he refines his defensive game and fills out his 6-1, 181 lb frame, he has the potential to be a true star in the NHL. 

He’s an effortless skater, great passer, and the rare blueliner who is always a threat in the offensive zone. He’s confident, creative, and makes plays with conviction.

Clarke may take a bit more time to reach the NHL, but if the Wings have the opportunity to take a swing on his big-time tools it may be wise to do so.

Of all the players on this list, Clarke would likely go #1 if the draft were held today.

Carson Lambos, D (JYP U20, U20 SM-sarja/Winnipeg Ice, WHL)

Lambos is probably the most complete defenseman in the 2021 class as we sit here today. He’s got the size, skating, and mature defensive game every team covets. He already looks like an NHLer and could be NHL ready in 2021-22. Lambos doesn’t have the high-end, elite offense of Brandt Clarke but is very skilled with the puck and will contribute at both ends of the ice. 

The Winnipeg native had 8 goals and 32 points for the Winnipeg Ice (WHL)  in 2019-20 and has been loaned to JYP U20 in Finland as the WHL isn’t scheduled to return to play until early 2021.

A top pairing of Lambos – Seider would be pretty great and Lambos is exactly the type of player I could see the Red Wings taking in the 2021 NHL draft. 

Owen Power, D (University of Michigan, NCAA)

Power is another big defenseman that the Red Wings will be scouting hard this season. The 6-5, 214 lb blueliner was the USHL Defenseman of the Year in 2019-20, and will suit up for Michigan this season.

Power, like Lambos, does everything well and would look great alongside Mo Seider in Detroit. His rare combination of size, skill, and speed already have him atop many draft rankings. He has a very good shot from the point and is very active in the offensive zone. He’s a fantastic skater and puck mover and is a very cerebral player who takes every opportunity to improve and refine his game. 

Power put himself on the map in a big way after a dominant season with the Chicago Steel last season, and will now look to be an impact player against the bigger, stronger competition in the NCAA.

Simon Edvinsson, D (Frölunda HC J20, J20 Nationell)

Edvinsson is a defenseman who has drawn comparisons to Victor Hedman with his style of play.  The smooth-skating Swede will have a lot of work to do to live up to that comparison but will be looking to dominate with Frölunda J20 in 2020-21. 

Edvinsson is already 6-4, 185 lbs, and along with Owen Power, is one of the biggest defensemen in the 2021 class. He’s a great puck mover and has a lot of offensive talent. He’s also an exceptional skater who uses his size effectively in all zones.

The Red Wings obviously have a great relationship with the Frölunda organization, and you better believe Niklas Kronwall and the Red Wings will know everything there is to know about Edvinsson by the end of this season.

Luke Hughes, D (U.S. National U18 Team, USNTDP)

Hughes is the youngest of three Hughes brothers. He’s also the biggest. At 6-2, 176 lbs, Luke towers over his elder siblings, Quinn and Jack. 

Hughes hasn’t yet grown into his frame or shown the ability to use it effectively just yet. But he also just turned 17 less than two months ago, making him one of the youngest players of 2021 draft class. If you believe in bloodlines, and also consider Quinn’s rise to stardom after being selected 6th overall in 2018, Hughes may have some untapped upside. 

Luke is a fantastic skater and this is probably the strength of his game at this stage. He’s an offensive-minded defender who can join the rush and distribute the puck effectively in the offensive zone. 

There’s a lot of projectability in Hughes’ game, and I love swings on upside, but Hughes’ 2020-21 season will go a long way in determining where he goes, if at all, in the top 10.

Final Thoughts

As of early November, my preference would be for the Red Wings to end up with either Brandt Clarke or Carson Lambos when the 2021 NHL draft is said and done.

Clarke would immediately become the Red Wings top defensive prospect, and give the Wings a future right side of Clarke – Seider – Hronek. Clarke has the elite offensive skill the Red Wings are missing on the blueline and would be an excellent addition to the Red Wings PP1 unit. Having that right side of Clarke – Seider – Hronek would have the Wings in a great spot for a long time.

Lambos would also be a potential #1 defenseman for the Red Wings. A Lambos – Seider top pair for the next 10 years would have Red Wings fans doing backflips, A shut-down duo that can also contribute offensively? Sign me up. Lambos is also no slouch offensively and would surely see power play time as well. With Lambos’ complete and refined game at both ends of the ice, he would have a shot to slot in on the Wings blueline in 2021-22. 

Of course, a lot can change over the course of the year. We’ll take a look at additional candidates as the season progresses, but the strength at the top of this draft is defense, and unless one of the centres really goes off this year, I’m hopeful the Wings can land another top-pair blueliner with their first pick.

 

Featured Image: Terry Wilson | WHL.com | Garrett James Photography

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