It feels like the NHL season just ended but lo and behold Friday and Saturday the league holds its annual draft.
The Minnesota Wild enter the 2021 NHL draft with two first-round picks – No. 22 and No. 26, the latter acquired from Pittsburgh when they dealt Jason Zucker to the Penguins in February 2020. Note that these will actually be the No. 21 and No. 25 overall picks as Arizona lost its first-round pick (which would have been No. 11 overall) due to violating the league’s combine testing policy during the 2019-20 season.
(By the way, Minnesota also received defenseman Calen Addison and center Alex Galchenyuk in the trade; Zucker has 15 goals, 15 assists and is a minus-9 in 53 games with the Penguins.)
The Wild could try to package the picks and trade up but barring that will come away with two prospects during Friday’s first round to add to the mix.
Who will those players be? We checked around the web and offer up predictions from various mock drafts below:
Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com: No. 22 -- Kimelman -- Nikita Chibrikov, RW, St. Petersburg (RUS); Morreale -- Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea (SWE). No. 26 -- Kimelman -- Sean Behrens, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Morreale -- Shai Buium, D, Sioux City (USHL).
Josh Bell of FCHockey for the Sporting News: No. 22 -- Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL). “After taking another SKA player last season in Marat Khusnutdinov, the Wild look back to Russia here with Chibrikov. Being the first of two selections in the first round, the Wild add a well-rounded, skilled forward that is a leader on the ice. He can show up big when his team needs it and he brings strong firing power and strong skating ability.”; No. 26 -- Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL). “After taking a forward just a few selections ago, the Wild could look to the back end and land a player that was once considered a No. 1 contender. Lambos entered the season as one of the top defenders in the class and headed to Finland while the WHL was delayed. His game overseas raised more questions than confirming his ranking, causing him to drop significantly. With the Wild having two picks, betting on Lambos could be worth the risk.”
Corey Pronman of The Athletic ($): No. 22 -- Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA-KHL. “Mocking Chibrikov is tough. A lot of scouts admit he’s likely a top-20 pick on pure talent, but a small, not-that-fast winger with SKA presents a lot of risk variables. Minnesota took an SKA player last year in Marat Khusnutdinov, so they are a team speculated as being a possible Chibrikov landing spot.”; No. 25 -- Aatu Raty, C, Karpat-Liiga. “Trying to figure out where Raty goes has been tough. He’s a player who a lot of NHL scouts thought could be a top-10 if not top-5 pick early in the campaign, but a slot in the 20s looks like the likely landing spot for him. With Columbus going Edvinsson at No. 5, he adds to their much-needed center depth, adding a lot of skill to that position.”; No. 26 -- Wyatt Johnston, C, Windsor-OHL. “Johnston is a weird case given he didn’t play all season other than the U18 worlds, but he’s a prospect I’m hearing is more likely than not to go on Day 1, likely in the 20s. He would add to Minnesota’s young center depth with Marco Rossi and Khusnutdinov.”
Sean Leahy of NBCSports.com: Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL); No. 26 -- Francesco Pinelli, C, HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL) / Kitchener Rangers (OHL).
McKeen’s Hockey from NBC Sports Edge: No. 22 -- Fyodor Svechkov, W/C, SKA St. Petersburg. “The Minnesota Wild continue to look to Russia for talent, unafraid of the lure of the KHL. After all, they do have an awesome recruiter in “Dollar Bill Kirill.” Svechkov is a versatile, well rounded forward who seems like the kind of player Minnesota has really focused on adding in recent drafts.”; No. 25 -- Jack Peart, D, Fargo Force. “With some strong draft selections in recent years and more selections this year, the Wild take a chance on a home-grown talent in Jack Peart. An intelligent offensive defender, Peart has a chance to grow into a terrific top four defender, although will take time at St. Cloud State. This will give the Wild a chance to truly assess Calen Addison’s ability to quarterback a powerplay.”
Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report: No. 22 -- Daniil Chayka, D, CSKA (Russia); No. 26 -- Nikita Chibrikov, RW, St. Petersburg (Russia).
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports: No. 22 -- Nikita Chibrikov, LW/RW, SKA St. Petersburg, KHL. “The Wild find a running mate for their Calder Trophy Winner Kirill Kaprizov. Chibrikov is a very good playmaker. He has excellent vision and anticipation, reading the play and anticipating the movements of his teammates and opponents. When a scoring opportunity presents itself, he finds his man and gets him the puck. He can pass the puck through tight lanes and can saucer the puck over sticks. With quick hands and good lateral agility, he can make a quick move to open a lane. Chibrikov protects the puck well. He can control the puck in the offensive zone and give his teammates time to get open. He is also good at carrying the puck through the neutral zone and creating effective zone entries. Chibrikov also has an excellent wrist shot with a quick release.”; No. 26 -- Isak Rosen, LW/RW, Leksands, SHL. “After taking Chibrikov with their first pick, the Wild would love to get a defender here, but with the way the board has fallen must take the best player available. Rosen is an outstanding skater. His first steps as well as his acceleration are excellent. He is lightning quick and this helps him to be first on loose pucks. His ability to change speeds while moving through the neutral zone can fool defenders and helps him to create odd-man rushes. Rosen pairs his skating with excellent stickhandling. With his ability to make moves at top speed he is very good at moving the puck through the neutral zone and generating effective zone entries. This can help him to create chances off the rush or get set up in the offensive zone. Rosen is a pure sniper. He has an outstanding wrist shot with good accuracy and a quick release.”
MyNHLdraft.com: No. 22 – Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (SM-Liiga); No. 26 -- Zachary L’Heureux, C/LW, Halifax (QMJHL).
Tab Bamford of Elite Sports NY: No. 22 -- Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski (QMJHL). “Bolduc of is a combination great speed and skill with and an ability to score goals from anywhere on the ice. He can play center or wing; Minnesota could love his versatility.”; No. 26 -- Matthew Knies, LW, Tri-City (USHL). “Minnesota makes two picks in four overall selections (if they don’t trade one/both of them for immediate help). He’s a riser on many boards and has good size and intriguing ability. Minnesota needs help in a few places and this would be a potential reach.”
Tankathon: No. 22 -- Simon Robertsson, RW, Skellefteå AIK (SHL); No. 26 – Zachary Bolduc, C, Rimouski (QMJHL).