The NHL Draft kicks off Friday, July 23rd. Earlier in the month, some of the draft’s top prospects spoke with Full Press Hockey. Now, get to know some of the best of the next crop of NHL talent.
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Brandt Clarke is a talented defenseman. Possibly the second-best in the 2021 NHL Draft. He’s an Ottawa native who is a shifty skater and a tremendous puck handler. He can get to the net, fire off a great shot, or make a pass to set up scoring chances. His defense needs some work.
“Graeme (his brother who was drafted by the Devils) speaks very highly of them. They run a really good organization. He loves the front office. He tells me all the good things. They treat him very well. He played in Binghamton this year with the AHL team. It worked out great with that coaching staff. When I spoke to them in interviews they seemed to like me….If I got to play with him for the next 10-15 years it would be a dream come true. I’d be up for that. I’d be stoked.”
Clarke didn’t hide the fact that he thinks he should be gone before Ottawa picks in the tenth slot.
“I am definitely hoping to go higher than that. If it ends up being Ottawa. That would be awesome. I grew up a Sens fan. I had season tickets. I watched Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Alfie when he was there. These were my idols growing up. If I do end up on the Ottawa Senators. That would be a dream come true.”
William Eklund is a second-generation SHL forward. His dad played at Djurgardens and this versatile forward played there. His speed with the puck, decision-making helps him make passes others don’t see, and two-step quickness stands out. His wrist shot and one-timer will be great weapons in the NHL someday. Eklund expects to play there one more season. That would give him three in the league. He started learning the minute he got there.
“In the first year, it’s seeing the professionals and how they work. Me coming from a junior team. It’s time to learn from them.”
If Eklund plays the center position in the NHL, his value could be the second-highest in the draft. If he’s a top line wing, that’s still worth a club making him a top-five pick.
“I want to be a top six forward. Maybe not the first year but I can work myself into that spot. I think I can bring energy to the team. I think I can be an offensive threat every time I touch the puck. I want to be a guy you can count on in different situations.”
Luke Hughes is the brother of Jack and Quinn. He’s a 6-2 defenseman who has the speed to get the puck up the ice, a great ability to pass, some physical play, and an emerging shot. His hockey I.Q. isn’t as high as Jack or Quinn but the rest seems to be there.
“As far as where the Devils are picking that would be unbelievable to be picked by the Devils. I think my brother clearly wants me to be there. It would be super cool to play with him. I would love that but at the same time there are 32 great teams out there and I’d be happy to go to any one of those teams.”
The youngest Hughes lacerated a foot tendon, and he gave the world a health update. This injury wasn’t as simple as he makes it out to be since his success is predicated on his speed.
“I’ve been skating for five weeks now. I’ve been working out for eight or nine, so I feel really good. I’m almost 100%. I’m just trying to get my timing back. I finished rehab and there is no problem with the toe. It feels great. I’ll be ready for World Junior camp.”
Brennan Othmann rose to prominence off of a great U18 performance where the left wing scored six points in seven games en route to a gold medal for Team Canada. Instead of playing for the Flint Firebirds, he ended up playing in Switzerland giving him some early professional experience.
“I think it will help in OHL camp and going into the NHL one day. That’s going to benefit me playing in Switzerland. I learned a lot from the older guys there.”
Othmann is known for his offense but takes great pride in his defensive prowess. “That hasn’t been talked about at all actually,” Othmann Full Press Hockey.
“My offensive ability, my shot, and I.Q. seem to take that over a little bit. I like to say that I’m a 200-foot player and I’m still trying to work on my 200-foot game in the d-zone a little bit. I think I am a two-way forward. I block shots, people don’t really see that, but I like doing that and you tap on the bench from the boys. They recognize that and coaches recognize that.”
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is a Canadian defenseman attending the University of Michigan. He is the presumptive first overall pick and yet he is still leaning to go back to college to try and win a National Championship. His hockey I.Q. and decision-making are top-notch and it shows with his passing and puckhandling. He blocks shots and will pinch to score goals. Power has every tool in the toolbox.
“I’m meeting with Buffalo on Thursday. I wouldn’t say I’m committed to going back to school I would say I’m leaning to go back to school. I have to talk to whatever team drafts me.”
Power played in the World Championships. In the beginning, he had to fight for ice time and after a few games, he was a mainstay. Power got three points in ten games, as usual, he was very disciplined with just four PIMS and he was a plus player.
“it was good for me to see where I was at. Pros playing against pros so. I think it gave me a better idea of how ready I was to play pro hockey. I need to continue to develop my game and get stronger, faster, and quicker. Keep developing the areas of my game I need to work on and continue growing.”
Matty Beniers is the top center in the 2021 NHL Draft. The cuts he makes lose defenders. His stick and puck control are among the best of this draft and NCAA hockey. Beniers can blow up the opposition’s defense with his edge work and he has a goal scorer’s touch. There isn’t that much debate about it but that doesn’t mean he’s the first center taken off the board either. In an unpredictable year, Beniers was very dependable scoring 10 goals and 14 helpers in 24 games.
“This year at Michigan was great. The pace was a little higher than I played before. I got to do that, World Juniors and the Worlds, and it gets higher every step up you make. I think it’s a few years. I’m not totally sure what will happen. I think I’m pretty close. It will take a lot of work to get there you have to be ready mentally and physically. Hoping it will be soon.”
The Seattle Kraken will draft their first franchise-level player and Beniers seems eager to see that happen.
“I think it would be really awesome. I think it would be a lot of fun to play for a new organization. A new team. I think that would be really cool. That city will be very excited getting a new hockey team.”