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Five 2021 NHL Prospects I’m Higher on Than You

Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. In this one I will talk about a few 2021 NHL Draft prospects I’m getting excited about. I want to take a second to invite you to check out my 2021 NHL Draft prospects Google sheet (which is chock full of links and information on a bunch of the top prospects in this draft), and join the Apples & Ginos Discord server where I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about Logan Stankoven, chihuahuas, or anything else that is unnaturally small.

  1. Sasha Pastujov

The 6-foot, 184-pound Pastujov is one of the most polarizing players in the draft. He’s ranked as high as 18th by Recruit Scouting and as low as 56th by Elite Prospects. He’s a case study in analytics versus eye test, ranking top 5 in the class by both Hockey Prospecting and Fantalytica’s models. I give the analytics a lot of credit in Pastujov’s case for a couple of reasons. The first is that we must realize that we are talking about 18-year-olds when we talk about these prospects and projecting them to the NHL is a very imperfect science at best. That to me means I want to take swings on players who have upside to put up real points for me in fantasy and fade the “safe” options who may be 10-20% more likely to make the NHL but might never make a significant contribution to my roster. The second is that Pastujov is exactly the type of prospect the NHL seems to miss on over and over again – the subpar skater who puts up points in bunches wherever he plays. From Dobber Prospects:

“Pastujov possesses some of the best pure offensive skills in the draft class, utilizing his great shot and strong passing ability to generate scoring chances with consistency in the USHL. The concern, however, is just how much his lack of overall mobility and pace will hold him back as he climbs the ranks.”

Compare that statement with this one regarding another winger with scoring prowess (edited slightly to remove identifiers):

“He has a good shot, and good hockey sense, and isn’t afraid of going to the dirty areas. That being said, he has one main weakness which potentially could be attributed to him falling to 39th overall – he isn’t a great skater and has slow feet. He isn’t a major threat to blow past anyone wide, and his lack of acceleration causes him some problems” – Dobber Prospects

That player is Jason Robertson. Now I’m not ready to anoint Pastujov as the next Robertson, but we have to accept the possibility that this is a player archetype that NHL scouts are not good at evaluating and that the upside (and especially power play upside) is certainly there to a 60-70 point level. He’s certainly got work to do as he’ll have to learn to move his feet constantly to beat NHL defensemen. But this is a player I just took at 22nd overall in a dynasty league that drafts before the NHL draft (terrible idea, I know) who has real point-scoring upside. In a draft class that is generally regarded as lacking top-end talent, I’m more than happy to take what I see as a 40% chance that Pastujov turns into a usable fantasy asset.

Apples & Ginos 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Fantasy Rank: #10

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Full Game Tape vs Chicago Steel

2. Logan Stankoven

Stankoven is undoubtedly going to draw Cole Caufield comparisons due to his size (5-foot-8, 170 pounds) and shooting ability, but I don’t think he’s on Caufield’s level as a prospect. However he has gotten glowing reviews from multiple sources, ranking as high as 13th (by McKeen’s) to 44th (by Bob McKenzie), and I do see a real possibility that Stankoven is a 20-30 goal scorer in the league in his prime. Stankoven showed out with 4 goals and 8 points in 7 games at the U18 Worlds and from all accounts his slight stature will not stop him from playing an aggressive, driving game at both ends of the rink. From Elite Prospects’ Stankoven profile page:

“He’s a fearless puck-carrier, always driving the inside, and never shy about setting up shop near the net-front off of the puck. He plays a north-south game and always attacks at an unrelentingly high pace.”

Scott Wheeler from the Athletic notes that “it’s not hard to imagine him building towards a career as a top-six winger in the NHL”, while fellow Athletic writer Corey Pronman views Stankoven more as a middle-six winger. It’s worth noting that Stankoven doesn’t show up incredibly well on Hockey Prospecting’s model (20th in the class), but he also only had 6 WHL games this year to prove himself which undoubtedly had an effect on that final number. All told, I think Stankoven is a comfortable bet to be a 20-goal scorer in the league with upside for more. If you can get him in the 20s of your entry drafts, you’re making a profit. From Dobber Prospects:

“He is a deadly shooter with a quick, heavy release that he can let go from multiple points in his shooting motion and generates good power on his one-timer as well.”

I am a big fine of finding players who have standout shooting/finishing ability in the draft. Last time I checked goal scoring is still the most valuable thing in fantasy hockey, it’s a skill that is very tough to teach, and it’s very translatable. From all accounts Stankoven’s work rate will put him into positions to get that shot off and from there it’s all gravy. I don’t know if Stankoven has the same point production upside as Pastujov but he seems nearly certain to find his way to the NHL at some point.

Apples & Ginos 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Fantasy Rank: #14

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Full Game Tape vs Tri-City Americans

5 Game Cut-up

3. Scott Morrow

Scott Morrow is a 6-foot-2, 192-pound defenseman out of Shattuck St. Mary’s, a school that has alumni such as Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Zach Parise. He was certainly a man amongst boys at his level of competition this past season, registering 8 goals and 48 points in 30 games. Morrow has garnered some significant praise from Dobber Hockey’s Tony Ferrari and from Scouching’s Will Scouch as a phenomenal skater and chance generation machine. He’s drawn comparisons to Cale Makar which is certainly a step too far, but he’s definitely one of the best skaters in this draft class which can be a very enticing skill to build on. From The Hockey Writers’ prospect profile on Morrow:

“Morrow’s offensive prowess comes down to his speed and agility. He’s able to duck in and out of traffic while tightly controlling the puck, much like top-10 hopeful Brandt Clarke, adjusting plays on the fly under pressure but still able to keep up his speed.”

The Elite Prospects’ profile page for Morrow echoes similar sentiments:

“With constant hip pocket deception, changes of pace, and eyes that never reveal the intended play, he embarrasses defenders.”

Morrow is another example of a player who has true fantasy star potential but is not without risk as a player who has faced inferior competition to date. I’m fully willing to take my shot on him over some of the projected late 1st round forwards like Zachary L’Heureux or Zachary Bolduc.

Apples & Ginos 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Fantasy Rank: #22

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Full Game Tape vs. Chicago Mission

Scouching Scouting Video

4. Danila Klimovich

Klimovich put himself on the map for the 2021 NHL Draft with an astonishing performance at the U18 Worlds for Belarus in April. Now there’s building hype for the 6-foot-1, 187-pound right winger with some suggesting there’s even an outside chance a team could like him enough to take him in the first round of the draft. I don’t see that happening, but Klimovich is certainly on every team’s radar now after scoring six goals in five games in the tournament.

I’m interested in Klimovich’s combination of size, shot, and skill. The advanced stats tracked by some scouts indicated that Klimovich’s U18 performance was not a fluke and he was indeed one of the best forwards in the tournament at generating scoring chances. Scott Wheeler of the Athletic says of Klimovich’s shot “It just explodes off of his stick. Add in a pro frame and a tenacious, “go-get-the-puck” disposition and there’s enough there to warrant getting him into a program (and a better league) to work with him to round out the rest.”

Klimovich is often referred to as a “raw” prospect who may require a few years of seasoning to achieve his full potential. But as a player who could easily be available after 50 players have been selected in your rookie drafts (I took him at #55 in mine), he has a ton of projectable upside and in a best case scenario could become a scoring winger on a top NHL power play. Again, I’m betting on the teachable traits catching up the unteachable traits that Klimovich seems to have in spades.

Apples & Ginos 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Fantasy Rank: #37

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Full Game Tape vs Latvia

5. Tyler Boucher

I really like Tyler Boucher for fantasy, especially in bangers leagues. Some scouts question his top end skill set, which is fair. But I see the 6-foot-1, 201-pounder as a unique player in this class as one of the few who we can classify as a difference-maker in the hits department. From the Elite Prospects profile page:

“There’s no player more physical in the draft class. Sometimes, it’s a small nudge, an extra cross-check, or a smart play to cut off the hands. There’s also plenty of bone-crushing hits along the boards. His physical game is insane.”

And it’s not like Boucher has glaring weaknesses in his game. He’s got a strong skating stride, the shot is above average if not elite, and there is some skill there even if he’s not a tremendous puckhandler. If he hits his ceiling Boucher could be a Tom Wilson type, extremely physical with ability to play in the top six as a net front guy and put up 40-50 points in his prime. But the selling point is certainly the physicality. Boucher has said himself that he models some of his game after Wilson, desiring to bring that edge to every game. And boy, can he bring it:

I don’t know if Boucher will find the right opportunity to get into a top six where he could become a true fantasy asset, but even as a third-line winger he should have some solid value in deeper banger dynasty formats. You’ll probably be able to get shares of Boucher in the 50s of your drafts, and that’s a prime spot for a guy with such a projectable skillset for fantasy.

Apples & Ginos 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Fantasy Rank: #45

Full Game Tape vs Youngstown Phantoms

That’s all for this one folks! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter, on TikTok, or join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.

Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!

Nate

Title photo credit: Allen Douglas

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Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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