Many Fans and experts are constantly talking about the top prospects in the 2021 draft, so I thought it might be good to cover some of the under the radar prospects for a change.
1. Vincent Iorio
Vincent Iorio is a 6’3” Right-Handed Defensemen playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL. Iorio does have a lot going for him. First, he got rave reviews for his play in all three zones. He could contribute offensively as a 16/17-year-old, he was good at shutting down transition attempts through the neutral zone, and he could break up cycles in the defensive zone using his size and being physical. He’s a very good all-round defenseman that plays with poise, intelligence, and high hockey IQ. He is an older prospect in the draft, and that’s something that is often held against guys who aren’t consensus Unlike other top OHL and WHL prospects, Iorio did not play any games this year in Europe, the USHL, or any other league, so his body of work at the WHL level is very small. This would be a risk to choose a player that you haven’t seen play a lot, so it would shock me to see him fall to the 3rd round. His NHL Comparison is Adam Larsson, a good top 4 defenseman in the league, with high intangibles.
Iorio’s expected range right now puts him as a late 2nd/early 3rd rounder, but now that he’s playing again that may go up if he plays well.
2. Cameron MacDonald
Listed as both a Center and Left Wing, Cameron MacDonald is a QMJHL forward who has room to fill out his 6’1″ frame and plays with an advanced poise to his game. MacDonald Likes to be the player with the puck and can get around opposing players in open ice with ease. He’s got a very good and heavy shot and can get it off in no time with his quick release. Cameron is also able to shoot the puck from any angle sometimes, which makes him a lethal goal scorer. Cameron ever looks rushed in his attacks, supports his teammates well, and his good neutral zone play. Cameron MacDonald is far from a finished product, he needs to improve on not being as passive on the ice and he also must be better defensively. MacDonald is a naturally gifted scorer that knows how to put up points. His NHL comparison is Phil Kessel, who is was a very productive goal scorer in the league for a long time. MacDonald looks like he is a 3rd round pick at this point, but that could change.
3. Ty Gallagher
Ty Gallagher is a right-handed defender who plays a strong defensive game by keeping things simple. Currently, Gallagher is playing on the US NTDP Juniors team in the USHL and the U.S. National U18 team. In the 2020-21 season, Gallagher played in 25 games for the USNTDP Juniors and put up 12 points. In 41 games with the U18 team, Gallagher put up 21 points. Gallagher is a defense-first prospect who has room to grow into his 6’0″ frame and is a solid skater. He wins the 50/50 pucks, clears his crease well, and has a good active stick. Ty also does a good job of blocking shots and makes clean breakouts passes. Gallagher has a big shot, he doesn’t use it enough. His NHL comparison is Ryan Pulock, who is a top-pair shut-down defenseman with the New York Islanders Right now. He projects as a trustworthy responsible pro candidate who gets selected in the 3rd or 4th round because of his edge and tenacious play.
4. Semyon Vyazovoy
Semyon Vyazovoy is a 6’2” goalie who plays for Tolpar Ufa in the MHL; he is the top ranked Russian goalie right now. He possesses good size, and looks comfortable playing the puck, but what stands out most of all is his aggression. Vyazovoy plays farther out from his net than most goalies would feel comfortable with. While this leaves him vulnerable to one-timers, it makes it hard for opposing teams to score on their initial shots. And when Vyazovoy is on his game, he does a good job with rebound control, which only serves to complicate things for the opposition even more. Two years ago, at the U16 junior level, Vyazovoy had a .919 SV% in 29 games. At the U17 level, he had a .927 sv% in 28 games. This year, in the MHL he has a .939 SV% in 26 games, good for third in the entire league on the 5th best team in his conference. It’s worth noting that the two goalies ahead of him played many more games but were also a year older. There is no point in debating his expected draft range because he is a goalie and he is Russian, which means makes it very unpredictable. His NHL Comparison is Sergei Bobrovsky, who actually went undrafted, but went on to become one of the best goalies in the league. Vyazovoy may be available with a late pick, so a team might walk away with a starting-caliber goalie late in the draft.
5. Zack Stringer
Zack Stringer is a big framed power forward left winger playing for Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. Stringer has all the ideal tools of a power forward, he has a strong wrister, high hockey IQ, and a relentless checking game that includes dominant hard hits, on the forecheck, and everywhere else on the ice. Stringer still needs to improve his overall offensive game, but he can still impact the game without putting up points. Zack Stringer plays very similar to Tom Wilson in the sense that they play a punishing style of hockey, reads the play, and know when it is time to ramp up the intensity. Stringer still has Lots of room to fill out into a much larger man. Much like Wilson, he can eventually develop into an impact player later in his NHL career. Zack Stringer is projected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick right now, which is very good value for a player that has as much upside as Tom Wilson.
6. Jake Martin
Jake Martin is a 6’0” Right Handed Defensemen playing on the US National Development Junior team. What makes Martin interesting is his defensive play; his defensive tracking data is the best among defensemen on the US NTDP Juniors including Luke Hughes, who many see as a lottery pick in the draft. In fact, among all draft-eligible defensemen, Martin is only behind Carson Lambos, another consensus first-round pick. Martin is a good skater and very effective at breaking up transition attempts by the other team. He’s also effective in shutting down offensive cycles in his own end. What will hold Martin back is that he does not have much offensive ability; he is not one to jump into the play, make a great pass, or get you out of your seat with some crazy skilled play. His NHL comparison is Jake Muzzin, who has been a reliable top 4 defenseman in the league for a long time. As of right now, Martin is a potential 4th/5th round pick, that’s not bad value. Muzzin was drafted in the 6th round of the 2007 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, so if develops anything like Muzzin, he should be a solid NHL defenseman. Many teams will be looking for a smart, positionally sound defensive defenseman who is a good skater in the 4th or 5th round.
7. Robert Baco
Robert Baco is a big Slovakian-born right-winger who has great hockey sense and shows good work below the circles. Baco also has good skating ability and has the smarts to be in the right spot on both ends of the ice. This Slovak-born winger also has a quick release and good anticipation. Due to his 6’3″, 215 lbs frame, Baco and is hard to knock off pucks, is strong on the board and makes sure his stick is in passing lanes. Baco is not afraid to play physically and throw his weight around; this makes him an ideal player to stick in the top 9 because of his versatility. His NHL Comparison is Brandon Saad, who is a very solid NHL player that can play in all situations and is highly versatile. Right now, Baco looks like a 4th or 5th round pick, but that could change.
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