NHL 21 Draft: Best Prospects and Top Draft Steals 2021

Find out which prospects you should be looking to pick up in the 2021 Draft of NHL 21’s Franchise Mode.

One of the most exciting dates on the Franchise Mode calendar is the NHL Entry Draft. Each year, you get to pick the future stars of your team and valuable trade pieces.

The first draft on NHL 21 is the 2021 Entry Draft, but to make the most of the prospects coming through, you need to have your scouts conduct extensive scouting around the world.

Of course, it’s much easier if you know where to scout to find the best prospects and 2021 draft steals, which is what we’re running through here.

Finding the best NHL 2021 Draft picks and steals

Based on the October 16 Online Roster – the first to have the 2020 draftees in NHL teams – the players featured on this page are the ones with the highest overall ratings after simulating to the start of the 2024/25 season.

An important point to consider is that each team will use their 2021 draft picks differently, so the growth of some players may be better or worse than shown here, depending on how you use the player.

As these best 2021 draft picks are based on the Day One NHL 21 roster, some of them will be generated players. While the names may vary, in previous editions, a similar player can usually be found by scouting their same region.

So, on this page, you’ll find the highest-rated and highest potential 2021 draft prospects as well as their nationalities and their draft position in our simulation – to help you try to find some 2021 draft steals.

At the foot of the table, you can find a list of all of the best 2021 draft prospects to pick.

Alan Cullimore, Left Wing (91 OVR)

Overall Rating: 91
Potential: Elite med
Position: Left Wing
Player Type: Power Forward
Nationality: American
Drafted: 1st Round, 4th Overall

In NHL 21, Alan Cullimore was given NHL ice time almost as soon as he was drafted, carrying a 73 overall rating in the 2021 draft to get taken off of the board as the fourth pick in the first round.

His continued efforts for the Detroit Red Wings allowed the American power forward to grow into his Elite med potential, starting the 2024/25 season with a 91 overall rating.

A hefty forward at 191cm and 101kg, Cullimore’s best attributes four seasons after being one of the best 2021 prospects include his 91 hand-eye, 91 puck control, 96 defensive awareness, 91 body checking, and 94 wrist shot accuracy.

Jukka Jaaskelainen, Right Defenseman (90 OVR)

Overall Rating: 90
Potential: Elite med
Position: Right Defenseman
Player Type: Two-Way Defenseman
Nationality: Finnish
Drafted: 1st Round, 2nd Overall

Second on our list of the best 2021 draft picks of NHL 21 is the player who went second overall in the draft itself, Jukka Jaaskelainen.

Hailing from Finland, the right defenseman came into the draft with an NHL-ready overall rating of 78, allowing him to grow into his Elite med potential very quickly.

Come the start of the fourth season in NHL 21 Franchise Mode, Jaaskelainen carried a mighty 90 OVR. The left-shot blueliner’s highlight attribute ratings at this stage include his 92 body checking, 91 strength, 90 acceleration, 90 agility, 90 speed, and 93 stick checking.

Aatu Räty, Left Wing (86 OVR)

Overall Rating: 86
Potential: Elite high
Position: Left Wing
Player Type: Two-Way Forward
Nationality: Finnish
Drafted: 1st Round, 1st Overall

Aatu Räty is one of the most exciting skaters set to battle for their place in the 2021 NHL Draft. Having worked his way through the Kärpät youth system, the 17-year-old winger made his first-team debut last season, playing 12 games and scoring four points in the Liiga.

Praised for his versatility and competence in all situations, Räty is once again in the Kärpät lines; he is also expected to feature for the U20 side throughout the campaign.

In NHL 21, it seems likely that Räty will be the top pick in most simulations of the 2021 Draft, with his Elite high potential rating being too good to miss with the first overall selection.

Räty’s ability to play a 200-foot game is shown in his attribute ratings a few seasons down the line, which includes his 92 offensive awareness, 91 defensive awareness, 93 stick checking, 87 passing, 90 strength, and 92 durability.

In this simulation, Räty entered as the best 2021 draft pick due to his potential rating, but his overall rating was a mere 70. So, even though he has an 86 OVR a few seasons down the line, he can eventually develop into the highest-rated player of this draft class.

Hayden Chow, Right Wing (86 OVR)

Overall Rating: 86
Potential: Elite med
Position: Right Wing
Player Type: Power Forward
Nationality: American
Drafted: 1st Round, 3rd Overall

The San Jose Sharks have made some baffling decisions in recent seasons, but the simulated team certainly made one of the top 2021 draft picks in NHL 21, taking Hayden Chow off of the board with the third overall pick.

The American right wing comes into the draft with an Elite med rating, developing into an 86 OVR right wing with some absurdly high and useful attribute ratings.

Chow may be listed as a power forward, but his massive attribute ratings of 94 passing, 97 hand-eye, 97 slap shot power, 99 wrist shot accuracy, 97 wrist shot power, 90 speed, and 90 agility enable him to be used as a top-class sniper.

Zachary L’Heureux, Center (85 OVR)

Overall Rating: 85
Potential: Top 6 Forward high
Position: Center
Player Type: Playmaker
Nationality: Canadian
Drafted: 1st Round, 7th Overall

Having impressed with the Châteauguay Grenadiers in the QMAAA in 2018/19, scoring 52 points in 41 games, Zachary L’Heureux was able to step up to the QMJHL in style.

In his first season at the level up, with the Moncton Wildcats, he scored 20 goals and 53 points in 55 games, also earning five caps for Canada Black U17.

For 2020/21, L’Heureux is with the Halifax Mooseheads, impressing early with three goals and seven points in just six games.

He ranks as one of the best 2021 draft picks in the game, with the Canadian’s rapid growth warranting his selection at seventh overall – despite there being plenty of Elite med potential skaters left at the time.

L’Heureux was drafted by the New Jersey Devils with a lowly 63 OVR, but after a single season, he became a 76 OVR center, hitting 85 OVR by the start of the 2024/25 campaign.

His best attributes include his 92 acceleration, 92 agility, 92 speed, 90 stick checking, 91 deking, 91 puck control, 91 passing, and 90 hand-eye.

Tucker Tynan, Goaltender (84 OVR)

Overall Rating: 84
Potential: Starter med
Position: Goaltender
Player Type: Hybrid
Nationality: American
Drafted: 2nd Round, 56th Overall

Tucker Tynan developed his game in the American youth ranks, starting 24 games with a .924 save percentage for the New Jersey Rockets in 2018/19.

Last season, however, Tynan decided to move north, joining the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL to put up a .910 save percentage through 23 games.

Even the highest potential goaltenders don’t tend to go in the first round of drafts in NHL games, so a 56th overall selection for Tynan in NHL 21 is respectable.

Playing for the Montreal Canadiens, the young American netminder quickly becomes a starter in the NHL, developing into an 84 overall rating by the time he hits 22-years-old.

With some more room to grow into his Starter med potential, Tynan features attribute ratings of 94 glove low, 92 glove high, 94 agility, and 94 speed by the start of the 2024/25 campaign.

All of the best 2021 draft picks and steals in NHL 21 Franchise Mode

Along with those above, the following table contains all of the 2021 prospects which either reach a high overall rating a few seasons down the line or have a particularly high potential rating.

Name Potential 24/25 Overall Position 2021 Draft Pick Nationality
Alan Cullimore Elite med 91 Left Wing 1st round, 4th overall American
Jukka Jaaskelainen Elite med 90 Right Defenseman 1st round, 2nd overall Finnish
Aatu Räty Elite high 86 Left Wing 1st round, 1st overall Finnish
Hayden Chow Elite med 86 Right Wing 1st round, 3rd overall American
Zachary L’Heureux Top 6 Forward high 85 Center 1st round, 7th overall Canadian
Tucker Tynan Starter med 84 Goaltender 2nd round, 56th overall American
Kirill Bryzgalov Elite low 83 Left Wing 2nd round, 37th overall Belarusian
Dylan Guenther Elite med 82 Left Wing 1st round, 10th overall Canadian
Nicklas Jakobs Elite med 82 Right Defenseman 1st round, 11th overall Swedish
Mason McTavish Top 6 Forward med 81 Center 1st round, 26th overall Canadian
Cole Sillinger Top 6 Forward high 80 Center 1st round, 6th overall Canadian
Devon Bureau Elite med 80 Right Wing 1st round, 8th overall Norwegian
Gael Tavares Elite low 80 Right Wing 2nd round, 43rd overall American
Trevor Wong Elite med 79 Center 1st round, 5th overall Canadian
Jesper Henriksen Top 6 Forward med 79 Right Wing 1st round, 13th overall Swedish
Carson Lambos Elite med 78 Left/Right Defenseman 1st round, 12th overall Canadian
Brett Harrison Top 6 Forward med 78 Center 1st round, 14th overall Canadian
Zachary Bolduc Top 6 Forward med 78 Center 2nd round, 32nd overall Canadian
Gustavs Khudobin Top 6 Forward med 78 Left Wing 1st round, 27th overall Russian
Jan Cikhart Top 6 Forward med 78 Left Wing 1st round, 29th overall Czech
Jack Byers Top 4 Defenseman med 77 Left Defenseman 1st round, 20th overall Polish
Vyacheslav Kenins Top 4 Defenseman med 77 Right Defenseman 1st round, 22nd overall Russian
Tyler Curtis Top 4 Defenseman med 77 Left Defenseman 2nd round, 36th overall American
Joshua Roy Top 6 Forward high 76 Center 1st round, 9th overall Canadian
Brandt Clarke Elite med 75 Right/Left Defenseman 1st round, 15th overall Canadian
Daniil Chayka Top 4 Defenseman med 75 Left/Right Defenseman 1st round, 16th overall Russian
Sergey Petrov Elite med 75 Goaltender 5th round, 135th overall Belarusian
Graham Sward Top 4 Defenseman  med 74 Left/Right Defenseman 4th round, 101st overall Canadian
Ulf Hedman Elite med 73 Goaltender 5th round, 141st overall Swedish
Alexei Valentenko Top 4 Defenseman med 72 Right Defenseman 1st round, 25th overall Russian
Chase Stillman Top 6 Forward med 63 Right Wing 5th round, 130th overall Canadian

Many of the best prospects get snapped up in the first round, as you’d expect, but there are several 2021 draft steals to be found in the first Franchise Mode draft on NHL 21.

Want to learn more about playing NHL 21?

NHL 21: Complete Controls Guide (Goalie, Faceoffs, Offense, and Defense) for PS4 and Xbox One

NHL 21: Complete Deke Guide, Tutorial, and Tips

NHL 21: Best and Worst Teams to Use and Rebuild

NHL 21: How to Fight and Win

NHL 21 Ratings: Best Enforcers

NHL 21 Franchise Mode: Best Young Players

NHL 21: All Team Ratings

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