For the final time for the foreseeable future, all non-playoff teams were eligible to win the first overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. Beginning in 2022, a team can only move up a maximum of ten spots, meaning the teams who finish No. 12 through No. 16 in the final league standings cannot move high enough to take over the top pick.
Well, the lottery balls decided not to take a crazy bounce in their last opportunity to move a team from the middle of the first round all the way to the top. Instead, the draft order stayed virtually the same. The Buffalo Sabres, who held the worst record in the NHL this season and thus the top odds in the lottery, retained the pick. The expansion Seattle Kraken, awarded the same odds as the third-worst record in the league, moved up one spot, switching places with the Anaheim Ducks. Here is the official first-round draft order for the top 15 picks:
The 2021 NHL Draft is unique compared to recent years in that there is no consensus top prospect. In fact, it is difficult to remember a draft class in recent memory that is so undecided at the top. One major factor has been the lack of complete scouting due to canceled and shortened seasons and limited live viewings. However, even with complete information, there is still seemingly no prospect that stands heads above the rest. University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power and forward Matthew Beniers are largely considered the top players at each position and the two most likely candidates for the top pick. However, current teammate Kent Johnson and Wolverines commit Luke Hughes, a forward and defenseman respectively, are also in the mix.