With the announcement of the NHL Central Scouting ‘Players to Watch’ list, the spark has been reignited on the discussion of the NHL Draft, this time looking forward to next summer. The Portland Winterhawks find three of their 2021 NHL Draft eligible players on the list in Jack O’Brien, Simon Knak, and Tyson Kozak. All three players are entering their sophomore seasons in the Western Hockey League after having spent their rookie seasons as consistent faces in the Portland lineup.
In the 2019-20 season, Jack O’Brien found himself playing a fair amount on a line with 2020 draft picks Seth Jarvis (Carolina Hurricanes) and Jaydon Dureau (Tampa Bay Lightning). O’Brien finds himself with a “B” rating on the NHL’s Central Scouting ‘Players to Watch’ list, meaning he is currently seen as a second or third-round pick. He finished the season with 14 goals and 16 assists over 55 games.
Seth Jarvis found himself with the same rating on the list last year and found himself selected 13th overall after having an outstanding ‘19-’20 season and with a great season, O’Brien may just find himself following the same path to the first round.
Manitoba native Tyson Kozak finds himself on this list with a “C” rating, meaning he’s currently seen as being drafted in the fourth round or later. Kozak scored 13 goals and added 16 assists in 63 games as a rookie in ’19-’20 and could climb most scouting lists with a strong ‘20-’21 season. With an increase in responsibility during the coming season, he may just have the perfect opportunity.
Swiss-born forward Simon Knak has dropped from a “B” rating on last year’s list to a “C” rating this year. However, don’t let that fool you. With a second season in North America, we may just see him improve his standing in scout’s eyes as well. Knak is currently playing in the Swiss National League with HC Davos. His rookie season in the WHL saw him finish with 9 goals and 25 assists in 49 games played. Should he have a similar sophomore season and stay healthy for the entire season, Knak will see a sharp increase in his stock for the 2021 Draft.
Unlisted 2021 Draft hopefuls
Jonas Brondberg and Robbie Fromm-Delorme made the list last year and are noticeably missing this year. Both will be fighting to make it back on the scouting radar during the season.
Fellow Winterhawks James Stefan, Gabe Klassen, Kade Nolan, Kurtis Smythe, Clay Hanus, Kishaun Gervais, and Dante Giannuzzi are all also eligible for selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. You certainly can’t count any of them out. With a late start to the season and all of the regular-season games being against US Division teams, anything can happen leading up to the 2021 Draft.
With the WHL set to return on January 8th, 2021 it will have been exactly ten months since their last game if they get one of the first games.
Which Winterhawk do you think will make the biggest jump in the draft rankings this season?