While the 2021 NHL entry draft isn't viewed as being as deep as the 2020 class, as with Alexis Lafreniere last season, there appears to be a consensus No. 1 - Michigan's Owen Power. The Wolverines freshman defenceman didn't look out of place playing with the men at the IIHF world championship, winning a gold medal skating for Canada, playing in the top defensive pairing. Power is almost certainly going to the Buffalo Sabres.
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Charlie McAvoy – Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy made his pro hockey debut in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the NHL playoffs, lacing up the skates against the Ottawa Senators. The Boston Bruins didn’t win the series, but they discovered that McAvoy looks like the real deal. Charlie contributed three points during the six-game series, including a pair of power play assists.
What boggles the mind is the amount of time Charlie spent on ice. Coach Claude Julien didn’t hesitate to lean on McAvoy, sending the rookie defenseman over the boards for an average of 26:12 per game. Trusting those minutes to someone playing their very first games in the NHL reveals a high ceiling for Charlie.
Reports suggest that the Bruins will feature McAvoy alongside Torey Krug as their top defensive pairing to begin the season. NHL observers tend to note his strong skating and calm demeanor, which make him the top pick for rookie of the year before the season begins.
Juuse Saros – Nashville Predators
Another NHL rookie with Stanley Cup experience under his belt, Juuse Saros will challenge his Finnish teammate for status as the unquestioned number one goaltender over the next couple of years. Pekka Rinne’s still a terrific goalie, but he’s getting on in years and carries an expensive cap hit of $7 million per season.
During his brief stint in Nashville, Saros has showed why he’s considered one of the top young goaltending prospects in the NHL. Despite his relatively moderate height of 5’11”, Juuse covers the net well via excellent lateral movement while flashing a quick glove hand. Saros earned a shutout and a .922 save percentage in 22 games, superb numbers for a first-year backup.
If Saros ends up with 50 starts because of injury or ineffective play on behalf of Rinne, he could produce the type of stats that garner a pile of Calder votes.
Josh Ho-Sang – New York Islanders
Josh Ho-Sang is one of the most talented young forwards in the NHL, with the potential to become a top winger for the New York Islanders. He has great size, a quick first step and a slapper with laser-like accuracy. Unfortunately, Josh dealt with a lot of naysayers during his junior career, despite consistently producing with every team.
He had a chance to hit the ice in the NHL late last year, acquitting himself well by scoring four goals and ten points in 21 games. During his last year in the OHL, he collected 82 points in 50 games, and continued producing in the playoffs, notching six goals and 26 points in 17 games.
Perhaps more important, John Tavares hasn’t lined up with fast, skilled wingers during his tenure with the Islanders, and Josh has the tools needed to keep up with the Islanders captain. Ho-Sang might join Jordan Eberle on the top line. If Jordan repeats his disappointing last season with the Edmonton Oilers, Josh might serve as replacement on the first line.
Ho-Sang could end up enjoying a breakout year, scoring 20 goals and 50 points in his first full campaign – a tough rookie resume for most first-year players to beat.
Nico Hischier – New Jersey Devils
As the first number one overall draft pick to hail from Switzerland, Nico wants to live up to his billing by immediately contributing to the New Jersey Devils. Hischier rose quickly through the minor hockey ranks, selected sixth overall in the CHL draft before winning rookie of the year.
This lifted Nico to the top of the prospect charts, along with his superb performance at the World Junior Championships. Similar to most prospects worthy of Calder consideration, he exhibits elite offensive skills and skates like the wind. What impressed scouts the most, however, was his elite hockey sense. The Devils had a horrendous time filling the net last year, even with the addition of Taylor Hall. Nico will probably start the season on the top line along with the former Edmonton Oiler, giving him a great chance to showcase his scoring to NHL awards voters.
Dylan Strome – Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes rebuild lasted for a few years, with the front office showing patience while developing pro hockey in the desert. These prospects appear to be ready to take the next step this year, especially with the offseason addition of Derek Stepan – a top line center poached from the New York Rangers. Strome will play his first, full NHL season after developing his game in the minors. Last year, he lasted only seven in the big league.
Now, he’ll be expected to contribute his offensive skills as a potential top-six forward. He’ll get a chance to play with fellow breakout candidate Max Domi and learn veteran tricks from Stepan.
Strome responded well to the demotion, lighting up the OHL with the Erie Otters to the tune of 22 goals and 75 points in 35 games. The previous year, he scored 111 points in 56 games as an 18-year-old. This type of production should translate well to the NHL, giving Strome a good chance to earn the first Calder for the Coyotes franchise since Teemu Selanne lit up the league with the 1993 Winnipeg Jets.
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Canadian hockey fans have it made. There is no shortage of ways on how to watch the NHL. Whether it's TV stations or online streams, fans can tune in using their phones, tablets, or kick it old school by watching on television. Gone are the days where you had to go to one room and wait for one time to watch the NHL. Here are the many ways to watch the NHL in Canada.
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