2021 first-rounders poised to make a splash as AHL rookies

Brandt Clarke (Photo: Mike Zitek)

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

It’s another deep collection of incoming AHL rookies this season, a group that comes complete with a class full of NHL first-round picks.

Start with the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft, and it’s a who’s-who of young talent beginning their pro careers this season. Seven other first-rounders from that 2021 class – Simon Edvinsson (sixth overall), William Eklund (seventh), Isak Rosen (14th), Jesper Wallstedt (20th), Fabian Lysell (21st), Xavier Bourgault (22nd) and Oskar Olausson (28th) – were full-time regulars in the AHL last season.

Here’s a look at those incoming 2021 draftees:

Brandt Clarke, D – Ontario (eight overall, Los Angeles)
Clarke got a taste of the pros last season, collecting two assists in nine games with the Kings along with a goal and an assist in five games with the Reign. He returned to Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League and lit it up, piling up 23 goals and 61 points in only 31 games to earn First All-Star Team honors in both the OHL and the Canadian Hockey League.

With the 20-year-old defenseman now eligible for full-time play in the AHL, the Kings are electing to give him a heavy workload with Ontario. One thing already is for sure: Clarke has shown no hesitation in his willingness to shoot the puck as a pro. His 16 shots on goal through two contests lead the AHL, and 10 of them came in Ontario’s season opener. He connected for his first goal of the season on Sunday.

Dylan Guenther, F – Tucson (ninth overall, Arizona)
Knowing how to put the puck in the net will get a prospect drafted, but knowing how to play two-way hockey will keep that prospect in the NHL. The AHL is where talented shooters have a chance to grow and then round out their play away from the puck.

Arizona gave Guenther a look in 33 NHL games last season, and he provided 15 points before going to Seattle of the Western Hockey League. He then led the WHL with 16 playoff goals in 19 games as Seattle advanced all the way to the Memorial Cup final. His goal and assist helped Tucson to a 2-1 win in Texas on Saturday.

So we know that the 20-year-old forward knows how to find the net. A case could have been made to keep Guenther on the NHL roster, but the Coyotes want him to take to be a go-to player in Tucson before he becomes an NHL mainstay.

Tyler Boucher, F – Belleville (10th overall, Ottawa)
Senators brass is eager to see this 20-year-old power forward hit the ice: Boucher did not suit up for Ottawa during the preseason after a minor injury during fitness testing, according to Belleville head coach David Bell.

When Boucher is ready to go, he will try to make up for lost time. A shoulder injury ended his 2022-23 season after just 21 games with Ottawa of the OHL, although he did manage to deliver 17 points, including 10 goals, before being shut down for surgery.

Sebastian Cossa, G – Grand Rapids (15th overall, Detroit)
Go play.

That’s what Cossa did last season with Toledo, Detroit’s ECHL affiliate, appearing in 46 games. The Red Wings now want him to take the next step in Grand Rapids, where he struggled with 13 goals against in seven periods of work last year.

At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Cossa certainly fills a net at any level. The 20-year-old turned in a 41-save season debut on Saturday in a 5-2 victory over Colorado.

Brennan Othmann, F – Hartford (16th overall, New York Rangers)
Othmann could not have drawn up a better pro debut than the one he had Friday night in Providence. The 20-year-old forward struck twice on the power play, his second one coming with 2:41 left in regulation, as the Wolf Pack pulled out a 3-2 shootout victory. A night later at Springfield, he added an assist.

Othmann played 56 games in the OHL between Flint and Peterborough last season, finishing with 67 points (29 goals, 38 assists) before a 25-point postseason helped to carry Peterborough to the Memorial Cup semifinal. Forward Will Cuylle stuck with the Rangers out of training camp after spending most of last season with Hartford; now the Rangers will look for Othmann to take that same path.

Zachary Bolduc, F – Springfield (17th overall, St. Louis)
Bolduc, 20, completed an excellent four-season run in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with a 50-goal, 110-point campaign for Quebec in 2022-23 before churning out 19 points in 18 games of postseason action and winning the Memorial Cup with the Remparts.

The forward quickly got to work for the Thunderbirds, notching his first pro goal in a 4-3 win over Providence on Sunday.

Chaz Lucius, F – Manitoba (18th overall, Winnipeg)
Lucius turned pro after a season at the University of Minnesota and logged 12 games with the Moose before going off to the IIHF World Junior Championship, winning a bronze medal with Team USA. He was assigned to Portland of the Western Hockey League after the tournament, but played only six games before shoulder surgery ended his season.

Now Lucius has a chance to settle in with the Moose, and to do so with Winnipeg management watching closely. They saw him pitch in a goal and an assist in two games over opening weekend for Manitoba.

Fedor Svechkov, F – Milwaukee (19th overall, Nashville)
The Milwaukee-to-Nashville path has been a well-worn route to the NHL.

Svechkov, 20, got 27 games of experience in the Kontinental Hockey League last season with Spartak Moscow, and won a championship with second-division club Khimik Voskresensk. Svechkov began his North American career with two assists in Milwaukee’s 2-1 overtime win at Chicago on Saturday.

Mackie Samoskevich, F – Charlotte (24th overall, Florida)
Samoskevich, 20, broke camp with the Panthers and appeared in two games before they sent him to Charlotte earlier today. The forward turned pro late last season after amassing 43 points in 39 games and winning a Big Ten title at the University of Michigan. He played nine games – seven of them in the Calder Cup Playoffs – for Charlotte and collected a total of six assists.

Florida wants Samoskevich playing, and Charlotte’s schedule will afford ample opportunity to do that. This Saturday will see the Checkers start a run of five games in eight nights.

Corson Ceulemans, D – Cleveland (25th overall, Columbus)
Part of an ever-growing impressive cache of young defenseman in the Columbus organization, Ceulemans was able to get a late-season sample of the AHL as the Monsters tried to chase down a playoff berth last spring.

After two seasons at the University of Wisconsin, the 20-year-old Ceulemans went into the summer with 13 AHL games behind him. Assigned to the Monsters coming out of training camp, he is joined by fellow rookie Stanislav Svozil, a third-round pick, as key young talent on the Cleveland back end.

Carson Lambos, D – Iowa (26th overall, Minnesota)
Lambos captained his hometown Winnipeg WHL club to a 115-point finish last season, tops in the league. Part of a remarkably deep group of prospects with that club, the defenseman ended up with 48 points in 61 games.

Zachary L’Heureux, F – Milwaukee (27th overall, Nashville)
Count on L’Heureux to bring plenty of physical – and feisty – play to the Milwaukee roster this season. A very sturdy forward, the 20-year-old also showed quite a scoring touch with Halifax of the QMJHL last season. Following up on 42 points in 33 regular-season games, his 26 points in 20 playoff games tied him for fourth in the league.

Chase Stillman, F – Utica (28th overall, New Jersey)
Stillman, the son of long-time NHL forward and AHL All-Star Cory Stillman, joined Othmann on Peterborough’s long spring run through the OHL playoffs and into the Memorial Cup tournament. The 20-year-old forward picked up 48 points in 59 games during the regular season as well.

Zach Dean, F – Springfield (30th overall, Vegas; acquired by St. Louis)
Dean was the price that the Golden Knights had to pay to acquire Ivan Barbashev for their eventual Stanley Cup championship run. After 70 points in 50 QMJHL games with Gatineau, the 20-year-old forward tied L’Heureux in league playoff scoring, racking up 26 points in only 13 games.

Logan Mailloux, D – Laval (31st overall, Montreal)
Mailloux’s 25 goals in 59 games with London led all OHL defenseman in 2022-23. Now the 20-year-old joins an impressive group of young prospects that the Canadiens have stationed with Laval to open the season.

Nolan Allan, D – Rockford (32nd overall, Chicago)
Another blueliner will round out this group of 2021 first-rounders. Allan, 20, starred with Prince Albert of the WHL before moving over to Seattle last season. The move paid off for the club, as he had two goals in five games at the Memorial Cup and won a spot on the tournament’s all-star team.