Hawks Ready for Big NHL Draft
Waterloo, Iowa - The 2021 National Hockey League Draft this Friday and Saturday will be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for more young hockey players than in any year since 2005.
The addition of the Seattle Kraken for the 2021/22 season - on top of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 - has swelled the seven-round event to 224 total picks. It's the highest number since 230 players were chosen in the 2005 NHL Draft as the result of compensatory choices that year. Waterloo Black Hawks players will likely be in contention, but after a season when scouts and talent evaluators faced unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more difficult than ever to predict how many - or which - Hawks will be drafted.
Based on NHL Central Scouting final rankings, defenseman David Gucciardi is Waterloo's strongest candidate. In May, Central Scouting placed Gucciardi 69th among eligible North American skaters. Acquired nearly two months into the season and limited late in the year due to injury, Gucciardi was still able to produce seven goals and 10 assists in just 29 appearances for the Hawks. During the month of January, the defenseman was Waterloo's leading scorer with 11 points (three goals, eight assists).
Two other Hawks players claimed a slot on the final Central Scouting chart. Forward Matt Argentina was 173rd. His season included seven goals and 12 assists over 45 games. Meanwhile, forward Carter Batchelder spent most of the winter skating for Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota but appeared in the last three games on the Hawks' schedule, notching two assists. Batchelder placed 199th in Central Scouting's assessment.
Injuries affected the 2020/21 season for veterans Jacob Jeannette and John Waldron, but before getting hurt, both were the subject of NHL interest. Jeannette was limited to 39 games with five goals and six assists. Prior to the season, Central Scouting had graded him as a "C" prospect. The same October report gave Waldron a "B" mark, the best among players on the Waterloo roster at that time. The University of Miami recruit notched one goal and six assists but did not play after January 23rd.
There is also reason to consider defenseman Cooper Wylie a potential draft prospect. Although he was never ranked by Central Scouting, Wylie was chosen to appear in the BioSteel All-American Game, which was closely scrutinized by all NHL clubs. In his first season with the Hawks, Wylie's 16 assists tied for fourth on the team. The St. Cloud State prospect produced a total of 18 points, half of them on the power play.
At least two other players who have yet to skate in Waterloo bear watching during the draft. The Black Hawks acquired goalie Patrick Hamrla and defenseman Simon Groch during May's USHL Draft. Both played in Europe last season. Hamrla is positioned third on the NHLCS list of European goaltenders, while Groch is 42nd among European prospects at other positions.
A player with ties to Waterloo has been selected in every NHL Draft since 2005, with 64 total Black Hawks chosen since 1984. In 2020, the Colorado Avalanche picked Ryder Rolston in the fifth round before the Toronto Maple Leafs claimed Wyatt Schingoethe in the seventh.
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