For the Calgary Flames, the upcoming 2021 NHL Entry Draft marks a big item on their priority list. For the first time since 2016, the Flames may either win the lottery, or pick somewhere between 11th and 13th, depending on the outcome of their last game.
Between now and the draft, we will be breaking down any prospect who might end up being selected with the Flames first pick, based on our consolidated top 100 prospect rankings. We’ll look at players projected to go in the top 20, as any of them might be available by the time the Flames make their pick.
The notable exception is Matthew Beniers, who is projected to go top three by every major outlet. Because of this, he has been left off our profile list, unless the Flames manage to win the lottery.
For our second profile, we are taking a look at Dylan Guenther, a high-scoring forward out of the WHL, projected by many to be the first player picked from any Canadian junior league.
Who is Dylan Guenther?
Guenther is a Canadian winger, born in Edmonton on April 10th, 2003. He has played all of his junior hockey for northern Albertan teams, from his start in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) to his current team, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.
He has also spent time on loan playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) this season, when the WHL season was paused due to COVID, and wrapped up his season with Team Canada at the Under-18 world championship in Texas.
Perhaps most importantly to Flames fans, he is a right-shot right wing, although he is capable of playing either side. He measures in at 6’1″ tall and 181 pounds.
Dylan Guenther’s on-ice production
There’s more to why he could be a good pick for the Flames than his position. On top of playing the position at which the Flames are currently weakest, he also brings some serious goal scoring abilities.
|2018-19||D-1||CCSHL U18||Northern Alberta X-Treme Prep||28||32||26||58||N/A|
|2019-20||D-2||WHL||Edmonton Oil Kings||58||26||33||59||25.2|
|2020-21||D-3||WHL||Edmonton Oil Kings||12||12||12||24||49.5|
Over the last few years, Guenther has mostly played for the Oil, Kings, but as mentioned he has also spent time recently with Team Canada, where he put up four goals and three assists in seven games, and the AJHL, where he scored three goals and two assists in four games.
Previously, in the 2019-20 season, he got off to a slow start in his WHL rookie season (although he had played a eight games previously, he still qualified as a rookie). But after putting up just four points in his first ten games, he went on to score 55 in the remaining 48 games he played, earning the WHL’s Rookie of the Year honours.
This season, in a small sample size, it looks like he took another big step, scoring a goal per game. It’s hard to compare statistics from this shortened season to other complete seasons, but it’s clear his development took a big step forward. This season, he led the WHL in points per game, narrowly beating out underage phenom Connor Bedard for that honour.
Projected in our consolidated rankings to be picked fifth overall, Guenther’s point totals compare well with recent high end forward picks out of WHL. Picked third overall two years ago, Kirby Dach put up 73 points in 62 games in his draft year. In 2017, Cody Glass put up 94 points in 69 games.
While his points per game would have surely dropped over the course of a full length season, based on the sample we do have, it seems like Guenther could be one of the top forwards to come out of the WHL in recent memory.
Dylan Guenther’s Strengths
Guenther is a fairly well-rounded player, but his strengths clearly lie on the offensive side of the game. Scouts are impressed with his shot, and also his passing and playmaking. In particular, he is known for his quick release. Here’s an example of him victimizing the Medicine Hat Tigers with it.
And again here against Switzerland at the U18s:
He can definitely shoot with the best of them, but that’s not the only way he scoring goals. He has a deadly one-timer, and is good at finding open space to utilize it. This goal scoring ability is rightly what has fans and scouts most excited, but his playmaking is high-quality too.
He excels at making long cross seam passes, finding open teammates with ease in the offensive zone. He has a tendency to draw defenders towards him before dishing out passes, an important skill for creating passing lanes.
Here, watch as Guenther (#11) waits for the defender to commit to him before dishing cross seam to give his line mate an easy tap-in. The lane across opened because of his patience in waiting for the defender to make a mistake.
Dylan Guenther’s areas of improvement
As mentioned, Guenther plays a fairly complete game, but he can struggle on the defensive side of the puck. One critique is that while he is willing to get into lanes to block shots and passes, he has a tendency to leave the zone early to look for offense, a tendency fairly common in high end offensive talents in junior.
Something else that could help him take his game to the next level would be adding some weight to his frame. He already plays a style that drives opponents crazy, but if he could fill out a bit he could become even more dangerous.
With some added strength, he could become even more difficult to defend as added strength and size would allow him to have an even stronger ability to protect the puck. At just 18, he has plenty of time to work on this.
Fit with the Flames
A right-shot right wing known for scoring goals? Yeah, I think we can find a place for him in Calgary. Not only are the Flames sorely lacking a top end right wing right now, the number of prospects at the position in the system is not very inspiring.
Guenther would immediately become the Flames top prospect, at the position they need the most. Not to mention, for a team that struggles to score goals, adding a player with Guenther’s goal scoring ability makes a lot of sense.
He may not be immediately ready to play in the NHL, but he’s knocking at the door, and with his skillset, the opportunity should be there for him sooner rather than later if he is picked by the Flames.
Guenther is projected do go in the top ten of the 2021 NHL draft, with some outlets ranking him as high as second overall and others as low as eighth. He is expected to be the first CHL forward selected.
His best attribute is his quick release, but his one timer and ability to get to the net make him a versatile goal scorer with a high ceiling. This past season, playing on a strong Oil Kings team, he put up a goal and an assist per game, improving upon an excellent rookie season the year prior.
Guenther is no one-trick pony. Far from being a one-dimensional goal scorer, Guenther is a strong passer. His ability to draw in defenders before sending out passes to teammates is an important skill for creating offense in the NHL.
Although he is considered to have a bit too slight of a frame right now, that can easily be worked on. With a bit of lottery luck, or if he falls further than our rankings predict, he could be a great pick up for the Flames.
Projection: Top six scorer
The Win Column 2021 NHL Draft Profiles:
Featured image created with Venngage.