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2021 NHL Draft: Corson Ceulemans is an awkward pick

The solid defenseman is projected to go in the middle of the first.

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2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championships - Final Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

There’s one every single NHL Entry Draft. A skater that has a higher ranking and reputation around the class than a lot of smaller scouts with less of a voice think is warranted. Whether it has been Michael Rasmussen, Lawson Crouse, Griffin Reinhart, or some other player with some size that doesn’t really translate to the professional level, teams will take these players in the first round and then regret it after a couple years when they are struggling in the minors. I’m not saying that Corson Ceulemans is going to be a let down, but seemingly every scout that has a take on him, is that he will get selected higher than he is ranked because that’s just how the proverbial NHL cookie crumbles.

The general feeling with the righty blueliner is that he has some tools present in his game, but the execution will need a lot of work. His skating has awkward mechanics, but that can be fixed and is a common enough problem with young draft-eligible players in a normal non-pandemic year. He has an incredible shot, but the timing he uses it is questionable. Somewhere hidden beneath a pile of ragged and ridged rock is a very solid NHL defenseman, it will just be up to the team that drafts him (most likely in the first round) to chisel away at the rough bits and uncover that more-than-capable defenseman.

Ceulemans will be playing for the University of Wisconsin next season, so I guess they can have their try first.

Pre-Draft Rankings

#14 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

#55 by Elite Prospects

#22 by Scott Wheeler/The Athletic

#13 by Corey Pronman/The Athletic

#42 by Dobber Prospects

What Scouts Are Saying

There’s a lot to like about Ceulemans’ package. He’s right-handed. He’s big, and sturdy, and athletic and he uses his heaviness to play a rugged style against the rush and in his own zone along the wall (though he can also settle into lackadaisical defensive posture a little too often and get caught puck-watching). He’s also capable offensively, with an attacking style which is complemented by a hard point shot (off of his snap shot and his low slap shot) and quick offensive-zone instincts through holes as they open. I do have some reservations about his game, though, including a propensity for mistakes and turnovers and some trouble with his gaps getting caught flatfooted. A strong performance at U18 worlds did help to massage some of those worries because he did a really good job playing within himself while remaining aggressive, but a bet on Ceulemans is a bet on his raw pro tools. If he can put it all together, he’ll be a very good pro defenceman.

-Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

Ceulemans’ season was cut short due to the AJHL’s pause. He was up and down during that season, but his U18 worlds was promising and his underage profile is encouraging. Ceulemans is a complete defenseman as a 6-foot-2, right-shot blueliner who is mobile, hard to play against and has offensive ability. At the AJHL level, he showed great one-on-one skill and the ability to move the puck. He kills a lot of rushes with his skating and physicality and picks off a lot of passes. At the higher levels of play I’ve watched him over the years I’ve questioned if the offense will translate at a top level, particularly the playmaking. But I see enough good things in his puck moving to think he can be a good NHL player. In a sentence, Ceulemans projects as a quality top-four NHL defenseman who could possibly be on a second power-play unit with the potential to play higher in a lineup.

-Corey Pronman, The Athletic

Ceulemans was a bit of a polarizing prospect amongst our group, with some believing in his upside and others wondering if he will ever be able to make good on it. He is a powerful skater with good size and plays an aggressive offensive game, constantly pushing the pace for his team. Ceulemans often acts as a one-man breakout and his ability to carry the puck up ice stands out. His aggressiveness can sometimes get the better of him though, and his decision-making can leave you shaking your head all too often. He plays a physical game and has the requisite skills to be an effective defender but he hasn’t been able to put it together on that side of the puck to this point. Perhaps the biggest concern is that these problems are apparent in the AJHL and it is safe to assume that they will only become more glaring as he moves on to playing against higher quality competition. A bit of a risk/reward bet, Ceulemans could develop into an exciting offensive defenceman if he ends up in the right system.

-Nick Richards, Dobber Prospects

Would He Fit In With The Wild?

For the Minnesota Wild, a team that doesn’t have a ton of young blueliners in their system, I’m sure Ceulemans would be a welcome addition to follow the progression of. With so many experienced talents on the first team and other complete pros in the minors, it would be an interesting spot for the Badgers commit to eventually turn professional. Interesting, but not the sexiest destination.

Could The Wild Get Him?

The thing is, he will probably be gone by the 21st and certainly the 25th overall selections that the Wild currently have. But also, that’s kind of making me happy. I would be worried if the Wild had a pick somewhere in the teens — suffering through a grueling season that didn’t finish with any postseason to only end up with Ceulemans as the reward.

Even if they need more defenseman in their prospect pool, it’s a little tricky to project and using those top picks on talented forwards is a much safer (and generally more exciting) bet.

A Minnesota Relation

It might be a little cruel, but with a solid shot from the point, a comparison to the once 11-goal scorer Marco Scandella is kind of applicable. Not the best name to attach to a player, but this is all for fun and games anyways. I’m sure Ceulemans might have a higher offensive ceiling than Scandella ever had, but it’s just based on vibes.

2021 NHL Draft Board

  1. Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  2. Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  3. Brandt Clarke — D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovenia)
  4. Luke Hughes — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  5. Dylan Guenther — LW/RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
  6. Simon Edvinsson — D, Frolunda (SHL)
  7. William Eklund — C/LW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
  8. Kent Johnson — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)
  9. Mason McTavish — C/W, Peterborough Petes/EHC Olten (OHL/Swiss)
  10. Carson Lambos — D, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
  11. Aatu Raty — C, Kärpät (Liiga)
  12. Chaz Lucius — C, USNTDP Juniors (USHL), U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
  13. Cole Sillinger — C, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
  14. Sasha Pastujov — LW, U.S. National U18 team (USDP)
  15. Jesper Wallstedt — G, Luleå HF (SHL)
  16. Fabian Lysell — RW, Luleå HF (SHL)
  17. Matthew Coronato — LW, Chicago Steel (USHL)
  18. Oskar Olausson — F, HV71 (HockeyAllsvenskan/Swedish)
  19. Corson Ceulemans — D, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)