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2021 NHL Draft: Zach Dean is a lean, mean two-way machine

QMJHL center is speedster with the skills to be a top producer.

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Gatineau Olympiques v Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Zach Dean — or Zachary if you’re feeling spicy — has everything you are looking for in a high-floor forward; blinding speed, able to process the game at a high level, a workhorse, and can be trusted to play the game at both ends of the ice.

Originally from the metropolis of Grand Prairie, Alberta, Dean spent the last couple of seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. Sporting the ‘A’ this past season, Dean established himself as a top option on both the powerplay and penalty kill. While his offensive production is underwhelming for a top prospect — 20 points in 23 games — it’s still nothing to sneeze at.

Six feet tall and 176 pounds, Dean has learned to use his size and speed to control and protect the puck. As his frame fills out and he grows into his lanky frame, his unique combination of skill and speed will be the key to making the jump to the next level.

Pre-Draft Rankings

#21 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

#15 by Elite Prospects

#22 by Craig Button/TSN

#42 by Dobber Prospects

#38 by Scott Wheeler/The Athletic

What Scouts are Saying

Dean is a solid two-way center who displays a high work rate and plays at a breakneck pace. He supports the play well and is a deft puck thief who is able to set up his teammates for quick strike opportunities off of turnovers. Dean has good puck handling skills, he is equally comfortable making plays on his forehand or backhand, and though he sometimes skates himself into pressure, he is often able to dish the puck into space for a teammate after drawing defenders toward him. His speed and pace of play puts opposing defenders on their heels at the junior level but Dean could benefit from learning to slow the game down a bit and let things come to him on occasion.

- Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects

It’s impossible to dislike the way Dean plays hockey. He works his tail off, he’s always applying pressure without the puck defensively, he’s always in motion with or without the puck offensively, he plays on the inside of the ice, and he can be trusted in all situations. That’s his foundation. Then on top of that, he’s got fast hands, he’s one of the better puck transporters through the neutral zone in the draft, he’s a fluid skater, and he likes to drive a line. I’m not sure how high his ceiling is but he makes things happen and there are a lot of people in the sport who think he’s going to be a good NHLer.

- Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

Dean plays at a breakneck pace, stacking his skill as a handler and a passer on top of his skating ability to make plays without a moment’s hesitation. His hands work independent of his feet, with his top arm free from his side, pushed out well in front of him to grant him as much manoeuvrability as possible. If you get open, he’ll get you the puck. It’s just that simple.

- EliteProspects 2021 NHL Draft Guide

Would He Fit In With The Wild?

Culturally, I don't think there is a better fit out there—a two-way centre with speed, experience and effectiveness in all situations. Throw in a dash of making things happen to those around him, and I don’t think you could find a front office that doesn’t love Zach Dean and the way he plays.

Could The Wild Get Him?

Color me shocked if Dean falls beyond the top 20. While his potential ceiling is considerably lower than even those ranked behind, Dean seems like a can’t fail prospect. There’s a lot to love about his game, and the raw tools seem like a perfect fit for the NHL in its current iteration and where it will be in the future.

A Minnesota Relation

He wasn’t a member of the Wild for very long, but Dean reminds me so much of Matt Cullen. While the former St. Cloud alum was mostly seen as a penalty kill/face-off specialist in his twilight years, Cullen was an effective and productive player at the height of his powers.

A reliable producer of 35-40 points for the bulk of his career, Cullen was a key contributor on three Stanley Cup-winning teams; 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes and back-to-back Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015-17.

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)
  20. Fyodor Svechkov — C, Togliatti (VHL)
  21. Brennan Othmann — LW, EHC Olten (SL)
  22. Zach Bolduc — C, Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)
  23. Xavier Bourgault — C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
  24. Olen Zellweger — D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
  25. Isak Rosén — LW/RW, Leksands IF (SHL)
  26. Zachary L’Heureux — C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
  27. Nikita Chibrikov — LW/RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
  28. Matthew Samoskevich — C, Chicago Steel (USHL)
  29. Francesco Pinelli — C, HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)/Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
  30. Samu Tuomaala — RW, Kärpät (Liiga)
  31. Daniil Chayka — D, CSKA (KHL)
  32. Sebastian Cossa — G, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
  33. Zach Dean — C, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)