The NHL Central Scouting preliminary rankings came out with Trail Smoke Eaters forward Kent Johnson projected to go in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Photo: Jim Bailey.

The NHL Central Scouting preliminary rankings came out with Trail Smoke Eaters forward Kent Johnson projected to go in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Photo: Jim Bailey.

Former Smoke Eater forward projected to go in first round of NHL 2021 draft

Trail Smoke Eaters alumnus Kent Johnson received an ‘A’ Grade from NHL Central Scouting

As expected, Trail Smoke Eaters forward Kent Johnson is projected to go high in the 2021 NHL Draft.

According to NHL Central Scouting’s Players-to-Watch list released Tuesday, Johnson received an ‘A’ Grade, as one of 31 2003 and late-2002 born players expected to go in the first round.

Johnson is in the Top-10 of most hockey pundits lists, and was ranked as high as no. 4 by He is currently in Ann Arbor, awaiting the start of the NCAA Div. 1 season this month at the University of Michigan.

“The draft is in the back of your mind,” Johnson, told The Province. “Mostly, I’m thinking about my team right now. I’m really excited that we’re going to start playing games.

“I feel really lucky to be in the spot that I’m in. The training has been awesome. I feel like I’m getting better here.”

At age 17, the Port Moody native led the BCHL in scoring last season, walking away with BCHL MVP and Top Scorer honours, as well as the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Top Forward award after tallying 41 goals and 101 points in 52 games.

“Johnson is a fast, extremely skilled forward that lit up the BCHL in scoring last season,” noted “He has elite level hands and puck-handling ability and can make dazzling offensive plays.”

A six-foot-one, 165-pound left-handed shot, Johnson is the lone prospect from the BCHL to be given the ‘A’ grade, as a potential first round pick. However, B prospects, players projected to go in round 2 or 3, included Penticton Vees defenceman Jack Bar and Chilliwack Chiefs forward Ayrton Matino.

Defencemen Charles-Alexis Legault of the West Kelowna Warriors, Jason Marsella and Owen Murray of the Vees, and forwards Sasha Teleguine of the Chiefs and Finlay Williams of the Vees are ‘C’ prospects, slated to go in the third round or later.

“At this point in the evaluation process and considering the lack of a summer scouting season, it’s much too early to identify a strength for the 2021 draft class other than to state that there are a number of good prospects at every position,” director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. “There is no Alexis Lafreniere-type prospect with a clear lead as a consensus No. 1.”

The University of Michigan plays in the NCAA Div. 1 Big Ten Conference and scheduled to begin a 24-game season starting as early as Nov. 13.

The Wolverines will be a force to be reckoned with when they do take to the ice, as along with Johnson there are two other freshmen Wolverines with an ‘A’ rating in forward Matthew Beniers and highly touted defenceman Owen Power.

Johnson joins most recent Smoke Eaters draftees Seth Barton who was selected by the Detroit Red Wings 81st overall in the third round of the 2018 Draft, and Kale Howarth taken in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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