We are less than a week away from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft (July 23-24), so it’s time to start researching the prospects likely to be selected in the first round. The Columbus Blue Jackets currently hold three picks in that round: #5, #24, and #31.
Team: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Date of Birth: April 11, 2003
Birthplace: Hamilton, Ontario
Ranked #24 by CONSOLIDATED RANKING
Ranked #16 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #31 by FCHOCKEY
Ranked #24 by NEUTRAL ZONE
Ranked #23 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
Ranked #25 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #24 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #15 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #29 by SPORTSNET
Ranked #25 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #12 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
Ranked #26 by DOBBERPROSPECTS
Ranked #31 by DRAFT PROSPECTS HOCKEY
Ranked #22 by SMAHT SCOUTING
Ranked #36 by THE PUCK AUTHORITY
Team: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Games Played: 59
Team: HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)
Games Played: 13
Team: Canada (U18 World Junior Championship)
Games Played: 7
Francesco Pinelli had an excellent rookie season in the OHL in 2019-20, with 41 points in 59 games. He was expected to play a bigger role in Kitchener in 2020-21, but unfortunately the OHL season was canceled. Instead, Pinelli played for a pro team in Slovenia, and was nearly a point-per-game player there. He finished his season with four goals and seven assists in just seven games at the U18 World Juniors.
His creativity and compete level would be a welcome addition to our long term center depth.
Oh, and he has an Italian last name and wears #71. It’s fate!
Pinelli’s game is archetypal of the way the game is trending. He’s a slick, creative puckhandler and facilitator who manipulates set structures to create lanes for himself, slicing pucks through and around feet and sticks. He’s also light and airy on his blades, with skating mechanics around quick cuts and adjustable edges more than straight-line power. He’s an entertaining, puck-dominant east-west player who thrives when he gets a lot of touches. And while his decision-making with the puck can be a little suspect at times (and resulted in a brief benching during his otherwise impressive U18 worlds), he’s diligent without the puck and projects as a centre long-term. - Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
Pinelli leads by example. He will to go to the dirty areas of the ice, fight for pucks, and play with a physical edge. He showed this season that he’s not afraid to throw a big hit, either. His work ethic is off the charts — he never takes a shift off.
Though he couldn’t quite string together a point streak after the one he had at the beginning of the season, Pinelli still managed to finish fourth overall in OHL rookie scoring. A natural and visionary playmaker, he uses his strong skating to draw defenders to him and open up his linemates to receive passes.
Pinelli’s shot is heavy and precise, especially when he unloads one-timers from the top of the circle on the powerplays. - LaurenKelly24, Raw Charge (from April 2020)
Skating and pace are concerns, as well as how often he’s fully engaged, but he impressed at the U18’s, shows good use of defensive angles, and is a good passer and puck support player - Eric D., On the Forecheck
Pinelli is a highly intelligent player who can make tough plays consistently. He has the small-area skills to make checkers miss and the vision to make plays off the flank and under pressure. He competes well enough to win puck battles even if he’s not overly physical. His skating is elusive, with a decent first step and ability to 10-2 around defenders, but he lacks separation speed. His toolkit doesn’t scream “first-round pick” and he’s listed higher than where my eyes think he should be due to just how much he’s shown he can score at various levels. In a sentence, Pinelli projects as a middle-six NHL forward who may frustrate a coach if he doesn’t score. - Corey Pronman, The Athletic