January NHL Draft Rankings

Now is as good a time as any to do an in-depth look and rankings of each player, and where I have them ranked in the draft. It’s a little past the midway point and with the World Junior Championship over, I’ve had a better chance to see some prospects and have some better ideas about projections. Here are my January 2020 Draft Rankings.

1. W Alex Lafreniere (Previously: #1)

The MVP of the World Junior Championship for Canada, Lafreniere answered any questions I had as to why he should be ranked number one. Even with a knee injury that had him miss a few games, Lafreniere showed physical maturity that will make him NHL ready next season. He also showed vision and creativity. On a team full of already drafted first-rounders, Lafreniere stood out time and time again. He is still the front runner to be the first pick in June.

2. C Quinton Byfield (#2)

Byfield was also on Canada’s World Junior roster, but he played a limited role. Byfield, a natural center, played the wing primarily and played in mostly a fourth-line role. Lafreniere is the older player by almost a year, and it definitely looked the case throughout the tournament. However, Byfield did show a few flashes of why scouts are so high on him. Some believe his World Junior performance should drop his stock, but I am not of that belief. The tournament is a 19 year old’s tournament in many respects, and Byfield didn’t look out of place as a 17-year-old. His combination of skating, size, and skill is extremely rare. He is still firmly cemented in the number two slot for me heading into the second half of the season.  

3. C Tim Stutzle (#4)

I loved Stutzle’s game before the World Juniors, but his performance there made me even more of a believer. Stutzle played for Germany and was their top-line center. He plays with tremendous pace, puck-control, and possession. He plays a similar game to the New York Islanders’ Matt Barzal. Stutzle is aggressive in the offensive zone and has elite vision and playmaking ability. He has moved up my list steadily this season and is now a legitimate top-five pick in my opinion. 

4. C Marco Rossi (#3)

I was high on Rossi at the beginning of the season, and that sentiment hasn’t changed. Rossi has been on a torrid pace in the OHL, and that has continued as the season has gone on. He has one of the highest point-per-game averages in the CHL this season. Rossi is small in stature, but an aggressive offensive player. He projects as more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. Rossi did not participate in the World Juniors due to his country of origin not qualifying.

5. W Lucas Raymond (#5)

Raymond scored the game-winning goal for Sweden last year at the World Juniors as a 16-year-old. Expectations for him coming into the tournament were high. He may not have performed as dominantly as some would have liked, but he still showed why he is likely a top 10 pick in June. Raymond possesses excellent offensive instincts and elite hands. He hasn’t been playing top minutes for his team in Sweden this year, but he is playing in Sweden’s top league and hasn’t looked out of place.

6. C Anton Lundell (#7)

Lundell was injured and missed the World Junior Championship, where he would have likely played a major role for Finland. Lundell boasts a strong two-way game and excellent offensive skills. He looks like a sure thing as a top-six forward.

7. D Jamie Drysdale (#10)

Drysdale showed why he is in the discussion for the top 10 in this year’s draft after a solid World Junior Championship as a 17-year-old. Drysdale started as Canada’s 7th defender in the tournament but found himself in a more prominent role at times due to illness and injury. He’s an elite skater with strong puck skills, much coveted assets in today’s NHL. Recency bias aside, Drysdale has put up decent numbers in the OHL this season as well. His stock is climbing a bit heading into the second half of the season.

8. C/W Cole Perfetti (#9)

Perfetti was invited to Canada’s camp for the World Junior Championship but didn’t make the final cut. This isn’t a knock on him, considering it’s rare for 17-year-olds to make a deep Canada squad. His offense has been increasing, and he has been on a tear as of late in the OHL. Perfetti is a really smart offensive player with great hands and natural goal-scoring ability. He’s on pace for over 100 points in the OHL this season and is in the top 10 discussion.

9. G Yaroslav Askarov (#8)

Askarov has had a solid overall season and continues to be one of the best goaltending prospects the NHL has seen in a while. He also made the Russian World Junior squad and managed to start 5 games as a 17-year-old. Askarov had a pretty abysmal save percentage and at times looked a bit overwhelmed, but he also showed strong positioning and athleticism and the flashes of brilliance he has become known for. He is still far and away the best goaltending prospect in this draft.

10. W Alexander Holtz (#6)

Holtz had a decent World Junior tournament, putting up 3 goals in the tournament. Holtz is a goal scorer through and through. He has an NHL ready release and finds ways to get open. His production has been okay but not great in Sweden this year. There’s no doubting his talent, and goal scorers are usually a bit streaky in their production, but seeing a bit more consistency in his game overall could bump him up my list.

11. W Dawson Mercer (#13)

Mercer’s stock has been climbing this season, and that continued with a surprise spot on Canada’s World Junior squad. While he played limited minutes in an extra forward and fourth-line role, Mercer showed great speed and pace. He has quick hands and isn’t afraid to aggressively attack the net. He looks like a top-six forward.

12. C Connor Zary (#12)

Centers are always coveted come draft time, and Zary is as creative as they come. With 48 points in 35 games, Zary uses his speed and creativity to create offense. He plays with great pace and has excellent hockey sense. His stock has been climbing this season as well, and he is just outside my top 10.

13. C/W Noel Gunler (#14)

Gunler has been a bit of an analytics darling over the past year or so. He’s a player that plays a strong possession game and uses his frame well to keep control of the puck in the offensive zone. In the past, Gunler has shown goal scoring ability and instincts, though that has been a bit of a struggle for him in the Swedish Hockey League this year. He has only one goal this season.

14. C Dylan Holloway (#16)

Holloway is one of the youngest players in the NCAA, where he plays for a loaded Wisconsin team. He has struggled a bit to produce offensively, but that isn’t a huge concern given his age and the fact that it’s his first year in the league. Holloway projects as a two-way center type at the NHL level.

15. W Radion Amirov (#11)

Amirov is a fun player, but also one that’s hard to project. Russian prospects of his age can be hard to get a read on, especially because of how often they jump around league. Amirov is a slick, skilled winger that looks like a top-six type. He’s a player to keep an eye on.

16. D Jeremy Poirier (#15)

This is a weaker draft for defenders, and Poirier is my front-runner in the next set of defenders available. Playing for Saint John in the QMJHL, Poirier is your typical modern defender. He has an excellent first pass and can run a power play. Overall, he looks like a top-four defender with offensive upside.

17. C Jacob Perreault (#21)

Perreault is a player I’ve liked for a while, and my appreciation for him has continued as the season has gone on. Perreault is a small, highly skilled center. He is silky smooth with the puck and projects as a top-six forward. 

18. D Lucas Cormier (#24)

Cormier is another small skilled defender who is likely to go in the first round. Cormier is just under a point-per-game in the Quebec League. He uses his speed and quick feet to move out of traffic areas quickly. He looks like he projects as a top-four at the NHL level.

19. C/W Antonio Stranges (#19)

Stranges is a bit of a polarizing prospect, but I’m a fan. Stranges’ skating ability is unique and yet elite. He uses his edges in some crazy ways, similarly to Buffalo Sabres’ forward Jeff Skinner. Stranges’ offensive production has been erratic, but he stands out as one that can create something out of nothing because of his unique skill set. 

20. C/W Jan Mysak (#18)

Mysak made the Czech World Junior team and managed two points in 5 games as an under-ager. Overall, he had a pretty quiet tournament, but that isn’t surprising given his name. Mysak has struggled to produce a bit in the Czech league but recently signed with Hamilton in the OHL. Seeing him play against players his age versus significantly older guys may give us a better grasp as to his ceiling as an NHL player. He looks like a potential top-six forward, but time will tell.

21. C Hendrix Lapierre (#17)

Lapierre started the season closer to my top 10 after a stand out under-18 tournament. He looked like a contender for a top ten spot, but after some injuries and struggles to produce, he is likely to drop in the draft. I’m not necessarily that less high on Lapierre, but other players have just climbed overall due to their progression this season. Lapierre seems like a hit or miss type. If it all comes together for him, he could be a top-six forward. 

22. C Mavrik Bourque (NR)

Bourque is the modern two-way center of our day. He boasts a strong offensive skill set and also strong defensive instincts.

23. C/W Zion Nybeck (#23)

Nybeck is a small skilled winger, who uses his agility and edges to create offensive opportunities. He’s only listed at 5’8″, but that has limited effect on his upside. He looks like a second-line offensive winger.

24. W Seth Jarvis (#25)

Some have soured a bit on Jarvis, but I’m still a fan. Jarvis looks like a top six goal-scoring winger. He appears a bit one dimensional, but his natural ability is undeniable. Jarvis loves to score off the rush and has a great release.

25. D Jake Sanderson (#22)

Sanderson has been up and down my list this season a bit. Like others, this is more due to others jumping up than him doing anything to make him “drop.” Also, the more I watch Sanderson, the more he looks like a two-way defender but with limited offensive upside. He’s a great skater and smart in all zones, but doesn’t look like a big point producer.

26. D Justin Barron (#20)

Barron fell victim to a blood clot and may miss the rest of the season. This will likely hurt his stock, especially considering his offense took a dip a bit before the injury. Barron still looks like a potential top four to me.

27. C Brendan Brisson (NR)

Brisson has been a fairly easy transition to regular duty in the USHL as a draft-eligible. The son of Pat Brisson (Crosby’s agent), Brisson boasts a big frame, excellent skating ability, and strong hockey sense. Brisson loves when the puck is on his stick and uses the center of the ice to his advantage. He looks like a potential number two center. 

28. D Emil Andrae (NR)

I’ve gone back and forth a bit on Andrae in my top 31 (on the list at #31 in November, outside my top 31 in December), but the more I’ve seen, the more I’ve liked. Andrae looks like an Erik Bannstrom type defender. Small and skilled, quick on his feet, Andrae uses his skill set to move the puck out of traffic and set up plays in the offensive zone. He looks like a top-four defender. 

29. C/W Carter Savoie (#29)

Savoie is an intriguing prospect that I still very much like. Savoie is excellent defensively but also has dominated his league (the AJHL) offensively. He is averaging over a goal-a-game, which is unheard of in most leagues. He looks like a potential middle-six forward at the very least.

30. C Justin Sourdiff (#28)

His offense hasn’t been as great lately, but he still boasts a strong skill set. He handles the puck well in traffic and can make difficult plays in-tight. He needs better overall consistently, but he’s in the first-round conversation. 

31. D Braden Schneider (#30)

Some have Schneider closer to the top 10, but I think other defenders have higher ceilings than Schneider does. Schneider has an NHL frame and looks like more a two-way defender. The way the NHL is changing and small, quick defenders are becoming more coveted, Schneider may be more of a third-pairing guy. His skating could improve a bit, but overall, he still looks like a solid prospect who is a bubble top four defender type.