So, in other words, you could take a player who maybe didn’t have a great season statistically in Europe playing in men’s leagues, insert them into a tournament against players their actual age, and it can help get a better gauge on where they are currently at and what their ceiling might be in the NHL.
For this reason, my draft rankings and all draft rankings are going to seem and feel a bit incomplete.
I was counting on the Under-18’s to get in-person viewings of players I haven’t had as much of a chance to follow throughout the year. Video is going to be relied upon more than in the past for me and others throughout the scouting community.
Thanks to video, I have spent the last few months reviewing prospects and recently observing some players who have begun playing in Europe already. With the draft about three weeks away, this as close as I can get to accuracy. You will also note I have starred potential sleepers below as well.
In general, the 2020 draft is somewhat top-heavy. The top nine are an overall solid group. The rest of the draft is lacking in depth of talent in comparison to other years. For this reason, there will likely be very little movement from teams in the top ten. On the flip side, there is a likelihood of high movement between picks 11-31 in the first round. That could depend on team evaluation and how close each prospect is in both skill level and upside.
Without further adieu, here are my final rankings for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Tier 1 (High Elite NHL Prospect, Game-Breaker)
1. W Alexis Lafreniere 6’1″ 192 QMJHL 52-35-77-112-50
Lafreniere has been the consensus number one prospect for this draft for two years now. This season, he has shown even more so why this is the case. Lafreniere has elite skill and hockey sense. He also uses his frame well to protect the puck and create offense. Whether dominating play down low or great offense off the rush, Lafreniere boasts a strong tool kit that will land him in the NHL immediately next season. He was the MVP at the World Juniors. Lafreniere has no glaring weaknesses in his game and will help the team that drafts him immediately. He appears to be a genuine NHL star with elite potential.
Tier II (Elite NHL Prospect, Game Breaking Potential)
2. C Quinton Byfield 6’4″ 215 OHL 45-32-50-82-44
Byfield is a special talent and, for most, is the consensus number two prospect in this draft. At just over 6’4″, Byfield boasts a tall, big frame. But, that isn’t the only reason why he is ranked so high. Byfield has elite hands and is an excellent skater. He was pretty quiet at the World Juniors. But that isn’t a concern for me considering he was a 17-year-old playing limited minutes for the gold medal winner Canada. Byfield’s play can be described as “powerful,” and he looks like a game-breaker. He is fun to watch and looks like a top-six center at the NHL level. Due to his physical maturity, he may be in the NHL next season.
Tier III (Low Elite NHL Prospect, Top Six Forward/Top Pairing D/#1 Goalie Potential)
3. C Tim Stutzle 6’0″ 165 DEL 41-7-27-34-12
One of my favorite players in this draft, Stutzle plays with a high level of pace, similar to that of the Islanders’ Matt Barzal. Playing against men in Germany, Stutzle has looked dominant at times and has kept up every step of the way. He is an elite skater and is excellent at zone entries. Stutzle is creative and looks like a high-end playmaker. He plays with a high level of competitiveness and is tenacious when attacking with the puck. Stutzle can play center or wing, though it is likely most NHL teams would love for him to turn into a top-six center. He may find himself in the NHL next season thanks to his pro experience.
4. C Marco Rossi 5’9″ 180 OHL 56-39-81-120-40
Rossi is a small-skilled forward and one of the older players available in this draft, which may explain some of his high point totals. Regardless of this, however, Rossi has shown an elite skill set and ability to put up points in the OHL this season, leading the league as a whole. Small and skilled, Rossi uses his strong skating and edge work to create offense. He is highly competitive and tenacious on the forecheck and with the puck. Rossi is everything you want in a player in the early first round of the draft. He looks like a top-six center with #1 center potential.
5. LW Lucas Raymond 5’11” 165 SWEHL 33-4-6-10-4
Raymond has been a tough player for me to evaluate this season. Back in November, I had him pegged as a potential top-three candidate, but he has since dropped in my evaluations. I do still think he will be an excellent NHL player, however. Raymond falls into a category of “hard to evaluate” at times because he is playing against men in Sweden. Because of this, he hasn’t put up great offensive numbers and it’s hard to determine his offensive ceiling. However, he is also a player I have been able to observe more frequently recently. He has excelled offensively at the beginning of the season and any question surrounding his offensive ability has been answered for me.
Raymond has shown flashes of the brilliance that had him in my top three to start the season. He is exceptionally dangerous off the rush and is extremely creative. The biggest red flag for him has been he has been able to do this against his peers, but not with success against older players. Raymond is young, but he will likely need some extra development time to help his overall confidence and ability to transition his tool kit to a higher level. He is arguably the best one-on-one player in the draft.
6. D Jamie Drysdale 5’11” 165 OHL 49-9-38-47-24
The 2020 draft is light on defense, but that shouldn’t impact Drysdale’s position in the top ten this year. Drysdale is one of the best skaters in the draft, regardless of position. He also didn’t look out of place for Canada at the World Juniors and showcased his ability and willingness to carry the puck into the offensive zone. Some scouts believe he isn’t going to be a rush-type defender, but I see the potential based upon his skill set alone. Overall, Drysdale’s game is well-rounded, has an excellent first pass, and is solid enough defensively. If everything comes together, he could be a first pairing defender, though he is likely a few years away from NHL duty.
7. G Yaroslav Askarov 6’3″ 180 VHL 18 2.45 .920
Evaluating goalies is difficult and past drafts have shown us there is a real risk to taking any goalie in the first round. However, if there is a player that could buck that risk, it’s Askarov. As a 17-year-old, Askarov has torn up various leagues in Russia, including getting a start in the KHL. He had difficult World Juniors, but this hasn’t hampered my opinion of him, especially considering his age.
Askarov is big, confident, and athletic. Outside of the World Juniors, he has also been consistent over the past few years. He may be the first goalie taken in the top 10 since Carey Price and the hype is warranted. Like most Russian players, he is unlikely to make the jump to North America or the NHL for at least a year or two. Askarov has the potential to be a high-end number one goalie at the NHL level.
8. RW Alexander Holtz 6’0″ 183 SWEHL 35-9-7-16-12
Similar to Raymond, I had Holtz in my top five to begin the year and I had pretty high expectations of him heading into the season. Similar to Raymond, Holtz has struggled at times in the Swedish men’s league, though he has managed to put up 9 goals. He did have an excellent World Junior Championship also, posting 3 goals as an under-ager.
Holtz is a nature goal-scorer and has one of the best shots in the draft. He finds ways to get open in traffic to create scoring opportunities. Holtz looks like a one-dimensional type player, but his goal-scoring upside is high. He looks like a top-six winger who may need another year or so of development.
9. C/W Cole Perfetti 5’10” 180 OHL 61-37-74-111-16
Perfetti began the year looking like a goal-scoring machine. As the season has progressed, he has shown just how well-rounded of a player he is. Perfetti has an excellent release, which he showed at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, and all-season in the OHL he has shown excellent playmaking ability. Some scouts are concerned with his skating, but I believe it is good enough and his tool kit (especially hockey sense) makes up for his foot speed. He looks like a top-six winger at the NHL level.
Tier IV (Medium Top 6 Forward Potential, Top Four Defenseman Potential)
10. C Seth Jarvis 5’10” 172 WHL 58-42-56-98-24
Like Perfetti, Jarvis looked great at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. He had a bit of slow start in the WHL, but he very quickly turned it around. He ended up leading the WHL in scoring from January to the present. Jarvis is small and skilled, like many forwards in this draft. He’s an excellent skater who loves to score off the rush.
Jarvis has an excellent shot and uses a variety of placements to create offense. He plays an overall well-rounded game and has a high compete level. The Portland Winterhawk has climbed in rankings throughout the year and could find himself sneaking into the top 10. He looks like a top-six winger, with goal-scoring ability at the NHL level.
11. C Anton Lundell 6’1″ 185 FIN 44-10-18-28-18
Scouts are split on Lundell’s ceiling. However, they don’t question that he is one of the most well-rounded players in the draft. Lundell doesn’t possess any specific elite qualities, but he does everything well. His best attribute is his hockey sense and on-ice intelligence. Lundell never looks the fastest or even the most skilled, but he manages to put up points. His game is so well-rounded it’s hard to imagine teams passing on him in the early stages of the first round. I think he could be a number two center at the NHL level at best. He is a “safe” pick, but he could be a very average third-line player.
12. C Connor Zary 6’0″ 180 WHL 57-38-48-86-51
Zary is a fun player to watch. He plays with a high level of compete and boasts a strong skill set. Zary has some of the best hands in the draft, especially in tight. He is a unique combination of compete and skill. Some scouts have questioned his skating, but he gets around well enough to have it not be a concern for me. He looks like a number two NHL center.
13. W Jack Quinn 6’1″ 179 OHL 62-52-37-89-32
Quinn has been a steady climber this season and his goal-scoring totals have shown his strongest asset: his shot. Quinn has scored at will in the OHL this season. There are some questions as to whether or not he is a product of playing with Marco Rossi and a handful of other strong players in Ottawa. However, his release and ability to get open to produce scoring opportunities lead me to believe he is a solid top 20 prospect. Quinn projects as a goal-scoring top-six winger at the NHL level.
14. D Jake Sanderson 6’1″ 186 USHL 19-2-12-14-8
The son of long-time NHLer Geoff, Sanderson skates like his father. Sanderson has a long stride and uses it to gain ground on attacking forwards quickly. He is also very physical and uses his frame well to rub out opposing forwards. He isn’t afraid to step up in the neutral zone and throw a big hit either.
Sanderson does everything well, but it’s his upside that has him approaching the second half of the first round for me. While his speed is uncanny and he looks like a solid two-way defender, he is unlikely to ever be a big point producer, though after some further observation I believe the tools are there. He looks like a sure thing as a second-pairing defender who can play in all situations, meaning he will likely be coveted and could even enter the top 10.
15. W Dawson Mercer 6’0″ 172 QMJHL 44-24-36-60-25
Mercer was a surprise pick for Canada at the World Juniors. He looked great in limited minutes. Mercer loves to drive the net and uses his skill and speed to create space for himself to cut from the outside-in. His offensive game is very rounded, and he plays with a high compete level and engine. Mercer has an excellent release and looks like a top-six winger at the NHL level.
16. W Rodion Amirov 6’0″ 167 KHL 21-0-2-2-4
Like Russian prospects of the past, Amirov is a hard player to project. He’s bounced around leagues quite a bit and wasn’t included on the Russian World Junior team. The Under-18’s would have been a good test to see how he compared to other players. Alas, without that possibility, past showings will have to do in evaluating him. Amirov boasts typical Russian skill and smoothness to his game. He has a high skill set and a strong hockey IQ. He loves to create offense from the circles in. Amirov could be a steal as a potential top-six forward late in the first round.
17. C Mavrik Bourque 5’10” 165 QMJHL 49-29-42-71-30
Bourque is a player that has grown on me all season, particularly due to his spike in offense. Bourque looked like a solid second or third-line center when the season started due to his excellent defensive awareness and two-way play. However, Bourque has shown that he too has a higher offensive ceiling than I once thought. Averaging well over a point per game, Bourque looks like a two-way, second-line center who can produce points as well.
*18. C/W Jan Mysak 6’0″ 180 OHL 22-15-10-25-10
Mysak made the jump to the OHL at the midway point of the season. After struggling to produce in the Czech Republic against men, I was curious to see what he could do against his peers. Mysak hasn’t disappointed. Mysak is a speedy forward who loves to create offense off the rush. He also has excellent hands and an uncanny ability to throttle his speed to confuse defenders. He is a unique player and is fearless in tight. I see him as a scoring winger at the NHL level.
*19. C/W Noel Gunler 6’1″ 170 SWEHL 45-4-9-13-16
My opinion of Gunler has changed a bit as of late. Analytics minded people tend to like him, and I did at the beginning of the year as well. However, like many players in the SWEHL this season, Gunler has struggled to produce offensively. Not only that, but he has also looked one-dimensional at times and has been just okay at international events. However, I think he does have some upside and could be a play-driver if everything comes together for him. I believe he has a higher upside than a handful of players I previously had before him, hence the bump.
20. C Dylan Holloway 6’0″ 190 NCAA 35-8-9-17-49
Holloway was a top 10 candidate heading into this season, and he is higher on many lists I’ve seen. While he plays a strong two-way game, Holloway struggled to produce at Wisconsin. And while there is a case to be made his production isn’t terrible, considering he was one of the youngest players in the NCAA, I still have a few concerns regarding his upside. Teams would be wary to take him in the top 10 unless they suspect his offense will take a big jump next season. I project him to be a middle-six forward at the NHL level.
21. C Jacob Perreault 5’11” 200 OHL 57-39-31-70-40
Scouts are all over the place on Perreault, even though he has shown he can produce offensively in the past. Perreault is a pure goal-scorer but is an above-average passer as well. His point totals suggest any question marks surrounding his offensive game and skating can be put aside. He looks, at worst, like a middle-six goal-scoring winger, and at best a top six.
Tier V (Top 9 Forward, Top 6 Defenseman Potential)
*22. C Hendrix Lapierre 6’0″ 181 QMJHL 19-2-15-17-10
Lapierre started the year on a strong note with a solid Ivan Hlinka tournament. However, he struggled to produce before a concussion ended his season earlier. He has had concussion issues in the past, which is a red flag for teams. However, when healthy, Lapierre has shown he has the tools to be a potential top-line center.
He’s highly skilled and highly intelligent and can play in all situations. His well-rounded game is what scouts fell in love with last year. However, due to a lack of early-season production and health issues, he may not be picked in the first round. His tool kit gives me hope that if healthy, he can turn into a top-two line center.
*23. D Jeremy Poirier 6’0″ 196 QMJHL 64-20-33-53-50
I liked Poirier last season, and my appreciation for his game has grown as the year has progressed. Poirier projects as an offensive defenseman, shown in particular by his ability to put up 20 goals from the back-end this season. His defensive game needs some work, and he is likely a few years away. Poirier looks like a second-pairing, offensive-minded blue-liner at the NHL level.
24. D Justin Barron 6’2″ 187 QMJHL 34-4-15-19-6
If not for a blood clot, Barron might have been higher on this list. However, even when healthy, his point totals are down a bit from what I expected at the beginning of the season. Barron, like Poirier, boasts a strong offensive game. He is an excellent skater and enjoys rushing the puck. He is unlikely to be a top pairing guy but looks like a second-pairing defender at the NHL level.
25. C Brendan Brisson 5’11” 177 USHL 45-24-35-59-50
The son of well-known agent Pat Brisson, Brendan had an excellent first full season in the USHL. Brisson is a two-way forward and an excellent skater. He loves to play the middle of the ice. He boasts excellent vision and can play in all zones. Brisson will need a few years of development, but he looks like middle-six forward at the NHL level.
*26. D Emil Andrae 5’9″ 175 SWEHL 10-0-0-0-4
Andrae has been compared by some to Erik Bannstrom of Ottawa. And while the comparison makes some sense judging by Andrae’s small stature, excellent speed, and offensive ability, Andrae likely has a lower ceiling than Bannstrom. Andrae has struggled to stay in the SWEHL, which isn’t too concerning considering his age. However, some scouts wonder if he can transition to the NHL game based upon some defensive issues. His speed helps him get out of trouble currently, and I think he will progress to be a second-pairing blue-liner who can quarterback a power play.
*27. W Zion Nybeck 5’8″ 176 SWE JR. 42-27-39-66-28
Nybeck has played this year in Sweden’s junior league and has been an offensive force. Though extremely small and lacking strength, Nybeck plays a lot bigger than he is. He is a terror off the rush and elite skater. He attacks the net relentlessly and isn’t afraid to go into hard areas on the ice. Nybeck looks like a second line, secondary scoring option.
28. D Kaiden Guhle 6’2″ 186 WHL 64-11-29-40-56
Kaiden Guhle is a player I have gone back and forth on all season. Ultimately, I have landed on the fourth on his ceiling and development. Guhle is a borderline throwback type defenseman. He is physical and excels at defending down low. I had questions surrounding his offensive ceiling and whether or not his overall game could project to at least a second-pairing defender at the NHL level. However, I do see the tools, including speed, that could land Guhle as a top-four defender if everything goes swimmingly. He is likely to go in the top 20 thanks to his physical tool kit and a lack of defensive prospects available.
*29. C Carter Savoie 5’10” 180 AJHL 54-53-46-99-62
Playing tier II junior in Alberta, Savoie has been an offensive force, averaging a goal a game for the entire season. However, it’s his two-way game that stands out. Savoie is excellent defensively and is elite at breaking up plays and anticipating coverage in his own zone. Though he is playing at a lower level than other prospects, Savoie’s high production suggests he could be a second-line NHL player who can play in all situations.
Tier VI (Medium Top 9, Top 6 Defenseman Potential)
30. C Tyson Foerster 6’1″ 194 OHL 62-36-44-80-53
Foerster has bounced around my late first-round rankings this season and made the cut as a legitimate first-round candidate. Foerster had a steady offensive season and on a rebuilding Barrie Colts squad has taken the reigns offensively speaking. He’s a center that is coveted and has decent size and strength. He projects as a middle-six forward, with second-line upside.
31. C Ridley Greig 5’11” 162 WHL 56-26-34-60-83
Greig has been a steady climber on my draft board this season. His offensive numbers also increased as the season progressed. Greig possesses excellent offensive instincts and patience. He knows when to speed up the play or slow it down. He also follows the play well in all zones and has great awareness. My biggest concern with Greig was his offensive upside, and an increase in production helps me believe he could be a second-line center at the NHL level.
Best of the Rest
33.C/W Lukas Reichel 6’0 170 DEL 42-12-12-24-0
- D Braden Schneider 6’2 210 WHL 60-7-35-42-42
- W J.J. Peterka 5’10 182 DEL 42-7-4-11-14
*36. D Lucas Cormier 5’8 170 QMJHL 44-6-30-36-28
*37. W Antonio Stranges 5’10 168 OHL 661-19-21-40-16
*38. C Marat Khusnutdinov 5’9 176 MHL 44-13-25-38-16
- D William Wallinder 6’3 190 SWE-1 18-0-2-2-2
- C Roni Hirvonen 5’9 163 FIN 52-5-11-16-14
- D Helge Grans 6’2 183 FIN 21-1-2-3-4
- W Jake Neighbours 5’11 196 WHL 64-23-47-70-39
- D Ryan O’Rourke 6’1 170 OHL 54-7-30-37-79
- D Topi Niemela 5’10 160 FIN 43-1-6-7-8
- C Jack Finley 6’5 205 WHL 61-19-38-57-32
*46. W Connor McClennon 5’8 155 WHL 42-21-28-49-25
- W Ozzy Wiesblatt 5’10 182 WHL 64-25-45-70-36
- F Thomas Bordeleau 5’9 180 USHL 19-7-11-18-8
- D Alex Cotton 6’2 180 WHL 63-20-47-67-34
*50. LW Martin Chromiak 6’0 181 OHL 28-11-22-33-2
- W Sam Colangelo 6’2 205 USHL 44-28-30-58-47
*52. D Michael Benning 5’10 175 AJHL 54-12-63-75-54
- C Justin Sourdiff 5’11 163 WHL 57-26-28-54-44
- C/W J-L Foudy 6’0 176 OHL 59-15-28-43-12
*55. W Alex Pashin 5’7 170 MHL 37-17-22-39-35
- W Kasper Simontaival 5’8 170 FIN 10-1-3-4-6
57.W Daniel Gushchin 5’8 165 USHL 42-22-25-47-42
- C/W Jaromir Pytlick 6’2 192 OHL 56-22-28-50-36
- C/W Vasily Ponomaryov 5’11 176 QMJHL 57-18-31-49-15
- W Ty Smilanic 6’1 177 USHL 12-3-6-9-4
- D Eemil Viro 5’11 170 FIN 29-0-3-3-8
- W Tyler Tullio 5’10 165 OHL 62-27-39-66-49
- Yan Kuznetsov 6’4 209 HE 34-2-9-11-17
- Shakir Mukhamadullin 6’4 180 KHL 27-0-1-1-0
- W Sean Farrell 5’9 175 USHL 44-15-41-56-28
- W Will Cuylle 6’3 202 OHL 62-22-20-42-37
- W Luke Evangelista 5’11 165 OHL 62-23-38-61-12
- W Luke Tuch 6’2 203 USHL 19-8-6-14-8
Tier VII (Potential NHL Player)
- D Brock Faber 6’0 195 USHL 19-1-8-9-8
- W Oliver Suni 6’2 188 OHL 43-12-20-32-6
- D Eamon Powell 5’11 170 USHL 19-5-6-11-4
- C Dylan Peterson 6’4 195 USHL 19-4-7-11-22
- D Joni Jurmo 6’3 190 FIN JR. 43-5-28-33
- C Thomas Niederbach 5’11 172 SWE JR. 40-15-48-63
*75. D Ian Moore 6’3 165 USHS 28-12-34-46
76.D Wyatt Kaiser 5’11 170 USHS 25-9-25-34-26
- W Veeti Miettinen 5’9 170 FIN Jr. 52-42-31-73-6
- W Daniel Torgensson 6’3 200 SWE JR. 39-26-44-70
79.W Robby Jarventie 6’2 184 FIN2 36-23-15-38-56
- RW Ryan Francis 5’9 175 QMJHL 61-24-48-72-40
*81. C Xavier Simoneau 5’7 172 QMJHL 61-28-61-89-59
Tier VIII (Medium Potential NHL Player)
*82. D Mitchell Miller 5’10 181 USHL 44-8-25-33-4
- W Zayde Wisdom 5’10 200 OHL 62-29-30-59-55
- D Tyler Kleven 6’4 200 USHL 17-0-2-2-37
85.W Maxim Groshev 6’2 195 KHL 36-1-6-7-4
86.C Evan Vierling 6’0 170 OHL 43-14-30-44-12
- D William Villeneuve 6’1 175 QMJHL 64-9-49-58-50
- D Donovan Sebrango 6’1 184 OHL 56-6-24-30-33
*89. W Egor Sokolov 6’4 231 QMJHL 52-46-46-92-42
- C Tristen Robins 5’10 173 WHL 62-33-40-73-28
*91. W Brett Berard 5’9 152 USHL 13-7-11-18-18
- W Emil Heineman 6’1 185 FIN JR. 29-26-15-41-12
- D Daemon Hunt 6’0 200 WHL 28-0-15-15-17
- W Brandon Coe 6’4 190 OHL 60-25-32-57-39
- G Nico Daws 6’4 200 OHL 38 GP, 2.48 .925
- D Jack Thompson 6’0 178 OHL 63-13-19-32-20
- G Jaraslav Bednar 6’3 185 CZE 13 GP, 884 SV%
- C Rory Kerins 5’10 173 OHL 64-30-29-59-30
*99. W Matthew De St.Phalle 5’9 160 USHL 49-30-30-60-3
- W Gunnarwolfe Fontaine 5’8 172 USHL 45-26-31-57-18