Welcome to my 2020 NHL Draft Rankings.
This is a strong draft class, particularly in the top 12-13 or so. An early second-round pick will be more valuable this year compared to an average draft year.
My 32-62 rankings will be released in a few days. Without further ado:
Tier One (1)
1. Alexis Lafreniere – 6’1″ LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
Best attributes: Playmaking, puck handling, strength on the puck
Lafreniere is a treat to watch. Out of all the players in this draft class, he’s the safest bet to be a regular all-star. A highly-skilled player with a hard-nosed style, it’s tough to find a major flaw in his game. He wins battles in the corners, goes to the dirty areas, makes defenders miss with crafty moves, and sees the ice extremely well. He’s put up jaw-dropping point totals year after year and was dominant at both the World Juniors and Hlinka-Gretzky.
He’s a magician with the puck, always finding a way to outwork his opponents in the biggest moments. He’s probably going to represent Canada at multiple best-on-best tournaments. If he doesn’t end up as the best player from this class, he’s at least going to be one of them. He protects the puck remarkably well and he should be a great play-driver as a result. I wouldn’t take him over Matthews or McDavid, but he would be the first-overall pick in most years.
Lafreniere is not a 70-grade skater, particularly in a straight line, but his speed is a complete non-issue — he’s strong on his skates and dominates in tight spaces. He should be a regular 70+ point player in the NHL. He’s ready to be an impactful NHL player today. An easy pick with plenty of upside.
Tier Two (2-6)
2. Quinton Byfield – 6’4″ C, Sudbury (OHL)
Best attributes: Speed, transition play, size
Show me a 6’4″ center who can skate like Byfield, and I’ll show you a top-five pick. He’s a unicorn. All of the tools there to become a top-line center, although he’s nearly a full year younger than LaFreniere and is not quite as polished. While he did not look like a star at the World Juniors, neither did LaFreniere in the ’18-’19 event. It’s not a major concern given his age.
Byfield is a lock to stay at center. Given both his speed and long reach, he will offer plenty of two-way potential here once he gets even stronger. He’s able to play the net-front on the powerplay, but he can also create from the outside, and his scoring production this season leaps off the page.
It’s difficult to watch a 6’4″ center complete an end-to-end rush and not dream about his potential. However, I want to see him get stronger and become a dominant power-forward at both ends of the ice. He has the chance to be a high-end play-driver if he rounds out his game. There’s slightly more risk involved in his profile compared to LaFreniere; while his OHL numbers are impressive, they may be a little bit inflated due to a weak conference.
Byfield wasn’t the best player on the ice at the Hlinka-Gretzky or Top Prospects Game, but he did stand out and you just don’t come across 6’4 centers who can transition the puck like him often. He has a chance to be the best two-way player in the draft, as his speed and strength should allow him to dominate on both ends.
Like Nathan MacKinnon, it might take Byfield a few years to get to his peak, but his speed, size, and skill combination is remarkable. He doesn’t have Auston Matthews’ shot (no one does), but like Matthews, he’s a big center who transitions the puck well and he should keep getting better and better defensively.
3. Lucas Raymond – 5’10” RW, Frolunda (SHL)
Best attributes: Puck carrying, shot, playmaking
Raymond is an undersized scoring winger who can do it all. He’s constantly attacking opposing defenders with quick moves. His creativity often puts them on a highlight reel. While he’s small, he doesn’t shy away physically and is a little bit underrated defensively because of how hard he competes. He hunts pucks, kills penalties, and he will surprise you with the odd hit.
He reminds me of Mitch Marner — a high-energy player who dances through the neutral zone and is absolutely electric in the offensive zone. He’s also a high-end power-play quarterback and can really pick a corner with his deceptive wrist shot. He’s a human highlight reel. While he doesn’t offer quite as much two-way potential as Byfield, his offensive skillset makes him a safe pick.
His speed is not his calling card, but he’s quick enough to be a good NHL player and it’s easy to see him getting a step quicker as Marner did. I love his hard-nosed style. He’s stronger on the puck than Stutzle and a better goal scorer. Stutzle’s separation gear probably gives him a little bit more scoring upside if everything breaks perfectly, but I still expect Raymond to be a 60-70+ point scorer who also kills penalties. He’s been a top player in his age group for years. I’d have him in my top 5 in pretty much any draft class.
4. Jamie Drysdale – 5’11” RD, Erie (OHL)
Best attributes: Skating, transition play, playmaking
Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, and Adam Fox are taking the NHL by storm. All are under 6’0″. While Drysdale may end up one notch below them, he comes from the same family of smooth-skating defensemen who excel at transitioning the puck. He’s the best defenseman in this class by a wide margin and he would have been the best defenseman in last year’s class as well.
Drysdale was Canada’s top defenseman at the Hlinka-Gretzky and made the World Junior team as a draft-eligible player. He’s a lock to run a top powerplay unit at the NHL level, while his transition game will allow him to become an effective play driver. His speed is a real weapon that allows him to join the rush and he carries the ability to take a game over from the back-end. Given his height, he’ll want to continue to get stronger before he faces top competition at the NHL level, but his skating will always help him to deny zone entries.
Drysdale will end up as a second-pairing defenseman at worst. There’s never really been any doubt in my mind about that. This isn’t a prospect who it takes a while to believe in; if you watch just one game of his, you’ll probably be ready to pencil him in on your top pairing.
I’m not quite as high on him as I was on Quinn Hughes (I had Hughes at #3), but he’s not all that far off. As a smaller defender, there’s at least some risk that his size will hurt him around the net, but he’s a smart player and excellent puck mover. I’m usually a little bit hesitant to take a defenseman in the top five, but when someone like Drysdale comes along, those fears go out the window.
5. Tim Stutzle – 5’11” LW/C, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
Best Attributes: Speed, puck carrying, playmaking
Stutzle can fly. His ability to beat defenders out wide will allow him to pull off beautiful end-to-end rushes at the NHL level. He’s also a high-end power-play quarterback from the half-boards, using his shiftiness to create passing lanes and his vision to create tap-ins and one-timers for his teammates. I could not stop watching him at the World Juniors. His scoring production in a pro league is also impressive, to say the least.
He’s constantly making smart passes into open areas before quietly finding a way to sneak into a soft spot in the defense. He’s always making things happen. His combination of high-end transition play and playmaking makes him a safe bet to rack up assists at the NHL level. He needs to get stronger — especially if his team wants to move him to center — and this would also help him to score more from the dirty areas.
Stutzle reminds me of Artemi Panarin, who was one of the best players in the NHL this season. He flies through the neutral zone, attacks defenders, and pulls off highlight-reel move after highlight-reel move to dance past defenders. His non-stop motor will make him a fan favourite. While he might not have the same two-way potential as Lafreniere or Byfield, he’s got a chance to be pretty special offensively. He’s a nightmare to defend in transition.
6. Marco Rossi – 5’9″ C, Ottawa (OHL)
Best attributes: Playmaking, two-way play, strength on the puck
Rossi is an incredibly unique player. Even though he’s 5’9″, I consider him to be a power forward, as he invites contact and consistently outmuscles his opponents. His hands are quick and he regularly beats goaltenders by getting his shot off before they have time to react. If a defender tries to play the puck, he’ll deke right through them. If they try to play the body, he’ll shake them off and set up a teammate with a quick pass.
He’s strong in the corners, both with the puck and in the defensive end. He can dictate the pace of a game; he protects the puck well enough to allow himself to be patient, then waits for a passing lane to open up. He completes passes that other players wouldn’t even think about and creates chance after chance for his teammates on the powerplay.
Rossi isn’t slow per se, but I wouldn’t call his speed his calling card, which is bit unusual for a 5’9″ forward. You’re basically hoping that he can become Brayden Point- lite and excel as a high-scoring two-way center. While his point production is through the roof this season, he does play on a stacked team in a weak conference, which makes it a little bit more difficult to evaluate him. However, he’s already one of the best two-way players in the OHL. If he gets one step quicker, there’s a chance that he becomes a fantastic play-driver.
Rossi’s strength on the puck, two-way play, and competitiveness make him built for playoff hockey. I don’t think he’s quite as quick and flashy as Stutzle and Raymond, but I do see him as a potential 60+ point center who can match up against top competition.
In terms of 5v5 offense, I am more confident in Stutzle and Raymond given their skating ability. Rossi was the OHL equivalent of Sidney Crosby this year, as he was simply way stronger than the teenage defensemen he was up against and dominated in every part of the game. Having said that, his supporting cast was outstanding and I think he’s further along in his development curve than just about anyone in this class. Similar to Alex Turcotte last year, I can almost guarantee that he’ll be a good NHL player, but there’s a chance he ends up as a second-line center rather than a perennial all-star.
Tier 3 (7-10)
7. Alexander Holtz – 6’0″ W, Djurgardens IF (SHL)
Best attributes: Shot, skating
Holtz is a high-end scorer who seems bound to score 30 goals on a regular basis. With his wicked wrist shot and a dangerous one-timer, he’s the best pure shooter in this draft. You can build your power play around him. He’s also a fast skater who can add plenty of goals off the rush. If Holtz gets a clean look at the net from the slot, it feels like the puck is almost surely going in the net.
He’s formed a strong one-two punch for Sweden with Lucas Raymond for pretty much every international tournament and carries a long track record of being a top player in this age group. While his playmaking certainly trails behind his goal-scoring ability, when you can shoot like Holtz, you probably don’t want to be passing all that much anyway. He’s produced at every event and dominated the SuperElit league last year with 30 goals in 37 games. He also held his own in the SHL this year, so there’s little doubt that he will be an NHL player someday.
Holtz is fast and not overly small, so I’m optimistic that he can become a better fore-checker down the road. I don’t love his two-way game; he needs to win more battles and rely a little bit less on his shot in order to be a high-end first-line winger. Perfetti is a better playmaker than Holtz, offers an above-average shot, and he is a magician with the puck. Holtz is faster and a slightly better shooter, but he isn’t quite as complete. Given that Holtz is a safe bet to score a ton of goals, I think he’s a safe top-10 pick. He reminds me of Cam Atkinson in his prime.
8. Cole Perfetti – 5’10” C/LW, Saginaw (OHL)
Best attributes: Craftiness, shot, playmaking
Perfetti is worth the price of admission. He’s just so damn dangerous with the puck on his stick. He’s got quick hands, puck protection skill, and a quick release, so it’s tough to imagine him scoring fewer than 60 points in his prime. While you won’t mistake him for Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Athanasiou, he’s quick enough for the NHL and good on his edges. He’s lethal on breakaways and creates his own shot by dancing through defenders and finding open space. He’s extremely talented.
The best scorer on Saginaw by a wide margin, he also dominated at the Hlinka-Gretzky with 12 points in five games. He reminds me a little bit of Jeff Skinner (not the ’19-’20 version) due to his ability to dance around defenders and create his own shot with remarkable footwork. He’s going to be a big addition to a top power-play unit as he can be the primary facilitator when he’s not beating goalies with his wrist shot.
Perfetti is fine (but not great) in the corners and his size won’t be a major issue. His average speed also shouldn’t be a huge issue, as he’s crafty enough to go through defenders rather than around them.
He’s a clear top-10 pick in any draft, but he doesn’t quite offer as much two-way potential as the other players in this tier. I think he’ll be a passable two-way player and score 60+ points on a regular basis. He’s incredibly skilled with the puck. If he gets a step quicker, the talent is there to be an all-star calibre scorer.
9. Anton Lundell – 6’1″ C, HIFK (Liiga)
Best attributes: Two-way play, intelligence, strength
Lundell is one of the most mature players in this class as he’s on the older end and is already an above-average player in a men’s league. It feels like he’s been around forever, as he represented Finland in two U-18 events, the Hlinka-Gretzky, and two World Juniors. While I’ve been a little bit skeptical of his offensive game at times, I think he’s a better scorer than someone like Jesper Kotkaniemi, who he’s shared the ice with while playing for Finland in the past.
He’s a safe bet to stick at center and his two-way game should provide plenty of value. He doesn’t “wow” me on the powerplay as Stutzle and Raymond do, but he’s quite versatile and can even handle the net-front role quite well. A smart player who always seems to be making a heads-up play, he’s been Finland’s most dangerous player at several International events. He gets to the high-danger scoring areas quite well and is talented enough to play in a top-six role up the middle.
I expect Lundell to score fewer goals than Holtz, but as a two-way center, he should be a better play-driver. He wins battles, always seems to be in the right position, and he will pair nicely with any team’s skilled wingers. If he ends up as a 50-60 point center who plays against opposing top lines, he’ll be a valuable player with a long career.
10. Yarolsav Askarov – 6’3” G, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
Best attribute: Keeping the puck out of the net
This is more of a placeholder ranking, as I’m not exactly a goalie expert. He’s big and athletic and I’ve watched him dominate at the Hlinka-Gretzky and World Junior A Challenge, so I can certainly understand what all the hype is all about. He was a little bit disappointing at the World Juniors, but it’s rare for a 17-year old goaltender to even be at that event in the first place.
His .920 save percentage in the VHL this year is impressive for a player of his age. Up until the World Juniors, it felt like he had never had a bad game in his life. Taking a goalie in the top 10 can be risky, but the potential is also extremely high, as it’s the most important position in hockey. I can’t fault a team for taking a chance on him in the top 10. There’s just so much potential to land a complete franchise-changer.
Tier Four (11-14)
11. Seth Jarvis – 5’10” RW/C, Portland (WHL)
Best attributes: Playmaking, puck-carrying, scoring
Jarvis is an undersized forward who scored an impressive 98 points in 58 WHL games this year. He led his team in scoring by 28 (!) points and added four points in five games alongside Byfield at the Hlinka-Gretzky. While I would put him a notch below Raymond in terms of elusiveness, he’s still a standout in both categories and it’s easy to see him scoring 60+ points at the NHL level.
Jarvis is equally dangerous as a scorer and playmaker. He can create and facilitate from the perimeter when needed and he’s also a great triggerman in the middle of the 1-3-1 power play. Like most undersized scoring wingers, Jarvis’ two-way game is just okay. He’s not quite as safe of a pick as the players in the top 10 as a result.
While he doesn’t quite have Raymond’s exact skillset and track record, his WHL production this year was impressive and he’s a worthy top-15 pick. I think he’ll end up on the wing, but he’s a quick, crafty, and well-rounded offensive weapon regardless of which forward position he plays.
Given his speed, shot, playmaking, and puck-carrying skill, Jarvis is a pretty safe bet to score 50+ points in the NHL. He doesn’t offer the strength or two-way ability of a player like Lundell, but he’s crafty enough to be a future top-six winger. His scoring production in the WHL this season is comparable to Kailer Yamamoto’s draft year. I think he’ll end up becoming a similar player.
12. Jake Sanderson – 6’1″ LD, USNTDP (USHL)
Best attributes: Skating, transition defense, strength
Sanderson is a smooth-skating defenseman who excels at defending in transition. It’s tough to beat him one-on-one. Even if you do fool him in the neutral zone, he’s often fast enough to recover effectively. He’s also quite strong, so it’s easy to project him as a high-end shutdown defender at the NHL level. He’ll win battles in front of the net, out-muscle his opponents in the corners, and log major minutes on the penalty kill.
His speed and strength also come in handy in the offensive zone, where he protects the puck well and can jump up in the play when needed. While he’s a fine puck mover, he’s well behind Drysdale in that regard and he probably ends end up on a second power-play unit if at all. I think he’ll be average to slightly above average offensively at the NHL level, but it’s his defense that’s his calling card.
Back in October, I thought he could be a steal towards the end of the first round. Now that he’s rocketed up to inside the top 10 of draft boards, that’s a bit too risky for me, as gambling on offense is generally a safer bet. He’s going to have a long NHL career, but the only question is: Will he be strong enough as a puck mover to be a high-end play-driver? At the very least, he’s a fantastic skater who should fill a top-four role for years to come.
13. Rodion Amirov – 6’0” LW, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
Best attributes: Puck-carrying, skating, playmaking
Amirov is one of the older players in this draft class and already carries a fairly significant track record. After leading Russia in scoring in last year’s U18 tournament while playing on a line with Vasili Podkolzin, we can expect him to be one of his team’s top scorers at this year’s World Juniors (assuming the tournament takes place). He also has 21 KHL games under his belt. Given that he also played at the Hlinka-Gretzky and World Junior A Challenge, every scout in the world is probably familiar with his game by now.
He’s a well-rounded player who can help his team in a variety of different ways. He’s fairly big, carries the puck well, goes to the high-danger area, moves the puck effectively, and offers a fair amount of shooting talent. A good forechecker who can generate takeaways, he’s also an above-average skater. He just always seems to be one of the better players on the ice. The Amirov-Podkolzin duo has been a force to be reckoned with when paired together.
His size and speed combination makes him a relatively safe pick, but his transition skill and scoring ability also give him first-line upside. He dominated in the MHL on a line with Alexander Pashin this year. I think he might only be a year away from being NHL ready. I expect him to be a bit of a steal on draft day, as I think he’s a rather safe bet to be a top-six winger. He’s a standout in transition, offers two-way potential with his speed and size, and he doesn’t have many clear flaws.
14. Dylan Holloway – 6’1″ C/LW, Wisconsin (NCAA)
Best attributes: Skating, strength, two-way play
Holloway is a coach’s dream. He should have a long NHL career as a well-rounded forward. His size and speed combination helps him contribute in both ends and he never stops moving his feet, so he earns his team extra time with the puck as a result. He can play on the penalty kill or match up against top competition at 5-on-5. He’s also quite good at protecting the puck in the offensive zone.
Holloway is on the older end of this draft class and was more of a secondary scorer on a miserable Wisconsin team that also featured top prospects such as Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte, and K’Andre Miller. I thought he was a clear standout for Canada at both the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky and 2019 U18 World Championship, so I’d be shocked if he didn’t make Canada’s World Junior team this year (assuming the tournament happens).
His scoring upside is not quite as high as other picks in this range, but he’s pretty good in transition and he can outwork his opponents in the dirty areas to score. I like his forechecking ability on the wing. Regardless of which forward position he plays, he’ll be a good two–way forward who can pair nicely with one of his team’s star players. I don’t see a 70+ point player, but he’s a big, fast, and skilled forward who should fill a top-six role. He’s a safe bet to have a long NHL career.
Tier 5 (15-31)
15. Jacob Perreault – 5’11” RW/C, Sarnia (OHL)
Best attributes: Shooting, skating
Perreault carries a similar profile to Quinn, which explains why they’re close together in this ranking. He’s a wicked shooting threat, with a good one-timer from the Ovechkin spot and a wrist shot that beats goalies consistently. He’s 5’11”, but he’s strong for his size and fast enough to beat NHL defenders out wide. Perreault probably ends up on the wing — his two-way game needs some work — but I like his speed on the forecheck and his ability to score from just about anywhere.
He scored an impressive 1.23 points per game this year, which is actually higher than Konecny’s draft year and equal to what Marco Rossi did last year. I’ve never seen him as a future star, but he’s skilled enough to be a middle-six forward and provides an impressive shot from the Ovechkin spot on the power play. Given his scoring production, well-rounded skill-set and speed, he’s a safe bet to be a first-round pick on draft day. He’s got a shot to stick up the middle. I just love having his speed on the wing for the forecheck.
Perreault finished with similar numbers to Quinn in terms of both primary points per game and shots per game — he’s also seven months younger — so I’m not sure why there’s such a large gap between them on most rankings. Both offer a great shot, but I give a slight edge to Perreault in terms of speed, although Quinn might be a bit better around the net.
16. Jack Quinn – 6’0″ RW, Ottawa (OHL)
Best attributes: Shooting, stick-handling, net-front play
Quinn is one of the oldest players in this class. If he was born a week earlier, he probably would have gone undrafted last year. However, he increased his goal total from 12 to 52 this season, which put him second in the OHL behind Nick Robertson. While he did benefit from playing with Marco Rossi on the power play, they did not play together at 5v5, which forced him to create his own shot.
The best two parts of his game are his finishing talent and stick-handling. He’s good at streaking down either wing, cutting to the middle, and sniping a wrist shot past the opposing goalie. He’s also good at generating tips and deflections in front, but I wouldn’t call him an above-average skater. He’s noticeably skilled and gets himself to the dirty areas quite well, so I like his chances of generating enough chances for himself to be a 20-25 goal scorer.
Quinn carries a similar profile to Holtz, but Holtz is a better skater and is a better scorer from the Ovechkin spot (Quinn usually plays in the middle of the 1-3-1 powerplay, but you could play him there as well). There’s clearly some scoring potential here with his shot and stick-handling. He was a standout at the Top Prospects Game, but I think there are reasons to be hesitant in the top half of the first round. We haven’t seen him play in a best-on-best international tournament, and I think his two-way game is a bit limited. It’s clear that he’s an above-average shooter, though, and I think he’ll generate enough shots for himself to be a 45-60 point winger.
17. Connor Zary – 6’0″ C, Kamloops (WHL)
Best attributes: Stick-handling, playmaking
Zary is an intelligent two-way center who always seems to be one of the best players out there every time he’s on the ice. Strong on the puck, his speed is just average, but he’s very impressive when the puck is on his stick. He dances around defenders and is strong enough to score a little bit from the dirty areas. While he’s one of the oldest players in this draft class, scoring 86 points in 57 WHL games is pretty darn impressive regardless of age.
He was also one of Canada’s better players at last year’s U18 tournament, where he was playing with other 2001 born players. I thought he also stood out at the Top Prospects Game. He’s well-rounded, bringing a mix of grit and competitiveness to the table, and he competes in 50/50 battles well. If you can help him to get one step quicker, you could have a pretty valuable second-line forward on your hands.
Given his ability to do a little bit of everything, he’s a relatively safe bet to be an NHL player. I do believe that he has an outside chance to be a second-line center down the line, but I want to see more explosiveness out of him. He looks like he’s 5’9″ out there — he’s always hunched over — but I do believe in his skill level. If he doesn’t get a step quicker, I still think he’ll be a good third-line center, making this is a fairly safe pick.
18. Hendrix Lapierre – 6’0″ C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Best attributes: Playmaking, skating, puck-carrying
Lapierre looked like a potential top-10 pick last summer at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, where racked up an impressive 11 points in five games on a line with Perfetti. However, he played just 19 games this year due to injury and scored just two goals in the process. His playmaking and puck-carrying talent could easily make him a steal on draft day, but the team that takes him is going to want to be reasonably confident in his health. On talent alone, he’d be a near-lock to be a top-20 pick.
An assist-heavy player, unless he works on his shot, Lapierre not going to be a regular 25-goal scorer at the NHL level. His puck carrying and playmaking talent will carry him, as he’s skilled enough to be the primary facilitator on a power-play unit and quick enough to complete an end-to-end rush.
Lapierre is fairly big, pretty fast, and very talented. I’m sure that every NHL team knows more about his health than I do, but given the amount of uncertainty here, he’s a tough player to rank. If you go back and watch a Team Canada game from the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, you’ll probably want your team to take a gamble on him in the late teens. As a result, this is obviously a high-risk, high-reward pick.
19. Mavrik Bourque – 5’10” C/RW, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Best attributes: Shooting, puck-carrying, playmaking
Bourque scored an impressive 71 points in just 49 QMJHL games this year, which usually translates into landing in the top 20 of every draft ranking. However, he was a little bit disappointing at the Hlinka with just one point in five games and he didn’t find the scoresheet in two games of the CHL Canada-Russia Series. Maybe that’s why the hype train never fully took off.
Bourque has also got some work to do defensively — especially if he wants to stick at center — but his offensive tool-kit gives him a good chance to rack up points. He was one of the best playmakers in the Q this year and set up high-danger scoring chance after high-danger scoring chance for his teammates. He also brings a heavy wrist shot to the table and can rack up goals with his one-timer from the Ovechkin spot on the power play.
I’m not quite as sold on his 5v5 game at center, but if he moves to the wing, I could see him bringing plenty of offensive skill to a top-six line. His speed is good rather than great. I’d also like to see him win more physical battles. I don’t think he’s going to be a complete liability defensively — especially if he moves to the wing — but it does keep him out of my top 15.
20. Dawson Mercer – 6’0” RW/C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Best attributes: Stick-handling, wrist shot, strength
Mercer was one of the most dangerous offensive players in the QMJHL this year and was rewarded with a spot on Canada’s World Junior Team as a result. However, he’s one of the oldest players in this class, so I’m just not sure how much projection is left here. I like his ability to play a power game, as he wins his fair share of physical battles and is able to fight his way to the high-danger areas. He also has a good wrist shot and can stick-handle in a phone booth.
I’m not a huge fan of his transition game, and I’m not sure whether he’ll be able to beat NHL defenders out wide on a regular basis. I also think that he ends up on the wing and that his playmaking trails a little bit behind his goal-scoring at this point. He’s not going to shy away physically — and he’s not afraid to park himself in the dirty areas — but I don’t think he’ll be the main facilitator on his line.
He finished ninth in the CHL among draft-eligible players in primary points per game as one of the older players in this draft class, so I’d be hesitant to pick him in the top 12-13 or so. The best-case scenario is that he makes a name for himself as a net-front scorer, wins plenty of physical battles even against pro defenders, and he continues to score from medium-danger areas with his shot.
21. Jan Mysak, 5’10” C/LW, Hamilton (OHL)
Best attributes: Skating, puck carrying, wrist shot
Mysak is a smooth-skating forward who started his season in the Czech pro league before heading over to Hamilton for 22 games. He’s a goal-first forward who is slightly above average in transition and he’s well-rounded enough to be a solid option on the penalty kill. I don’t think he’s a top-10 skater in this draft class, but his speed certainly helped him to generate plenty of breakaways during his OHL stint.
He’s on the younger end of this draft class, but I have a few concerns about his game. First, he’s not a high-end playmaker and it’s not like he offers a top-5 shot in this class. Second, while he’s been good at international events, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen him as a future star. Third, while notching 25 points in 22 OHL games looks okay at first glance, he shot 22%, racked up points against weak teams like Niagara, and failed to rack up assists while playing with one of the best goal scorers in the OHL (Arthur Kaliyev).
There’s a chance Mysak sticks up the middle and turns into a third-line center, but until he starts racking up assists, I don’t see a clear top-six player.
22. Noel Gunler – 6’2″ RW, Lulea HF (SHL)
Best attributes: Scoring, strength
Gunler is a big winger who scores a ton of goals. He’s strong enough to get to the high-danger areas on a regular basis and he can also beat you from further out with his shot. He also scores plenty of goals off the rush, and you can park him in the Ovechkin spot on your power play. Gunler is frustrating — and I question if he’ll ever be average defensively — but there’s plenty of scoring potential here to offset that.
He does bring some physicality to the table, which allows him to get in on the forecheck and retrieve pucks competently. However, I seem to be lower on his transition and playmaking skill than most. There are plenty of good shooters in this draft class. We haven’t seen him much at international events, but given that he scored 27 goals in 31 games in the SuperElit last year and played in 45 SHL games this year, I expect him to be taken in the top 20 or so.
His stats are impressive, but I just can’t seem to sell myself on him enough to put him in my top 15. His inconsistency is frustrating, and let’s just say that I don’t see him killing penalties at the NHL level. I think there’s some upside here — and maybe his inconsistency is starting to get blown out of proportion — but he’s a bit too one-dimensional for my liking. If he’s on the board near the end of the first round, I think he’s certainly a worthy lottery ticket.
23. Helge Grans – 6’2” RD, Malmo (SHL)
Best Attributes: Size, skating
Grans is a big right-shooting defenseman who scored 27 points in 27 games in the Sweden’s junior league before playing 21 games in the SHL. However, his point total was inflated by his power-play production; while he might get some time on the man advantage at the NHL level, he probably won’t be much of a difference-maker there. While I don’t see him as a high-end point producer, he’s 6’2” and moves around the ice well, so he’s very projectable. He’s more than capable of delivering a decent breakout pass — even when under pressure — and this skillset should translate nicely to the NHL level.
I haven’t seen Grans take over a game as I’d expect from an average first-round pick, but he carries all the tools to be a solid NHL player. He needs some time to get stronger and improve his decision-making, but he’s big, quick, and breaks the puck out fairly effectively. While there’s certainly some upside in his profile, there’s also some risk that he ends up as a replacement-level player who doesn’t defend as well as a smooth-skating 6’2” defender should. I don’t think he’s a top-20 player if we held a game today, but once he fills out and gets stronger, he should become a pretty valuable two-way player. Patience will be required here.
24. Lukas Reichel – 6’0” LW, Berlin (DEL)
Best attributes: Skating, puck-carrying, two-way play
Reichel was a strong producer for Germany at the World Juniors and notched an impressive 24 points in 42 games on a team with Maxim Lapierre, James Sheppard, and Landon Ferraro. He needs to get stronger, but his skating is a selling point and he’s pretty good in transition as a result. I don’t really see him as a major standout in terms of goal scoring and playmaking, but he’s a smart player who moves the puck effectively and he offers some two-way potential thanks to his speed.
The big question here is: How good does he become once he gets stronger? I don’t quite see enough scoring talent to think first-line upside, but he’s already producing in a pro league, so he should be a relatively safe pick as a result. He’s a solid player who should certainly contribute at the NHL level, but I just don’t see enough game-changing skill to put him in my top 15 or so. He should be a solid middle-six winger and he’s quite well rounded, so I think he’s a safe pick at the end of the first round.
25. Justin Barron – 6’2” RD, Halifax (QMJHL)
Best attributes: Size, skating, transition defense
Barron looked like a sure first-round pick last summer, but he played just 34 games this season due to a blood clot. He was Canada’s top-scoring defenseman at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament with five points in five games and his defensive game was just as impressive. A big right-shooting defenseman who moves around the ice well enough to effectively prevent opposing zone entries, he’s also perfectly fine as a puck mover.
He’s similar to Braeden Schneider in a lot of ways, as he’s a big right-shooting defenseman who is also one of the older players in this class. He should be able to kill penalties at the NHL level and he’s a better puck mover than Schneider, so I give him an edge at 5-on-5. I think he can be a good transition defender, a solid net-front defender, and an average puck mover. That combination could make him a first-round pick on draft day, but it’s tough to evaluate him after he played just half a season (and on a horrible team). If he falls to the second round, he would be on my shortlist.
26. Thomas Bordeleau – 5’9” C, USNTDP (USHL)
Best attributes: Puck carrying, playmaking, wrist shot
Bordeleau is a small but skilled center who led the U.S. U18 team in scoring this year as well as the U17 team last year. He’s quick and noticeable in transition and talented enough as a playmaker to be the main facilitator on a power play. While he’s more of a pass-first player, he can surprise you with a deceptive wrist shot as well, so he’s not overly one-dimensional. You can’t really miss him if you watch the U18 team play; he’s their best player in the neutral zone and makes opposing defenders and goaltenders look foolish.
The big question here is whether or not his size will hold him back. While he’s quite quick, he’s going to have to fly by NHL defenders if he’s going to be successful at his height. He’s pretty strong on the puck (at least for a player of his size) and he brings a fairly complete 200-foot game to the table. There’s some risk here — and I won’t be surprised if he falls to the second round as a result — but he’s wicked in transition and intelligent enough to be effective at his height.
It’s easy to envision a universe where he’s the next Mark Arcobello — a player who can rack up points at the AHL level but doesn’t quite carve out an NHL role for an extended period. However, if he does get one step faster, there’s a ton of upside here, as I like his scoring, playmaking, transition, and two-way skill. You can argue that he was the best player on the USDP team this year (ahead of even Jake Sanderson) and there’s no denying that he’s a top-31 player in this draft if they held a game against each other today. I think Bordeleau can bring similar transition and two-way skill to Alex Kerfoot (who is also 5’10) but with a better shot.
27. John-Jason Peterka – 5″11 LW, EHC Munchen (DEL)
Best attributes: Skating, net-front scoring
Peterka was a clear standout for Germany at the World Juniors, where he notched six points in seven games as a 17-year old. He’s a hard-nosed player who wins plenty of puck battles and he’s a talented scorer around the net as a result. He also spent the full season in a men’s league. Given how mature his game is already, that’s not a big surprise.
The question with Peterka is upside. He’s not going to be the primary puck carrier on his line or the center of his team’s power play. However, I like his well-rounded skill set and his odds of becoming a good complementary winger at the NHL level. He’s definitely fast enough to play in the NHL and he’s more skilled with the puck than he’s given credit for. I like his ability to win puck battles.
In my view, Peterka would be higher up in draft rankings if he played against teenage defensemen all year in the CHL. He’ll probably be the safest pick available towards the end of the first round, as his play just screams “NHL player”. I love his work ethic and his ability to get to the front of the net. He may only end up as a middle-six winger, but every team could use a player like him.
28. Kaiden Guhle – 6’3” LD, Price Albert (WHL)
Best attributes: Net-front defense, transition defense, skating
It took me a while to come around on Guhle, but I’m now comfortable betting on his combination of size, speed, and strength towards the end of the first round. He’s a big shutdown defenseman who moves quite well for a player of his size. While you probably won’t see him on an NHL power play, his strength and long reach could allow him to play major minutes on the penalty kill. He played next to Drysdale on the top pairing for Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky and he looked like one of the better defenders at the Top Prospects Game.
I prefer him to many shutdown defensemen from previous drafts — Kevin Bahl, Mattias Samuelsson, Logan Stanley — as I think he’s a better skater. He’ll be a good defender for Canada at the World Juniors, but the question becomes: Will he still be a positive play driver at the NHL level? Defensive defensemen are often labeled to be “safe picks”, but they can also end up being below replacement level if they just can’t move the puck effectively.
The team that takes him is basically hoping that he can be an elite defensive defenseman. I do believe that he will be able to keep up with most NHL forwards and out-muscle them in front of the net, so it’s a reasonable gamble. I think he’ll have a fairly long NHL career, but the question becomes: Will he be a valuable shutdown defender or a player who struggles to move the puck too much to be valuable? His puck-moving keeps him out of my top 20, but I do believe he has a chance to be a top-four defenseman.
29. Jeremie Poirier – 6’0″ LD, Saint John (QMJHL)
Best attributes: Puck carrying, playmaking, skating
Poirier is a skilled offensive defenseman who was five points away from leading his QMJHL team in scoring this season. His offensive talent jumped off the page at both the Hlinka-Gretzky and the Top Prospects game. It didn’t take long for me to firmly supplant him in my draft board’s first round. He can really fly and his ability to jump up in the rush basically gives his team a fourth forward out there.
Strong in transition, his speed allows him to aggressively jump up in the offensive zone knowing that he can quickly get back if needed. His defensive game is far less polished — and he may fall a bit as a result — but he’s not small and can really skate. He’ll need to get stronger and become far more polished before he plays in the NHL, but there’s potential here and his offensive skill gives him 40+ point upside.
He carries the same strengths and weaknesses as Morgan Rielly. Plenty of patience will be required here, but it’s rare to see a defenseman who looks like one of the most dangerous scoring threats on the ice at best on best events. I have no idea how far he’ll fall on draft day, but he’s always screamed “first-round talent” to me, so I think he’s worth taking a gamble on in the early second round.
30. Marat Khusnutdinov – 5’9” C, St. Petersberg (MHL)
Best attributes: Two-way play, competitiveness, skating
Khusnutdinov is an undersized center that every coach would love. While he had just one assist in six games at the World Jr. A Challenge, I thought he really stood out as a play-driving center as he’s quick and talented in transition. He captained Team Russia at this event, contributed on both the power play and penalty kill, and it felt like he could shut down just about anyone at 5v5. If you’re up a goal with under a minute left, this is the first player who’s going over the boards to take the faceoff.
He covers a ton of ground, wins more physical battles than you’d expect for a player of his size, and he never takes a shift off. His point-per-game production was solid at the U17, U18, and Hlinka events, but we haven’t seen him dominate on the scoresheet quite yet.
I don’t think he’ll ever be much of a goal scorer, but the speed and craftiness elements of his game are certainly there. He’s a pretty good carrier and can dance around defenders fairly well, so it may be just a matter of time before the offensive side of his game fully clicks. His MHL scoring production is solid despite barely seeing the powerplay. This is a defense-first center with play-driving potential, although he may only end up scoring at a third-line rate.
31. Brendan Brisson – 5’11” C, Chicago (USHL)
Best attributes: One-timer, wrist shot, playmaking
Brisson is a left-shooting center with one of the best one-timers in the draft. He also owns a pretty good wrist-shot, so he’s able to expand the medium-danger scoring area effectively. He racked up a very impressive 12 points in six games at the World Jr. A Challenge and also posted an impressive 59 points in 45 games on a stacked Chicago team. Given that he’s a center who is not overly small and can really put the puck in the net, I expect that someone takes a chance on him in the first round.
My main concern with Brisson is that he’s not a great skater. He’s also less impressive at five-on-five than he is on the power play, and I’m a bit hesitant to take any player whose one standout skill is their shot. Sean Farrell and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, who will both get drafted this year, were more impressive in transition to me at the World Jr. A Challenge. He’s on the older end for this class, played on a dominant USHL team, and I’m just not sure what will happen to him at five-on-five once he’s not one of the stars on the ice.
If he can get a step faster and work on his two-way game, he could become a solid NHL player with a great power-play one-timer. There’s quite a bit of risk involved here — especially if you’re using a top-20 pick on him — but his shot certainly gives him some scoring potential if he rounds out the rest of his game.