Just 13 days out from the 2020 NHL Draft, it’s time to rank the player talent available deeper in the draft order.
ICYMI, check out my 1-31 2020 NHL Draft rankings here.
32. Lukas Cormier – 5’10” LD, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
Best attributes: Playmaking, intelligence, puck-carrying
I might be the president of the Lukas Cormier fan club. Cormier was quietly one of the most impressive players on the ice at the Top Prospects Game, and while he went pointless at the Hlinka-Gretzky, I have little doubt that he’s an above-average puck mover. His scoring production in the Q this year reflects that; he came up just shy of Poirier in terms of points-per-game, representing one of the better U18 seasons we’ve seen out of this league in the last decade. He’s undersized, but he holds his ground well and consistently makes smart reads.
He reminds me a little bit of Rasmus Sandin. His puck-moving ability will allow him to be a good play driver. Like Sandin, he’s not the fastest north-south skater in the world, but he still eludes forecheckers and rushes the puck quite well. He protects the puck, can quarterback your power play, and he is greater than the sum of his parts. I love having players like him on my team, as he’s calm under pressure, able to absorb contact, and consistently tilts the ice in his team’s favour with his breakout passes.
His tools don’t scream “top 15 pick,” but he always seems to be one of the best players on the ice, so he was always a lock to be in my first round. He holds his own in physical battles, sees the ice well, and just makes smart play after smart play.
I think Matt Grzelcyk is one of the more underrated players in the NHL, and Cormier should be a similar player some day.
33. Braden Schneider – 6’2” RD, Brandon (WHL)
Best attributes: Transition defense, net-front defense
Schneider is one of the oldest players in this draft class. Combine his size with his strength, he’s closer to NHL ready than most players in this range. In addition to nearly making Canada’s World Junior Team as a draft-eligible player, he was a strong contributor at international competitions against his own age group. He’s strong enough to clear the front of the net, and perhaps more importantly, looks to be quick enough to break up plenty of rushes in transition. He has a legitimate chance to be a decent shutdown defenseman.
The big question with Schneider: How well can he move the puck? When he advances to the NHL level and the game gets faster, will he be able to make smart plays under pressure? He’s a safe pick and will likely have at least some sort of NHL career. Whether he’s a true shutdown defender or someone who will become a replacement-level NHL player remains to be seen, but I think he’s talented enough to be fairly valuable. There’s too much risk involved for me to take him in the top 20 or so, but I think he could be a reasonable gamble towards the end of the first round.
34. Emil Andrae – 5’9″ LD, HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
Best attributes: Puck-moving, strength (for his size)
Andrae is a talented puck-moving defenseman who carries a strong track record for Sweden in international tournaments. He sees the ice well, can run a powerplay unit, and does not back down physically. However, he’s undersized and not all that fast in a straight line, so there’s plenty of questions surrounding how his game will translate. His strength makes him a respectable net-front defender and he may sneak onto a second penalty kill unit as a result.
He carries similar strengths and weaknesses as Rasmus Sandin; you’re basically hoping that he can be Sandin-lite. His strength and puck-protection skill allow him to evade opposing forecheckers, and even though he’s not overly fast, he’s quite effective in transition. There’s plenty of risk in his game, but if all goes well, he should be able to be a pretty good puck mover at the NHL level. I expect him to go in the mid-to-late second round, or maybe even the early third round.
35. William Wallinder – 6’4” LD, Modo (SuperElit)
Best attributes: Size, skating, puck-carrying
Wallinder is a “toolsy” player who is on the younger end of this draft class. A team may end up taking him in the first round if they bet on him putting it all together. He’s 6’4” and a very impressive north-south skater for his size, so there’s certainly some upside here. His size combined with his ability to complete an end-to-end rush will have some scouts dreaming about his potential.
Wallinder played on the right side next to Emil Andrae at the Hlinka-Gretzky, where he also earned some power-play time. His skating always stands out, but he went pointless in that event before putting up fine (but not great) numbers in Sweden’s junior league. He just doesn’t seem to be as good as he should be given his size and speed.
He needs to get stronger and he’s pretty iffy defensively at the moment. His rushes are impressive, but he’s well behind players like Drysdale, Poirier, or Cormier in that regard at this stage. He’s going to have to be a well-rounded two-way player to be successful at the NHL level. He’s a bit of a project, but I won’t be surprised if he ends up going in the top 31 on draft day.
36. Daniil Gushchin – 5’8″ LW, Muskegon (USHL)
Best attributes: Puck carrying, skating, playmaking
Gushchin is one of the fastest players in this year’s class. Perfectly capable of executing an end-to-end rush, he’s also a good playmaker on the power play and has a track record of point production that backs up his high-end skill. When I watched him play at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky event, I thought he would be in my top 15. He was Russia’s best transition player and just flew by older defensemen.
He’s one of the most talented players in the USHL and his scoring production backs that up. However, his size definitely raises some questions, as he’s less physical as other undersized forwards such as Pashin, Hirvonen, or Khusnutdinov. He did play on the penalty kill for Russia and he does bring plenty of intensity to the table on the forecheck, but he’s always going to have a tough time winning puck battles and going to the net.
I love his speed and skill combination — he has plenty of upside as a scorer as a result — but he’s one of the more boom-or-bust prospects in this class. He carries some similarities to Leafs prospect Nick Robertson — I think he could dominate the OHL this year — but Robertson has more lower body strength and takeaway skill, so he was a safer pick. With his speed and skill, it’s easy to envision him becoming a 65+ point scorer, but the amount of risk involved here will likely make him a mid-second-round pick.
37. Ozzy Wiesblatt – 5’10” RW, Prince Albert (WHL)
Best attributes: Skating, puck-carrying
I love watching Wiesblatt play, as he’s a talented transition forward who plays with a ton of intensity. He’s quick enough to beat defenders out wide, skilled enough to weave his way through the neutral zone, and physical enough overpower his outwork his opponents. His speed allows him to be an asset on both the forecheck and penalty kill. While I remember him more for his speed and skill, he’s not afraid to lay a big hit or drop the gloves.
He only notched one point in five games for Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky, but I still liked his game, and betting on good skaters tends to work out well. Prince Albert’s second-leading scorer this season, he still has some room left to improve. His upside keeps him outside of the top 20, as he’s probably not going to be a first-line player, but his well-rounded skill set should make him a strong middle-six forward.
One of my favourite players in this draft class, you can learn more about his family’s story here. It’s tough not to root for him. I also love watching him play, as he’s a well-rounded player who brings his best effort on every shift. Given his skating, transition skill, and work ethic, I’d love to get him in the second round.
38. Zion Nybeck – 5’7″ RW, HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
Best attributes: Puck-carrying, playmaking
With Raymond and Holtz out of the lineup for Sweden at the Hlinka-Gretzky, Nybeck became Sweden’s most dangerous scoring threat, quickly moving him up draft rankings. He’s tiny, but he was also his team’s best transition player in this event and never seems to stop moving his feet. He played well on both special teams, then returned home to Sweden to lead the SuperElit league in scoring with 66 points in 42 games.
Nybeck also posted five points in seven games in last year’s U18 event despite being one of the youngest players in the tournament. While his size is a clear weakness, he brings plenty of energy every time he steps on the ice and he’s quite quick. I like how well-rounded his game is for a smaller player. While he’s not an 80-grade skater in a straight line, he’s usually one of the quicker players on the ice at international tournaments.
I highly doubt he’ll be a first-round pick on draft day, but it’s not a bad idea to gamble on a player who really stood out in a best-on-best international tournament.
39. Topi Niemela – 5’11” RD, Karpat (Liiga)
Best attributes: Transition defense, skating
Niemela is a standout transition defender who plays a mature game for his age. He played 43 games in Finland’s pro league this year and was a standout at both the Hlinka-Gretzky and Five Nations tournament. He’s a good four-way skater and stick-on-stick defender. While the offensive upside doesn’t quite jump off the page, his well-rounded skill set has made him a consistent top performer at international events.
I consider Niemela to be a particularly safe pick, especially if he falls into the second round on draft day. There are just no major flaws in his game. I have no doubt that he is going to be able to keep up with NHL forwards. He’s not quite big and strong enough to be your prototypical shutdown defenseman, but he shuts down opposing zone entries so well that he doesn’t spend a ton of time in his own end. He has a shot to play on both special teams at the NHL level just like he’s done for Finland in the past, although he’ll probably end up on the second unit in both cases.
I won’t be surprised if Niemela is a first-round pick on draft day. His skating makes him a safe bet to be a NHL player. He’s a capable puck-mover rather than an outstanding one, but his skating consistently allows him to tilt the ice in his team’s favour. I wouldn’t pick him in the top 20-25 or so, but he’d be a solid second-round pick.
40. Roni Hirvonen – 5’9” LW/C, Assat (Liiga)
Best attributes: Stick-handling, playmaking, net-front play
Hirvonen spent the entire season in Finland’s pro league and carries a long history of being one of Finland’s best players at international tournaments. His quick hands make him fun to watch as he can pull off highlight-reel moves to dance around defenders. He’s also crafty playmaker who also isn’t afraid to go to the net despite being undersized.
There’s a good chance that Hirvonen ends up on the wing, as he’s undersized and not a great north-south skater. He’s quick rather than fast, and while I like his edgework, I think his top speed is fairly average. He also doesn’t seem to offer much of a shot; most of his goals are scored in the dirty areas. However, his skill is evident, he protects the puck and distributes well, and he’s a surprisingly effective net-front scorer.
I don’t think I’d consider taking him in the top 20, but he could be a bit of a steal if he falls to the late second round. His skating limits his upside, but he’s skilled and I love watching undersized forwards who play a hard-nosed style.
41. Jake Neighbours – 6’0” LW, Edmonton (WHL)
Best attributes: Puck battles, skating, two-way play
Neighbours did not register a point at the Hlinka-Gretzky, but he played on Canada’s top line and complemented Byfield and Jarvis quite well. He doesn’t have the scoring production or power-play skill to be a top-20 pick, but his speed and ability to win puck battles should translate to the NHL quite well. In a perfect world, he ends up as a Zach Hyman type: someone who can use his speed on the forecheck, win puck battles, go to the net, and kill penalties.
He nearly led his WHL team in scoring this season and he looked like one of the better forwards at the Top Prospects game. Even though he won’t quarterback a top power-play unit, I actually think he should be an average NHL forward in terms of his transition game, so I see real potential here to be a decent play-driver.
His well-rounded skill set should translate to the NHL very well. I expect him to develop into a solid middle-six forward who every coach loves, making him a rather safe pick on draft day. He would be a good second-round pick, but he’s the type of player who every scout loves, so I won’t be surprised if he sneaks his way into the first round as a result.
42. Jean-Luc Foudy – 5’11” C, Windsor (OHL)
Best attributes: Skating, puck-carrying
Foudy scored 0.73 points per game this year, which was quite disappointing as it was a step down from his rookie season. However, his brother, Liam, actually went 18th overall in 2018 despite scoring just 0.62 points per game in his draft year, so don’t be surprised if we hear his name in the first round. Foudy is easily one of the best skaters in this draft class and he could very well end up as one of the fastest players in the NHL one day.
If you had never watched Foudy play before and I sent you a video of him carrying the puck up the ice, you’d probably think he was a future top-15 pick. He’s a special skater and a very good puck carrier, but his game just simply isn’t very well-rounded. He’s undersized, isn’t much of a goal scorer whatsoever, and isn’t overly strong in the corners.
I do believe that Foudy is a much better prospect than his scoring production indicates. Even if his offensive game doesn’t take a big step forward, I think he can be the next Darren Helm. He looked great for Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky with four points in five games and his speed gives him a good chance to be a strong two-way center. He can quickly recover if he’s ever out of position.
Foudy’s a fine playmaker — and we’ll see what he can do in the offensive zone once he gets stronger– but he’s never going to score many goals. He’s so damn good in transition, but he has so much work to do in improving every other part of his game.
43. Tristan Robins – 5’10” RW/C, Saskatoon (WHL)
Best Attributes: Puck-carrying, playmaking, competitiveness
Robins is similar to Jack Quinn in that if he was a couple of months older, he probably would have been a late-round pick at best last year. He went from scoring 25 points in 68 games last year to scoring 73 points in six fewer games this year and led his team in scoring by nine points in the process. He’s an undersized forward with a slight frame, but his speed and skill are quite eye-opening.
Robins is fast enough to beat NHL defenders out wide, something I certainly look for when evaluating a player of his size. He moves the puck well and racks up assists as a result. He’s a half-decent shooting threat as well. He probably ends up on the wing given his size, but if you’re comfortable taking a gamble on a smaller player, I think he’s quick and skilled enough to have a legitimate shot at becoming a top-six forward. He doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas and I love the way competes and doesn’t back down. He’ll likely be a good mid-round pick on draft day.
44. Kasper Simontaival – 5’9” RW, Tappara (Jr. A SM-liiga)
Best attributes: Puck-carrying, shot, playmaking
Simontaival is always noticeable in the offensive zone, where he’s dangerous as both a goal scorer and a playmaker. He’s fairly strong for his size as well, but it’s his skill that really stands out. Always a big point producer for Finland at international tournaments, he dominated Finland’s junior league this year, so he certainly has the numbers to back up his impressive offensive toolkit.
His top speed is not all that impressive, which is always going to be a concern for a 5’9″ player. However, he is quite quick and top speed can get overrated by scouts at times. He can beat opposing defenders with his first few steps. While he’s slightly limited in transition, I do believe that he’s more than quick enough once he’s in the offensive zone. You don’t see many 5’9” wingers getting drafted in the first round — especially ones who are average skaters — but he’s skilled enough to be a solid selection in the second round.
It’s tough to tell if there’s much physical projection left, but if he can get a step or two faster, it’s easy to envision him as a 50+ point scorer. He’s a bit of a boom-or-bust type of pick — he’s not going to win a ton of puck battles at his size — but there is scoring upside to dream on. Don’t be surprised if he racks up points at the World Juniors this year (assuming the tournament is held, of course).
45. Tyson Foerster – 6’1” RW, Barrie (OHL)
Best attributes: Shot, shot, and shot again
Foerster scored an impressive 80 points in 62 games this year, leading his team by 33 (!). He was also the MVP of the Top Prospects Game, so don’t be surprised if he ends up as a first-round pick. He might have the best shot in the whole draft. If he makes the NHL, you can put him in the Ovechkin spot and center your power play around him. While his one-timer is his calling card, he also offers a great wrist shot, so he certainly has the potential to rack up goals if he can round out the rest of his game.
The weaknesses in his game are his skating and transition play. He doesn’t create his own shot like Holtz or even Quinn. He’s probably going to have to play with linemates who are good play drivers. He’s 6’1” and fairly heavy already, so if he takes a big step forward with his skating, he would end up scoring plenty of goals.
If he gets quick enough to become an average NHL player at 5v5, he’ll add plenty of value on the power play with his shot. While he’s not a bad passer either, he needs to round out the rest of his game or he’ll end up being a bit of a defensive liability like Laine is. I think there’s 30+ goal upside here, but I was too high Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows in the past and I’m now pretty hesitant of taking these types of players as a result.
My main concern: If your team already has a right-shooting power-play scorer like Ovechkin, Pastrnak, Stamkos, or Laine, can you still find Forester a role? That being said, I can’t really blame a team for trying to add a potential 30+ goal scorer in the second round.
46. Eamon Powell – 5’11” RD, USNTDP (USHL)
Best Attributes: Skating, transition defense
Powell is one of my favourite sleepers of this draft, as he’s a right-shooting defenceman who seems to do everything quite well. He’s a good four-way skater who defends well in transition and he looked like he could shut down just about every forward at the Five Nations Tournament. It’s tough to beat him out wide in transition and he’s a quietly effective puck mover as well. I also like his potential defensively.
My hope is that he can become a right-handed version of Travis Dermott. While he won’t play on a top power-play unit, I think he could be passable on a second unit and he looked great on USA’s top penalty kill unit with Sanderson. He’s not the flashiest player in the world, but he’s surprisingly valuable, as he defends well in transition while also moving the puck rather effectively.
As I think he has a decent chance to be a top-four defenseman, I’ll be surprised if he’s not a second-round pick on draft day. I like his defensive game, and while he won’t be a 60-point defenseman, he’s not scared of the puck, either. A projected third-round pick on many draft boards, he’ll be a bit of a steal if he falls that far.
47. Sean Farrell – 5’9” LW, Chicago (USHL)
Best attributes: Puck carrying, playmaking
Farrell is one of the rare undersized wingers who is actually a fairly safe pick. He’s smart and well-rounded enough to potentially fill a bottom-six role. He also has at least a fair chance of becoming more than that, as he nearly led the USHL in scoring and looked like one of the most dangerous forwards at the World Jr. A Challenge. He’s an above-average skater and carrier who can also win a decent amount of battles for a player of his size.
The main knock on him — other than his height — is that he’s one of the older players in this draft class. He was a little bit down on the US National U18 Team depth chart last season behind plenty of first-round talents like Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, Trevor Zegras, Matthew Boldy, Alex Turcotte, and John Beecher. However, he did take a nice step forward this year and he offers the playmaking talent to rack up assists. I don’t think he possesses the size and speed to be a true star, but he’s a skilled winger with a pretty respectable two-way game.
48. Emil Heineman – 6’1” LW, Leksands (SuperElit)
Best attributes: Strength, net-front scoring, forechecking
Heineman scored an impressive 26 goals in 29 SuperElit games this season. While he’s a little bit older for this draft class, that’s the type of production that we’d expect from a future NHL player. He even got into 11 SHL games, where his physical play made him look like he was still playing against teenagers at times. He’s really not much of a puck-carrier, but he’s strong enough to score his fair share of garbage goals and he moves around the ice fairly well for a power forward.
He’s not going to “drive a line” at the NHL level, but he’s a good fit to play with your skilled forwards. He’s great on the forecheck, he wins battle after battle in the corner, and he’ll make his living around the net. My biggest concern with Heineman is his ceiling, as I really haven’t seen much playmaking skill out of him and he had just five points in 27 games in the SuperElit league last year.
Heineman was a man amongst boys in that league this year, but once he gets to the NHL level, he’ll have a harder time overpowering his opponents. That being said, I do like his two-way game, ability to win battles, and willingness to go to the dirty areas.
49. Alexander Pashin – 5’7” W, Tolpar UFA (MHL)
Best attributes: Shooting, skating, competitiveness
A star at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament with seven goals in five games, Pashin was easily one of Russia’s better players at the World Jr. A Challenge. He also generated a ton of shots on goal in the MHL this year. His left-hand shot is a pretty strong weapon on the power play. While his height will cause him to fall on draft day, he’s fast enough to have potential at his size and he doesn’t back away physically. If anyone is going to make the NHL as a 5’7″ player, this is the guy.
His strength and physicality reduce the concerns around his size; I’ve watched Pashin bowl over 6’4” defensemen. Noticeable on the forecheck, he forces opposing defenders to rush decisions and he also uses his speed to generate entries by beating defenders out wide. He’s a good enough carrier to create his own shot. His speed and grit often earn him a spot on Russia’s penalty kill.
It’s reasonable to be hesitant of taking a 5’7” winger, but his size is not as much of a concern as I initially thought it would be. He’s one of the hardest-working players in this class. He’s almost like a smaller version of Nick Robertson — he’s quick, relentless, strong for his size, and a big-time goal scorer. I’d really like to take him in the third round if he falls that far.
50. Brock Faber – 6’0″ RD, USNTDP (USHL)
Best attributes: Skating, transition defense
Faber isn’t the most exciting player in the world. You’ll have a hard time finding many of his highlights, but he’s a quietly effective defender who excels in transition. He’s skating is a major selling point to his game and he’s not small, so there’s certainly some defensive upside here. He’ll be able to keep up with NHL forwards. While he’s never been a big point producer for the USNTDP, he’s usually able to generate clean breakouts with a good first pass.
There’s going to be a lot of pressure on his defensive game, as I just don’t see him contributing on an NHL powerplay. However, he possesses the speed and transition defense to be successful and he competes well in the defensive end. He reminds me of Washington Capitals defender Nick Jensen. I think he has a decent shot of being a solid NHL defender.
51. Ryan O’Rourke – 6’1” LD, Sault Ste Marie (OHL)
Best attributes: Size, strength, puck-moving
O’Rourke is a tough prospect to describe. He doesn’t really have many glaring strengths or weaknesses. He’s a decent puck mover, particularly for a player of his size, and he carries the potential to play on an NHL powerplay someday. He’s an average to slightly above-average skater rather than an elite one, but he consistently found a way to push play in the right direction as the Greyhounds captain this year. He doesn’t shy away physically and he should be able to kill penalties at the NHL level.
O’Rourke was Canada’s seventh defenceman at the Hlinka, so we haven’t seen much of him at best-on-best tournaments, although he looked quite impressive at the Canada-Russia Super Series. He brings enough strength, size, and intelligence to the table to carry some potential in his own end. He’s also perfectly capable of delivering a good first pass. With 37 points in 54 games this year, he doesn’t project to be a high-end offensive defenseman, but he’s one of the better defenders at the OHL level.
He should be a fine second-round pick. He’s pretty good defensively and decent offensively, so I don’t see any reason why he’d fall to the third round. He plays a mature game for his age and he’s already quite strong, so I’m not sure how much he’s going to improve. My hope is that he can become a Dermott-like contributor at the NHL level.
52. Vasili Ponomaryov – 6’0” C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Best Attributes: Two-way play, size, skating
A good two-way center for Russia for years, Ponomaryov played quite well at both the Hlinka-Gretzky and World Jr. A Challenge. His well-rounded play style is sure to make his coach happy. Small but skilled forwards like Alexander Pashin have benefitted greatly from playing with him. His speed, size, and intelligence allow him to cover plenty of ice and he’s never look out of place in a top-six role for Russia.
He scored 49 points in 57 QMJHL games this year, which was a little bit disappointing, as his teammate (and fellow draft-eligible forward) Mavrik Bouque outscored him by 22 points in eight fewer games. However, I’m convinced that he’s better than his numbers indicate.
Ponomaryov carries the tools to be a well-rounded center at the NHL level. His ceiling is probably a third-line center. I wouldn’t take him in the first 45 picks or so, but I’ve always appreciated what he brings to the table.
53. Brett Berard – 5’9″ LW, USNTDP (USHL)
Best attributes: Work ethic, puck-carrying, playmaking
Berard carries some similarities to Nick Robertson. He’s undersized, one of the youngest players in his draft class, and he’s relentless on the puck. I love his work ethic, forechecking ability, and quickness. He’s an asset in transition, as he’s able to change direction quickly and beat opposing defenders out wide. He doesn’t quite have Robertson’s shooting talent, so the question becomes: Is there enough upside here?
As one of the top forwards on the USNTDP this year, Berard is probably a top-50 player in this draft class if we held a Top Prospects tournament today. Despite his height, I think he can play in a bottom-six role if needed, as he’s responsible defensively and an asset on the forecheck. He’s another player who I probably wouldn’t take in the second round, as I’d gamble on him being available in the mid-third round.
54. Maxim Groshev – 6’2” LW, Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
Best Attributes: Competitiveness, skating, strength
Groshev spent the vast majority of his season in the KHL this year. While this is an impressive accomplishment, we didn’t get to see him in much of an offensive role. His speed, size, and physicality combination is impressive and he’s fairly effective in transition. He may never play on an NHL powerplay, but he brings plenty of energy to the table and should transition to the smaller ice surface very well.
Groshev looked to be a step ahead of almost everyone at the QMJHL vs. Russia Super Series. I think he can be a decent complementary winger down the line. I wouldn’t think about taking him until the third round — I don’t quite think he has the skill to be an elite player — but his speed and size should make him a relatively safe pick. He works hard, wins a ton of puck battles, and he is an asset on the forecheck.
55. Joni Jurmo – 6’4” LD, Jokerit (Jr. A SM liiga)
Best attributes: Speed, size
Jurmo is a complete development project. He’s 6’4” with plenty of speed, but he has a lot to work on. Fast enough to pull off end-to-end rushes on a regular basis, 6’4″ defenseman who can do this usually hear their name called in round one. However, he doesn’t quite play like your prototypical 6’4” defender and he needs to get stronger and grittier to fully take advantage of his size.
His defensive game is unpolished, and it’s not clear if he’ll ever “put it all together”. He’s also a little bit too reliant on advancing the puck up the ice with his feet as his passing is rather mediocre. His size and speed combination provides him with some potential, but there’s a little too much risk involved for me to put him in my first-round conversation.
56. Ty Smilanic – 6’1″ C/LW, USNTDP (USHL)
Best attributes: Skating, puck-carrying, scoring
Smilanic is a well-rounded forward whose skill set should translate nicely to the pro level. He’s a slightly above-average skater who can hold his own in transition. He’s not overly small either, so it’s easy to project him as a solid two-way forward. He’s fairly skilled, brings a pretty good shot to the table, and he is effective in the cycle due to his ability to create space and protect the puck.
He dealt with injuries all year and he wasn’t quite as dynamic offensively as teammate Thomas Bordeleau. I don’t think he’ll be a first-line scorer, but his well-rounded skill set makes him a rather safe pick. The size, speed, and skill is there to have a second-line upside if everything goes perfectly. He was the top goal scorer on the U17 team during the 2018-19 season. I think it’s clear that injuries held him back a bit this year.
57. Ty Tullio – 5’9″ RW/C, Oshawa (OHL)
Best attributes: Competitiveness, shot
Tullio is enjoyable to watch, as he works hard and doesn’t shy away from physical battles. He’s a crafty undersized forward who will go to the dirty areas and he’s equally dangerous as a scorer and a passer. I think he likely ends up on the wing, but there are no major holes in his game and it’s easy to see him breaking out in a big way in the OHL in the near future as a result.
Tullio finished fifth in the OHL in even-strength primary points per game behind only Byfield, Rossi, Perfetti, and Quinn. He did that with a relatively low shooting percentage. While his power-play production wasn’t quite as impressive, there’s no reason to think that he can’t play on the man advantage. He didn’t play for Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky or U18 tournaments, so I could definitely see him falling into the third round on draft day, but he brings a good combination of work ethic and skill to the table.
58. Anton Johannesson – 5’9″ LD, HV71 J20 (SuperElit)
Best Attributes: Playmaking, puck-carrying
Johannesson is a high-end puck mover who will likely end up as a mid-round pick on draft day due to his size. There’s plenty of risk involved with this pick, as he’s probably not going to kill penalties and you may need to shelter him with offensive zone starts. However, he’s a pretty wicked puck mover and definitely sees the ice well. He can defend okay in transition, but this isn’t your big net-front defender.
He’s elusive, a good four-way skater, and a strong passer. He sure looked like an effective play driver for Sweden at the Five Nations tournament, but given that he’s small and not overly strong for his size, there’s going to be plenty of questions surrounding how his game will translate. If you take Johannesson, you’re basically hoping that he’s the next Sam Girard. It’s a risky pick, but there are also not many better puck movers in this draft class. I probably wouldn’t take him in the first three rounds, as I’d take the gamble that he’d slide to the fourth, but I think he can be a bit of a steal later on.
59. Daniel Torgersson – 6’3″ LW, Frolunda J20 (SuperElit)
Best attributes: Net-front scoring, strength
Torgersson is your prototypical power forward who can rack up plenty of garbage goals around the net and win plenty of physical battles in the corners. He’s not a great puck carrier and he’s not going to generate a ton of assists, but he can be your net-front player on your power play and generate takeaways with his long reach. Torgersson had a good year in Sweden’s junior league this year with 44 points in 39 games, which earned him six games in the SHL.
I wouldn’t consider taking him until the third round — I think he’s likely to be a bottom-six forward — but I appreciate his ability to play a heavy style. Smaller players like Zion Nybeck and William Eklund were the forwards who were really “driving play” for Sweden way back at the Hlinka-Gretzky, but you need players like Torgersson to drive to the net and put the puck in the net. His game should translate to the NHL level quite nicely, but I don’t see him being a star player.
60. Ryder Rolston – 6’1” RW, Waterloo (USHL)
Best attributes: Speed, shot, size
Rolston spent some on the loaded US U-18 Team last year before transitioning to a first-place Waterloo team this year. He reminds me a little bit of Zach Hyman — he’s big, he works hard, and he’s noticeably fast. He’s never going to be much of a playmaker, but there’s plenty of power in his shot and he looked good in the middle of Team USA’s 1-3-1 power play at the World Jr. A Challenge.
Rolston finished third among draft-eligible USHL forwards in shots per game, which is quite impressive for a player who you don’t really revolve your power play around. He doesn’t really have 60-point upside, but he’s big and fast enough for the NHL level and his ability to win battles could make him a nice complement next to skilled forwards.
In case you’re wondering, he is, in fact, the son of former NHL scorer Brian Rolston. I like his strength and speed combination and I think his skill set will translate to the NHL level quite well.
61. Veeti Miettinen – 5’9″ RW, Kiekko-Espoo U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
Best Attributes: Shot, puck-carrying
Miettinen is a tough prospect to evaluate. He’s dominated Finland’s junior league over the past two years and really had no business playing there this year. Scoring 42 goals in 52 games is basically unheard of in that league for a draft-eligible player. He’s also always been a good scorer for Finland in international tournaments. He’s on the older end of this draft class and his physical tools aren’t all that impressive, but he’s certainly quite good at putting the puck in the net.
With Miettinen committed to NCAA hockey at St.Cloud State this year, I have no idea how his game will translate. He’s a volume shooter with a good shot and he’s fairly skilled as well, but I think he’s just an average skater and he’s not overly strong. I’m a little bit skeptical about his physical tools, but if he’s available in the mid-rounds, I can’t blame a team for taking a gamble on someone with his scoring production.
62. William Villenueve – 6’1” RD, Saint John (QMJHL)
Best Attributes: Passing, puck-handling
Villenueve is a pretty unusual prospect to evaluate. He led his team in scoring this season and did most of his damage at five-on-five, so that’s very impressive. He sees the ice well and can really thread the needle with his breakout passes. Having 49 assists in 64 games does not seem like a fluke, as he had plenty of highlight-reel stretch passes throughout the season. While he offers a pretty good shot as well, it’s his passing that really stands out.
When you combine his offensive production, with the fact that he’s not undersized, you would think that he would be a clear-cut first-round pick. However, his skating is a significant concern. If he doesn’t get a step quicker, he’s going to have a real tough time against top NHL forwards. He carries and protects the puck well, so he certainly has potential on the offensive side of the game, but he really needs to gain a step over the next year or two. He also needs to get stronger.
RW Luke Evangelista, LW Antonio Stranges, RW Justin Sourdif, RW Dylan Peterson, RW Colby Ambrosio, RW Ridley Greig, RD Luke Reid, LW Oskar Magnusson, LW Roby Jarventie, RW Connor McClennon, C/RW Theodor Niederbach, LW/C Pavel Tyutnev, LW/C Theo Rochette.
G Joel Blomqvist (and every goalie not named Yaroslav Askarov), LD Wyatt Kaiser, RD Mitch Miller, RD Ian Moore, RW Dmitri Rashevsky, C Dmitri Ovchinnikov.