2020 NHL Draft: Mock Top 15

So now we know!  The New York Rangers won the Lafrenière lottery, and not only that but now we have the order of the top 15 as well.  So with that being the case, why not do a mock draft?!  I hope you weren’t expecting a longer opening than this, because I spent four hours working on this, it’s now 12:30, and I want to go to bed so I’ll do a 500 word opening some other time!

I don’t go off it for my mock drafts, but if you’re interested, my final rankings for the 2020 draft (a top 64 list) is also out now, and you can check that out here.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

SOH Rank: 1st

So NOW we know!  First of all…what a win for the league.  What a win for the league to the point of…and I’m so not a conspiracy theorist…but this is a little TOO perfect.  But I digress because I’d rather something good for the game than good for my team, and the Rangers being an elite team as it appears they’re set to become, is really good for the game.

Now…while I believe this is good for the game, I actually believe this is one of the few teams who could look at a couple of different trade opportunities.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect either to happen.  Maybe a 5% chance.  But IF Jack Eichel asks or has already asked out of Buffalo, there is definitely a blockbuster to be made between the Sabres and Rangers based around the top pick for Jack Eichel.  I believe a big contract would have to go to Buffalo (perhaps Jacob Trouba), I believe the Sabres would have to make sure they land Alexandar Georgiev as part of the deal given how bad they need to upgrade their goaltending, and then I’m not sure what else maybe needs to be added to make it work.  Maybe the 8th pick goes back to the Rangers, but if that’s too rich for the Sabres, then maybe the Canes 1st goes in the deal as well?  There is a deal here IF Eichel wants to leave Buffalo.  And before you say the Rangers won’t deal the pick, remember that they don’t just not have a 1st line centre moving forward, they’re really thin down the middle.  Also remember who Jack Eichel’s coach was at BU…that would be Rangers head coach David Quinn.

The other trade option that COULD be there for the Rangers and COULD make sense…the Senators possibly offering the 3rd and 5th picks.  I’m sceptical that Pierre Dorian would do this though.  Given the talent that will be available at 3, it’s A LOT to get someone who might only be a slight upgrade.  Dorian does have a crazy owner though who likes crazy things.  If the Rangers did get offered this, and had the chance to take one of Byfield or Stützle (both natural centres, and potential franchise centres) along with adding the 5th pick, I think they’d have to do it.

But the FAR more likely scenario is that the Rangers simply take Lafrenière.  As you see, and as you may be well aware of because I’ve been saying it for a long time now, I prefer Lafrenière to play the middle.  I think a talent like this needs to be maxed out, and playing the wing I believe limits the impact he can have on a game.  Given the Rangers needs, I believe there is a great chance that this comes to fruition.  If he or the team is stubborn though and he remains on the wing, then as much as the Rangers have done a terrific job rebuilding, I’m not sure they’re built to be anything more than just a perennial playoff team.  I could be very wrong about that, and no doubt that some of the “rebuild rules” so to speak won’t apply to the Rangers as they have no problem attracting UFA’s or players with NTC’s and NMC’s, but it could be a big issue for them moving forward if they don’t address it in some form soon.  Wow, I’ve never wrote this much on one pick, let alone the top pick!  But I didn’t feel like doing a full-on blog about it, so you got this instead.

Other Option: Trade – just laid it out for you, don’t think I need to go any further with it.

Possible Reach: Quinton Byfield – you can make the argument for him, especially for the Rangers.  He’s a legitimate centre, he’s got the size advantage, he’s got the skating advantage, he’s 10 months younger, and he was producing at a better pace this season than Lafrenière was last season, in a better league.  But it has about a 0.000000000000000000004% chance of happening.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Staal

SOH Rank: 2nd

It is a toss-up between Byfield and Stützle.  I’m saying Byfield for a few reasons.  1) the Kings LOVE the OHL.  Now, that might be a Mike Futa thing, who is no longer with the organization.  But the way they’ve drafted in recent years, they might love the OHL more than any other team in the league.  2) the Kings won with size, especially down the middle.  While the regime that won is mostly gone, the people still in the organization were also with the King at that time.  3) I can’t imagine the league wouldn’t be pushing hard for the Kings to take a potential star of African descent.  Byfield in Ottawa wouldn’t have the impact that Byfield in a major U.S. market like L.A. would have.  It would be massive for the league.  Right or wrong, I believe it’ll play a factor in this decision.

Other Option: Tim Stützle – again, it’s 50/50.  I know what I just wrote, but we’re splitting hairs.  Stützle would likely be the pick for most teams as he’s the riser, just think Byfield ends up being the Kings guy.

Possible Reach: Jamie Drysdale – as I just said with Byfield, they love the OHL, but was that a Mike Futa thing or is it an organizational thing?  They really need to start the rebuild on the backend.

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3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

SOH Rank: 3rd

Originally San Jose’s pick sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  Highly likely that what happens here is that the Sens simply take the guy the Kings don’t.  So, in this case, it’s Stützle.  Some debate whether or not he can play the middle.  I believe he can, and I believe he has 1st line centre ability which the Sens really need.

Other Option: Jamie Drysdale – I say Drysdale, but essentially it’s Drysdale or Sanderson because if they happen to love one of them more than the other and want to ensure they land him, then with the 5th pick in their possession they could afford to take that guy here and then maybe Rossi at five.

Possible Reach: Marco Rossi – same idea as Drysdale.  Perhaps they’ll love the kid playing in their backyard so much that they ensure they get him.  By the stats, you can justify it.

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4. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Miro Heiskanen

SOH Rank: 7th

Risers always go higher than expected.  I can’t put Sanderson above this spot, but he’s going top five in my opinion and it’s just a matter of whether or not the Wings pull the trigger at four, or the Sens do it at five.  Honestly, I don’t get it, I prefer Drysdale, but it seems to be what always happens.  I’d love this for the Wings though.  Sure, last year they took Moritz Seider with their top pick, but that blueline still has a ton of work to be done.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I’m not ready to go here yet, but man alive is Sam Cosentino ever confident that they’re going to make this selection and if they do it is for ALL the wrong reasons!  This team needs to find pieces that can get them back to contender status, not complimentary wingers who have ties to the front office.  But Sammy Coz seems extremely confident that they’re going to take Perfetti.  I wonder if a trade back with Jersey to the 7th pick maybe makes sense if this is what they want to do?  I’ll explain later.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – Give this some real thought for a minute.  The Wings are still a LONG ways off.  They won’t be ready to win for another three years in my opinion.  He is going to be three or four years before he’s even ready for NHL action.  Goaltending prospects like this rarely come around.  And finally, Yzerman had amazing success taking Andrei Vasilevskiy in the 1st round in 2012.  I can actually make a strong case for it.

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5. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

SOH Rank: 4th

To walk out of this draft with Stützle and Drysdale would be massive for this organization as you’d legitimately getting a potential franchise centre and a potential franchise defenceman.  They have stocked the shelves somewhat on D, but I don’t think teams ever feel as though they have enough.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – would make a ton of sense here, and while I prefer that they take a D-man with this pick, and believe they will, shoring up centre is never a bad thing.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – 2nd in a row for Askarov.  I should clarify that he wouldn’t be a reach for me as I have him 6th, and in the same tier as Drysdale and Rossi.  But for most, he’d be considered a reach at four or five.  Again though, pretty damn rare for goaltending prospects like this to come along.

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6. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

SOH Rank: 8th

The Ducks could really use some franchise pillars.  They actually have some really nice young talent, not to mention guys like Lindholm and Gibson who are still young enough to rebuild around.  But those are the only pillar type pieces I believe they have.  Trevor Zegras MIGHT get there, Sam Steel MIGHT get there, Isaac Lundestrom MIGHT get there, but no sure things.  I’m not sure Raymond is that guy either, but he’s close.  And this organization has hit some home runs drafting out of Sweden so it makes a lot of sense.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I don’t like him over Raymond, and I don’t like him for the Ducks, but it sure seems like he is the apple of most NHL scouts eye.

Possible Reach: Kaiden Guhle – for the same reason that Sam Cosentino loves Perfetti to go to Detroit, keep your head up about this one for the Ducks.  All the ties between the Ducks and the P.A. Raiders organization, Kaiden’s brother Brendan is in their system, and the Ducks have a need for defencemen in their system right now.

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7. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

SOH Rank: 10th

It’s actually just ironic that I brought up the whole Perfetti thing with Detroit.  Truth be told I didn’t think of that being a possibility until after.  But the Devils could package this pick with one of their other 1st rounders (now that we know they own three) to move up to the 4th pick and take the defenceman they pretty badly need, then the Wings could take Perfetti here if that’s in fact who they want.  But I don’t do trades, and they so rarely happen within the draft anymore (hardly ever within the top 10), so the Devils stand pat and take the player with perhaps the highest hockey IQ in the draft.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – this organization is going HEAVY analytics.  A kid like Rossi is going to have the attention of the analytics community when it comes to the draft, as he produced at the same pace this season as Lafrenière while playing in a tougher league (keep in mind too, both are late 01’s).  Also, if the Devils organization see Hughes as a winger long term, then they have a hole behind Hischier which Rossi could fill.

Possible Reach: Braden Schneider – I strongly believe they’ll look to address their blueline in this draft.  They have pieces, but not nearly enough.  If they love Schneider, it’s possible that they can’t get him with those later picks.  Keep in mind though, this is “possible reach”.  I highly doubt this is considered here.

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8. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

SOH Rank: 6th

I just don’t think he’s getting past this point.  In no way does Askarov solve their goaltending issues today, and I know they have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the system.  But I just have a feeling that new GM Kevyn Adams will want to do everything he can this off-season to ensure they no longer have any goaltending issues.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – makes a ton of sense for the Sabres, because while he’s small, he could be that perfect fit of a 2C playing behind Eichel who can do a ton of heavy lifting eating up a lot of tough minutes.  And he’s ready to make the jump now.

Possible Reach: Hendrix Lapierre – for the exact same reasons I just laid out as to why they might go with Rossi.  Get ready to see him mentioned a lot, because if he has a clean bill of health, teams will have a ton of interest.

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9. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

SOH Rank: 5th

The last mock I did, I had Kaiden Guhle as their pick.  And they badly need D-men in their system.  But now, not only are they picking higher, but in this scenario, I believe it’s a bonus that Rossi has fallen to 9th.  They aren’t terrific down the middle moving forward either, so take the centre here, they can look to load up on D later (even though it is a thin draft for D), and next years draft it appears they’ll own two 1st round picks (assuming the Penguins choose to give that one to the Wild) in a draft that is rich with quality defencemen.

Other OptionKaiden Guhle – having said what I just said…that blueline is THIN.  Not the current group they have, it’s actually pretty solid.  But they have next to nothing on the way.

Possible Reach: William Wallinder – yep…he would be a reach alright!  They’ve taken six Swedish D-men in the last nine drafts, so they’ve trusted their Swedish scout (though one of those kids was taken out of the USHL).  Having said this, Bill Guerin is now the GM, so who knows who Guerin will be willing to listen to from the previous regime.

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10. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Brad Marchand

SOH Rank: 9th

NO.  FREAKING.  CHANCE.  He gets past the Jets pick.  Easily could go higher than this (perhaps as high as 6th to Anaheim).  But if he’s still on the board when his hometown team steps to the…webcam…Kevin Cheveldayoff is thanking the NHL for the event, saying thanks to the great city of Edmonton for doing a great job hosting the bubble, congratulating the Stanley Cup champions, and then announcing…that his director of amateur scouting Mark Hillier will make their selection.  And then Hillier will step up to the webcam and announce they’re taking Seth Jarvis.

Other Option: Anton Lundell – I had a really tough time going with just one other option here.  Lundell though really would fit the Jets well.

Possible Reach: Ridly Greig – The Wheat Kings are no longer the closest junior team to the Jets anymore, but I’d still consider them to be in their backyard.  Add to that, centre is a need, the GM knows the Wheat Kings VERY well, I’m sure he knows Ridly’s dad pretty damn well given they were in the same draft (1990) and would have played against each other a ton.  They also aren’t afraid to take the guy they love.  Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey were both off the board picks.  I only have one reach possibility for each team, but I can’t help myself here and suggest that Jack Finley having his dad on the scouting staff and this teams desire for players with size who play a pro game…he makes a ton of sense too if they were to reach on a kid.

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11. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

SOH Rank: 12th

Can’t see the Preds going anywhere else with this pick, as long as this is how it plays out.  David Poile has always made sure that the shelves are stocked on the blueline with his teams.  And while the Preds have one of the top blueline’s in the league, they are starting to get older (dumb line, everyone is getting older, I apologize), and nothing is on the way for them to get too excited about.  Guhle in my opinion is going to need time to develop, but could be well worth that wait.  And given the fact that the Preds blueline is so solid at the moment, the timelines on when they’d need him and he’d be ready would match up very well.

Other OptionBraden Schneider – it’s the same idea as Guhle obviously, and scouts have been torn on who they prefer of the two kids all season.  It could come down to preference of what they need more, a LHD or a RHD.

Possible Reach: Helge Grans – he would be a pretty big reach with this pick, no doubt.  RHD with a TON of upside, but any team that takes this kid will need to be patient.  William Wallinder would also qualify here, but I just used him for this two picks ago!

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12. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

Comparison: Brent Seabrook

SOH Rank: 24th

This is a big need for the Panthers.  In the system, they have some kids I like, but nobody who is a sure thing.  On the big club, Yandle and Stralman are in their mid 30’s, and the Mike Matheson contract has been an absolute disaster.  So they could really use someone.  I liked this pick better when Dale Tallon was the GM, as Schneider is his kind of player.  The new GM…we don’t even know who that is yet, so no idea what that guy might want to do.  I wouldn’t put it past this organization though to package this pick with a big contract as they were already shedding money BEFORE Covid hit.

Other Option: Anton Lundell – it doesn’t look good on D for this club moving forward, but they also have a pretty big hole in the system past Barkov.  The next best centre (long term) they have might be Henrik Borgstrom, and Borgstrom has had trouble adjusting to pro hockey.  So Lundell makes a lot of sense.

Possible Reach: Connor Zary – I’m not nearly as high on him as some are after tracking the WHL prospects this season as closely as I did.  But a lot of scouts really like him, and so if they happen to go the centre route, Zary might be pretty appealing to them.

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13. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

SOH Rank: 13th

Originally Toronto’s pick sent to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade.  I know two guys that you think they’ll take over Reichel, but I not only think Reichel will be taken ahead of those two, I actually believe he could be one of those stunner top 10 picks that normally happen.  I’ve gone pretty conservative with what I have mocked here, but there is always one, and usually two picks in the top 10 that leave everyone with their jaw on the floor.  Last year it was Seider and to a lesser extent Broberg.  2018 it was Hayton and to a lesser extent Kravtsov.  2017 it was Andersson and to a lesser extent Rasmussen.  It always happens, and I think Reichel could be that guy.  However, if he’s here for the Canes, I think he’s a kid they’ll love.  They have a lot of this type of player which is high-end skill that plays a sneaky good all-around game.

Other Option: Hendrix Lapierre – this makes a lot of sense.  The Canes are ok in the middle, but not at all stacked.  And they have the type of roster and system where they can afford to take a home run swing like Lapierre would be.

Possible Reach: Rodion Amirov – reach for me (30th on my board), but he’s not that big of a reach for some.  Same idea as Reichel.  The Canes love their skill, and Amirov has a ton of it.

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14. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: Nail Yakupov

SOH Rank: 15th

As you can likely tell by the comp I use, and the ranking I have on him, I’m not nearly as high on Holtz as most are.  Having said this, much like Cole Caufield a year ago, I believe that this is a spot that makes a ton of sense for the pure sniper.  The Oilers lack one, and they have the type of centres who would get the most out of a guy like Holtz.  I have concerns about his skating, his play away from the puck, his puck management, and his shot selection.  So he has plenty more red flags than most admit.  Still, when I compare him to Yak, keep in mind that Yak would be an NHL player if he had simply worked on his flaws.  He wouldn’t have been a superstar, but could have become a 20-30 goal scorer.  So as long as Holtz checks out in the interview process and he’s known to have a great work ethic, he should be ok and a great fit for the Oilers.  I’m not a fan of snipers in the draft, but you should see his shot.  It’s hypnotizing.

Other Option: Hendrix Lapierre – wouldn’t stun me if they were the team that steps up and takes Lapierre.  They BADLY need centres in the system, and as long as his medical’s check out, he’s going to be terrific.  Ironically, while my comp on him is Brayden Point, another guy who comes to mind is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Possible Reach: Ridly Greig – for me, he’s not that big of a reach here.  But he is for most.  He fits a TON of needs though for this team.  Conservatively, he could be the 3C they’ll need moving forward.  He has top-six potential and might be better on the wing long term given how physical he loves to play.

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15. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Point

SOH Rank: 11th

Someone is taking him much higher than anyone expects.  I’m actually not sure that this is that big of a reach as Bob McKenzie has him in this range.  But why do the Pens make sense?  Because folks…it’s time they start looking at life after Sid and Geno.  It’s not coming soon, but it is coming.  Lapierre would be a terrific fit for them because they could break him in either as the 3C, or on the wing.  So he could still be a huge help to the Pens lineup while Sid and Geno are around, and then long term he is there to help soften the blow when those two are gone (or fading).

Other Option: Anton Lundell – as much as he has concerns about his skating, Lundell is going to be intriguing for some teams due to his ability to possibly step in next season.  So a team like the Pens who could use a centre who can take on some tough minutes (Lundell is a rare kid who could), he does make some sense.  Though players with skating concerns are pretty damn rare on the Pens roster.

Possible Reach: Dylan Holloway – he’d be a reach for my liking (I have him 22nd), but not for most.  As I just talked about with Lundell, the Pens love their speed, and Holloway can really fly.

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The Oilers Shouldn’t “Settle” With Philip Broberg, And They Have No Reason To

In 10 days, we resume.  In 10 days, we as Canadians get to hear the great Chris Cuthbert call games for Hockey Night in Canada once again.  In 10 days, while things aren’t going to be back to normal, it’s another sign that we’re getting closer.  In 10 days, I will be on my sectional with the AC cranked, watching non-stop hockey, probably with a big mess of food by my side (I’ve been dieting pretty hard since about the end of April, down 25lbs, but you better believe the gloves are off that weekend.  Nuggs, pizza, wings, Old Dutch chips with some herb and spice dip…or maybe jalapeno…or dill pickle (I like my chips with the dip just like Drake), any kind of food that is bad for you will be in consideration.  It will all be on the table (well, coffee table, next to my sectional), and it won’t be pretty.  No better way to celebrate weight loss like putting it all back on.  And it’s just 10 days away…

But let’s get serious for a minute, and isn’t it nice just to have some form of sports back?!  Even if it’s not all the way back just yet.  Watched the Jays game last night, just did the rookie draft for our fantasy football league the last few days, the NBA is starting up the same weekend as the NHL, while I’m worried about the worst-case scenario’s, it’s nothing but optimism right now!  SPEAKING OF OPTIMISM…that brings me to today’s blog!  But before we get going on that, please help a slightly less fat guy out:

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The Broberg hype

So the big topic in Oiler-land during camp has become Philip Broberg.  It started with Bob Stauffer (as it normally does with anything Oilers) raving about how good the kid looked.  Stauff said he appears to have filled out and doesn’t look out of place in the camp.  And then Mark Spector followed it up with a piece the other day stating how Broberg has moved ahead of Evan Bouchard on the Oilers depth chart.  That’s exciting!  On Tuesday’s edition of Oilers Now, Spec was on with Bob and they broke down exactly why they’re so excited with what they’ve seen so far.

Now, they’re watching camp, I’m not.  They’re talking to people in the organization, I’m not.  So I’m on the outside looking in here.  I want to make that clear.  And I’m not looking to rip on two guys I once interned for, both of whom treated me very well.  But what has me nervous about what I’m hearing is that it is what we already knew were strengths of Broberg and nothing about him having improved on his weaknesses.  He can fly, but we already knew this.  He’s got great size, but we already knew this.  What became really troublesome for me in the talk, was that Stauff compared him to Noah Hanifin, while Spec at one point said (speaking of the future of the blueline in general) “I don’t see a defence with one BIG horse, like Pietrangelo is in St. Louis, or Doughty is in LA, or Duncan Keith is in Chicago.”  So, why wouldn’t you want to take the kid with the highest ceiling and take your time developing him?  If you look to rush him in, that’s “settling” so to speak (hence, the title of my blog, so weird how that works…).

How I Felt Last Year vs Now

Let’s go back to June 21st, 2019 for a minute here.  I should apologize to any Oilers fans who have been following me on Twitter since that night.  I went insane with my dislike of the pick.  I was not very high on Broberg at any point during the 2019 draft process.  Initially, he shot up most rankings after his performance in Edmonton at the 2018 Hlinka/Gretzky tournament.  I felt in watching him that his performance was simply due to the fact that he was bigger than most, and faster than maybe everyone in that tournament.  At least everyone not wearing a Canadian jersey.  So I felt he was overhyped at that time, and I never really shook that feeling.

When doing my final rankings for that draft, while I make it very clear that I’m not a scout, you better damn well understand that I don’t put those rankings out throwing shit at the wall.  I do as much homework as you can on those kids.  I don’t ever want to put work out that is sloppy.  I don’t know if my work is that great, but I work hard on it, I’m a perfectionist and full disclosure…I have an inferiority complex when it comes to content I put out, so I’m pretty terrified of putting out things people can poke holes in.  The puck-moving ability scared me (he’s never had to learn to move the puck well), and the puck skills, in particular, scared me.  So I had my concerns, and I put him 18th in my final rankings.  Combine that with the fact the Oilers had a desperate need for forwards in general in this organization, and I was beside myself.

But in doing that, I slept on the fact that Broberg had an insanely high floor (I still thought he was essentially a lock to be a top-four defenceman), and an insanely high ceiling (because of that size, that skating, and given he’s an intelligent and hard-working kid, he has a shot to become a legitimate number one defenceman in the league).  So the fact I had him behind some guys like Cam York and Victor Soderstrom isn’t something I’m pumped that I did.

Now, HAVING SAID ALL THAT…

I still think the Oilers should have taken Trevor Zegras.  I personally would have taken Peyton Krebs, but they apparently had no interest in Krebs.

But they took Broberg, and as time has gone on I’ve understood more not only what they saw in the player, but why they felt they perhaps needed another defenceman in the system despite it being pretty loaded already.

Again though, what I’m hearing isn’t anything I didn’t know the kid could be.  Maybe I’m missing something, but what I want to hear is how he’s moving the puck incredibly well, and his puck skills are vastly improved.  We also have to keep some things in mind here.  1) he was skating during the break.  Most weren’t.  2) the clips I’ve seen from the scrimmages at camp, the play is pretty unorganized (as it is in every training camp scrimmage I’ve ever seen) and most of the guys there aren’t exactly battling for a spot, while Broberg is one of the few who is.

I completely understand the excitement of the fan base.  Anytime a prospect emerges in any form, the thoughts immediately go towards the upside of the prospect not just in terms of what the player could be, but how the organization could take advantage of the added depth.

We as fans also have to remember that it’s not just Oilers fans who have been guilty of wanting kids rushed, the Edmonton media has been just as guilty of it.  Again, not meaning to shit on what guys like Stauff and Spec have to say on this at all.  But it’s just a fact of the matter.  2017-18 training camp, the cry was for Yamamoto to make the club out of camp.  In 18-19 guys were pushing pretty hard for Bouchard to make it (and in fairness, I was too given the situation at the time).  Back in the day, they were pushing for Sam Gagner.  Magnus Paajarvi.  Leon Draisaitl (it didn’t hurt him, but they did rush him that first season).  It has happened so much over the years and needs to stop.

A Succession Plan

Thankfully, Ken Holland isn’t the type of guy who’ll look to rush a prospect.  They have a very good succession plan in place here on defence.  I’m not sure if it is going to be followed the way that I believe they’ll do it, but it probably won’t be far off.

On the left side of the D is where that succession plan should be rock solid.  Klefbom, Nurse, Jones, Russell, Samorukov, and Broberg all in place.  So you might be asking “how are they going to make room for a kid like Broberg?”  Wait, you didn’t ask?  Oh, well, too bad, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Kris Russell should be the first to go.  When that will be, I’m not sure.  I THINK there is an excellent opportunity for Russell to move this off-season.  His cap hit isn’t pretty, but what is are the real dollars left owing on his deal for next season of 1.5 million.  He also now has to green light 15 teams he can be dealt to, up from 10 last season.  There are going to be a lot of teams around the league looking to save some money.  So while I don’t expect Holland to be able to outright dump the contract, I do believe there will be an opportunity out there to get a pretty good forward at a similar cap hit in return for Russell.  An example I came across, and I have no idea if this is a possibility, but perhaps a deal with Flordia for Brett Connolly makes sense.  It saves the Panthers two million dollars for next season, and Russell only has one more year on his deal, where Connolly has three.

Should Russell be shed, that frees up the spot on the bottom pair for Jones to play full-time next season.  And the blueline looks set heading into 20-21.  But what about the expansion draft?  Do you go 4-4-1?  At this point, I think that’s a no brainer for the Oilers.  We know that McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins (assuming he’s re-signed) and Yamamoto would be the forwards protected.  But what if they land someone worth keeping for Russell?  What if there is someone else they have plans on keeping up front?  What if someone pops?  Maybe Benson?  Maybe Athanisiou starts clicking with someone?  Then what?  Not to mention, the way the Oilers are set up, if you assume the kids on the blueline keep progressing the way they have been, you’re going to have a hell of a trade chip to play that off-season, if you haven’t played it already.  I believe they’ll end up going 7-3-1 with who they protect, and while everyone thinks it’ll be Nurse who is eventually dealt, I believe it’s going to be Oscar Klefbom who is.

Klefbom v Nurse (moving forward)

Now, I’m not as set on this as I once was, and I’ll get to all the possibilities.  But I still believe this is what the organization will end up doing, and there are several reasons why (apparently nine, at least that I thought of).

  1. Klefbom is two years older.
  2. Nurse has a far better track record of staying healthy.
  3. Nurse is bigger and a better skater.
  4. With Bear, Bouchard, and Jones, not to mention prospects like the aforementioned Broberg and Samorukov coming, the Oilers won’t lack what Klefbom brings to the table, where Nurse brings a different dimension.
  5. Nurse is TIGHT from all accounts with the two big dogs on this team.  That matters in this scenario.
  6. Things have never seemed quite right with Klefbom and the organization.  Trade rumours in the 2018 off-season, he’s never been given a letter, I’m not suggesting there is some big issue, but I just get the sense that he’s not viewed as one of their core players.  Maybe that was the old regime and not the new one, but we’ll see.
  7. This is more my belief than having any knowledge that the organization is thinking this way, but I believe Nurse is the exception to the rule when it comes to his growth.  Most players by age 25 are what they are.  But most players aren’t 6’5 guys who are tremendous skaters with a work ethic matched by few.  The two players I look at when thinking of Nurse are Rob Blake and Brent Burns.  Both players when they were young had similar talent to Nurse, and neither guy reached their potential until around age 28.  I also should point out that I don’t believe Nurse will become the offensive force that Blake was and Burns is.  Where I believe the growth will come with Nurse is in the defensive zone.  As frustrating as he can be at times in his own zone now, I really believe he can become an elite defensive defenceman.
  8. There seems to be a bit of a misconception on their contracts.  Most see Nurse as the guy to go given he is a UFA in two more years.  Well, that sweetheart Klefbom deal now only has three more years on it.  If Ken Holland is to give one of these two a 7 or 8-year contract, one would start at 27, the other would start at 30.
  9. Klefbom MIGHT have the higher trade value given that 4.1 million dollar cap hit, with still two seasons remaining on it after next season.  With a tight cap, two years of a top pairing D-man at 4.1 million is pretty damn attractive.

That’s a lot of reasons.  But it’s not to suggest that I don’t see the other side of it, I absolutely do.  The big one for me though is the long term ramifications with each guy.  If you’re going to commit to one of them long term, I’m choosing Nurse even though I believe Klefbom is currently the better defenceman.  Nurse definitely closed the gap this season, and while it is completely fair to say Ethan Bear played a large role in that, the fact of the matter is that Nurse (by most analytic measures that I saw this season, but I fully admit that as much as I try with analytics, I’m not wise) was their top defenceman.

Lot’s to Consider

Could they simply let Jones be plucked by Seattle?  I guess, but that feels like extremely poor asset management.

It is possible with how well they’re currently set up that they trade Nurse in the next 12 months, and simply allow Klefbom’s deal to run out in three years.  I wouldn’t bet on this happening, but we’ll see.  They’re moving into contender mode, and this is something contenders do.  If you told me that in three years they’ll have Jones, Broberg, and Samorukov on the left side of their blueline, I could see it.

And we also don’t know what contract negotiations will look like with Nurse.  When he signed the two-year extension, my theory attempting to read the tea leaves from what was said by both sides and the media was that it was essentially an 8-10 year deal.  It’s pretty rare for a guy looking for big term and years to simply cave after little negotiating.  It’s also pretty rare for a team to be fine walking a 25 year old, top-four defenceman to free agency.  Something must have been done under the table.  But now…so much has changed.  So we’ll see.  Maybe Nurse will now want to go to free agency simply to recover as much money as he may have lost by not doing a long term deal?  Entirely possible.

Finally, of course it is entirely possible that they protect four D.  Given the depth on the blueline, and the amount of high-end D that they have coming, I can’t see it, but you never know.  If someone wants to make the case for it, perhaps they’d say the need to protect one of Klefbom or Nurse for another organization severely hurts their trade value, where if you protect all four guys you can make a move following the expansion draft.  That’s fair.

What I really don’t foresee is a way that both Klefbom and Nurse stay long term.  With how tight this cap is going to be, and given how well they’re set up moving forward on the blueline, I just can’t see them committing big dollars to both guys.

Post Expansion Draft

No matter which one of Klefbom or Nurse might be dealt, it is probably safe to assume that the organization will keep one of them long term.  You’ll have one of them, and very likely Caleb Jones occupying the left side.

So what about the bottom pair?  It’s true, that could be a good spot for Broberg to step in.  But they also have Lagesson.  I have my doubts on Lagesson having seen him make the jump for 8 games this season, but it is very possible he’s not done growing yet.

Don’t sleep on Markus Niemelainen.  He’s huge, he skates very well, can move the puck well, and is a good sheer defender.  He’s always left people wanting more out of his game, but a number five defenceman who leaves you wanting more is still a number five defenceman.

Finally, you might forget or might not know that they have a damn good kid coming in Dmitri Samorukov.  I really believe that Sammy is going to be a player, it’s just a matter of how good can he be?  He showed steady progression in Bakersfield this season, now he’s playing a year in the KHL (and before anyone perhaps gets nervous about that, it sounds like it was encouraged by the organization given the uncertainty of the AHL season).  Samorukov could be ready for bottom pair minutes in the 21-22 season.

What About the Right Side?

It’s safe to say that the top four on the right side will be set with Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard.  Obviously we don’t KNOW with Bouchard, and we’ve only seen one year of Bear to this point.  But at this point it sure looks set.

What will be interesting to see in the off-season is which one of Larsson or Benning goes?  Since Bear emerged, I have believed it would be Larsson.  It would be riskier given that they would then be gifting Bouchard a top-four role, which you never want to do.  Having said that, if any kid has looked ready for that kind of promotion, it’s Bouchard.  But with how tight teams are going to be to the cap, I’m not sure Larsson is movable.  It’s possible you could do a similar deal to what I propose with Russell (money out/money in), but it actually might be tougher to move Larsson because of the real dollars.

If Larsson isn’t or can’t be moved, I can’t see them qualifying Matt Benning.  It’s possible that Benning agrees to do a cheaper deal than what his QO would be given he is unlikely to get that on the open market, but history tells us he would walk in that scenario.

On the flip side, if Larsson can be moved, I don’t see why Benning wouldn’t be a mainstay on their bottom pair.  He’s only a number five guy, but he’s one hell of a number five guy!

Back to Broberg

I also could have said “in conclusion”, but this was supposed to be about Broberg…

There is ZERO need to rush this kid.  Absolutely ZERO.  And while I get the excitement, and I get that he is possibly capable of stepping in next season, I really hope they don’t settle when it comes to Broberg.  You used the 8th pick on him over forwards who not only filled the Oilers needs better, but most saw as better prospects.  He has number one potential.  They don’t need a Noah Hanifin.  They don’t need another top four/2nd pairing defenceman.  They need a number one guy, and Broberg can become that in time.  He might not ever get there, but he has a much better chance of becoming that guy if they take their time with him.

I’ve said from the start, I would keep him two more years in Sweden (he’s had one, supposed to be back for another this upcoming season), then I’d give him one full season in the AHL after that, and then we’ll see.  Give him time to develop his skill, develop his puck-moving, develop his angling, develop his positioning, work on his shot, work on walking the line, work on anything he needs to work on.  He is going to get big minutes at the WJC (should it happen), bigger minutes with Skelleftea, and then of course he’d get big minutes in Bakersfield the following season (not to mention get comfortable living in North America).  I would also be adamant he works with a skills coach each summer.  Most do, so it likely doesn’t need to be said, but with Broberg especially I believe it could be massive for his game.

For anyone disagreeing with this approach, I’ll leave you with this: the two players Broberg plays most similarly to are Jay Bouwmeester and the aforementioned Noah Hanifin.  Both were rushed into the league thanks to their elite skating and size.  Both looked great early on.  J-Bo’s offensive game never progressed, and Hanifin’s has yet to.  I hope Holland and company see this the same way I do.  If they do, they may have another star on their hands…down the line.

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2021 NHL Draft: Preliminary Top 32

Welcome to the draft of the defenceman!  Good Gord, you can’t promise much for a draft a year out.  A good draft can go bad, a bad draft can actually turn out pretty solid, it’s rare you can find something that is a lock.  But I’m calling it right now, that it is a LOCK that this draft is a terrific draft to grab a D-man in.  14 of my top 25 are D-men.  FOURTEEN.

Actually, in regards to how good this draft could be…nobody knows.  People don’t seem too hyped about it, but doing my list, I can make a case for a lot of these guys to go 1st.  I get down around my 12th ranked guy and I’m going “I could make the case for him going 1st right now”.  So no tiering this time around.  The fact that I rank them is frankly flat out wrong, but it makes for a more entertaining read.  2003 is the best draft of all-time, and there was never that one stud at the top.  The top four picks, each of those teams had the guy they got ranked 1st.  By no means am I suggesting this draft is like 03, I’m just saying don’t sleep on it just because there might not be that clear cut guy at the top.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this class though.  It’s my kind of draft.  I could see the internet/Twitter scouts HATING this, because you have a ton of D-men, a lot of cerebral centres with pro games, there won’t be anywhere near the flash of 2020’s class.  2020’s class was easy for them.  “Look at the points!  The highlight goals!  Look how dynamic these kids are!”  This is one reason I believe we’re seeing all the drama and childish bull shit going on amongst them.  I’m not a big fan of the 2020 draft beyond my top 10 because I believe you win with complete players who can be put in any situation which the 2020 class really lacks.  2021 is loaded with them though.

A couple things before I get going.  1) you’ll notice I just list wingers as wingers (W).  I’m done with saying a winger is lining up on the left or right side as we’re finding out it really doesn’t matter for wingers which side they play.  Defencemen, it matters a lot.  Wingers, it just doesn’t.  In fact, we’re seeing more and more wingers playing their off wings these days.  2) even though this one is more like the write-ups I’ve done in the past, this season I’m going to try hard to simply leave the write-ups to 1-3 sentences.  It just takes way too damn long, and most of what I have to say is going off what the pros have to say.  That’s a fine line for me because the last thing I want to do is steal anyone’s work.  If anything, I want to promote it.  So I’ll attempt to just say why I rank a player where I do, maybe what I love or don’t love about his game, and move on.

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1. Owen Power

Team: Michigan  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 209  Shot: L

Comparison: Victor Hedman

The complete package.  Incredibly smooth skater and when you factor in his size it’s even better, the IQ is off the charts, and the composure he plays with can make him look lethargic.  He’s just effortless.  Craig Button recently compared him to Chris Pronger.  I don’t use that for my comp because he doesn’t have the nasty edge Pronger had, but everything else is spot on.  He missed the 2020 draft by about 10 weeks (not close, but he’s a late 02).  If he had been draft-eligible for 2020, I’d have a tough time figuring out the order of Power, Byfield, and Stützle for my 2/3/4 spots.  Off to Michigan this season and all eyes will be on the Wolverines.  In fact, it’s possible we see teammates going head to head with each other to see who’ll go 1st overall.

 

2. Carson Lambos

Team: Winnipeg  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Suter

First and foremost, this Winnipeg Ice team is going to be DAMN GOOD very soon.  I’d guess they’re competing for a Memorial Cup in the 21-22 season should Lambos be back for it, but that is questionable with how good this kid is.  Probably the most complete defenceman to come along since Aaron Ekblad.  He just does absolutely everything exceptionally well.  IQ, skating, puck-moving, shot, physicality, positioning, it is insane for a 16 year old.

 

3. Kent Johnson

Team: Michigan  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: John Tavares

Owen Power’s teammate on what’ll be a pretty damn entertaining Wolverines team in 20-21 if the season is a go.  He was 5’6, 120lbs when he was taken in the 10th round of the WHL draft.  And while he’s likely topping out at 6’1, he still has another 20-30lbs to put on that frame.  Which really makes me wonder about the skating, because that’s the thing you can point to for a flaw in Johnson’s game, but it is highly likely that growing that much in such a short time has hindered it.  Anyway, even if it is what it is, it’s passable, which is where the John Tavares comp comes from.  Incredible vision and IQ.

 

4. Aatu Räty

Team: Kärpät U20  League: U20 SM-sarja

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Aleksander Barkov

I hate the stereotypical comps, but I found this one tough to avoid.  So he is getting the most hype at this point as the top prospect in this draft, but I believe a lot of that is based off people not knowing exactly who should be the top prospect for it.  I really like Raty’s game, but I’m not sure the offensive upside is elite.  Still, the comp I use is Barkov, and if he can be that, then he’s in the discussion.  He’s definitely not head and shoulders above the class though as some have made him out to be.

 

5. Matthew Beniers

Team: Harvard  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Logan Couture

I love this kids game.  Big fan of the comp to Couture also, I feel it’s spot on.  The one I believe you’ll see a lot of is Jonathan Toews (which is one I and others use a ton, tough to avoid though when he has been the favourite of so many for this generation).  For you Oilers fans, another one that crossed my mind was Shawn Horcoff, but Horc’s prime wasn’t really that long so it doesn’t do Beniers justice.  Anyway, just a complete centre who does it all, and just like Johnson, at 168lbs has 20-30lbs to still put on his frame.

***UPDATE***

 

6. Dylan Guenther

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Markus Naslund

I don’t like one-dimensional snipers anywhere near as much as most do, but Guenther is a shoot first kid who can create, and that’s rare.  Most will have him in their top five, but a lot will have him in their top three, and I’m sure there will be a few who have him as the top guy on their board if not to start the season, not far into it.  I have him 6th simply because I value the D and centres more, but the combination of shot, skill, speed and size is going to have people drooling and it’s understandable.

 

7. Simon Edvinsson

Team: Frölunda HC J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: P.K. Subban

Ignore the size here, because while it’s an asset, he would still be getting big notice if he were 5’10, 175lbs thanks to his offensive abilities.  The intrigue is if he can begin to utilize that size.  Being 6’4 and still being so thin, it could be just a case of him being easier to push around at this point.  Once he fills out, there could be no stopping him.

 

8. Corson Ceulemans

Team: Brooks  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Comparison: Alex Pietrangelo

This kid is big and can move.  Got to watch him live back in January, and he was perhaps the best player on the ice as a 16 year old.  I know some people will roll their eyes at that and say “it’s just the AJHL”, but the AJHL is still a TOUGH league for a 16 year old kid to be a number one defenceman as he was.  By my count (because the AJHL doesn’t keep the stats for PPA’s) only 10 of his 35 points (a goal and 9 assists) were with the man advantage.  In a game late in the season vs Camrose (very good AJHL franchise), the Bandits won 10-3, Ceulemans had 5 assists in the game, 4 of which were primary at ES.  He didn’t often play on their top PP unit, as Bandits head coach Ryan Papinou mostly fed him the toughest minutes.  The guy who’ll always be brought up (especially with Ceulemans) from now on will be Cale Makar, but Jacob Bernard-Docker is a much more fair defenceman to look at when talking about Ceulemans.  JBD was on a great Okotoks team in his 16 and 17 year old seasons, known as a mobile defensive defenceman.  26th pick in a pretty deep draft, especially for D-men!  JBD wasn’t anywhere close to Ceulemans when comparing their 16 year old seasons.  In fact, Ceulemans might have been better this season than JBD was in his 17 year old season.

 

9. Luke Hughes

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 161  Shot: L

Comparison: Keith Yandle

The youngest of the Hughes brothers, and the youngest in his draft year as well as Luke will be one of the youngest kids selected in the 2021 draft (Sep. 9th, 03).  Luke got the size in the family from the looks of it!  It’ll be easy for people to look at Luke and compare him to Quinn.  He actually has a chance to be better than Quinn in my opinion though because of that extra size, he’ll be able to handle tougher minutes, though might not be the stand out offensively that Quinn is.  And before you say it…yes, he is an amazing skater too.  Did you think a Hughes kid wouldn’t be?

 

10. Sean Behrens

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Quinn Hughes

Ironic that Luke will get the comp to his oldest brother, yet it’s his teammate Behrens who plays the most like him.  I have him higher than others I’ve seen, but can only imagine how much the Twitter scouts are going to completely lose their skull over this kid.  He’s a 5’8 D-man, so there is little doubt in my mind that he’ll be getting ranked 1st by mid-season and anyone who has him 2nd or lower will have him there because they hate undersized players.  My favourite thing these days is for guys to still play that card.  Overrating an undersized player is the internet scout version of being woke.  Cole Caufield has skating issues, zero playmaking ability, isn’t good away from the puck, but it was because he’s 5’7 that he fell to 15th in the draft…sure…anyway (man I bring him up a ton, it really does bother me).  For me, the size is no issue with Behrens because he is a terrific skater, terrific puck-mover, and has terrific skill.  Two years ago, I was down on Quinn Hughes more than most, and not really because of his size but because I just prefer D-men who can do it at both ends of the ice.  Give me Alex Pietrangelo or Ryan Suter all day over Erik Karlsson is my logic.  But having said that, it’s tough to not get excited over someone who drives offence and is going to make everyone on the ice better like Quinn Hughes can and Behrens projects to be.

 

11. Daniil Lazutin

Team: MHK Dynamo Moskva  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Sean Couturier

So I’m usually the first one to tell you how it’s “buyer beware” with Russian forwards.  It’s “buy now!!!” when it comes to Russian netminders, and even though there hasn’t been one since Sergachev in 2016, Russian defenceman in the 1st round the last decade or so have a great track record too.  The forwards though…it’s a pretty high bust rate.  Lazutin is tough for me not to love though because this kid has the type of game I adore, as do coaches.  A very complete game, good skater, good vision, good skill, and as you can read the size is going to be a very nice bonus as well which he uses tremendously well.  It’s a little like Jack Finley for me.  Huge forwards like Finley have an extremely high bust rate, but if you just look at his game you see how he can thrive, and that’s Lazutin.  He doesn’t play like the stereotypical Russian forward.  Lots of filling out still to do too which I’m sure by now you’ve noticed, that is basically a bonus for me as I’m concerned kids who are already filled out have limited upside because of that.  Not in all cases, but the majority.

 

12. Cole Sillinger

Team: Medicine Hat  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Sean Monahan

It’s crazy how similar Johnson, Raty and Sillinger are as prospects.  None of them currently have the skating ability we’d prefer, but all three have incredibly high IQ’s.  So Sillinger doesn’t have the skating I’d like to see at the moment, the other knock I have is that nearly half his production came on the PP, and it was the 3rd best PP in the league.  But still, to put up over a PPG in the WHL in your 16 year old season is pretty special.

 

13. William Eklund

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Travis Konecny

E5: This kid is good.  Hope some of you get that joke…I love Eklund’s game.  He’s got an awesome motor and specifically when he was promoted to the SHL this season, he showed he is willing to play in any role and play it any way he has to in order to best help his team win.  Captain material, but that’s not at all to suggest he’s not talented, as he showcased tremendous skill playing in the SuperElit league this season.  It seems like I’m suggesting this more and more lately, but I might like him better as a centre (which he has played) given his motor, vision, and willingness to play such a complete game.  Safely you take him and love him on the wing, but it’s possible you get that bonus with him.

 

14. Zachary L’Heureux

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 194  Shot: L

Comparison: Brendan Morrow

Very similar to Eklund.  Traded in a blockbuster deal from Moncton to Halifax, I really wonder if the Moosheads will try him at centre?  I have his comp as Morrow, but someone else that actually comes to mind is Mike Richards.  Everything in his game suggests to me that he would thrive in the middle, but should he stay on the wing that’s quite alright too.  First thing that caught my attention with L’Hereux was the numbers.  46 ES points in 55 games last season for the Wildcats, that’s pretty absurd ES production for a 16 year old in the CHL!  But his motor, aggressiveness, and IQ are what really has me intrigued.

 

15. Daniil Chayka

Team: Guelph  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Shea Theodore

All the tools are here to be in that group I have in the top 10.  Hell, Chayka ending up as the top pick in this draft wouldn’t surprise me.  All the tools are here.  But two things concern me: 1) he can be prone to some bad decisions.  Better this year than his 16 year old season, but he still has them.  2) while I’m not “all about stats”, I still prefer to see them.  I’m a tough grader on kids with late birthdates in their draft years, so I’m putting his 34 points in 56 games this past season up against other D-men from the OHL who are draft eligible this season like Ryan O’Rourke in which the numbers are very similar and O’Rourke is POSSIBLY a late 1st rounder, more likely a 2nd round pick in this draft.  Different players, but it’s a concern for me.   If you want to go glass half full on that, Chayka had similar numbers to Evan Bouchard in his 17 year old season, and then Bouchard exploded in his 18 year old season.  And again, the talent is enormous with Chayka, so it might be only a matter of time before he puts it all together.

 

16. Brandt Clarke

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Green

I might be on a bit of an island here as several people are talking about Clarke being in the running for the top pick in this draft.  The numbers are very much so here, but his skating ability and defensive game scare me.  If you look at the top scoring D-men in the NHL the last several seasons, you can’t find a guy who doesn’t at least skate well, and I’m not sure I’d say that Clarke skates well at this point.  Having said that, he has a year to clean that all up, and if he does, he should be in the mix with the top guys.

 

17. Logan Mailloux

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 214  Shot: R

Comparison: Colton Parayko

Spent last season with London, but only four games with the Knights as the rest was with the Nationals of the GOJHL, but he will be full time with the Knights this coming season.  All the tools, but extremely raw at this point.  My favourite comps are the ones that I don’t need to explain, and this is one of them.  Think Parayko when he entered the league and that’s pretty much Mailloux.

 

18. Dylan Duke

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Tyler Bertuzzi

I am a BIG fan of Duke’s game.  This is not your typical 5’9 winger, this kid is COMPLETE!  Solid in all three zones at this point.  The skating is solid, maybe the one concern I have at this point.  But like all kids sub 170lbs, I wonder how much of that is a lack of lower body strength?  But this kid is at worse a top-nine winger who might end up being a first-line guy just thanks to his willingness to do anything he has to do.

 

19. Chaz Lucius

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Max Pacioretty

Interesting player.  He’s actually playing centre, I like him better as a winger given his tremendous shot and his high shot volume, so basically I’m saying I believe he translates to be a sniper in the NHL.  But his play away from the puck is very solid too and is committed to play a complete game, so maybe he will translate as a centre?  I should add, I’m not a big fan of my comp here, but that was the best I could come up with.  Hopefully I can come up with a better one in the months ahead.

 

20. Mason McTavish

Team: Peterborough  League: OHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 196  Shot: L

Comparison: Tanner Pearson

24 goals and 38 points at ES as a 16 year old this season is damn impressive!  I’m really worried about the skating though and that he is possibly a kid who has just developed much sooner than the rest of his peer group.  Most have him much higher than I do at this point.  Frankly, I thought about having him much lower than this, but THAT kind of production is pretty rare for a 16 year old.

 

21. Aidan Hreschuk

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Josh Morrissey

He’s overshadowed right now by Hughes and Behrans, but I’m going out on a bit of a limb here thinking that he will slowly get notice as next season goes on.  He is going to get all the tough minutes for the DP and he is more than capable of handling those duties.  Very mobile as you’d expect, great in his own end, brings some physicality to the table, and while he isn’t likely to get much of an offensive role next season there is some pretty good offensive ability here.

 

22. Anton Olsson

Team: Malmö Redhawks J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Oscar Klefbom

The offensive talent appears to be there with Olsson as he put up impressive numbers for a 16 year old D-man in the SuperElit this season (highest scoring 16 year old D-man in the league), but he plays a much safer game than that would suggest and is terrific at this point in his development in his own zone.  This is the type of D-man that has been a late riser for most in the 2020 rankings (Jake Sanderson) because they don’t entice the twitter/internet scouts like they do the professionals.

 

23. Evan Nause

Team: Québec  League: QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Damon Severson

Got to broadcast his brother Ryan’s home games all last season with the Lloydminster Bobcats in the AJHL.  Evan is going to play for the Remparts next season in the Q, after initially balking at going the CHL route (originally drafted by Val-d’Or in 2019, taken by the Remparts in the 2020 draft) and spending last season in Sioux Falls of the USHL.  He is a tremendous skater and also rock-solid in his own zone.  The offensive potential is there, the question is whether or not he’ll be able to tap into it.  Ironically, I felt that way about his brother all season long in that I felt Ryan perhaps didn’t know just how good he could be.

 

24. Oscar Plandowski

Team: Charlottetown  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Anton Stralman

As is the case in this group of defencemen (the three above and the one following Plandowski), high-end mobility, great puck mover, and we’ll see if the offensive numbers start to come for him.  If they don’t, Plandowski is advanced at his age with his play in the defensive zone.  Good stick, good gap control, angling, positioning, he’s a very intelligent defender.

 

25. Jack Peart

Team: Fargo  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 174  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Goligoski

I am probably just going to repeat myself as I’m really not sure how to separate this group of terrific skating D-men, but the difference here is that Peart was playing high school hockey this past season, only had a few games in the USHL.  So he’s much more of a mystery at this point, but he sure looks like he has the skating and skill to shoot up draft boards.

 

26. Sebastian Cossa

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 212  Glove: L

Comparison: Robin Lehner

Maybe being a homer here for someone who grew up in Alberta (Fort Mac) and plays for the Oil Kings, but I love the size and athleticism with Cossa.  Maybe putting him in the 1st round is a reach.  I said all season with Askarov, I’m not the guy who believes in taking a goaltender in the 1st round, but there are always exceptions to the rule.  But I can see the enormous upside with Cossa’s game.  For a goaltender, you can learn better positioning, angles, rebound control, playing a more relaxed game, etc.  You can’t learn size and athleticism and Cossa has that, not to mention some terrific 17 year old numbers this season.

 

27. Justin Robidas

Team: Val-d’Or  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: J.G. Pageau

Nice to see he didn’t end up stuck on that island with his dad…Am I ACTUALLY doing this?!  So, go back and read pretty much anything I’ve written on the draft in the last eight years.  I guarantee you that you won’t find me once suggesting that someone this undersized should be listed as a centre, let alone suggesting that he can make it as a centre in the NHL.  Yet…here we are.  And it’s not because I’ve changed my tune on it in any way, but Robidas just plays such a complete and determined game combined with some really high-end skill that I can’t help but love him and believe he might have a chance to work there.  It’s not unheard of.  It was pretty common in the 80’s for really undersized guys like this to play the middle and thrive (Steve Kasper, Theo Fleury came up playing the middle, Rick Meagher), and more recently David Desharnais etched out a nice career as a 5’7 centre and he wasn’t nearly as well rounded as Robidas projects to be.  Let’s say Robidas can’t work in the middle though, he still has the tools to thrive on the wing.  Skating is very good, but at 5’7 he needs to max out with his speed and quickness to thrive.

 

28. Simon Robertsson

Team: Skellefteå AIK J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Clayton Keller

An electrifying winger with terrific speed and terrific hands.  He’s an equally good playmaker and finisher.  Great vision and a great release with his shot.  There is a lot to like here, but scouts are going to want to see his play away from the puck improve.

 

29. Kyle Kukkonen

Team: Maple Grove High  League: USHS

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Cam Atkinson

I can’t find anything anywhere as of writing this, but I’m guessing that Kukkonen will play in the USHL this season as he’s a late 02 so I assume he’s done high school (never know, maybe not).  He’s the type of goal scorer I like.  Most kids that are snipers, all you hear about is their shot.  Kukkonen can rip it, but he also has great hands and is willing to pay the price either going to the net, or staying in front.  But the big question is how he’ll do at higher level’s of hockey.  Not overly difficult to play that game in high school hockey.  Different story in the USHL, NCAA, and eventually the pros.

 

30. Jesper Wallstedt

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 214  Glove: L

Comparison: Cam Talbot

Most, if not all, have Wallstedt ahead of Cossa.  Perhaps it’s a Western bias on my part, but Wallstedt is a puck blocker, where Cossa seems much more athletic of the two.  Combine that with a tiny bit more size, and to me, Cossa feels like a much better prospect.  Wallstedt sneaks into my top 32 mostly due to his accomplishments to this point more than me being too excited about him as a prospect.  Having said this, I remind you yet again that we’re a year out and I have a lot to learn on all these kids.  It’s just how I feel a year out.

 

31. Oskar Olausson

Team: HV71 J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jacob Silfverberg

Terrific skater and has a very complete game.  He’s actually very similar at this point to 2020 draft eligibles from Sweden Daniel Torgersson and Emil Heineman, but at this point looks as though he has more offensive upside.  I believe Olausson is going to be a very safe pick though like those two are.

 

32. Wyatt Johnston

Team: Windsor  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: R

Comparison: Scott Laughton

Another kid who I believe will be viewed at worse as a very safe pick come June 2021.  The skill isn’t off the charts, but the skating, motor, and willingness to drive the net and go to the dirty areas are going to make him a point producer in the OHL this coming season.

 

Honourable Mention

Tim Delay

Team: St. Sebastian’s   League: USHS

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 152  Shot: L

Awesome wheels and plays a power game, but obviously needs to fill out his frame…A LOT.

 

Fabian Lysell

Team: Frölunda HC J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Highly skilled winger, taken in the CHL import draft by Vancouver.  Still listed as playing for Frölunda next season at this point, but really hoping he comes over and we get to see him up close.

 

Brennan Othmann

Team: Flint  League: OHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Intangibles kid.  Impossible not to love, but the skating isn’t great so is he maxing out his talent already?

 

Alexei Prokopenko

Team: Gatineau  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Recently picked in the CHL import draft.  Very solid two-way centre, intrigued to see what he can do in the Q.

 

Sasha Pastujov

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Pretty good across the board with his skating, size, and skill.  He’s a playmaker and you know that’s a big plus in my books.

 

James Malatesta

Team: Québec  League: QMJHL

Pos: W  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 172  Shot: L

This draft seems to have a lot of wingers who aren’t your typical undersized/skilled wingers.  They play a complete game.  Malatesta is another one of those kids.

 

Logan Stankoven

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: W  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Skilled winger who plays a hard game, the big question is how his skating will develop.  If it can improve, he’ll be getting 1st round hype.

 

Cameron Whynot

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

The tools are top 10.  The decision making is very suspect at this point though.

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2021 NHL Draft: Western Canadian Preliminary Top 10

The 2020 draft has now come and gone and what a weekend it was in Montreal!  It’s crazy how that draft went, isn’t it?!  Can you believe what some of the teams did?!!  Or what’s even crazier is what some of the teams didn’t do!!  And how bout those players who fell?!  Can you believe how high some of those other players went?!  Just a crazy weekend!!

That’s about what I would have written had the draft happened, wouldn’t it?

Well, this might be it for this piece!  SPR is going with new and better-looking people for his site this year, and I really just started doing these for him.  So, I’m not sure if I’ll still keep covering the WHL/tier-II kids this upcoming season.  But having said this, I had a blast doing it, and given that I love the talent that is coming out from the West for the 2021 draft, it is pretty likely I keep going with it.

How good is the talent in the West for the 2021 draft?  To put it into context, Hockey Prospects Black Book has their top 32 prospects for the 2021 draft.  If you include the guy I talk about off the top (who won’t count for these lists beyond this one), five of their top seven show up from this list.  That’s for the entire draft.  It’s funny, 2018 was a dreadful year for the West.  Since then, 2019 was their big resurgence, 2020 has ended up being a sneaky good season for the West, and now 2021 has the potential to be the best of the bunch.

Now, while it’s top-heavy, I’m not seeing the ’21 class to be anywhere near as deep as ’20’s class has been for the West.  We’ll see how kids develop, but I could make a case for nearly 20 kids from the West going in the top 62 of this year’s draft, and right from the get-go last year I was seeing it having that type of potential.  This year, it’s extremely top-heavy, I like my top 10, but when I got to the HM’s I wasn’t a big fan of what I was finding.  But again, I stress, at this point.

If you want to have a better idea of how I look at things and do my rankings, give this piece a read and it explains things much better.

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Special Mention

Kent Johnson

Team: Trail Smoke Eaters

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 41  A: 60  P: 101

Born: 10/18/02, North Vancouver, BC

This is a “special mention” because this is the last time I’ll get to put him on a Western Canadian list as he’s off to Michigan in the fall (assuming there is school) and if not, I’m sure he’ll be off to the USHL for the 20-21 season.  Johnson put up nearly identical numbers this season to Alex Newhook’s 18-19 numbers if you need a barometer.   In the case of Johnson, however, he won’t have any of the size concerns some may have had with Newhook.  It looked like that would be the case when Johnson was taken in the bantam draft and stood just 5’6 and weighed 120lbs.  He’s had a BIT of a growth spurt you might say…And while I will go much more off someone’s birth year than draft year when comparing statistics, it is noteworthy that Johnson was nearly 10 months younger this season than Newhook was last season.  It’s a strong pre-draft year showing, but the fact is that we’ll get a MUCH better look at what Johnson can do next season should he be suiting up for the Wolverines.  I’m not planning on going too in-depth on players in this write-up, but since this is the last time Johnson will be on this list…he reminds me a lot of John Tavares.  The skating needs work.  Not a bad skater, but he doesn’t skate overly well.  Maybe a 6/10, so above average.  How much of that is because of the growth spurt though?  And seeing he’s still pretty thin, how good will the skating be once he gains strength?  But what I love about this kid is the IQ appears to be off the charts and combines that with tremendous vision and patience with the puck.  He’s willing to wait that extra little bit for a seam to open up, and then can find his man.

 

Peter Reynolds

Team: Chilliwack Chiefs

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 14  A: 33  P: 47

Born: 01/20/03, Fredericton, NB

Like Johnson, Reynolds is done in the BCHL as he de-committed to Boston College and instead will play for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Q.  I won’t pretend to be anything of an expert on Reynolds.  With Johnson, he was on my radar by about November given he was obliterating the BCHL.  I mostly got aware of Reynolds back in late March as I went through the league looking for kids for the 2020 draft.  Speedy and skilled though, it’ll be much easier to get a read on what he’ll be playing in Saint John.

 

Now onto the kids who’ll be playing out West this coming season…

 

1. Carson Lambos

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 201  Shot: L

I believe there are going to be four kids vying for this spot, so it isn’t to suggest that Lambos is a slam dunk to stick here.  But the way it sits at the moment, Lambos isn’t just my top prospect from the West, but at this point (which I can’t stress enough a year out) he is a legit threat to challenge for 1st overall in the draft as the 2021 draft class currently does not have anyone who stands out.  Lambos brings a very complete game to the table and logged a lot of tough minutes for the Ice this season as a 16 year old.  The amount of complete defenceman in this 2021 draft class (overall, not just the West) is absurd.  Two guys in my top four here, another in the top ten, Owen Power, Luke Hughes, Simon Edvinsson, Sean Behrens, Brandt Clarke, Daniil Chayka, it’s RIDICULOUS.  A year out, looking extremely similar to the 2008 draft.

 

2. Dylan Guenther

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Nobody is more pumped about Guenther than Bob Stauffer.  If you regularly listened to Oilers Now this season, Stauffer is geeked up for what is still to come from the Edmonton native.  And it is understandable.  Guenther has a terrific shot, great hands, and skates very well.  He isn’t a one-dimensional sniper, though he is a shoot-first guy.  He can create his own shot, which is rare.  I’d like to see him away from Jake Neighbours this season to see how much damage he can do driving his own line, but I can’t see that happening.  The Oil Kings are going to be one of the favourites to take home the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the 20-21 WHL season.

 

3. Corson Ceulemans

Team: Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Shot: R

Got to see him in person back in January and…WOW!  You see his numbers on a team like Brooks, and you can’t help but wonder if it’s just a result of the team he plays with.  It is not.  He was the Bandits number one D-man at just 16 years old.  He’s an effortless skater, a terrific puck mover, physical down low and in front, he looks like the complete package as a D-man.  He’s a legitimate contender for 1st on this list, and perhaps would be in a normal season.  Not doing comps here obviously, but Alex Pietrangelo immediately came to mind watching Ceulemans, and I’m much higher on Pietrangelo than most as I see him as that all world legitimate number one defenceman.  Committed to Wisconsin, but obviously has a year left in Brooks.

 

4. Cole Sillinger

Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Son of the most traded player in NHL history, I doubt many…if any…teams will be trading the opportunity to take this kid at the 2021 draft.  Over a PPG player in his 16 year old season.  That’s pretty damn impressive.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t do that and he was the last WHL player to go 1st overall.  The skating isn’t the greatest, and nearly half the production was on the 3rd best PP in the league, but I wouldn’t put it past him to improve his skating which would likely take his five on five production to another level.

 

5. Sebastian Cossa

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 212  Glove: L

As it currently stands, Cossa is the best netminding prospect we’ve seen in the WHL since Carey Price (I’m talking pre-draft here, save your “CARTER HART!!!” screams…)  Big, can really move, stays square to the shooter, and what I’ve seen he tracks it pretty well too.  Obviously we don’t know what will happen with IIHF tournaments next season, but with a camp invite from Canada, Cossa is obviously very much on their radar.  I think he’s a mid-late 1st round pick, but we have 12 months to go here.

 

6. Fabian Lysell

Team: Vancouver Giants

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 176  Shot: R

First things first, we’ll see if he comes.  As of writing this, just a day after the CHL import draft and though these players have been drafted, they still have to come.  You’ll see I have a few other players who were picked in the import draft in the honourable mentions.  Anyway, the Lysell pick perhaps got overshadowed by the Blades taking 2022 potential top-five pick Brad Lambert, but Lysell is a very exciting player who has a lot of skill and a terrific shot.

 

7. Logan Stankoven

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: W  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 170  Shot: R

He is the ’21 classes Connor McClennon, who started my list last season as the number two guy.  Stankhoven is similar in stature, has similar concerns about the skating for that stature, and plays a very similar fearless/in your face game.  I would guess at this point that he’ll replace Zane Franklin on the Blazers top line this season with Orrin Centazzo and potential 2020 1st rounder Connor Zary.  If so, the numbers will definitely be there to support his case.

 

8. Ryder Korczak

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 159  Shot: R

The numbers are great, but something troubling with Korczak was that once Brayden Tracey left, Korczak’s numbers really dropped too.  Still, someone to keep an eye on.  I doubt he’s a centre in pro hockey, and his skating needs work, but that kind of production in his 17 year old season (on a terrible team) is going to get a lot of notice.

 

9. Graham Sward

Team: Spokane Chiefs

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Only 9th right now, but I’m telling you I am really excited about what Sward might be next season.  His ability to move the puck is off the charts.  Add to this, there is so much weight that he still has to put on, and he’s one of the youngest in this draft class.  The one thing I’m not a big fan of at this point is the skating is ok, not great.  But I wonder how much of that is a result of a 6’2 16 year old lacking strength?  Ty Smith is now gone, so it’ll essentially be Sward’s blueline next season and with the extra opportunity, I believe he actually has a chance (a small chance, but a chance) to jump into the Lambos/Ceulemans discussion.  It’s a long shot at this point, but a LOT changes in a year.

 

10. Zack Stringer

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Stringer is maybe the forward version of Sward, except that Stringer’s skating is worse at this point.  But again, how much of that is a 16 year old who stands 6’1 not having the strength to carry that frame?  I really love Stringer’s game and I’m sure anyone who has coached him feels the same way as he’s a kid who plays hard every night and goes to all the tough areas on the ice.  He’ll get drafted thanks to that alone, but if that skating improves he’s pretty damn intriguing!

 

Honourable Mention

* = taken in the CHL import draft, I don’t believe as of writing this that we know whether any of these kids will come to the WHL teams which selected them

Nolan Allan

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

 

Jake Chiasson

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: W  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: R

 

*Nikita Chibrikov

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Colton Dach

Team: Saskatoon Blades

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

 

Jayden Grubbe

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: W  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 190  Shot: R

 

Vincent Iorio

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 203  Shot: R

 

Gabe Klassen

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: W  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Tyson Kozak

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: L

 

Dru Krebs

Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: L

 

Kyle Masters

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: R

 

Jack O’Brien

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 154  Shot: L

 

Conner Roulette

Team: Seattle Thunderbirds

Pos: W  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 161  Shot: LW

 

*Martin Rysavy

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: W  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

 

*Stanislav Svozil

Team: Regina Pats

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

 

Sean Tschigerl

Team: Calgary Hitmen

Pos: W  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

AJHL

Other than of course Ceulemans, keep your eye on Sherwood Park Crusaders forward Ty Mueller this season.  Showed flashes last season (specifically in October), and I really wonder how much of his production was limited by playing on such a stacked team?  Looked great in the three live viewings I had of him last season and will be a kid the Cru lean on heavily this season.  Committed to Nebraska-Omaha, was taken by Prince George in the 2018 bantam draft.

BCHL

I will not pretend that I know the BCHL well.  I can track guys once I’m aware of them, but I basically manufacture my own list of guys based on points, scholarships, etc.  One kid who has my eye is Finlay Williams who plays in Prince George.  Right shot centre, good size and put up good PPG numbers in his 16 year old season.  Committed to Michigan, was taken by Swift Current in the 2018 bantam draft.

 

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2020 NHL Draft: Top 64

I am so damn tired, and quite frankly pretty sick of this at this point.  But here it is.  My top 64 list for the 2020 draft.  To quote Apollo Creed “ain’t gonna be no rematch”.  Well, I guess in this case, ain’t gonna be no top 64 2.0.  This is it.  I’m done my prospects lists for the 2020 draft.  Expect a lot of mocks in the weeks to come, but no more top prospects list.  So enjoy this one, and hopefully, I’ll stop being such a perfectionist one of these years and learn to just say a sentence or two on each guy!!

Something that I got away from this season, and had to remind myself of a lot as this season progressed…I’m not a scout.  Now, I believe that most people who do this independently aren’t scouts either despite what they’ll say.  We can have our lists, and that’s fine, but we (I say we, not they) need to quit this fucked narrative on twitter specifically where we’re all talking as if we are.  No, we aren’t.  If you’re being paid by someone, AND going to games, AND talking to the players you’re scouting, then you’re a scout.  If you aren’t, you’re not.  So much of what goes into this is getting to know the players themselves to get a better feel for players character and finding any red flags.

This draft is interesting.  You’ll see some guys claiming it’s one of the best they’ve ever seen and others who say it’s one of the most overrated they’ve ever seen.  I believe there are a few reasons for this.  1) I think some see a good draft as what the top of the draft is, which this is an excellent top of the draft, extremely top-heavy.  2) this draft is full of guys who independent/internet/twitter scouts adore.  I see a ton of wingers in this draft who’ll make someone like myself look stupid because if they get the right situation, they’re going to thrive.  The guy I keep feeling guilty about is Tristen Robins as some whose opinions I respect (Black Book, SPR) love him much more than I do.  But the fact of the matter is that I feel the same way about Robins as I do about most kids in the 14-60 (yes that wide of a gap) range.  It was the same way for me last season with Caufield as to why I was more down on Caufield than most.  These kids have to go to the right situations.  If they do, they’ll thrive.  I worry that Caufield didn’t, given the Habs lack of talent in the middle right now.  Conversely, if the Oilers took him with the 8th pick last season, it would have made a ton of sense because the Oilers have two stud centres who can do the heavy lifting.  Robins is a kid who can thrive if he’s in the right situation, but you can say the same for Wiesblatt, McClennon, Hanas, Sourdif, Savoie, etc and that’s just listing kids from the West!

There are just so damn many of THAT kind of player in this draft, which makes this draft very similar to the 2014 draft.  That draft had a clear cut top four (which this draft is probably more of a top three with all three guys better prospects than all of those top four were) and then is flooded with those complimentary wingers who probably need big-time centres playing with them to max out as players.  In 2014, David Pastrnak was all over the map on guys rankings.  So was Kasperi Kapanen.  So was Sonny Milano.  So was Nikita Scherbak.  So was Robby Fabbri.  So was Jakub Vrana.  There was no set order for those guys, and there are no set orders for the guys this season, and it’s causing a TON of drama on Twitter!!

As for me…the top three is as good as 2013 should have been (Jonathan Drouin was picked over Seth Jones…that was a thing that happened…in an organization run by Steve Yzerman, who is pretty good at the GMing).  I love the top ten I was able to put together too.  But the thing about that is…in this final draft, my top ten (for me, since it’s mine) was a hardened stance of a top ten.  I don’t really care about the order you may have them in, but that IS the top 10.

So, you’ll notice I’ve made some changes to the layout this time around.  Rather than the laundry list of information I’ve been putting up with my kids since post-2018’s draft, I instead have cut that down for this one and simply give you the option to read it all on Elite Prospects site.  So if you’re wondering about ANYTHING in regards to birthdate, stats, whatever…just click the player’s name.  That’s it.  Much more simple for me, and still right there for you too.

I don’t think anyone should worry too much about the rankings and anyone’s rankings are just simply opinions, we don’t have a crystal ball.  I’m so inconsistent when it comes to weighing value, I freely admit that.  I prefer ceiling to floor, but I feel like we all miss what players can be.  The guy I go into at length in this is Braden Schneider.  I’ve been so caught up in Schneider’s “low ceiling” this season that I was majorly conflicted on where to rank him.  But I talk about it in the write-up how I asked whether or not he could be several different players who he plays similar to and are top pairing D-men.  The answer to all of them was yes.  So Schneider has top pairing upside.  That’s pretty damn good!!!  Not that I’m all in on Schneider either, but it’s an example of how I maybe was getting a little too down on him (had him 31st on the last list, was ready to put him near 40th on this one until I revisited it and gave it more thought).  It’s TOUGH man!  The more time I put into it, the more difficult it seems to get.  And I can argue it so many damn ways for all these kids.

That being said, if you want to know how I rank these kids, just check out this piece I put out a while back.  I’m sure there are examples of me not following those guidelines perfectly, but it’s what I at least attempt to stick to.

Also to accompany these rankings, I have a new mock draft out that you can check out here.

And if you would prefer to listen to the podcast on this list instead, you can check that out here.

Before I start, don’t forget to:

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Tier 1

1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

No brainer.  One thing though, you’ll see I have him listed as a centre.  If I’m drafting Lafrenière, I’m drafting him to be a centre.  Perhaps that won’t be the plan initially, but long term I’d want to max out an elite talent like Lafrenière and I believe you do that by using him in the middle as he is tailor-made to thrive there.  As for the comp, I have yet to come up with one that I feel is spot on.  I guess you could say he’s a combination of Jonathan Huberdeau and Leon Draisaitl if you’re limiting yourself to today’s players.  I say Forsberg because I see a lot of similarities, I believe he should move to the middle, and in time I believe that’s what he’ll become…should he move to the middle.  But I do worry it’ll take a team a very long time before they figure out this needs to be done.  Word is that Lafrenière isn’t a fan of the idea.

 

Tier 2

2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Staal

It’s insane how some have nitpicked his game this season.  He is producing at a better pace in his 17 year old season than Lafrenière did in his!  And he’s 6’4, 214lbs!  And he’s an amazing skater!  The upside is INCREDIBLE, and the floor is what?  2nd line winger?!  Wake up!  He’s closer to Lafrenière than he is to Stützle, don’t overthink this.  I know a lot of people are jumping on the Stützle bandwagon, and don’t get me wrong OBVIOUSLY Stützle could end up the better player.  But in my opinion, the ceiling and the floor are both in favour of Byfield, so I’m not sure why he’s not everyone’s number two guy other than they’ve had more time to pick apart Byfield’s game and Stützle is the shiny new toy.

 

Tier 3

3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

I was pretty early on Stützle as I had him in my top 15 last summer (that I had seen anyway, I could be wrong), and I was fully on board when he started to get top five hype.  So I get why so many love him, but the talk of him going 2nd seems absurd to me.  But don’t get that twisted, I’m a huge fan of this kid and believe he can become a number one centre.  He needs a year though before I’d be looking at him playing.  There is so much talent, but there is still quite a bit in his game that’s raw.

 

Tier 4

4. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

He has all the ability to become a franchise defenceman.  He also is in my opinion far and away the top defenceman in a draft class extremely thin on pure puck-moving D-men, which boosts his draft stock.  If your team needs a defenceman and he’s still available, they better have a DAMN good reason to pass on him.

 

5. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

The size and how his production has really come from beating up on inferior competition scares me a little bit.  You might say “Size?!  Undersized guys are now thriving you dinosaur!!”  Not what I mean bud.  I worry about the size when it comes to him playing his style of game, and doing that as a centre.  There is a reason that you don’t see many centres under 5’10 in the league.  It’s extremely difficult and you need to have an incredible 200-foot game to thrive if you’re undersized at that position.  I’m confident that Rossi could be that guy though, which is why he’s in my top 5 for my final list.

 

6. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

100% against what I believe in.  I believe you take goaltenders in rounds 3-7 and you take about three every four years, if not four in five years.  But you have to be open-minded enough to recognize when the exception to the rule comes along, and I believe Askarov is just that.  When was the last time a goaltender was even talked about as being a top 10 pick?  MAYBE Vasilevskiy?  Samsonov got hype late, but not top 10 (mind you, in what might go down as a top three all-time draft).  Given Askarov’s talent, his upside, and the track record of Russian born goaltenders of late (3/3 for those taken in the 1st round since 2006) I wouldn’t be allowing him to sit there too long.  He has the potential to change a franchise, and there aren’t many of those types of talents in this draft or any draft.

 

Tier 4

7. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Miro Heiskanen

He has become THE riser in this draft, to the point where while I feel I’m going pretty extreme putting him 7th, I feel even stronger in the opinion that he is going top five in the draft.  Perhaps as high as 4th to the Wings.  His skating and IQ are going to give him a chance to continually develop his offensive game, which is already maybe better than most realize, he just played on the USNTDP a year too late.  But even if the offence never truly comes, he’s so good in his own zone that it might not matter.  He could end up being like Jay Bouwmeester where he has this tremendous skating ability and IQ, you’re waiting on this break out 60-70 point season, and meanwhile, the guy is shutting everyone down, playing some of the toughest minutes in the league.

 

8. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

Raymond had a difficult season, but you look at the speed and skill this kid oozes and there really shouldn’t be any reason for Raymond to fall out of the top five.  Some are down on what he could be, but I don’t really get it.  The upside here is enormous.  He’s going to be the type of winger who can drive his own line and really tilt the ice.

 

9. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Brad Marchand

Jarvis took his game to another level as the season went on.  His compete, confidence, and his assertiveness just went through the roof, and it leaves me with nothing I dislike about his game.  As for my comparison being Brad Marchand…I just mean in terms of his style and ability, none of the extracurricular stuff.

 

10. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

SPR took a lot of heat for knocking Perfetti.  I’m not as harsh on him, but I definitely think there is something to what Sean says.  I don’t think Perfetti is a BAD skater, but he isn’t a great skater and when you combine that with how he loves to dangle and struggles away from the puck, those are legitimate reasons to be concerned.  He won’t be able to dangle pro defencemen like he can OHL defencemen.  I believe he’ll have to make a lot of adjustments to thrive in pro hockey.  But having said that, I don’t view them as ones that are difficult to make.  All the tools are there to thrive.  Understand this too going back to what Sean said…just because he’s LOWER on him, doesn’t mean he thinks he’s nothing.  In 2018 I had Svechnikov ranked 6th because of the bust rate for Russian forwards taken in the top 25 of the draft since 2004 (only 1/10 prior to the 2018 draft, which has since changed to 2/10 thanks to Gurianov finally getting his career going).  But I didn’t dislike Svechnikov AT ALL, I just found him to be a much bigger risk given that info.  Caufield is another guy for me I wasn’t ranking as high as others, but having Caufield at 16 on my board didn’t mean I thought he was trash, I simply thought others were either better gambles or were more of a certainty than Caufield (I bring up Caufield more than any other player because it is such a piss off to me how people don’t get this.  I couldn’t give a shit at this point whether he busts or pops, I’m just sick of having to explain this stance to people who want to call themselves scouts who are actually just fanboys for the kid).

 

Tier 5

11. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Point

So difficult to rank.  I’m a huge fan with what I’ve seen, but the neck issues are troubling.  After seeing him in the Hlinka/Gretzky, I had him in my top five, but that’s about all we got to see this season.  This all depends on the medical reports obviously.  If they check out, I still believe he’s worthy of going in this range as he’s just too big of a talent, in my opinion, to pass on at a certain point.  I’ve had neck issues for a decade now that cause cervicogenic headaches.  They mimic migraines.  In fact, when I first started getting them I really believed I was having post-concussion syndrome as I had a concussion a few months prior in which I got rushed back to work running heavy equipment, so I didn’t even give any thought to it being a neck issue.  Cervicogenic headaches can be brutal, but they also aren’t overly serious (especially if your neck can constantly be worked on) and it’s nothing that a chiropractor can’t help you through.  As soon as your neck is aligned properly again, the headaches immediately go away, because they aren’t actually headaches.  Now, I’m saying all this, I don’t know that this was what the problem for Lapierre was.  I just know it was a neck issue that they thought were concussions.  But having gone through it, I would bet good money that’s what the issue has been (as long as they’re telling the truth).  Remember too, Crosby missing all that time in 2011 and 2012 with what was thought to be concussion issues, and once they figured out it was actually a neck issue, he was good to go again and hasn’t struggled with it since.  I would say in most years I wouldn’t touch him until late in the 1st, but I’m not a big fan of the depth of this draft, and it severely lacks quality centres.

EDIT: When I initially released this piece, I had Lapierre 18th.  After giving it more thought, I decided to put him up here as I just simply believe he is going to be fine in terms of health moving forward.

 

12. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

The upside is off the charts with Guhle.  Skating, size, edge, IQ, the kid checks all the boxes to at least be an NHL defenceman someday.  I believe he can be a top pair defenceman, if not a legitimate number one guy someday, but he needs time.  In my opinion, he needs two more seasons in the WHL, and one full season in the AHL.  Then we’ll see.  This is not a kid that an organization should be rushing, and if the proper time is taken, the organization which drafts will have quite the player on their hands.

 

13. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

Up 9 spots from my last list.  I honestly had just started to look more into him the last time around.  When I first wrote out my list, I think I had him around 30.  Then found some stuff on him “oh, he’s intriguing”.  Found more stuff on him “fuck, I have to get him higher on the list, I definitely like him better than Peterka”.  And this kind of just kept happening.  And for me, at times I have to remind myself the type of players that I prefer, not what others who do this like.  So Reichel ends up 13th, and no I’m not doing this to standout.  I will say though that part of the thought put into this is that he’s a hot riser in this draft.  Those guys always go even higher than expected, and those guys pan out!  I think back to 2011, that guy was Mark Scheifele.  2012 was Hampus Lindholm.  ’13 was Bo Horvat.  ’14 Travis Sanheim.  ’15 Timo Meier.  Seeing a trend?!  Anyway, as for the player…the Alex Tanguay comparison is one of my favourite that I did in this list, I just believe it’s spot on.  Skating, vision, IQ, doesn’t shy away from but doesn’t really like being anything physical.  He makes players around him better, he is very developable, I think he can be a 1st line winger.

 

14. Jack Quinn

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Justin Williams

I didn’t like Quinn for a long time.  And I think there was a false narrative out there that he was living off Rossi, which I stupidly bought into.  But he didn’t play with Rossi five on five, and he put up 34 goals ES.  Good speed and I love his motor.  Being such a heavy “shoot first” type hurts him in my rankings as historically snipers in junior have a difficult time bringing that game to the show, but again, that motor suggests this kid is going to be more than just a one-dimensional sniper.

 

Tier 6

15. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: Nail Yakupov

So there is a lot here this time around.  Long story short, I’m not nearly as big of a fan as most are.  BUT…because this draft has shitty depth, he stays up here.  For me, he’s this season’s Cole Caufield AKA a sniper everyone is much more in love with than I am.  So let’s go back again to the fact that I freely admit I don’t have the time to truly scout guys.  What I mostly do is absorb as much information from respected people who do scout and I have big respect for what they see.  Not that I haven’t seen Holtz, I have, but I more so rely on those eyes rather than my own.  But then I started to dig into scouting reports on him and found myself saying “wait, maybe I did see it right that he doesn’t skate well” because I had read/heard from a few different people that they thought he did and basically disregarded my own opinion.  Yeah, he doesn’t.  He’s an average skater.  He also struggles away from the puck and in his own zone, I had information suggesting otherwise.  Went back and dug into some video on him and yeah, not pretty.  And here is where I bring up the comp I use which will not have gone over well with some.  Holtz is damn near identical to Yak on paper.  Amazing shot, but he relies too heavily on it (constantly shooting from far out) and doesn’t seem to know how to find the open ice.  Now, he does play hard.  He’s got a good motor.  But he also doesn’t really accomplish much, which was Yak.  The book on Yak coming out of Sarnia was “look how much energy this guy plays with!  And he hits!”  Holtz isn’t physical, but he is active on the forecheck.  But there is an art to that as well and I’m not sure with his skating that he can be effective on the forecheck.  Now, does all this mean he’ll bust like Yak?  Yak’s rep in Edmonton was that he refused to work on his weaknesses.  As long as Holtz is a coachable kid, he’ll succeed.  So don’t get this too twisted.  I still have him 15th, not 115th.  But I completely disagree with the hype he’s been getting this season.  This is a very flawed player and typical of so many in the scouting community, they’re drooling all over someone’s shot…a skill that can be developed.  I do not get this logic from scouts.  Brandon Pirri can’t stick in the league, and he might have one of the best shots in the game.  Remember 2017 when people were gushing over Eeli Tolvanen and Owen Tippett?  What about 2018 and Oliver Wahlstrom?  Holtz has serious bust potential, and while he has the ability to be a nice complementary piece, this isn’t a piece that teams should be desperate to get near the top of the draft.  But again, it all depends on how coachable he is.

 

Tier 7

16. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Jordan Eberle

I’m not super high on Mercer’s ability to improve greatly over what he is right now, but I see him as one of the safest picks in this draft.  This kid just seems like a guy who is going to step into a team’s top six in a year or two, and never leave.  Just an easy game for guys to gel with.

 

17. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

I’m well aware that you can read the comp, but I can’t stress enough just how damn much of T.J. Oshie I see in this kids game.  Good skater, good skill, high motor, physical, versatile, he’s a kid who can be thrown into any role, any situation, and he’s going to deliver.  I really see him as a can’t miss player.  Might only end up being a 3rd line winger, but the upside is definitely there to be a fantastic complementary piece in a top-six role.

 

18. Mavrik Bourque

Team: Shawinigan  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Kevin Fiala

One word comes to mind watching Bourque: crafty.  I love the IQ with this kid.  And even though he’s only 5’10, if that 165lbs is accurate, then he has 15-20lbs still to put on which could help his skating.  The skating is passable, but an extra gear for Bourque could be massive for his game.  Having said that though, I view him as one of the safest picks in this draft (which is basically all the Q kids to this point, three for three!)  I think he can play in anyone’s top six and produce because he plays a game that’s easy for other players to gel with.

 

Tier 8

19. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 159  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Schenn

He’s a coach’s dream and just does everything right.  I was high on him entering the season, and then he was so solid in a support role at the Hlinka/Gretzky, and just simply showcased it all season.  I moved him up both these rankings and my Western rankings late because I just keep going back to how physically immature he is.  Greig is going to add another 20, maybe even 30lbs to his frame!  Playing the physical style he does and showcasing that he’s committed to playing a 200-foot game, that extra size will help him tremendously.  IQ, skating, and motor to develop a very complete game.  Frankly though, the fact that I am and more people are ranking Greig this high speaks to this draft having weak depth.  The more I’ve dug into this draft, the more I see why so many teams were willing to essentially give away their 1st round picks this season.

 

20. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

Comparison: Jordan Staal

I’m pulling back a bit on my boy.  Nobody has changed my mind (and I fully admit, as an open-minded guy, I can be too easily influenced by what others have to say!) but I feel like putting him at 15 the last time around I was getting too caught up in his upside and not being more realistic about it.  However, I still stand by the thought that people are sleeping on him, and some of the stuff I’ve read as to why people don’t like him (believing that he played a ton with Adam Beckman, believing he was getting top PP unit time all season, his skating which is not only good for a big kid but is certain to get better as he gains strength) just is flat out dumb.  Again, I really wonder if he is so badly underrated just because people have been burned too many times by the oversized centre?  His game is so much different than so many of those guys though given he is terrific 200 feet, has a good motor, and a very high IQ.    That type of player is going to develop rapidly.  This might sound odd, but I like that he still has to think the game and doesn’t rely on his size to get by.  So I probably went too far having him at 15 the last time around as there are much safer bets, but I still see him as a certainty to play as a Brian Boyle type, probably a Michal Handzus, and a solid chance to be who I compare him to.  Not saying he won’t need time.  Two more years in the dub and then a year in the AHL is what’s likely needed.  But I like him long term.  Greig moved ahead of him for me because the more I thought about it, the more I like how hard Greig is to play against.  Both guys have 2nd line centre potential, and in my mind are safely 3C’s.  So with that in mind, give me the guy who puts the opponent’s head on a swivel.

 

21. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

He’s not a sexy player for fans to get excited about, but Lundell is going to be such a valuable addition for a hockey club.  A Ryan O’Reilly type centre who can thrive in any situation.  Others have dropped him in their rankings much further than this, but I wonder how much of that is perhaps Lias Andersson backlash?  It would be understandable as they have very similar games, and I’m not a big fan of his skating, but I wasn’t a big fan of ROR’s skating when he entered the league.  These type of players are just so damn valuable, I’d have a tough time watching a guy like this drop too far if I were a GM.

 

22. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Chris Kreider

I haven’t really soured on him, but I’ve changed my tune on believing I’d draft him as a centre.  I just think his skill set is much better suited to play the wing.  On the wing he’ll be able to use his physicality more, and he’d be able to use his speed more effectively on the forecheck.  A dirty little secret, I was blown away with how much scouts loved him coming into the season, and am a little surprised they’re still so high on him.  The more thought I’ve given it, I’m concerned that he doesn’t have the offensive acumen to be more than a top-nine winger.

 

23. John-Jason Peterka

Team: EHC München  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Palmieri

Peterka is a burner.  I know there is some question out there about his ceiling, but he’s a very safe bet in my mind given the speed, given the motor, and he does have some pretty good skill to go with it.  He’s got a raw game right now, so the team that drafts him likely needs to give him three full years before looking at him for a roster spot.  But again, to my eye he’s a safe bet to fill a top-nine role on any club.

 

Tier 9

24. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

Comparison: Brent Seabrook

I hate myself when it comes to Schneider.  I have gone back and forth on this for a year now.  Last summer, I didn’t have him in my initial top 10 WHL list while others had him at the top.  Then I came around on him, then I soured on him a bit more, and now I have him here.  What I’ve fought with is ceiling vs floor.  He’s playing in the NHL, I don’t have any doubt about that.  What’s his ceiling?  He can skate, and is physically developed, so why wasn’t he dominant in the dub this season?  I keep coming back to that.  Don’t get me wrong, probably the top shutdown D-man in the league, but he wasn’t overwhelming.  He missed being drafted in ’19 by six days.  A guy I constantly found myself comparing him with is Matthew Robertson, and I’m not overly sure why so many love Schneider, but didn’t love Robertson the same.  It’s not just the stats, Robertson has a little more size, as good or possibly better mobility, probably better puck skills, moves it better, I just don’t get it.  It came down to this for me: What was Travis Hamonic (the comp I used all season until this final list) when he was with the Islanders?  Top pair D-man.  Can Schneider be Brent Seabrook?  Yes.  Can he be Adam Larsson?  Yes.  Vlasic?  Yes.  Muzzin?  Yes.  Pesce?  Yes.  All these guys either were or are top pairing guys.  So I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous about this final ranking, and even more so thanks to next years draft being so rich with defencemen.  I fear a big reason some love Schneider is the lack of defencemen in this draft.  But he will likely play for a long time, and there are guys who I have ahead of him who may not.

 

25. Ronan Seeley

Team: Everett  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Vince Dunn

He’s much like Finley in terms of this likely being a bit of a stunner, but I’ve watched the dub closely this season believe that people aren’t just sleeping on Seeley, they’re in a coma.  A very slow start, and he was a victim of playing on maybe the best blueline in the WHL.  The offensive numbers will come (though they actually did, 30 of his points came in his final 46 games).  He is a terrific skater, very good puck-mover, and is very reliable in his own zone.  I highly doubt anyone picks Seeley in the 1st round, but when it’s all said and done I believe a ton of people could be really kicking themselves that they didn’t.

 

26. Victor Persson

Team: Brynäs IF J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Brodie

I admit, didn’t know much about Persson.  Ryan Barr who does great work with his scouting mentioned him on Twitter on one day, and so I started looking into him.  Hockey Prospect also were pretty big on him, which piqued my interest even more.  Give me D prospects who can skate and move the puck.  That’s why you see Seeley in the spot above, is he can really skate and really move the puck.  Same with Persson.  And much the same with Seeley, I doubt Persson ends up being a 1st round pick, but he would be for me.  Recently was taken in the CHL import draft by the Kamloops Blazers, it could be a tremendous opportunity for Persson if he chooses to come over.  Expect some terrific offensive numbers as the Blazers have a great team returning despite losing their captain Zane Franklin.

 

Tier 10

27. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jarret Stoll

It is simply amazing to me as I go back to the Finley thing for a second.  People shit on Finley because of this misconception that he played all season with Beckman, yet ignore the fact that Zary played on the best line in the WHL with two of the best players in the league (shoutout to my fellow Marwayne Wildcat alums) and trust me, that wasn’t because Zary was carrying them.  But that’s in the context of people sleeping on or shitting on Finley, not looking to hate on Zary.  There’s a lot to like here.  Two-way centre with a great work ethic, high IQ, and very good vision.  But again, I feel his stats got tremendously inflated this season, and his ES numbers aren’t anything special.  Then the skating is worrisome.  Projecting on him, he’s not much different from Greig or Finley, but I basically see them as better versions of Zary.

 

28. Luke Evangelista

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Artturi Lehkonen

I’m REALLY late on Evangelista.  Why?  My buddy SPR I don’t believe even mentioned him this season!  Sean doesn’t miss a Knights game, so anytime I saw Evangelista I basically wrote it off.  But the more hype he got, the more I thought “I better do my homework”.  For me, I love his skating, love the IQ he displays, love his play away from the puck and in all three zones, and I love his playmaking ability.  So those are three massive checkmarks for me.  He plays a very cerebral game, and he isn’t flashy, but I personally love those players.  Every goal is worth one in hockey, you don’t get any more for it getting on highlight reels.  Plus as I’ve read some major publications say, this is a typical London Knights draft-eligible player.  Draft-eligibles rarely play up in their lineup, so their stats are always down (maybe a reason why people shouldn’t sleep too hard on a guy Sean loved coming into the season Antonio Stranges).  Fully admit, I’m concerned I’m talking out my ass when I’m ranking a Knight so high while Sean doesn’t seem to be a fan.  If I had to GUESS, I’d guess that Sean doesn’t like his lack of physicality.  He puts an extremely high value on guys who are miserable to play against, and that’s completely fair.  But for me, I just look at all the traits, combine it with the Hunter’s ability to develop their kids, and Evangelista sneaks into the 1st round on my board.

 

29. Jan Mysak

Team: Hamilton  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Sharp

Performed very well in his 22 games after coming over to the OHL.  A kid who I list as a winger and would draft him as a winger, but the potential is definitely there to continue playing the middle in pro hockey, which is always a nice bonus with a prospect up-front.  The comp to Sharp comes from the fact that while he can put the puck in the net and is a shoot-first guy, he has shown that he can be trusted in any situation which will obviously win him big points with coaches as he furthers his development.  So he’ll get a ton of opportunity to succeed.

 

30. Rodion Amirov

Team: Tolpar Ufa  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Connor

I have made no bones about how I feel about drafting Russian born forwards the last few years…I’m leery.  Andrei Svechnikov obviously is fantastic and this theory had me moronically drop him to 6th (though 2nd tier) in my final 2018 rankings, but the track record on these kids in the 1st round for over a decade has been pretty brutal.  It’s not all Russian born players, just the forwards.  So Amirov gets punished for that coming in at 30, but I’m well aware that he has tremendous talent.  I actually really like his game, and if I’m just taking that into account I’d probably rank him up around 15.  But there is just WAY too much evidence that Russian born forwards are a total crapshoot.  Fully expect him to be drafted earlier than this would indicate.

 

31. Brendan Brisson

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrew Mangiapane

I’m not sure what you could say about Brisson that you can’t about most sub 6’0 wingers?  High IQ, terrific skill, great shot and great vision.  He’s essentially the poster child for that type of player (at least one who would be of interest).  What does have me a little worried is the skating, though it’s passable.  The other is that as you’ll notice or perhaps you read my blog on how I rank guys, those who love Brisson really love his shot.  Go back to my write-up on Holtz as to what I think of guys and their amazing shots.  For me with Brisson, I feel it’s his hands and vision make him a late 1st/early 2nd rounder.

 

32. Noel Gunler

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: Anthony Mantha

Not quite as good of a skater as Mantha, but the rest really checks out, especially in terms of someone leaving you wanting more.  Gunler is another “amazing shot” guy who doesn’t bring a whole lot more to the table.  But having said that, the ability is there.  He’s still pretty thin, and he skates well, so if in time he can develop his play away from the puck there could be a pretty valuable player here.  But I have a difficult time ranking him where others do (mind you, that can be said for every “amazing shot” guy).

 

33. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Hoffman

I worry about the work ethic.  It’s tough to look past the whole “privileged kid” thing when you combine what you see on the ice with the fact that he’s the son of a former NHL player (Yanic).  All the tools though to thrive in the NHL.  It’s funny with the bloodlines in this year’s draft.  Most of the time, kids play a lot like their fathers.  But in this draft you have Sanderson who is a stud two-way defenceman rather than goal-scoring winger, Finley is a giant centre rather than a puck-moving defenceman, Michael Benning is the closet because at least he plays the same position as his old man but he’s much more skilled than Brian was, Greig plays a bit like his old man but I see him as a likely centre where Mark was a winger, and now Jacob Perreault being gifted and a bit lazy where his dad couldn’t skate and really got by with his IQ and work ethic.

 

Tier 11

34. Helge Grans

Team: Malmö Redhawks J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Jeff Petry

He’s a project, and so I’d look to take him near the top of the 2nd round.  I’d wait at least three years before truly looking to sign Grans.  If he were ok with it, I’d wait the full four years to max out his development time (but obviously he’d have to be good with that, otherwise he could just become a UFA after the fourth season).  Assuming you sign him after three years, I’d be willing to burn the first season of his ELC with him remaining in Sweden.  Then I’d look to bring him over for a season in the AHL, without any thought of bringing him up to the big club.  Finally, in the 6th season of his development, THAT is when I’d start giving him looks if he’s progressed the way I assume he would.  So you’re looking at a SIX YEAR development plan!  Obviously, it’s possible it doesn’t take that long, but at this point, that’s what I’m game planning for if I’m drafting him, and that’s why I’m not touching him in the 1st round.  He might be one of the top D-men in this draft when it’s all said and done because of how talented he is.  But it’s going to take a long time if you want to do it right.  He is a terrific skater, moves the puck well, and has great size, so the tools are here.  But it’ll take some time.

 

35. William Wallinder

Team: MODO Hockey J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Rasmus Ristolainen

See Grans, which is why I have them back to back and in their own tier.  Not the same player, but extremely similar in how I see them needing to be developed.  The difference between Grans and Wallinder is that Grans has shown a great ability to move the puck, and the same can’t be said for Wallinder.  But Wallinder is probably the more physically gifted of the two players.  I’d say it’s possible that Wallinder could become a tremendous shutdown guy who if paired with someone who does move the puck well could thrive in the league.  But again with both these guys, a ton of development time is likely needed if the teams who draft them want to max out their talent.  If they do that, both guys could be well worth the wait.

 

Tier 12

36. Marat Khusnutdinov

Team: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Pavel Datsyuk

IN TERMS OF THE STYLE HE PLAYS!!!  Don’t get that comp completely fucked.  Truth be told, I had a very difficult time thinking of anyone other than Sebastian Aho, and that’s been the comp I’ve used for Rossi all season and love it.  So best case, Khusnutdinov could maybe be a poor man’s version of one of the best two-way centres in league history.  But I love this kids upside and again I go back to that damn Russian forward bust rate as the only reason I don’t have him much higher.  An amazing skater who also possesses tremendous vision, terrific hands, and even is a good 200-foot player for his age.  But he had consistency issues, and maybe more than that is that size is a little scary to play the middle even though I believe he can (especially in the East where you have more finesse centres).  I love the potential here though.

 

37. Topi Niemelä

Team: Kärpät  League: Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 163  Shot: R

Comparison: Andrej Sekera

I’ve used the Sekera comp a few times before, but I can’t get it out of my head with a kid like this who moves it really well, has good puck skills, good IQ, and is a very good skater despite not having that top-end speed.  And as I often wonder with kids who have 20lbs or so to put on their frame, how much might that improve once he gains strength?  In a draft so weak on puck-moving D, I do worry that I’m maybe overrating him a bit, but as I often point out, his top-end speed will likely improve a ton as he packs on more muscle and gains the strength he needs.

 

38. Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: Ethan Bear

Most are being completely ridiculous with him.  He matched Cale Makar’s pre-draft year production, and his draft year production (pre-draft they both had one more point than games played, and then this season they had the exact same 75 points in 54, and Makar’s team in those years was just as good as the Crusaders this season), except these have been Benning’s 16 and 17 year old seasons, for Makar they were his 17 year old and 18 year old seasons.  I don’t like going into stats too heavily, but this is a case where I seem to be the only one pointing this out all season while understanding that Benning has all the tools to be a top-four NHL defenceman, and yet he is getting zero 1st round buzz.  He’s not Makar, I’d never suggest that.  They play different games, and Benning doesn’t have THAT kind of upside.  But just because he’s not Makar doesn’t mean that Benning is going to be damn good.  Good skater (some have disputed this, and in my opinion those people are confusing pace that a player plays at with actual skating ability), high IQ, terrific vision, size is good enough for today’s game.  It’s funny with both Benning and Seeley, scouts will tell you that you should ignore the stats and just look at the player.  Ok…so then explain why you don’t like Seeley.  Others will tell you that stats matter.  Ok…so then explain why you don’t like Benning.  Call me crazy, but I like mobile, puck-moving defencemen and so I’m willing to take some swings on guys who fit the bill of what works in today’s game.

 

39. Justin Barron

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: R

Comparison: Nate Schmidt

I thought specifically of Barron vs Braden Schneider.  This is what I’m basically hearing from everyone on Barron: “it’s too bad he had such a bad season, looks like a kid who still has the upside be a top-four defenceman, but likely just a bottom pairing guy”.  Now what it seems like I’m hearing from everyone on Schneider: “what a great prospect!  He looks like a kid who the upside to be a top-four defenceman!  But for sure he’s a bottom pairing guy!”  Like………WHAT?!?!  Even if Barron’s offensive game isn’t going to come, he’s still more skilled than Schneider, and can become a great defender in time.  It’s not exactly a glowing recommendation that I have Barron at 39, and then having Schneider at 24 (again, 14-60 in this draft isn’t much of a difference in this draft in my opinion), but when I compare those two it definitely becomes more clear to me that people have gone overboard on Schneider, and maybe have been too rough on Barron for a season that got derailed by a blood clot.

 

40. Yan Kuznetsov

Team: UCONN  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Marcus Pettersson

There is no flash here at all with Kuznetsov.  But I view him as an extremely safe pick as he’s an A+ defender who skates well and can move it well too.  He’d be a perfect compliment for an active defenceman much the way Marc Methot was for Erik Karlsson.

 

41. Jake Neighbours

Team: Edmonton  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Killorn

I said it all season, I just didn’t understand why he was getting the hype that he was.  I like him, but a lot of people believed he was the best prospect in the dub, and that just was never the truth.  The skating isn’t great, the motor isn’t always going (it’s not as though he’s lazy, but there are times he leaves you wanting more in terms of intensity), and though I don’t say this very often…he needs to shoot more.  So those are the cons.  But he’s still a 2nd rounder for sure with a very high IQ and good size.  Wouldn’t stun me if he’s this years Raphael Lavoie, and what I mean by that is at the draft last year, Lavoie looked a little out of shape.  But when Lavoie got to the World Junior showcase just a month later, he looked like a completely different guy basically by just cleaning up his diet.  It’s possible that’s all Neighbours needs to go to another level is just a diet to follow because there are some who believe his weight might have held him back a bit this season.

 

42. Tristen Robins

Team: Saskatoon  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

Comparison: J.T. Compher

I probably like Robins as much as others who have him ranked much higher than this (13th for HP) and see the same things they do.  A) again I’ll say it that from 14-60 in this draft, I view it as airtight (which in some years might be a compliment, this year it’s more of an insult as I view these players as late 1st or 2nd rounders in most years).  B) while I’m high on the idea of Robins making it into the league, his ceiling, in my opinion, is a 2nd line winger.  Even if he hits that ceiling, it’s not a difficult piece to find.  A player who you love, but replaceable.  Add to that, statistically I found a troubling trend.  38 of his 73 points this season came against the six teams in the WHL which didn’t make the playoffs.  If you add two more teams to that mix (Calgary and Medicine Hat), it accounted for 50 of his 73 points.  I feel as though some got too excited about the fact he had 24 points in his final 13 games, but 21 of those 24 points came in eight games against Swift Current, Moose Jaw and Regina (who were bottom feeders in the dub this season, and obviously following the trade deadline they were even worse).  Now, not his fault three of the six worst teams in the league were in his division, but if you look at a kid like Wiesblatt who had the same deal, his numbers were much more balanced and Wiesblatt drove his own line where Robins was aided by fellow draft-eligible Kyle Crnkovic.  As if I haven’t shit on Robins enough here…his skating is good, it’s not great.  I feel the need to explain my stance on the Western kids since I covered them this season, which is why I’m going long with this write-up.  But don’t get it twisted, I really like Robins and believe he’s a kid who will play.  I just personally wouldn’t take him until the 2nd round.

 

Tier 13 (I could argue for the rest of these guys in any order)

43. Theodor Niederbach

Team: Frölunda HC J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Frans Nielsen

This draft is SO devoid of centres.  There are a few guys who might translate as centres, but very few sure things.  That’s part of the reason why I have Niederbach up here, but also, I believe Niederbach is a very safe pick.  Skates well, is committed to playing a 200-foot game, good vision, and has a very high IQ.  It’s funny, these types of centres always get overlooked due to the lack of flash in their game, and they seemingly always overachieve.  Ryan O’Reilly, Shawn Horcoff, Tyler Bozak, William Karlsson, the aforementioned Nielsen (obviously I’m meaning Nielsen in his prime when I use that comp)  I’ll gladly bet on that guy mid 2nd round.

 

44. Jean-Luc Foudy

Team: Windsor  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 168  Shot: R

Comparison: Andreas Athanisiou

A little bit of a twist here with the comp of Athanisiou.  He’s essentially the evil Athanisiou (Foudy is a pure playmaker rather than a shoot-first guy), but I use AA for a few reasons.  1) the speed both players possess.  2) how difficult both players can be to play with given how they both need to be the drivers of the lines they play on.  3) the poor draft years both players had statistically.  I’m not a big fan of Foudy at this point, but I have a tough time watching him fall too far thanks to possessing raw tools that you just can’t teach.  Terrific speed and a pure playmaker, two tremendous assets to thrive in today’s NHL.  But he has to learn to play in traffic, not just stay on the perimeter.  If the right team gets a hold of Foudy then it could be a little scary for the rest of the league.  He definitely has the ability to at least play in the league.  It’s a bit like Philip Broberg last year where so many people (myself included) got caught up in disagreeing with what his ceiling is and completely missed the fact that he’s still basically a lock to be a top-four D-man.  Foudy might be unlikely to hit his enormous ceiling, but I’d still say he’s likely to be a top-nine winger.

 

45. Daniel Torgersson

Team: Frölunda HC J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: L

Comparison: Joel Armia

A lot of tools to work with here.  Great skater for someone so big, and he combines that with a terrific motor and good IQ.  It remains to be seen if his game will translate that much offensively, but given that he checks the IQ, speed, and size boxes, he could end up doing a lot of damage as a complimentary guy for a good duo (think MacKinnon/Rantanen, or maybe Matthews/Marner).  Even if that situation never presents itself though, he has all the tools to be an effective bottom-six winger and terrific penalty killer.

 

46. Emil Heineman

Team: Leksands IF J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Michael Frolik

Maybe I just think all Swedes look the same?  Because I have Grans and Wallinder back to back and can’t make up my mind on which one I like better long term, and it’s the same story with Torgersson and Heineman!  I went with the younger and bigger prospect, but only slightly.  They don’t play an overly similar game, but like Grans and Wallinder I see them possibly having a similar impact on a roster.  The difference with these two however is the floor, as both players look like safe bets, just lack big ceilings.  Heineman is a great skater, has a tremendous motor, and is always finishing his checks.

 

47. Will Cuylle

Team: Windsor  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Brett Connolly

Loved him last summer, and flat out had a shitty season.  Still, he’s big, skilled and can skate.  It’s funny, if he had a big offensive season, I’d likely be much more down on him because scouts would love that shot.  But he didn’t, so I’m likely ranking him higher than most because he’s got very developable tools.  That’s difficult to watch fall too far in the draft.  Probably not a coincidence that both he and Foudy faltered this season both playing for Windsor.  Makes me wonder if there were other issues.

 

48. Sam Colangelo

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 205  Shot: R

Comparison: Jimmy Vesey

I’d like to see him learn to play much more of a give and go game.  So many kids have trouble making the show simply because they can’t learn to defer.  And it’s completely understandable.  You’ve been the man your entire life playing hockey, it’d be tough.  So that’s my main concern, but the tools are without a doubt there for Colangelo to be an effective winger at some point.  He’s off to Northeastern to begin his NCAA career this fall.

 

49. Eemil Viro

Team: TPS  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Mark Pysyk

I really love his skating.  Technically, he’s one of the best skaters in this draft.  But the offensive upside is questionable, and he doesn’t move the puck overly well for someone who will need to.  A bit of a project in my eyes, but he definitely has some tools to become something pretty good in time.

 

50. Jérémie Poirier

Team: Saint John  League: QMJHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Marek Zidlicky

You can’t let him fall forever.  I’m not a fan of his game at all to be really honest about it, but the skill that Poirier has makes him much more worthy of being taken by a certain point than those who are safer bets because you’ll be able to find those guys in trades, free agency or even on waivers.  If Poirier figures it out, he’s a stud.  Sounds great, but I also don’t like the odds of him figuring it out.  Probably will go higher than this because you’ll have teams who’ll be able to swing for the fences.  Some have suggested converting him to a forward.  It wouldn’t be much of a conversion, as he was initially a forward converted to a D-man.

 

51. Ryan O’Rourke

Team: Sault Ste. Marie  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Olli Maatta

I like O’Rourke, but I view him as the opposite of Poirier in that I believe he’s a safe pick without much of an upside.  Bottom pair I think is likely, wouldn’t rule out him becoming a top-four guy, but don’t love the upside.

 

52. Tyson Foerster

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

That’s a stolen comp from SPR, but it’s too good not to use.  This one pains me because he is such an easy player to pull for.  High IQ, a lot of skill, one of the best shots in this draft.  So why is he ranked all the way down here?  Two reasons.  1) skating.  It’s bad.  While I no longer believe skating can’t be improved (as an Oilers fan, I watched Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl massively improve their skating) Foerster has a long ways to go with his.  2) his PP production.  Half his goals and nearly half his points were with the man advantage.  I think back to 2017 when I first started paying closer attention to numbers and two guys who were dominant with the man advantage were Casey Mittlestadt and Michael Rasmussen.  We have a LONG ways to go in both careers, but neither kid looks all that intriguing at the moment.  As much as I like Foerster and am pulling for him, I can’t put him any higher than this.

 

53. Thomas Bordeleau

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Nikita Gusev

I probably like Bordeleau a lot more than ranking him 53rd would suggest.  But while I like his game, I’m concerned that he doesn’t have a whole lot of upside from what he currently is.  Skilled playmaker though, I’ll draft those guys all day in rounds 2-7.

 

54. Connor McClennon

Team: Winnipeg  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 157  Shot: R

Comparison: Brendan Gallagher

McClennon was on a 91 point pace in his final 29 games.  If he had hit 91 points this season, even with the concern that he lived off Peyton Krebs, guaranteed scouts would have him in their top 30.  The skating is the concern as it’s only average for a kid who is 5’8.  But he works his ass off, is highly skilled, and fearless.  A lot of rankings don’t have him even listed…that’s a mistake.

 

55. Cross Hanas

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

Comparison: Ondrej Kase

This is me projecting.  Hanas made the highlight reels this season, but didn’t exactly tear apart the WHL.  Couple reasons for that though.  1) didn’t see a ton of ice time.  2nd lowest for the forwards (15) that made my last Western prospects list.  2) very little of his production was with the man advantage.  40 of his 49 points came at ES.  His skating isn’t great at the moment, but when you watch him play you can see that it’s purely a case of having no lower body strength right now.  Zero power in his stride.  Once he fills out (likely has 30lbs still to put on, if not 40) that will come.  And then…what will he be?  Bit of a project, but I love the potential here.

 

56. Justin Sourdif

Team: Vancouver  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Sam Reinhart

Three straight dub kids on my list, but if you’ve followed my stuff this season then you know that I really believe in the depth out West this season.  Sourdif isn’t one of my favourites, but he checks in here thanks to his ES production.  Vancouver had an awful PP this season, and because of that Sourdif ended up with only 7 of his 54 points coming on the PP this season.  That’s damn good ES production.  Good skater, good IQ, good skill.  But what I worry about is that he’s a tweener.  I don’t know if he has enough skill to play in a top-six someday, and while I wouldn’t say he plays a perimeter game, he doesn’t get involved at all physically.  Teams aren’t looking for outright grinders and plugs like they used to in their bottom six, but you still want guys who can bring something extra to the table.  Still, he has some great assets that make him very developable if the right organization gets their hands on him.

 

57. Martin Chromiak

Team: Kingston  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: R

Comparison: Victor Olofsson

Another “terrific shot” guy, but more so than that with Chromiak is that I worry he’s lived off 2022 1st overall pick Shane Wright (for those of you wanting a sneak preview for my 2022 list), and I’m also concerned with how soft he plays.  His skating and hands make him developable.

 

58. Tyler Kleven

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 201  Shot: L

Comparison: Jack Johnson

Another project, Kleven has size, mobility and edge that is going to give him a great shot at being an NHL defenceman.  He’s got the same upside as Braden Schneider, but he’s much further off than Schneider.  Even with him going the collegiate route, there is a chance a team is going to use all three years of his ELC developing him.

 

59. Eamon Powell

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Thomas Hickey

Skates well, can really move it, and pretty solid in his own zone.  There is next to no flash with Powell, but I believe he can be a solid bottom pairing guy.

 

60. Joni Jurmo

Team: Jokerit U20  League: U20 SM-sarja

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 198  Shot: L

Comparison: Noah Hanifin

One reason I love Jurmo and it’s his skating.  One of the best skaters in the draft.  He needs a lot of time to develop though.  The skating and size are going to give him a terrific chance to become something really nice, but he needs to go to the right organization, he needs a ton of time, and he needs to be coachable.

 

61. Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

People who are down on him will tell you he’s lazy and can’t skate.  People who are higher on him (as I am) will tell you his role on his line all season was to be the trigger man, and when he was challenged or needed to step up, he did exactly that.  I think he was bored this season.  He has the talent and I believe once he’s challenged again as he will be this season at Denver, his stats won’t be great, but people will see a much more well rounded and hard-working player.

 

62. Dylan Peterson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Colin Wilson

There are too many tools with Peterson for me not to want to take him at some point.  It would completely depend on how many picks I have.  If I don’t have many and I don’t have a great system, too risky.  Think of a team like the Sens though who have a boatload of picks and a great system.  Then all of a sudden a kid like Peterson is well worth a gamble at some point with one of those four 2nd rounders they own.  Great size, great skater for that size, he doesn’t have the hockey sense to play the middle as some have him listed as, but given the right amount of development time, he has a chance to be molded into a very effective player.  I feel as though he’s getting written off by people because they don’t think he can become a top-six player, all the while they’re missing that he has all the tools to become a bottom-six player.

 

63. Roby Jarventie

Team: KOOVEE  League: Mestis

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Viktor Stalberg

A project.  Good size, good skater, good skill.  But he needs time to develop.  The skillset is far too intriguing to let fall past the early 3rd round.

 

64. Ty Smilanic

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan Dzingel

I really love his skating which is why I still have him in my top 64, but he was a big disappointment not only for me, but seemingly for everyone this season.  When that happens, much more often than not those players tend to not come close to making it.  But we’ll see.  He needs time.

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2020 NHL Draft: Mock Draft V.2

Welcome to the draft that I believe is going to be the poster child for supply and demand.  I believe that many independent scouts are going to HATE how this draft shakes down, and I understand it.  I believe they’re going to lose their skulls at which players get passed on, and which get reached on.  But to quote Alonzo (Denzel Washington) from Training Day:

The amount of complimentary wingers in this draft is ridiculous.  I counted 49 of Bob McKenzie’s list of 100 to be complementary wingers (the way I see them anyway).  That’s not an insult to the players, it’s just that I see them being guys who need the right centres to work with.  49 of 100.  So it’s not going to be difficult to find that type of player.

What will be difficult to find are defenceman.  This draft is really poor when it comes to D-men, especially puck-moving D-men.  There are a couple of guys in the West that I personally like for that role, but most don’t seem to be too high on them.  It’s also lacking two-way centres.  If you’re aware of how hockey works…D-men and centres are in pretty high demand!  It’s already not overly difficult to find wingers, specifically undersized skilled wingers.  The Wild were about to bail on Kevin Fiala this season before he popped.  Sonny Milano was being shopped eventually ending up in Anaheim.  Rocco Grimaldi has bounced around a lot in his short time in the league.  The Leafs have Jeremy Bracco just sitting in the AHL.  Wingers are ALWAYS available because they aren’t tough to find.  I say it every year, and every year people get on Twitter and bitch about teams “overthinking it” when it comes to the draft.  It’s supply and demand, and I believe this draft is going to show that more than any other has in a long time.

The way I do this is I look at what organizations have about 26 or 27 and under.  These are not the picks I would make for these teams, this is me attempting to project what I believe the teams will make.  I look hard at organizational need.  I don’t believe a team should EVER make a pick based on a current need, but it does happen from time to time.  I do understand given how difficult it is to make trades these days why teams would pick for organizational need.  I’m ok with that theory but within a tier.  I also look for patterns in drafting that teams show.  Some teams love certain CHL leagues, some love the DP, some love Sweden, Finland, etc.  Everyone has their scout whose opinion they trust the most.  Finally, I mostly go off Bob McKenzie’s rankings since it is compiled from scouts around the league and therefore the best gauge we have as to what teams are thinking.

You are likely asking yourself “Soups you dumb fuck…there are 16 teams with the exact same odds right now who could win the lottery, how can you simply pull one team?”  Good question.  I didn’t pull one team out.  Instead, I’m simply putting Lafrenière 1st to no team, and I’ll make 31 selections after that.  Is it perfect?  No, but I felt like doing a mock draft to give people an idea of what teams might do with their selections.

I don’t go off it for my mock drafts, but if you’re interested, my final rankings for the 2020 draft (a top 64 list) is also out now, and you can check that out here.

And if you would prefer to listen to the podcast on this list instead, you can check that out here.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

SOH Rank: 1st

Without a doubt, this is who will be the top pick.  One of those 16 teams are getting a damn good prospect.  He’s not a generational guy, but he’s close.  I apologize to the fans of the teams who were in the lottery and didn’t win it, but man…this is some good drama.

Other Option: Trade down – this will be a player for the rest of these, but I don’t believe there is another player a team would consider with this pick.  The Sens could put together one HELL of a trade offer if they wanted to.  If the right team wins the pick…I highly doubt it, but you never know.

Possible Reach: Quinton Byfield – you can make the argument for him.  He’s a legitimate centre, he’s got the size advantage, he’s got the skating advantage, he’s 10 months younger, and he was producing at a better pace this season than Lafrenière was last season, in a better league.  But it has about a 0.000000000000000000004% chance of happening.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Staal

SOH Rank: 2nd

It is a toss-up between Byfield and Stützle.  I’m saying Byfield for a few reasons.  1) the Kings LOVE the OHL.  Now, that might be a Mike Futa thing, who is no longer with the organization.  But the way they’ve drafted in recent years, they might love the OHL more than any other team in the league.  2) the Kings won with size, especially down the middle.  While the regime that won is mostly gone, the people still in the organization were also with the King at that time.  3) I can’t imagine the league wouldn’t be pushing hard for the Kings to take a potential star of African descent.  Byfield in Ottawa wouldn’t have the impact that Byfield in a major U.S. market like L.A. would have.  It would be massive for the league.  Right or wrong, I believe it’ll play a factor in this decision.

Other Option: Tim Stützle – again, it’s 50/50.  I know what I just wrote, but we’re splitting hairs.  Stützle would likely be the pick for most teams as he’s the riser, just think Byfield ends up being the Kings guy.

Possible Reach: Jamie Drysdale – as I just said with Byfield, they love the OHL, but was that a Mike Futa thing or is it an organizational thing?  They really need to start the rebuild on the backend.

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3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

SOH Rank: 3rd

Originally San Jose’s pick sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  Highly likely that what happens here is that the Sens simply take the guy the Kings don’t.  So, in this case, it’s Stützle.  Some debate whether or not he can play the middle.  I believe he can, and I believe he has 1st line centre ability which the Sens really need.

Other Option: Jamie Drysdale – I say Drysdale, but essentially it’s Drysdale or Sanderson because if they happen to love one of them more than the other and want to ensure they land him, then with the 5th pick in their possession they could afford to take that guy here and then maybe Rossi at five.

Possible Reach: Marco Rossi – same idea as Drysdale.  Perhaps they’ll love the kid playing in their backyard so much that they ensure they get him.  By the stats, you can justify it.

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4. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Miro Heiskanen

SOH Rank: 7th

Risers always go higher than expected.  I can’t put Sanderson above this spot, but he’s going top five in my opinion and it’s just a matter of whether or not the Wings pull the trigger at four, or the Sens do it at five.  Honestly, I don’t get it, I prefer Drysdale, but it seems to be what always happens.  I’d love this for the Wings though.  Sure, last year they took Moritz Seider with their top pick, but that blueline still has a ton of work to be done.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I’m not ready to go here yet, but man alive is Sam Cosentino ever confident that they’re going to make this selection and if they do it is for ALL the wrong reasons!  This team needs to find pieces that can get them back to contender status, not complimentary wingers who have ties to the front office.  But Sammy Coz seems extremely confident that they’re going to take Perfetti.  I wonder if a trade back with Jersey to the 7th pick maybe makes sense if this is what they want to do?  I’ll explain later.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – Give this some real thought for a minute.  The Wings are still a LONG ways off.  They won’t be ready to win for another three years in my opinion.  He is going to be three or four years before he’s even ready for NHL action.  Goaltending prospects like this rarely come around.  And finally, Yzerman had amazing success taking Andrei Vasilevskiy in the 1st round in 2012.  I can actually make a strong case for it.

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5. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

SOH Rank: 4th

To walk out of this draft with Stützle and Drysdale would be massive for this organization as you’d legitimately getting a potential franchise centre and a potential franchise defenceman.  They have stocked the shelves somewhat on D, but I don’t think teams ever feel as though they have enough.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – would make a ton of sense here, and while I prefer that they take a D-man with this pick, and believe they will, shoring up centre is never a bad thing.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – 2nd in a row for Askarov.  I should clarify that he wouldn’t be a reach for me as I have him 6th, and in the same tier as Drysdale and Rossi.  But for most, he’d be considered a reach at four or five.  Again though, pretty damn rare for goaltending prospects like this to come along.

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6. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

SOH Rank: 8th

The Ducks could really use some franchise pillars.  They actually have some really nice young talent, not to mention guys like Lindholm and Gibson who are still young enough to rebuild around.  But those are the only pillar type pieces I believe they have.  Trevor Zegras MIGHT get there, Sam Steel MIGHT get there, Isaac Lundestrom MIGHT get there, but no sure things.  I’m not sure Raymond is that guy either, but he’s close.  And this organization has hit some home runs drafting out of Sweden so it makes a lot of sense.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I don’t like him over Raymond, and I don’t like him for the Ducks, but it sure seems like he is the apple of most NHL scouts eye.

Possible Reach: Kaiden Guhle – for the same reason that Sam Cosentino loves Perfetti to go to Detroit, keep your head up about this one for the Ducks.  All the ties between the Ducks and the P.A. Raiders organization, Kaiden’s brother Brendan is in their system, and the Ducks have a need for defencemen in their organization right now.

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7. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

SOH Rank: 10th

It’s actually just ironic that I brought up the whole Perfetti thing with Detroit.  Truth be told I didn’t think of that being a possibility until after.  But the Devils could package this pick with one of their other 1st rounders (should they end up with at least an extra 1st, could end up with three) to move up to the 4th pick and take the defenceman they pretty badly need, then the Wings could take Perfetti here if that’s in fact who they want.  But I don’t do trades, and they so rarely happen within the draft anymore, so the Devils stand pat and take the player with perhaps the highest hockey IQ in the draft.

Other Option: Yaroslav Askarov – this is what I had in the mini mock I did.  The Devils don’t have a quality goaltender in the system despite taking one in each of the last five drafts (though McKenzie Blackwood looks like he’s legit, I’m talking about in the system).  I really believe the Sabres won’t pass on him, but if the Devils want him and own at least two 1st rounders, I can see them ensuring they get him with this pick.

Possible Reach: Braden Schneider – I strongly believe they’ll look to address their blueline in this draft.  They have pieces, but not nearly enough.  This depends on how many picks they end up having.  If it’s the worst-case scenario and this ends up being their only 1st rounder…they might reach here and I could see Schneider being their guy.

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8. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

SOH Rank: 6th

I just don’t think he’s getting past this point.  In no way does Askarov solve their goaltending issues today, and I know they have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the system.  But I just have a feeling that new GM Kevyn Adams will want to do everything he can this off-season to ensure they no longer have any goaltending issues.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – makes a ton of sense for the Sabres, because while he’s small, he could be that perfect fit of a 2C playing behind Eichel who can do a ton of heavy lifting eating up a lot of tough minutes.  And he’s ready to make the jump now.

Possible Reach: Hendrix Lapierre – for the exact same reasons I just laid out as to why they might go with Rossi.  Get ready to see him in this spot a lot, because if he has a clean bill of health, teams will have a ton of interest.

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9. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

SOH Rank: 5th

How is it possible that the Habs continually end up with the small forward?!  Yet, here we are again.  He’d be a great pick for them though.  I’m sure he’d remind Habs fans a lot of former captain Saku Koivu.  He might have more offensive upside than Koivu though, we’ll see how the skating can progress.  But a potential 1st line centre who has a great 200-foot game would be huge for them despite that fact that Rossi isn’t.

Other Option: Seth Jarvis – even though he ended up 18th on McKenzie’s list, Bob was even adamant that it was a bit of a fluke that it ended up that way and it’s much more likely that he goes in the top 10.  He should, there are no holes with Jarvis, just needs to continue progressing.

Possible Reach: Hendrix Lapierre – fits for the same reasons as Rossi, and they would likely know him better than most being a kid in the Q (although he grew up in Gatineau which is the Ottawa region, and played in Chicoutimi which is North of Quebec City, so not exactly a local product)

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10. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Brad Marchand

SOH Rank: 9th

In this scenario, I fully expect him to be their guy.  They LOVE skill.  Look at their last two drafts in particular.  It’s clear they now just taking the most skill they can get their hands on, which is sound strategy!  More teams should consider it!

Other Option: Alexander Holtz – most have Holtz ahead of Jarvis in their rankings.  I believe Jarvis would be the Hawks pick ahead of Holtz given how much they love pure skill, but Holtz might fit their needs a little better if they went with a winger.

Possible Reach: Lukas Reichel – not at all a reach for me on my board, but for most, I think it would be pretty stunning to see Reichel go in the top 10.  He is their kind of player though.

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11. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

Comparison: Brent Seabrook

SOH Rank: 24th

Originally Arizona’s pick sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade.  As I said earlier, a trade up with the Wings sure would make a lot of sense and help them avoid reaching like this (it’s not a BIG reach, Bob has him 17th).  But if no trades are made, I believe the Devils are going to have to take a defenceman here.  I don’t think Schneider or Guhle would make it down to 17 (18 on here, but it would be the 17th pick).  And I think Schneider would be their guy if you’re going for need.  He’s a RH shot which is a much bigger need, and he’s ready to step in where Guhle needs time.  Even though it’s a need pick, a pairing of Ty Smith and Schneider down the road could be something pretty damn good.

Other Option: Kaiden Guhle – I think he’s the better prospect between himself and Schneider, but he’s a LHD and they need a RHD.  So it wouldn’t be shocking, but I’d be a bit surprised given their needs.

Possible Reach: Justin Barron – the only way this would even possibly happen is if the Canucks lose out and the Devils don’t get their 1st because they would be able to get Barron or any of the other D-men I didn’t mention above at 17.  Barron remained in Bob’s top 31 (25th) despite having a disastrous season.  Most had him as their 2nd best D-man entering the season.

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12. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

SOH Rank: 11th

I didn’t realize how bleak things are on this blueline for the Wild moving forward.  YIKES!  They own the Pens 1st rounder as well, so it might not be viewed as a huge need for them to take one here.  But I really believe teams are going to reach pretty good on defencemen in this draft, even though this wouldn’t be a reach at all on my board, or McKenzie’s.

Other Option: Alexander Holtz – he’s now falling for where most people have him.  As I said, Chicago might make sense, and perhaps Minny does too if their staff views him as someone they simply can’t pass on?

Possible Reach: Justin Barron – not really any logic here other than just a possibility of them liking another defenceman.  I’d suggest they trade down if they’re thinking Barron here, but that’s so much easier said than done.

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13. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

Comparison: Ryan O’Reilly

SOH Rank: 21st

Does anyone else notice how much they have kept going back to the well in Finland?  They’ve taken six in the last five drafts.  They also have a need down the middle, they believe in heavy more than speed, I have a strong suspicion that Lundell will be their guy.  I was thinking a defenceman here for a long time, and I do think that’s possible, but after giving this thought, a centre probably makes more sense with this pick.

Other OptionRidly Greig – the Wheat Kings are no longer the closest junior team to the Jets anymore, but I’d still consider them to be in their backyard.  Add to that, centre is a need, the GM knows the Wheat Kings VERY well, I’m sure he knows Ridly’s dad pretty damn well given they were in the same draft (1990) and would have played against each other a ton.  They also aren’t afraid to take the guy they love.  Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey were both off the board picks.

Possible Reach: Jack Finley – this isn’t that big of a reach according to my board, but it sure would be according to McKenzie’s as Finley is 55th for it!  But, you know all those reasons I just gave for Greig?  Yeah…well, Jeff Finley is a scout for the Jets…if Steve Tambellini were the Jets GM, this would be a lock!

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14. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Point

SOH Rank: 18th

The Rangers badly need a high-end centre in their system, and not only have a deep system to take a risk like this, but they also own another 1st.  Obviously this isn’t happening unless the medical checks out with Lapierre, but given he was 15th on McKenzie’s final list, I’m guessing it will.

Other Option: Alexander Holtz – I’m well aware this is getting absurd for him and one other forward.  Not by my board, but by most.

Possible Reach: Dylan Holloway – this one sucks, it’s only a reach for me, McKenzie has him 16th.  But I will say that while Bob suggests Jarvis will go higher than his board says, I believe Holloway will go lower.  In a way, he’s boom or bust.  Potential to be a Dylan Larkin type centre, but I believe he’s only going to be a top-nine forward.

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15. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: Nail Yakupov

SOH Rank: 14th

I just can’t let him fall any further.  In addition to that, the need for the Panthers is D and there really isn’t one worthy of going 15 left on the board.  A trade back here would make a lot of sense given their needs and when a kid like Holtz falls like this, someone who may need him jumps up.  Maybe Calgary?  Not sure if they’d have the trade ammo though.  Ottawa?  They have one more pick in the 1st as long as the Islanders don’t win the top pick, but I could see them actually preferring Jack Quinn given they’d know him well.

Other Option: Jack Quinn – who do people like better between Holtz and Quinn?  I’m Quinn all day long personally.  Plus, the Panthers have gone to the OHL well a lot in the past.

Possible Reach: William Wallinder – I could see someone falling in love with him because of the size/skating combination.  And given that they need D pretty badly, they’d make a lot of sense.

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16. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

SOH Rank: 12th

They like their risers.  With their last two 1st rounders they’ve taken a guy who was a late riser (Dubois and Foudy).  I’m honestly a little worried about having Reichel down here as I believe he’s a player who teams are going to fall in love with.  The one thing about risers is they always go earlier than anyone expects.  Reichel going 16th I don’t think would be much of a shocker for people at this point.

Other Option: Jack Quinn – wonder how much Flames fans love me right about now?

Possible Reach: Helge Grans – they MIGHT go D here and while Grans is still a ways off, the upside is definitely there.

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17. Jack Quinn

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: R

Comparison: Justin Williams

SOH Rank: 13th

This would be a gift for the Flames.  What scares me for the Flames though is they have a BIG need in my opinion for D-men in the organization, and if you hear people outside of Dean Molberg and myself talk about their needs, D never gets brought up.  I could be wrong though.  Anyway, they get their RW that they’ve been so desperate to land, and Quinn might be able to step in next season.

Other Option: Dawson Mercer – very similar idea here to Quinn.  I can’t imagine if Quinn or perhaps Holtz fell to them that they would consider anyone else, but crazier things have happened.

Possible Reach: Ozzy Wiesblatt – not in any way would he be a reach for me (16th), but Bob has him 40th.  I don’t get that at all having covered the dub prospects this season, but then again Daemon Hunt at 44 seems completely crazy the other way.  I still believe Wiesblatt will go in the 1st round, and he’s a Calgary kid so I’m sure the Flames know him very well.

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18. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 179  Shot: R

Comparison: Jordan Eberle

SOH Rank: 15th

Originally Vancouver’s pick sent to Tampa Bay in the J.T. Miller trade and then sent to New Jersey in the Blake Coleman trade.  I think Mercer falling to this pick would be a bit of a surprise for some, and the Devils would be thrilled to get him.  Such a safe pick and even though I’d never take a kid for this reason, he’s close to being ready to step in.

Other Option: Jacob Perreault – he scares me, but there will be a team who take a home run hack at Perreault.  And a team with, in this scenario, three 1st round picks makes a lot of sense to do that.

Possible Reach: Topi Niemelä – I could be boring here and suggest some of the D-men I’ve already mentioned, but what’s the fun in that?!  I’m telling you, teams are going to reach on D and centres given the lack of them in this draft.

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19. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 159  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Schenn

SOH Rank: 19th

This is nothing of a need, but I just have a feeling a kid like Greig would be their guy in this scenario.  They love the high motor guys and will sacrifice a bit of skill for it.  They (like a lot of teams I’ve mentioned) have a big need on the blueline in their system.  But they own Jersey’s 2nd along with their own, so it would perhaps be wiser to be patient and get a D-man at 38 or 50.

Other Option: William Wallinder – notice I don’t have this as my reach pick.  According to Bob’s list, he wouldn’t really be a reach by this point even though he would be for me, so it’s possible.

Possible Reach: Victor Persson – one of my guys!  Well, I was far from first on him, but I sure grew to love him.  Same philosophy in that the biggest need is on D.

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20. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

Comparison: Mike Hoffman

SOH Rank: 33rd

Originally Toronto’s pick sent to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade.  I feel very confident in having this as their pick.  They’ll take the best talent on the board.  They’ve simply taken the best skill on the board in the last few drafts and that is Perreault in this scenario.

Other Option: Rodion Amirov – again, they’ll take the biggest skill that’s on the board.  I haven’t got the sense that they care about much else, and it’s a philosophy that works…

Possible Reach: Brendan Brisson – same idea, but Brisson isn’t projected to go for another 10 picks.

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21. Rodion Amirov

Team: Tolpar Ufa  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Connor

SOH Rank: 30th

I don’t know if they’d take a Russian kid or not.  This regime took Evgeny Svechnikov in 2015, and that pick hasn’t gone well.  But they took two in last years draft, so I have to believe they would.  Amirov scares me because of the bust rate of Russian forwards, which gets even worse when you talk about kids who stayed home rather than came to North America to play junior.  But if you’re just talking about talent, Amirov definitely fits the bill.

Other Option: Connor Zary – I’ve been pounding the table for them to address centre for four drafts now.  Yes, McDavid and Draisaitl, but they have NOTHING coming in the organization.  If Greig fell to this pick, I’d be good with him.  Zary scares me a little, but he does fill the need, and McKenzie has him in this range.

Possible Reach: Ozzy Wiesblatt – he would be my pick for them.  I think he fits perfectly.

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22. William Wallinder

Team: MODO Hockey J20   League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Rasmus Ristolainen

SOH Rank: 35th

Originally the Islanders pick sent to Ottawa in the J.G. Pageau trade.  They can afford to take a swing like this on a talent like Wallinder, especially if they get one of Drysdale or Sanderson.  They’ve had great success with Swedish born kids over the years, and are terrific at developing their kids.  So it would be a great spot for Wallinder to land as well.

Other Option: Helge Grans – same idea, and it’s so difficult to say which one of these two will be first off the board.  So much upside, but both are so raw.

Possible Reach: Ronan Seeley – they’ve drafted a lot of kids out of the West in general (so including tier II) the last two drafts.  So if they were looking at a D-man and their trusted Western scouts are pounding the table for anyone, maybe it’s Seeley?  I love him, but he didn’t make McKenzie’s list.

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23. Tyson Foerster

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

Comparison: James Neal

SOH Rank: 52nd

I’m not sure this is where the Stars would pick.  On one hand, according to points percentage and leaving them out of the final four, it should be.  But, will the teams who got the “bye” to the playoffs all automatically have the bottom eight picks?  Oh well, this mocks for fun, we knew that already.  ANYWAY…according to their recent draft history, the Stars will take either a kid from the OHL, or a Swede.  That’s where they’ve gone heavy in their last two drafts.  I don’t have Foerster high, but most have him either late 1st or early 2nd.  For me, the speed scares me.  But the Stars took a kid out of the OHL very similar back in 2017, Jason Robertson.  One thing for sure, the Stars need some talent up front.  This team can’t score, and don’t appear to have scoring coming.

Other Option: Jan Mysak – also fits the OHL bill, and in my opinion at least he is much more of a safe pick.

Possible Reach: Luke Evangelista – this one will be interesting.  He piqued my interest late, but I really like him.  I have a feeling he’s going somewhere in the 1st.

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24. Jan Mysak

Team: Hamilton  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

Comparison: Patrick Sharp

SOH Rank: 29th

Originally the Hurricanes pick sent to the Rangers in the Brady Skjei trade.  It will be the lower of the two picks that the Hurricanes own (the Maple Leafs is the other) going to the Rangers, and at the moment that is this pick.  I won’t lie, this is a bit of a hunch.  I’m basically just looking at who they might view as the biggest talent left on the board as that’s where I believe they’d go.  I think their D is set at least for a bit (I was bigger on both Miller and Lundkvist who they took in 2018 than most were), and maybe they look to address centre even further despite me having them taking Lapierre with the earlier pick.  I believe Mysak will be a winger, but he has the potential to play the middle as he currently does.  Good skill though and that’s the main thing.

Other Option: Dylan Holloway – kind of similar to Mysak in that they’re both guys who I would draft believing they’re wingers but the potential is there to play the middle.  They would have seen him lots this season given he was a teammate of K’Andre Miller.

Possible Reach: Marat Khusnutdinov – he’s not THAT far off the board.  Bob has him at 35, and I put him at 36, but it’s far enough.  He fits their needs, especially if they don’t take a centre like I have them doing at 13.  And they aren’t afraid to take Russian kids.

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25. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Chris Kreider

SOH Rank: 22nd

Originally Pittsburgh’s pick sent to Minnesota in the Jason Zucker trade.  I don’t know if I like this pick for the Wild.  I believe they’d go with either another D-man here or a centre.  They addressed D with the 12th pick, so I THINK centre is the move here, but if they see what I see with Holloway then they don’t view him as a centre.  Organizations can be stubborn though and believe they can mould players to get their max.  It’s also tough to say exactly what they’ll do given this is Bill Guerin’s first draft.  I don’t believe they overturned the scouting staff, so I don’t THINK we’ll see much difference in their drafting, and the reason I bring that up is that in the last two drafts they’ve gone heavy with kids playing the States.  Holloway is a Calgary kid, but as you can read this was his freshman season at Wisconsin.

Other Option: Jack Finley – they need a centre, and I was going to say Zary.  But I’d guess they would know Finley well given he was playing with 2019 pick Adam Beckman a lot this season (not near as much on the same line as some will have you believe).  So I actually think Finley could be on the radar here.  Plus, while I’m well aware that I’m higher on Finley than most if not all, I really believe he’s going to be taken late in the 1st round.

Possible Reach: Tyler Kleven – D-man and somewhat local (North Dakota).  Not only from North Dakota, but going to North Dakota.  Getting the local kids is bigger for some organizations than others, and the Wild are one of those organizations.

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26. Brendan Brisson

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Andrew Mangiapane

SOH Rank: 31st

I’m noticing a pattern with the Flyers the last few years.  They have loved drafting kids out of the US system in general.  It isn’t all USHL, USHS, the DP, it’s been all of them.  So with that in mind, and Brisson being in this range for everyone, he’s the guy I got them taking here.

Other Option: Mavrik Bourque – they used to love kids out of the Q, but that seemed to fade out under Hextall’s regime.  Will it return now that Paul Holmgren has a puppet in place as his GM?  I’m kidding guys…Chuck Fletcher isn’t a puppet, he just does whatever his owner or in this case his superior tells him to do.  Puppets are made of felt, he’s a human.

Possible Reach: Sam Colangelo – same idea as Brisson, and his teammate with the Chicago Steel this season.  Colangelo would also give them some size which the Flyers could actually use.

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27. Luke Evangelista

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Artturi Lehkonen

SOH Rank: 28th

Originally Tampa Bay’s pick sent to San Jose in the Barclay Goodrow trade.  When Ryan Merkley is rated your best prospect, and you’re picking third, except you traded that third pick for a defenceman who now costs 11 million a year and is no better than a number three D-man at this point, and you have four other contracts that are complete boat anchors moving forward…I just can’t stress enough how disgusting of a situation they’re in.  They frankly could go anywhere with this pick, and frankly, this is a total hunch.  Where did Ryan Merkley play this season?  London.  They likely would have seen Evangelista a lot, and I also just really believe a late riser like Evangelista is going to go in the 1st round despite being 50th on McKenzie’s board.  I’d select someone who is more of a need for them, except they need everything…I can’t stress enough how disgusting of a situation they’re in.  Wait, I said that already?  Well, I’ll say it one more time that I CAN’T STRESS ENOUGH HOW FLAT OUT MOTHER FUCKING DISGUSTING OF A SITUATION THEY’RE IN!  I can’t stress it enough…

Other Option: Noel Gunler – I wonder how much a kid being close to ready will factor into their thought process here because again this is just such a disaster right now.  Gunler is a late 01 who played in the SHL this season, so he might not be far from playing.

Possible Reach: Jérémie Poirier – they do Merkley all over again.  In fairness to Poirier, he doesn’t have the baggage, just Merkley’s defensive game.  That’s not a compliment.

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28. Helge Grans

Team: Malmö Redhawks J20  League: SuperElit

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 192  Shot: R

Comparison: Jeff Petry

SOH Rank: 34th

They badly need D.  I wonder if they’d try to trade up to get Braden Schneider?  The problem with that is they’d need to move WAY up to get him, and they don’t have much to deal.  But you talk about a fit, that fits the need, ties to the organization, everything.  Barring that, I believe Grans makes sense here.  It’s a need pick, but it’s no reach.

Other Option: Topi Niemelä – same idea, and I can easily make the case for both guys.  The upside with Grans is better, but Niemelä is the safer bet.

Possible Reach: Daemon Hunt – I do not get how so many scouts still have him so high on their board, but they do.  He’s not a RH D-man, but he’s a D-man who hails from Brandon, Manitoba.  Where was Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon previously the GM for about three decades?…

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29. John-Jason Peterka

Team: EHC München  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Kyle Palmieri

SOH Rank: 23rd

I’ll be interested to see what happens with Peterka on draft day/night/whatever time of day they end up having it.  It feels like people are souring on him, maybe seeing him as more of just a top-nine winger who puts up 30-40 points a season and is great on the PK thanks to that speed.  Even if that’s the case, his speed would fit perfectly with the Avs, and nobody is going to write off the possibility that he can be a top-six guy.

Other Option: Connor Zary – they pretty clearly have a philosophy of “it doesn’t matter how many centres we take”, which I love.  Because it doesn’t, they can always play the wing and are much more often than not good in all three zones.  So Zary is definitely a possibility for them.

Possible Reach: Ty Smilanic – this isn’t a big reach according to McKenzie’s list as they have him at 39, but it is for me as I have him last on my top 64.  I can make a case for someone loving him though, and he’s a Denver kid.

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30. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

Comparison: Jordan Staal

So, I know they just did this last year, going heavy on…well…heavy in the draft (Protas and Leason).  But they love the WHL, they love heavy hockey, and I can’t help but think that they’ll love Finley.  I think Finley will have their eye and also the Blues with the next pick.

Other Option: Connor Zary – even though I’m much more of a Finley guy, most have Zary much further ahead.  I don’t get it, because when you really dig into comparing the two, Finley gets almost every checkmark.

Possible Reach: Shakir Mukhamadullin – they could easily go with a D-man here, and there is a really good hidden gem in the dub with Ronan Seeley.  But we all know the Caps success drafting Russian kids, and Mukhamadullin is a kid they may love.  I don’t have him in my top 64, just too many red flags for me, but he’s 42nd on McKenzie’s list.

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31. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Jarret Stoll

SOH Rank: 27th

A lot of the WHL kids in this range feel like kids the Blues love.  Finley, Zary, Wiesblatt, Neighbours, they all feel like guys the Blues would have big interest in because they’re all made to play heavy hockey.  I’m saying Zary is the pick because Finley is now off the board, and the other two aren’t centres.

Other Option: Jake Neighbours – I basically just laid out why I believe this makes a lot of sense.

Possible Reach: Daniel Torgersson – as much as I believe they’d love a lot of the dub kids here, they’ve only taken one kid from the West in general in the last three drafts (Joel Hofer).  Torgersson is a kid who also fits the Doug Armstrong philosophy, plus he’s a great skater.

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32. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

SOH Rank: 16th

Originally Boston’s pick sent to Anaheim in the Ondrej Kase trade.  Remember the ties to the P.A. Raiders I talked about?  I cringe a little at this one for a few reasons.  For starters, they badly need D-men in their system and with two picks in the 1st round, I can’t imagine they’d walk away from the laptop having taken two wingers with those picks.  The other reason is that I’m such a big Wiesblatt fan and I don’t like the Ducks.  But he’s a Bob Murray type of player.

Other Option: Justin Barron – I fully admit, it’s more likely that they take a D-man with this pick.  If they do, there is a higher-ranked one still on the board.  Barron was 25th on McKenzie’s final list.

Possible Reach: Victor Persson – not even on McKenzie’s top 100 list, but those who like him REALLY like him.  RHD with good size, great mobility and can really move the puck seems like a damn good kid to grab while you can.  As I talked about when I put Raymond to them at 6, they’ve hit some home runs taking Swedish kids.

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Team Canada 2022 Roster Projection 1.0

Crosby.  McDavid.  MacKinnon.  All on the same team.  We’re finally going to get it!

Yesterday the news came out that NHL players would be going back to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026!  Now, this for me and anyone else who has paid close attention and weeded out the BS was a confirmation, not a surprise.  This goes back to before the decision on 2018 was made, and I can’t recall who was saying it (likely several people), but the word was they would skip 2018, and go to China in 2022 because they want the Chinese market (which after the whole Daryl Morey thing last fall and now the pandemic, I’m not sure if those feelings are as intense as they once were).

It must have been back on February 8th when Elliotte Friedman reported that the IOC and NHL had a breakthrough in their negotiations because according to my site, I started writing this piece on February 9th.  In the days that followed, several insiders were coming out with stuff trying to squash the league’s interest in returning to the Olympics, but it was clear that it was simply a case of the league trying not to kill any leverage they might have gained in their negotiations with the IOC.  I honestly never bought it, but also never got around to finishing this blog.

So when the pandemic hit I remember thinking “what a perfect time for me to put out my roster projection now that things are stopped.”  ANNNNND TSN did their own like a minute later.  I still have never seen it and don’t want to because I want to do my own thing.

So here I am, doing my own thing, the day after the news has broke that the NHL will be going to China.  What might team Canada look like in 19 months?  Let’s find out!

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Forwards

Steven Stamkos – Connor McDavidMitch Marner

Brad Marchand – Sidney CrosbyMathew Barzal

Jonathan Huberdeau – Nathan MacKinnonMark Scheifele

Jonathan ToewsBrayden Point Mark Stone

Ryan O’Reilly

By the way, only doing a 13th forward, 7th D, and 3rd tendy.  The rules get changed every Olympics so I’m not going to guess at this point what they might be.  The big thing for me with this team is going to be speed.  I’m willing to sacrifice some high-end players to ensure Canada has the fastest roster possible.  Truth be told, I cringe at even putting Mark Stone on this team because of the speed.  But I want Stone in that spot because he is far and away the best 200-foot player Canada has on the wing.

Stamkos with McDavid for a few reasons.  Obviously McDavid’s vision and Stamkos shot (especially on his off wing where I got him) could be lethal.  They’re also very likely to have good chemistry with each other being such close friends.  Whether or not Marner fits with them, I don’t know.  He’d need to be able to defer and play “off the puck” so to speak.  That can be a tough adjustment for some players.

Barzal on Crosby’s wing, same potential issue.  Remember how awful Kessel was on Sid’s wing?  Also remember who has worked best with Sid internationally?  You need guys who play a give and go game to play with Sid, and that isn’t Barzal’s game.  Marchand on the other hand, we already know how well he fits with Sid.  I just about had Marchand off the team as he’ll be 33 (over halfway to 34), but I can’t see his drop off being THAT steep.  Bergeron scares me for that more than Marchand given he’s three years older.

Love the MacKinnon line.  Really don’t have much to add, I just think those pieces all fit well together.

Then the 4th line, while skilled and definitely can be a threat, is the shutdown line.  People sleep on how good Jonathan Toews still is.  I’m sure most will argue that he’s not worthy of being on the team, but with how he still plays I’d say he is, and his experience in big games shouldn’t be understated.  He has been incredible in the biggest of moments over the last decade, and as long as his skating is still solid and his 200 foot game is among the best, he should be on the team.  O’Reilly is the 13th forward because (again) I have concerns about the speed.  I’m as big of an ROR fan as you’ll find, but for the Olympic team and especially on the big ice, you just shouldn’t be sacrificing speed very much…if at all.

Obviously I’m not so narrowminded to say “this is my team, and nobody else is a candidate.  Hell no.  We’re splitting hairs here with so many players.  Here is who else I had under consideration:

Close

Sean Couturier – The gap between Toews, O’Reilly and Couturier for me is so nominal.  All three have a strong case for a 4th line spot on this team.  Toews experience far exceeds any of the other candidates, but obviously we will see where his game is at in two years which I do not have the same concerns with Couturier.

Pierre-Luc Dubois – Underrated player, and playing for this team where he’d get to move to the left side, he could be to this team what Jamie Benn (his draft year comp) was to the 2014 team.

Taylor Hall – It’s always been weird when it came to Hall and whoever the Canadian brass was.  There is no doubt that while his play away from the puck has improved, it’s not where you’d like it to be when talking about the Canadian Olympic team.  I’d have him there because that combination of speed and skill is too good to pass on, but I would guess he’s at best on the bubble.

Bo Horvat – He falls into the same category as Toews, O’Reilly and Couturier, but Horvat at this point lacks experience AND the type of foot speed you’re craving for that role.  He’s going to get a very hard look though.

Travis Konecny – He keeps getting better and better and he’s the type of player who’ll do anything to help his team win, and is very easy for other players to gel with.  I thought hard about swapping out Barzal for him.  Barzal is much more skilled but could be much more difficult to play with.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Same thing with RNH as Konecny.  The one thing I’ll add is that now that Hopkins is playing the wing, he might be one of the best 200-foot wingers in the league.  I’ll be called an Oilers homer for this (and several things throughout this), but he’s better than most think.

Jaden Schwartz – Love him.  It was between him and Lafrenière for that 3rd line spot on the left side.

Tyler Seguin – He has the skating ability, and everyone knows how skilled he is despite a down season statistically, I just wasn’t sure where he fits.

John Tavares – I love him, but again I’ll state I’m not too eager to take guys who struggle skating, even though JT has one of the highest IQ’s in the game today.

Risers

Tyler Bertuzzi – Pretty big dark horse candidate obviously.  He might be my new Brad Marchand eight years later in that I pushed so hard for Marchand in 2014, and they have similar games to each other.  I talked about Marner and Barzal being able to play without the puck, well Bertuzzi can do that.

Alexis Lafrenière – He’ll be VERY close by the time the team is selected.  I took him off my roster at the last second.  Truth be told, this part is one of the last things I’m typing for this piece because he was such a late scratch.

Robert Thomas – A personal favourite of mine, and a kid who is getting a lot of exposure on one of the best teams in the league and the defending Cup champs.  Thomas game is growing rapidly.  I think he’s a legitimate number one centre at some point, and he’s going to be a very complete centre too.

Potential Fallers

Jamie Benn – Is Benn a POTENTIAL faller, or has he fallen already?  I don’t think he has the foot speed for international ice these days.

Patrice Bergeron – Only question here is whether or not he’ll hold up.  He has had an extremely slight decline (though it might help that he plays with two of the best wingers in the game), and the combination of his skating ability and experience is going to give him a big edge when they’re scouting for this team in the fall of 2021.

 

Defence

Morgan RiellyDrew Doughty

Shea Theodore – Alex Pietrangelo

Josh Morrissey – Cale Makar

Thomas Chabot

I think this is pretty self-explanatory.  If the team was being picked tomorrow I’m pretty sure this would be my group with the exception of Chabot maybe being replaced by a guy like Muzzin.  But the theme here is that six of these seven guys are incredible skaters, and all seven are among the best puck-movers in the game today.  And while I’m sure some are going to argue that some guys I left off are better, you have to KNOW while doing this exercise that lefty/righty will be everything on D.  So while some of you might not like that I have Josh Morrissey on the team (I’d strongly advise you to go watch a Jets came if you don’t), he’s one of the best LHD Canada has right now.

Close

Aaron Ekblad – Has really bounced back.  The big thing that keeps him off for me is the foot speed on the big ice, but I love him.

Ryan Ellis – We all sleep on him because he plays in Nashville and gets overshadowed by guys like Josi, but he is more than qualified with how he moves the puck.

Dougie Hamilton – This is where I remind you that this is a projection and not what I would do.  He SHOULD make it.

Jake Muzzin – Barely missed for me.  Very much so on the radar though.  He is so underrated.

Darnell Nurse – Quit laughing!  And I know, this might be a bias on my part, but I have maintained for a long time that we haven’t come close to seeing the best of Nurse.  Right now, obviously he isn’t worthy of being in the discussion.  But the talent is so enormous that if/when he puts it all together, he is going to be something special.  Plus for Nurse, you know they’ll be big on lefty/righty, and Canada is much thinner on the left side of their D.  He’s not that far behind guys like Morrissey or Chabot as is.  Some Leaf fans would tell you he was better than Morgan Rielly this season.

Colton Parayko – I already have seen his name brought up as essentially a lock for the team.  It is so funny in the Edmonton market in particular.  They will rip the hell out of Darnell Nurse, and at the same time, they will crave Colton Parayko when they are virtually the same guy.

Jared Spurgeon – You might be looking at whatever type of screen you’re reading this on right now with an eyebrow raised pretty high, but I actually like Spurgeon for the team more than Ellis, because Spurgeon can not only skate and move it extremely well, he is a terrific defender.

Risers

Evan Bouchard – Is he worthy?  I don’t know, and I don’t want to be bias.  But the thing I’m pretty certain of is that Bouchard is likely to put up big numbers starting next season that will gain him a lot of attention.  The passing ability and the bomb from the point could be tough to overlook.

Bowen Byram – Byram will be full-time with the Avs next season on a blueline that will likely be viewed as the best young blueline in the league.  He has a great chance to be on the radar.

Noah Dobson – I realize he hasn’t had a great start to his career this season, but what I know is that I was super high on Dobson in his draft year, and he did nothing to hurt that opinion in his draft +1 season.  Big, moves it extremely well and is a terrific skater.  It won’t be long until he pops and is in these discussions.

Potential Fallers

Brent Burns – Same story with all of my “potential fallers”, I think by the time we get to the point of the team being selected, they’ll have dropped off too significantly.  Burns is still a terrific skater for someone so big though.

Mark Giordano – It probably goes without explaining, but just in case…he’s fallen off this season from what he was last season, he’s 36 now, he’ll be 38 by the time the team is picked.  I’m not writing him off because this guy has defied the odds his entire career, but you have to think that he’s going to lose a step by November of 2021 when the team is in the late stages of being selected.

Duncan Keith – Love him, but he’s not what he was.

Shea Weber – See Keith, Duncan.

 

Goaltenders

Carey Price

Jordan Binnington

Carter Hart

I don’t believe I need to spend much time explaining the tendy’s.  For Price not to be their guy, it would need to be a combination of him dramatically falling off, and someone else (most likely candidate being Carter Hart) to have a monster season.  Binnington is straight-up recency bias on my part, and Hart is straight-up projecting and believing that by the fall of 2021 he is in the mix of the best goaltenders in the game.

Close

Braden Holtby – It sucks to say that he has digressed since…well it actually started before winning the Cup as his 2018 season wasn’t the same as it had been (remember, Philip Grubauer started those playoffs for the Caps).  But I also strongly believe that it’s been the workload that has killed Holtby’s stats.  So I don’t think it’s far fetched that in two years time, he could be back to his Vezina form if he starts getting a lighter workload.

Darcy Kuemper – Since arriving in AZ, he has been tremendous.  We are going to see shortly if he can pass another test as he returns from injury.  Was he just red hot, or was he the real deal?

Matt Murray – He’s really been bitten by the injury bug the last few seasons.  Still, when he’s healthy, he’s pretty good.  And oh yeah, two rings won’t hurt his cause either.

Risers

Tristan Jarry – He had an INCREDIBLE start to the season.  Keep an eye on him because if he can regain that form with some consistency, he’ll be on the radar.

Potential Fallers

Marc-Andre Fleury – He will be 36 by the time the team is selected.  He hasn’t been the same since his incredible 2018 season where he carried the Golden Knights to the final.  But like Holtby, how much of that is work load?  The Knights didn’t get Lehner to replace Fleury, they got him to lighten his load.  So we’ll see.

 

General Manager

George McPhee

Remember, the Bob Nicholson run Hockey Canada days are done.  So the celebrity GM is likely done as well.  I know that Yzerman was an actual GM the 2nd time around in 2014, but he got the gig simply by being Steve Yzerman in 2009.  I would think that Tom Renney will pick a “hockey man” for the job.  There are MANY reasons why I believe McPhee would be a very good selection, but the three biggest reasons I like him for this is A) “hockey man” B) he had success doing something very similar when he put together the 17-18 Golden Knights roster, and C) he is in a situation right now with the Knights that he doesn’t need to be so hands-on with Kelly McCrimmon now the GM in Vegas.

I’d love to give you other options, but the issue is that I’m not sure how many GM’s would be willing to take on the 2nd gig.  Yzerman did in 2014 and then immediately stepped down once the Olympics were over.  I have to think someone like McPhee who in his case can defer some of his work, or perhaps someone who was a GM and currently is out of a job is going to take the job.  So yes Oilers fans, and yes Canadian hockey fans…Peter Chiarelli is going to be considered for this gig in my opinion.  He is out of a job, has the experience, and was with the 2014 management team.  So he has the resume to get the job (as much as that both pains me to type and makes me cringe).  Another option: Tom Renney does it himself.  I’m not sure he would, but it’s an option.

 

Coach

Dave Tippett

Call me a homer, that’s cool, I get it, but look at the job the man did with the Oilers this season.  And look at the job the man did with Arizona when he stepped into a complete mess in 09-10.  And look at the job the man did his entire tenure in Dallas.  He is an incredible coach, there is just no doubt anymore.

Obviously there are a TON of other options.  If George McPhee is the GM, then both Gerard Gallant and Peter Deboer will be heavily considered and are both fully qualified to do the job.  Alain Vigneault is often forgotten about as one of the top coaches in the game, but look at the improvement in Philly this season.  Claude Julien was on the 2014 staff and has proven over and over that he’s one of the top coaches in the league.  Bruce Cassidy, Joel Quennville, Barry Trotz, Jared Bednar, Bruce Boudreau, Craig Berube, lots of guys who are either highly respected or are continually gaining that ground.

 

Who knows how this roster is going to shake down though?  I’m sure everyone reading this has their own thoughts, which makes this topic so much fun!  And in a time of so much shitty news, at least yesterday we found out that we have something to look forward to!

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2020 NHL Draft: The Lafrenière Power Rankings

I love all the people who think this is such an awful thing that happened on Friday night.  Look, I am with Brian Burke that this makes the NHL look bush league that a very damn good team could end up winning the draft lottery, and not only that, but it comes in a year where you have a STUD at the top.  But the problem for the detractors is…you have three other leagues looking at the NHL right now saying “FUCK ME!!!  They just stumbled onto some incredible drama!!!”

This is GREAT for the league!  The teams that didn’t make the play-in round had their night, the league probably had terrific ratings for the lottery, and now the buzz can continue about it as we wait to find out who will win Lafrenière.  It is PERFECT.  Not to mention, it actually adds a layer of intrigue to the play-in round.  Nobody’s fan base is going to do much crying about “not making the playoffs” because all those teams have a 12.5% chance to win a foundational player.

So who needs him the most?  Who needs him the least?  Glad you asked!  Welcome to the first…and last…Alexis Lafrenière power rankings!  All 16 possibilities ranked from “need him the least” to “need him the most”.

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16. Pittsburgh Penguins

Three Cups and possibly counting for Sid, Geno, and company.  I get the argument for them needing to replenish, but while the Packers went from Favre to Rodgers, and the Colts went from Manning to Luck, this would be more along the lines of Favre or Manning getting a rookie Barry Sanders while they still had a bit of their primes left.  They’ve had their success and Jim Rutherford has had more than his fair share of bounces while being a below-average GM who the hockey people will instantly put into the hall of fame for his FAKE three Cups.  Oh FUCK YES I said that.

15. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs edge out the Oilers here basically for one reason: I think he would be a bit redundant for the Leafs.  It would be intriguing to see what Dubas would do with him though.  The door would be wide ass open to move Nylander or even Marner for that stud on the blueline.  Or better yet, sign that stud on the blueline named Alex Pietrangelo and deal a guy like Marner for a mountain of picks and prospects so you keep the cupboard stocked.  The problem with either of those moves though is once GM’s know you’re looking to do a move like that, they become much more miserable to work with.  No GM wants to be the guy who helps a team acquire that final piece to the puzzle.

14. Edmonton Oilers

What’s SO dumb, is that fans think they “don’t need to win because they’ve had their chances”.  That’s the kind of completely fucked logic from fans that created this mess in the first place!  The Oilers were legitimately an awfully run organization!  They weren’t ever tanking!  In fact, when they won McDavid, they finished 28th, they were the only team in the bottom four which were actually attempting to win games and weren’t icing awful lineups!  But people today don’t want to hear truths, they want to hear the narratives that justify the positions they take.  Anyway, past draft lottery luck aside, they’re now set up to be a contender.  The blueline is maybe the 2nd best in the league moving forward (I’d have the Avs first), and they have a one/two punch down the middle essentially fighting for the Hart trophy every season.  Lafrenière fits PERFECTLY given he’s a late 01 and is ready to step into every top six in the league for a 3.775 mil cap hit, and the one piece they lack is a top-six winger.  He’d instantly make them a Cup contender because he’s that good and fits that well.

13. Carolina Hurricanes

The last thing Eric Tulsky needs is a franchise player!  This team is so insanely well set up with their guys locked down and a loaded system as well, if they were to win Lafrenière they would go from fringe contenders to THE team in the East.  But if I’m going to make the case as to why they could use him, they might not have that go to horse up front.  They probably do, Aho is close to that, Svechnikov is close to that.  But with Lafrenière they definitely would.

12. Nashville Predators

As much as I find myself loving the crowds in Nashville, and just finding it one of the most lovable markets in the league at the moment, the fan in me loathes the thought of them getting Lafrenière given they’re playing on such an uneven playing field thanks to there being no state tax so they’re able to get all their guys on hometown discounts.  As far as fearing them though, Lafrenière definitely re-opens this group’s window to win a Cup, but I don’t believe it makes an aging core much more intimidating.

11. Winnipeg Jets

If I’m looking to make some sort of case for the Jets, the best I can say is that they deserve a bit of a break given that they were on the verge of winning a Cup and basically everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for them last off-season.  Lafrenière isn’t much of a need, but perhaps this would free them up to move a guy like Ehlers for that big-time D-man they covet?

10. Vancouver Canucks

You could maybe make the best argument for the Canucks of all the teams who “don’t” need him.  Why?  They’ve had shit luck in the lottery every year, always dropping.  It would be a tremendous landing spot for Lafrenière with such a young team that has most of their pieces already in place.  If this were to happen, what a battle it would be in the Pacific moving forward between the Canucks and the Oilers…and even as an Oilers fan, I’d probably have to give the edge to the Canucks as the better team moving forward.

9. Florida Panthers

My crystal ball has them much higher on this list than 9, but I don’t want to put all my money on just that.  What am I talking about?  Owner Vinnie Viola gave GM Dale Tallon a mandate to cut payroll at the trade deadline.  I believe the number was 10 million (basically saying go get the money back you made me piss away on Bobrovsky).  Well if they were that hard up for money pre-pandemic, what kind of financial shape are they going to be in post-pandemic?!  They could be in serious trouble, and therefore a kid like Lafrenière could afford them the luxury of moving one of their bigger contracts and getting down to the cap floor without overly hurting their ability to compete.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

It’s a bit like Pittsburgh in that they’ve had their success, but they also just caught a massive break in last year’s draft lottery winning the 3rd pick.  Having said this though, they still lack some big pieces to get back to where they were competing for Cups.  Lafrenière wouldn’t be the end of this rebuild, they’d still need more.  But a foundational piece like he will be is damn near impossible to find.

7. NY Rangers

I’m not nearly as high on the Rangers moving forward as most are.  Granted, they’re a little different from most teams with how easy it is for them to draw UFA’s, but if their rebuild is essentially done I honestly don’t see them being a team that’ll win.  A lot of good pieces, very few truly foundational pieces though in my opinion.  They win Lafrenière though, all of a sudden they have a stud up front, a stud between the pipes, and a rock-solid blueline moving forward.

6. Calgary Flames

If I’m tiering this, I’d say this is the start of the 2nd tier of teams that need him the most, and most wouldn’t think the Flames are hard up for him, but they not only badly need him…they might not be far from starting over if they don’t.  What a difference a year makes, in early April of 2019 the hockey world was pretty much unanimous in its belief that the Flames were on the brink of a 3-4 year run of being a Cup contender.  Now you look at it, and outside of Matt Tkachuk what is the prize piece they have to build around?  We’ll see what Gaudreau brings back in a trade (as it really sounded like he was set to be dealt this off-season pre-pandemic), but to me, it looks pretty damn bleak.  Winning the lottery would change that in a hurry though.

5. NY Islanders

One of two teams who not only need it from the standpoint of having a marquee piece to build around but also to avoid giving up what could be a very high draft pick if they don’t win it.  The trade for J.G. Pageau (that I will NEVER understand) gave the Sens the Islanders 1st round pick and is only top-three protected.  A combination of Lafrenière and Barzal to build around moving forward would be huge for the Islanders.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

They’ve lacked a star ever since Rick Nash was in town.  Ironically, I fear Lafrenière could be a lot like Nash in that he’s too good to ever be bad with, but as a winger will never be able to carry a team anywhere.  Anyway, Blue Jackets fans don’t care about that, they just badly want a guy to truly build around.  Lafrenière up-front, Jones and Werenski on the back-end, all of a sudden the Blue Jackets would have a pretty good thing going on.  If they don’t win him, as scrappy as they are, I think they’re just delaying the inevitable.

3. Minnesota Wild

It looks pretty obvious to me that owner Craig Leipold is desperately fighting to avoid the rebuild that badly needs to happen with the Wild.  So they end up third on my rankings because should they not win Lafrenière, I could see this team becoming a complete mess much the same way the Sharks currently are before Leipold simply has no other choice, in which case it goes from being a 3-5 year rebuild to a 5-10 year rebuild.  Win Lafrenière though, and while they’d probably have a tough time building a contender around him without sinking to the bottom of the standings, they’d be back to what they’ve been as a perennial playoff team.

2. Arizona Coyotes

The second of the two teams which need this for two reasons.  I might throw a third reason on it for the Coyotes though.  1) they need a marquee player to build around, 2) they lose their pick to Jersey if they don’t win it, 3) this pandemic is going to crush some of the weaker teams financially in the league.  Even with the solid job John Chayka has done there, they still lack a winner, are dreadful to watch and don’t have a star to come out and see.  If they don’t win this lottery, it really might be the beginning of the end of the Coyotes in Arizona (actually this time, not like the 20 times Pierre Lebrun reported it to be happening…).  Kessel has blown up in their face, Hall has REALLY blown up in their face, they legitimately might be better off losing the play-in round and taking their 12.5% chances.

1. Montreal Canadiens

For many more reasons than just to turn their franchise around that I have repeatedly said is stuck in neutral and badly needs to blow it up, winning Lafrenière would skip a few steps and be a HORRENDOUS example of how to properly build a franchise! (and you watch, teams would emulate it and say “all you need to do is get in the lottery” just like they say with the playoffs) Without a doubt part of this is me romanticizing the local kid playing at home, the Habs have not had a Quebec born star for 25 years (a franchise which prior to that ALWAYS had that guy), so it’s just a terrific fit.  As an Oilers fan, I’m obviously drooling at the idea of the Oilers winning this (while the rest of the hockey world is ready to riot if they do…blame yourselves for getting the lottery changed in the first place…).  But if the Oilers don’t, then I’m all in for the Habs to win this.  Before I finish this up, I’m well aware that I made the case for the Coyotes to actually be the team that needs him the most.  But Montreal is tops on the list for me because while they need him pretty bad, the LEAGUE also needs this scenario to happen because the Habs being relevant is better for the league.  The Coyotes winning likely wouldn’t move the needle, and if this were to happen and it was another nail in the coffin for Arizona, moving them to Quebec City (for example) would likely be a win for the league even though they have fought it for years.  The Canadiens being an upper-echelon team led by a francophone star, that’s massive.

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2020 NHL Draft: Mini Mock

What a dumb fuckin title, I know.  Anyway…

I’ve been waiting to do my next mock draft for a while now.  I thought that I was FINALLY going to have my chance to do it after Friday night!  Then the lottery happened, and I don’t feel like I can do a full one for a long time now!  Either that or I do a ton of them playing out the different scenarios, that is possible.  Anyway, I most of this ready to roll, so I thought I’d simply put out a mock for the top eight now that we know who’ll pick from 2-8, and we know who is going first.

Part of the reason I felt compelled to do a little one like this is that I’ve seen a few guys do this exercise in the last 24 hours, and they’re basically just going off their lists and not putting much thought into it.  Craig Button, who I don’t always say nice things about given he refers to himself as an “opinionista”, which I would suggest is code for “hot take guy”.  But if you look back at his mocks, he does nail quite a few.  This one he did though, just simply felt like he did quick and didn’t put much thought into it.  And hey, it could easily be said that with this one, I’ve over thought it.  Wouldn’t be shocked if that’s the case, but it’s currently how I feel the top eight is going to play out.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

SOH Rank: 1st

Obviously we all know Lafrenière is going to be the top pick, so we don’t need to spend much time here.  Again though, I’d want him in the middle long term.  Playing the wing limits him in my opinion.  I saw the conversation with Ron McLean, Elliotte Friedman, Sam Cosentino, and later Pierre Dorion about how it doesn’t matter.  It does matter.  It doesn’t matter offensively, but for the purposes of maxing him out as a talent, I would want Lafrenière playing the middle and developing as a complete centre because I believe he has that ability.  A marquee centre is MUCH more valuable to a franchise than a marquee winger.  I will say though, now there is a solid chance he goes to a team that doesn’t need a centre, and in that case, I obviously have no problem with him staying on the wing.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Evgeni Malkin

SOH Rank: 2nd

I love this fit for several reasons.  The main one being that the Kings didn’t have a star to build around, and now they will.  They LOVE the OHL, though it remains to be seen if that was because of Mike Futa’s influence on the organization (he has moved on).  For Byfield to get to learn from a guy like Anze Kopitar is massive too as he has similar capabilities.  With the Malkin comp, keep in mind that is more style of play than anything.  I don’t believe anyone expects him to become Evgeni Malkin.  Ironically a comp that I used early on for Byfield was Jeff Carter, and that’s a pretty good expectation too.  He definitely can be better than that, but if he becomes that level of player, I think you’d call the pick a huge success.  Anyway, one final thing and it’s the elephant in the room with this one…I think it would be awesome for the sport to have a potential star player of African descent (in this case African Canadian) playing in a major US market like LA.  Every organization in North America right now is going to have a hard push for more diversity, and this would certainly help the league do just that.

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3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

SOH Rank: 4th

Originally San Jose’s pick sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  For me, this is where it’ll get interesting, and this is one of three reasons I’m going to do a few different mocks here rather than one big one.  This is what I would do with the 3rd pick, and I believe this is what the Sens will do if I had to bet on it today.  But this shit is chess…not checkers.  There is a reason the Sens might go in a different direction at three and it’s because of a combination of need and the fact that they also own the 5th pick.  Stützle much like Lafrenière is debatably a centre, but I believe he also would thrive playing the middle and that’s where I’d draft him at (especially if I’m the Sens who are solid down the middle but lack that elite guy).  But for those who think it’s crazy that someone might go outside the top three…last year the clear cut top three was Hughes/Kakko/Byram.  2016 the clear cut top three was Matthews/Laine/Puljujarvi.  I don’t think it’ll happen this time, but crazier things have happened.

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4. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Hampus Lindholm

SOH Rank: 13th

For those who follow Corey Pronman on Twitter, ironically he used Lindholm the other day, but I’ve had him as my comp for Sanderson for over a month now so don’t think I did that just to copy what he had said.  Anyway, I’m going to say this now, and I’m going to say this a lot the next few months…DO NOT SLEEP ON JAKE SANDERSON!  On my next top prospects list, he is moving WAY up because I did more and more homework on him after seeing him so high for the more experienced scouts and I’m getting what they’ve been seeing.  With how his ascent is trending, I don’t have much doubt at this point that he will go ahead of Drysdale.  I wouldn’t do that, but it feels like that is where this is headed.  Also, Sanderson was in the Wings backyard all season.  This was the thought by many in 2018 as to why the Wings would take Quinn Hughes, and they passed.  Those same people thought the same last year with several USNTDP players (namely Zegras) and they passed again.  I didn’t think that, but most did.  This time, I believe it’s happening, although I don’t believe that will have much to do with it.

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5. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

SOH Rank: 3rd

This would be huge for the Sens if he gets to them because I’ve maintained since probably January that the Sens will want to ensure they log out of the chatroom/draft with Drysdale.  He fits the bill for them PERFECTLY, especially if they’re getting one of Byfield or Stützle at three as most believe they will.  The right side of their D is weak moving forward.  The blueline is getting stronger with Chabot, Brannstrom, Thomson and Bernard-Docker.  Those latter two are RHD, but none of those latter three guys are sure things to make it.  Drysdale is.  And the other thing with D, you can trade them.  It’s not easy to make deals in the NHL, which is why I maybe put more of an emphasis on taking need than most do because I get why teams feel they need to draft that way.  Something to watch here (if you think two D in the top five is crazy…watch this), is the Sens taking Drysdale at three.  Why?!  Because then they ensure the D-man they want, and can then take a centre at five.  “But they’ll miss on Stützle!!!”  Yes…but they’ll be able to take Rossi at five, and you don’t think selling tickets in Ottawa matters?  Or that the owner might suggest they take the kid who has been playing in their own backyard?  He fits the bill perfectly for the Sens.  The only reason Rossi has people nervous to put him top five is the lack of undersized centres in the league.  It wouldn’t stun me at all to see the Sens ensure they get the D-man they want at three (which might be Sanderson, wouldn’t shock me either), and then be more than ok with taking Rossi at five.  But having said all this, I don’t believe they’ll be that extreme and instead be happy to get Stützle and Drysdale.

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6. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

SOH Rank: 5th

So I’m going with Raymond here, but I am telling you people DO NOT SLEEP ON KAIDEN GUHLE HERE!  This organization, which not that long ago had the best young blueline in the league, now lacks a stud D-man in their system and some of the kids on that amazing young blueline haven’t progressed the way most believed they would.  Add to this, Kaiden’s brother Brendan is in their system, another sneaky tie would be Josh Manson being from PA, his dad is tight with Raiders GM Curtis Hunt, Dave is tight with Bob Murray which is how Josh got drafted by the Ducks in the first place, I’m telling you, don’t sleep on that happening.  Anyway, I would put that at about 40% chance of happening, where the 60% goes is to one of the highly touted Swedish wingers, and I went with Raymond here over Holtz.  They haven’t taken a ton of kids out of Sweden in the last decade, but they’ve had some terrific picks with the ones they have taken.  Rossi would get consideration here, but I can’t see Bob Murray being ok with taking such an undersized centre (especially with the kids they have down the middle, size is needed), and they don’t go to the OHL well very often.  When they have (2014 Nick Ritchie, 2016 Max Jones) it hasn’t worked out too well.  So I wonder if that kills any chance of Cole Perfetti being considered here too?  So I’m saying Raymond, and the Paul Kariya comp I’ve been using for him all season comes full circle.

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7. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

SOH Rank: 6th

I repeat, this shit is chess…not checkers.  They possibly own three 1st round picks.  Barring Arizona winning Lafrenière, that will make two.  The Canucks have a tough first-round matchup with Minny, but I believe with a healthy Jacob Markstrom that they will beat Minny, so I’d say the chances are pretty strong the Devils will get all three picks.  Therein lies the rub.  The team picking at eight have a big need in net as well, so it is a good strategy to take the netminder while you can.  And for everyone shitting on taking a goaltender early, I get it.  Raw data shows that it’s risky.  But Askarov is much more so in the Luongo, DiPietro, Lehtonen, Fleury, and Price category.  Three of those five are hall of famers, Lehtonen had a solid career (much better career than most will remember) and people forget that DiPietro was on his way to a solid career but got derailed by injuries.  Then you look at the talent coming out of Russia between the pipes lately and it’s absurd, not to mention that the last two Russian goaltenders getting this type of pre-draft hype have either crushed it (Vasilevskiy) or looks like he’s about to (Samsonov).  It’s not exactly the risk some are making it out to be.  The fact is, he has franchise player type ability.  And the Devils need to sure up their netminding.  McKenzie Blackwood looked good, but he’s not nearly enough, and they don’t have anyone coming in the system.  You might say Gillies Senn, but just because he played in two games this season doesn’t make him a good prospect, it more so speaks to the lack of depth.  So I think it’s a strategic move here.  Take Askarov at seven because he might not be there with your other two picks.  But what will be there with those other two picks are talents similar to what you’d get at this point.

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8. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

SOH Rank: 7th

I love this pick for them.  They need someone in their system who can help Jack Eichel out with the heavy lifting.  Rossi is so far ahead of most kids with his 200 foot game at this age, and he’s ready to step in which isn’t a reason that I like him to go to the Sabres, but it’s a nice bonus.  Another nice bonus is that I hope Rossi is taken by a team in the East as he obviously would be if the Sabres get him.  Point, Aho, guys he compares favourably with, I’m not sure they would have been able to develop the way they have had they ended up in the West where you match up against a lot more power centres (Getzlaf, Kopitar, Toews, Scheifele, McKinnon, Draisaitl, O’Reilly, Johansen, etc).  If he’s here, I’ve really started to strongly believe that the pick will be Askarov.  If I’m Kevyn Adams, I’m doing EVERYTHING to ensure the goaltending position is shored up this off-season.  I’m well aware that they have a good one coming in Luukkonen, but he is far from a sure thing.  If you get Askarov, then things are a lot more settled at the position moving forward (not at all to suggest Askarov steps right in, he likely needs three more years of just development time alone).  But Rossi is a terrific fit for this organization given Casey Mittlestadt hasn’t progressed and they made the horrendous mistake of trading away Ryan O’Reilly.

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Soups Rankings: COVID-19 Break

This week SUCKS for me.  It’s starting to literally heat up outside.  I hate the heat.  I’m a fall/spring guy.  Friday was supposed to be the draft, which has become my Christmas, so I’m bitter that my Christmas got canceled (well, pushed back anyway).  Summer is here, which means a ton of people are going to try to convince me how life is so much better at the lake.  It is the most overrated thing on the planet.  If I can take the pontoon out and hang out, cool.  If I can go to the cabin and not work the whole day, cool.  If I can make BBQ a burger or two using a paper plate rather than having a five course meal with a sink full of dishes to wash after the fact, cool.  If I can go there and simply be bored rather than constantly have people who are unaware that they’re also so bored constantly on my ass to do something, cool.  None of that is ever possible, so I can’t stand the lake.  And many people in my life love the lake, so I am completely fucked.  I don’t hate the lake more than I love these people.  It’s CLOSE, but they scrape by for the win.

One good thing about THIS summer however is that we’re slowly moving towards sports starting up again!  MLB got their shit settled for now (I say for now, because I would bet big money that they don’t play in 2021 as they fight over the CBA), NHL training camps still seem as though they’re on track to start July 10th, and the NBA still seems to be going forward with their setup in Orlando.  So we’ll be getting back at it soon, and therefore I felt it was as good of time as any to put out my latest power rankings!

I did it a little differently this time.  We have two categories: the 24 teams who have a shot at the Cup, and the lottery teams.  With the lottery teams, I don’t rank how good they are, but rather where they’re at with their rebuilds.  And then of course the top 24 is pretty straight forward, though a ton of thought is given to things like their “play-in” round matchup, and the rust that I believe teams with a bye are going to have despite playing games while the “play-in” round is ongoing.

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Rebuild Rankings

I believe all these teams either are in a rebuild, or desperately need to rebuild.  There are a few teams who got into the top 24 who also qualify for this list, but for now I’m just going to stick to the seven teams who will be in the lottery on Friday (well…not San Jose…).

 

7. San Jose Sharks

This is a mess.  The cap is maybe the worst I’ve seen, they have nothing in the system, and they don’t own their top pick which has a great chance to end up top three.  This team might get back into the playoffs next season, but it would be completely hollow.  As it currently stands, at a minimum this team is completely fucked for the next five seasons.

 

6. Los Angeles Kings

They’re in a better spot than the Sharks that’s for sure, but it’s still rather bleak.  One thing I would say is that you shouldn’t get obsessed with a good system.  It’s nice, but you need elite pieces, and I don’t see any of the pieces they have becoming elite.  That isn’t to say they can’t get there, but all we can base it off of is what we know now.

 

5. Anaheim Ducks

Basically what I just said for the Kings, goes for the Ducks as well.  A couple of things that I like better about the Ducks though is the cap situation and guys like Fowler, Lindholm, Manson, and Gibson who are in their primes and on good contracts.  Their systems are about the same, so therefore I got the Ducks a spot ahead of them.

 

4. Detroit Red Wings

Not a whole lot different from the Kings and Ducks, as the Red Wings are still waiting for their big contracts to burn off the cap, and have yet to find those star pieces to build around.  The good news for the Wings though is they are guaranteed a top-four pick in this draft, which I believe will get them the first of those star pieces.

 

3. New Jersey Devils

The cap situation is great, and while they haven’t drafted a STAR player (though Hughes has that type of ability), they appear to be compiling the type of depth that can win in the league.  Also, the potential of three picks inside the top 20 is massive.

 

2. Ottawa Senators

What a difference a year can make.  Obviously the cap situation is great, but the depth of the organization is ridiculous, and they have a 25% chance of winning the 1st overall pick.  It’s not far fetched that the Sens own the 1st and 2nd picks in this draft.  Even if they end up with the 5th and 6th picks though, the amount of high-end talent this team is collecting is getting ridiculous.

 

1. Buffalo Sabres

I know this will be looked at as “WHAT?!?” with what has gone on there recently.  But the fact is that they have Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin to build around.  It isn’t impossible to find those pieces, but it’s damn near impossible.  So now it’s just a matter of filling out the roster, and that’s doable.  The new regime desperately needs to address the goaltending, but I believe that this team is a fringe playoff team with solid goaltending.  They simply just need to invest in it (which means make intelligent decisions, not just throw money at it).  Not to be forgotten, the cap situation is good too despite having 15 million tied up in Jeff Skinner and Kyle Okposo.  Even if the cap was as low as 80 million for next season, the Sabres will still have over 30 million in cap space.  It is a shit show organization right now, nobody knows that better than me as I’ve screamed for years now that people were jumping the gun on them.  But as long as Kevyn Adams isn’t a complete moron, they’re in a very good situation moving forward.

 

Playoff Rankings

Here’s the thing: We don’t know.  I can do these rankings 100 times over and still not have the correct order because nobody knows what in the actual FUCK we are going to see.  This is the most unpredictable hockey we will have seen since the 05-06 season.  I’ll do my best here to rank these teams in the order that I believe they should be in, but we don’t know who’ll be in shape, who won’t be, the impact the whole environment plays into it (the isolation, no crowds, etc) we just don’t know.  So when this is completely backward come October, I don’t want anyone hitting up @coldtakesexposed with this piece!  But if it’s spot on, then I want you all to kiss my ass and tell me how amazing I am…

 

24. Chicago Blackhawks

Some Oilers fans are worried about them, but the fact of the matter is that this team hasn’t even won a playoff game since 2016.  Toews, Keith, and Crawford aren’t what they once were.  Very good still, but not what they were.  And that experience doesn’t translate to empty arena’s and living in isolation, that part is all brand new for everyone.

 

23. Arizona Coyotes

The Taylor Hall experiment simply didn’t work.  Nor did the Phil Kessel experiment.  The belief was that the Darcy Kuemper injury derailed their season, but their goaltending was excellent while he was out.  So if they can’t win WITH amazing goaltending, then I’m not sure how they can do anything.

 

22. NY Islanders

This team was AWFUL after an amazing start.  From November 23rd on, they were 23rd in the league (points percentage).  From the start of 2020 on, they were 28th.  It’s not a good team on paper, and Barry Trotz can only do so much.  If Florida gets any kind of decent goaltending, I don’t see how the Islanders can beat them.

 

21. Montreal Canadiens

A fresh Carey Price…I’m not sure where this theory came from that a fresh Carey Price is unbeatable.  Has Carey Price put up incredible numbers in the month of October the last several seasons or something?  I will say though, I believe they’ll be a miserable out thanks to Price, their coach, and how miserable some of their guys can be to play against (Gallagher, Domi, etc).  Again I’ll say it, I hate the direction the Habs are going.  I strongly believe that they should have blown it up at the trade deadline and looked to truly rebuild it.  But they lucked out with the pause maybe more than anyone, and now they have a shot to do something.

 

20. Columbus Blue Jackets

They’re going to be fully healthy.  A fully healthy Blue Jackets club is going to give the Leafs problems.  They’re going to play their balls off, we know that, but do we seriously view them as any kind of threat to win it all should they get past Toronto?

 

19. Minnesota Wild

They were coming on STRONG down the stretch, but I have three pretty big concerns.  1) Bruce Boudreau always gets worked in the playoffs.  2) they got off to a dreadful start with this same roster.  3) Jacob Markstrom in the “play-in round”.  Can’t see them getting past Vancouver, and even if they did, can’t see them going far.

 

18. Florida Panthers

20 years ago we were asking if the real Slim Shady would please stand up.  Then, we would ask that of everyone.  Then, it got so annoying that it was stupid to say it.  Now 20 years have passed so I’m bringing it back and asking that the real Sergei Bobrovsky please stand up.  In other words, if he’s back to form, then the Panthers could go deep.  But given how he played this season, it’s a pretty big “if”.

 

17. NY Rangers

Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.  They have a chance to do some serious damage because of this tandem.  Panarin was incredible this season, but he can be shut down in a series.  Their goaltending was spectacular once Shesterkin arrived though.

 

16. Calgary Flames

They were playing their best hockey of the season when this all happened.  I was extremely hard on the Flames this season, but there was no denying that they had turned a corner.  Having said that, I still think that blueline is insanely overrated, and Johnny Gaudreau looked like a shell of himself all season.  You also have the question of whether or not they make the correct decision to start Cam Talbot, or their guy David Rittich?  I worry for them that they’ll go with the stick flipper, who was awful after that completely meaningless shootout win in Edmonton.  A Sv% of .885 in 11 starts following that night.

 

15. Dallas Stars

I strongly believe that everything which has happened is a disaster for the Stars.  They’re a heavy team that relies on wearing you down, and they can’t score.  We saw it early in the season, they got off to a dreadful start.  And then on top of that, the team they get is going to be conditioned much better.  I know they’ll play exhibition games and whatever the number of games the league has for the teams with a bye set to play, but it won’t be the same.  It’s all wrong for the Stars.

 

14. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets and the Flames might be the biggest toss-up of all the “play-in round” series.  I like the Jets because I like their top-end talent better than the Flames, and I like their goaltending better than the Flames.  I have them playing the Blues in the “first round”, and while I like the Blues, the Jets match up extremely well with them.

 

13. Vegas Golden Knights

Every time I think they’re about to hit a roadblock, they pull something out of their ass and make me look very wrong!  But this isn’t just a Vegas thing, this is because of the bye which I don’t like for any of the eight teams which got one.  If things go the way I believe they will then the Knights play the Preds in the 2nd round…that’s not a good matchup for the Knights.

 

12. Vancouver Canucks

A healthy Jacob Markstrom and depth are the reasons I’d be pretty damn afraid of the Canucks.  I actually like how strong the Wild were coming on late in the season, and the Canucks were fading, but that was all injury-related.  They’ll have their MVP back along with Brock Boeser, and they’ll be tough.

 

11. Edmonton Oilers

I like this set up for them given how much Ken Holland improved the speed of the club, and how hard that Dave Tippett can ride his two horses.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Oilers run 11 forwards and 7 D-men most nights.

 

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

There is basically only one reason I like the Leafs this high: the start of each of the last three seasons, they’ve been pretty lethal in October, and this is going to be a lot like October hockey.

 

9. Philadelphia Flyers

I very honestly apologize to Flyers fans if this seems too low for the team that was the best in the league from January 12th on.  But I just don’t see how they’re going to be much of a threat.

 

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Similar to the Flyers, but the two differences are that they proved themselves in the 2019 playoffs, and they have an incredible blueline.  If you read these power rankings throughout the season, you know I’ve been sky-high on the Canes the entire time, despite some of their struggles.  The Rangers are such an awful matchup for them, but if they can sneak by them, they’re in good shape.

 

7. Nashville Predators

They were my darkhorse team throughout the 2nd half of the season, and I believed that the adversity/struggle they faced all season was going going to be a blessing in disguise for such a well-rounded team come playoff time.  I’m not sure if that can carry over now, but the fact of the matter is that the Preds have one of the most complete rosters in the league.

 

6. Colorado Avalanche

It is a much more clear picture for me in the West than it is with the East.  I like the Avs to go deep, which is weird because I was telling people all season to pull back the reigns on them a bit as this was their first season emerging as a contender, which almost always results in a team being upset in the 1st or 2nd round.  But this setup looks great for them, and top to bottom this is just a damn solid club.

 

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

The question will be what will their goaltending give them.  From January 1st on, Matt Murray had a .905 Sv%, while Tristan Jarry who was amazing out of the gates, came crashing back to earth at .901.  If they get the goaltending, they’ll be lethal.  But that’s a big “if”.

 

4. Washington Capitals

It’s the same story for the Caps, except I trust Holtby to get back to what he’s capable of, despite the fact that he really hasn’t been the same goaltender since 2018 (and even that year it was just the playoff performance).  If they get the goaltending, they’re right there with my top three teams.

 

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

I feel very confident about the teams I have in my top three.  These three have the star power, depth, and goaltending to win.  The only thing I worry about for the Lightning is that I have them playing Toronto in the “first round”, and the Leafs or Jackets coming off a series could be a bitch for Tampa to handle.

 

2. Boston Bruins

The Bruins likely won’t have the concerns that the Lightning will with their “first round” opponent as they’re locked into the top seed.  It’ll be difficult for any of the top teams to play teams who have already played series, but I believe Boston will play the Panthers, and barring Bobrovsky getting his shit together, that series is all wrong for Florida.

 

1. St. Louis Blues

I worry about the speed factor out of the gates, but that’s about it.  I believe they’ll play the Jets in the “first round” which is a great matchup for the Blues.  Then they’d play the Preds which is another great matchup for them.  Now they’ve made it to the Conference final to play the Avs, and by that time I love the Blues playing playoff hockey.  So I love them to go to the final, and by that point it’ll truly be playoff hockey, so I really like the Blues to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

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