2020 NHL Draft: Top 32 Prospects (January, 2020)

I did it!  A top 32 list during the season!  Last year, I never got around to doing this, and only ended up having time to do a top 32 list right after the 2018 draft was done, and a top 62 list right before the draft occurred.  I’d say this is at least a sign that I might get 4 or 5 updated lists done by the time the draft rolls around in June.

As I always say around this point, I’m not a scout.  These rankings are much more like Bob McKenzie’s in that I’m not getting to see these kids as much as I need to declare myself a scout.  What I do is look through every quality and trusted write up I can find on these kids, every piece of video I can find, and then form my own opinion from there.  So I rely heavily on guys like Mark Edwards and Hockey Prospect (specifically the Black Book, if you’re a draft fan it is a MUST get, amazing every year), Future Considerations, even though I don’t normally agree with how he ranks his players I read and have big-time respect for the work Corey Pronman does, same goes for Steve Kournianous (who also does a good podcast that’s a great listen), specifically with the OHL kids a couple of great guys to follow are Brock Otten and my buddy Sean Patrick Ryan do great work and have great insight.  I couldn’t do my own rankings without these guys doing far better work than what I do.  But I will say I don’t simply take the averages of where these guys rank players and call it a day.  I have my own insights on what I’m looking for, so I take their reports more so than their rankings or opinions, couple it with what I’ve been able to see and create a list of my own (and as you’ll see, I definitely do MY OWN rankings).

What do I look for?  A lot.  First and foremost skating is most vital.  Skill is obviously extremely important.  IQ is huge though you won’t see me use “hockey sense” very much as I believe in IQ in general over “hockey sense” (theory being that sometimes players are so talented they might not have to think the game coming up, but if they have a high IQ that it will come).  I MUCH prefer playmakers to snipers.  Playmakers are often more intelligent players, and playmakers can play with other playmakers while it’s extremely rare that snipers work well with each other.  I’m not near the “sizest” that I once was, but still am likely more of a size guy than most seem to be.  One thing I will now value a bit more moving forward is players being NHL ready.  The reason being with ELC’s only being three years, a team shouldn’t be wasting the majority of the contract on developing a player, so I won’t be as hot as I’ve been in years past on a player who is much more of a project.  When I dig into the numbers, I want to know who the damage was done against, who were they playing with, and what the situation was (ES?  PP?  SH?).  Something I’m not as high on as most is “dynamic”.  I get why scouts love it, and I don’t disregard it, but you don’t get style points in hockey.  If you can toe drag a junior defenceman, it really doesn’t mean much because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do that in the pros.

Is that enough for you?  Well, that is just what I like in my players.  After all that, I then look for five big things: Current production, ceiling/upside, downside, how the players game will translate, and acquireability (I’m making this a word).  I guess the most simple way to put it for “acquireability” is I put a higher value on assets or player types which are tougher to acquire mostly due to how difficult it is to make a trade in today’s landscape and how crippling UFA can be.  I don’t disregard wingers nearly as bad as I used to (2015, put Mitch Marner 7th in my rankings…OOPS…) but centres and defencemen are more difficult and more valuable pieces to land, so they get preferential treatment in my rankings.

Finally, normally I do tiering.  More people do it now thankfully, and I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t quite frankly.  Do some scouts truly believe there is a definitive gap between every prospect?  There are so many cases where kids are so indistinguishable as prospects, that a team is bound to go with the biggest need within a tiering.  You don’t pick need over the best player available (BPA).  But you also can’t ignore team building, especially in a league where it is increasingly more difficult to make trades.  So you shouldn’t disregard which tier I have players in.  That is more vital in my mind then whichever number a guy is overall.  Having said all this, being this far away from the draft I decided not to do it at this time as once we’re past about the 12th prospect, I could have a tier from 13 all the way to 35!

One more thing before I get going, I don’t go in-depth on my prospects this time around as I’m hoping to do a podcast that will accompany this piece, so be sure to subscribe to my podcast feed and watch for that very soon!  Also, I’m putting this piece out simultaneously as my first mock draft of the season, so be sure to give that a look as well!

 

1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G: 24  A: 60  P: 84

Born: 10/11/01, Saint-Eustache, QC

I’m ashamed to say I had thought about putting him as low as 4th about a month ago.  Nothing at all he was doing wrong, I was just simply falling too far in love with others.  Then the World Juniors screwed my head back on straight.  One thing you’ll notice, I list him as a centre because I would draft him to be one.  Sid lined up on the wing his entire junior career too, so it’s not as though this is unheard of.

 

2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 29  A: 41  P: 70

Born: 08/19/02, Newmarket, ON

He continues to disappoint at big events (Hlinka/Gretzky, WJC, prospects game, etc.) but this kid is knocking it out of the park in Sudbury this season, and the combination of size, skating and skill is going to be damn near impossible for a team to pass up outside of the top pick.

 

3. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 7  A: 31  P: 38

Born: 04/08/02, Toronto, ON

I’ll keep it short and sweet, I see him as a franchise defenceman.  He has every tool to become a legitimate number one guy, which is damn near impossible to find.

 

4. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 37  G: 28  A: 53  P: 81

Born: 09/23/01, Feldkirch, AUT

I didn’t do comps again, but mine for Rossi is Sebastian Aho.  He is very small for a centre, but he’s a centre.  He plays a pro game, which I just LOVE.

 

5. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 21  G: 4  A: 4  P: 8

Born: 03/28/02, Göteborg, SWE

As I said back in the summer, the guy Raymond reminds me so much of is Paul Kariya.  So much speed and so much skill.

 

6. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 30  G: 6  A: 22  P: 28

Born: 01/15/02, Viersen, GER

Much like Lafrenière, he’s playing the wing but I see him playing the middle in the pro’s, just because I feel you will max out his capabilities by doing so.  Phenomenal talent and solid away from the puck too.

 

7. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 27  G: 6  A: 13  P: 19

Born: 10/03/01, Espoo, FIN

Complete 200-foot centres aren’t the sexiest picks, but they’ll always have a higher spot on my lists than most others.  I’m a big fan of Lundell’s complete game.

 

8. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 25  G: 7  A: 5  P: 12

Born: 01/23/02, Saltsjö-Boo, SWE

We’ll see if a pure sniper like Holtz can stay this high in my rankings as I’m never too high on pure snipers, but Holtz also has big time wheels and I’m a big proponent of that.

 

9. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 163  Glove: R

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G.A.A.: 2.36  Sv%: .923

Born: 06/16/02, Omsk, RUS

Man, I’m tempted to have him much higher than this.  I was tempted by Samsonov in 2015 and wouldn’t have cried had the Oilers kept their 16th pick and taken him.  Should have.  I know the fear with goaltenders high in the draft, but you also have to recognize when the exception to the rule comes around and Askarov might be that.

 

10. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 23  G: 3  A: 5  P: 8

Born: 09/23/01, Calgary, AB

Again, if I had done comparisons this time around, I loved mine for Holloway which was Dylan Larkin.  Love his speed.  Stats in his first season at Wisconsin aren’t flattering, but he’s in tough to get quality ice time with the Badgers.

 

11. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 46  G: 28  A: 54  P: 82

Born: 01/01/02, Whitby, ON

He is tearing up the OHL right now.  I find myself being torn on him.  I like the production, and I like the fact that he’s doing it as a centre given that I see him playing the wing down the road, but the skating isn’t great.

 

12. Noel Gunler

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 34  G: 2  A: 7  P: 9

Born: 10/07/01, Luleå, SWE

Another kid like Holtz and like Perfetti who I find myself saying “I wonder how much I’m going to like him as this process goes on” because it’s not like I have all the information yet just like everyone else!  For now, I’m ok having him here.

 

13. William Wallinder

Team: MODO J-20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 29  G: 5  A: 16  P: 21

Born: 07/28/02, Sollefteå, SWE

As you can see, this is a big kid.  But he is a terrific skater for his size which is why I’m a huge fan.  Isn’t going to impress you with his offensive game, but he is terrific in his own zone and moves it very well.

 

14. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 47  G: 8  A: 20  P: 28

Born: 01/18/02, Sherwood Park, AB

Ironically, Guhle is extremely similar to Wallinder, which really makes me scratch my head as to why so many people love Wallinder and don’t give Guhle more love.  If you want a more in-depth look at Guhle, check out my upcoming WHL rankings.

 

15. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 41  G: 26  A: 37  P: 63

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

He’s definitely the most exciting prospect coming out of the WHL this season.  Jarvis isn’t too big, but he’s highly skilled and plays bigger than his size.

 

16. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 19  G: 2  A: 15  P: 17

Born: 02/09/02, Gatineau, QC

He was so good at the Hlinka/Gretzky that I just can’t forget it.  Obviously he has missed most of the season, but that performance was just too good and while Cole Perfetti stole the headlines, I felt it was Lapierre who was the MVP of that Canadian team.

 

17. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 18  A: 29  P: 47

Born: 10/27/01, Bay Roberts, NL

He has been so good this season.  I like that he seems to be able to produce in every way.  The skill to find guys and snipe, and the willingness to go wherever he needs to on the ice to get the job done.

 

18. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 28  A: 27  P: 55

Born: 04/15/02, Montreal, QC

Playing the middle in Sarnia, but I love him as a winger in the pros.  Less responsibility and a chance to utilize that big shot of his much more.

 

19. John-Jason Peterka

Team: EHC München  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 6  A: 4  P: 10

Born: 01/14/02, München, GER

I really like this kids wheels.  He’s a safe pick based on that, but he has a lot of skill to go with that skating ability.

 

20. Vasili Ponomaryov 

Team: Shawinigan  League: QMJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 39  G: 15  A: 22  P: 37

Born: 03/13/02, Zelenograd, RUS

It isn’t often with Russian kids that one of the big things which stands out is the motor and the compete.  But last year that was what I liked about Podkolzin, and again this year with Ponomaryov.  Not crushing it in the Q as some may have expected him to this season, but I’m still a fan.

 

21. Tyson Foerster

Team: Barrie  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 26  A: 30  P: 56

Born: 01/18/02, Alliston, ON

Much like Perreault, playing the middle in Barrie but I like him a lot more as a winger in the pros.  My buddy SPR compares him to James Neal and even though I don’t know the OHL near as well as he does, I definitely agree with what I’ve seen of Foerster.

 

22. Jan Mysak

Team: Hamilton  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 31  G: 9  A: 4  P: 13

Born: 06/24/02, Litvinov, CZE

Those stats are a combination of what he’s done all season as he has freshly moved to North America and to the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.  So far so good with 3 goals in 4 games, but this will give everyone a much better chance to grade Mysak.  A lot of people like him but hadn’t seen him a ton, but now we all have our chance.

 

23. Jake Sanderson

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 49  G: 6  A: 22  P: 28

Born: 07/08/02, Whitefish, MT

Stats are a combination of his season.  Great skater just like his old man was.  Not following in the family footsteps in terms of position however.  A ton of raw talent with Sanderson.  It’ll be interesting to see where he plays next season.  Committed to North Dakota, but for the 21-22 season.  BCHL?  AJHL?

 

24. Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 8  A: 49  P: 57

Born: 01/05/02, St. Albert, AB

Keeping with the D-men, keeping with the bloodlines, keeping with kids going the college route.  I talk a ton about Benning both on Twitter and in my WHL write-up’s (where I also talk a lot about the AJHL kids), but the bottom line I keep coming back to is that so many people are missing that this kid is simply a 1st round pick.  He has the skating, the skill, the size is good enough, and the one I keep pointing out is his PPG numbers have been better than Cale Makar’s were in his draft year until this past weekend (which that was Makar’s 18 year old season, this is Benning’s 17 year old season).

 

25. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 10  A: 26  P: 36

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

He is being slept on at the moment.  He is a full year younger than Connor Zary, and he’s producing near the same even strength numbers as Zary despite seeing tough matchups, where Zary is on the top line in the WHL.  The more people dig in on Finley, the more I expect him to rocket up draft boards assuming the production levels stay the same.

 

26. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 180  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 40  G: 28  A: 31  P: 59

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

Well I just got done trashing Zary, now let me build him back up…not trashing the kid at all, I’m a big fan of his.  I just simply can’t find much reason to have him ahead of Finley.  The wheels aren’t great, but should be good enough, and the kid is a coaches dream in that he can thrive in any situation.

 

27. Brendan Brisson

Team: Chicago  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 30  G: 17  A: 19  P: 36

Born: 10/22/01, Manhattan Beach, CA

The son of super agent Pat Brisson, the younger Brisson has very good wheels and is very skilled.  He’s always making something happen on the ice.

 

28. Justin Barron

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 187  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 27  G: 4  A: 13  P: 17

Born: 11/15/01, Halifax, NS

This kid has had one rough season with inconsistency and injuries.  But I’m still finding myself to be pretty high on him.  What might work to his advantage too is that this draft isn’t deep on the blueline, and even more thin in terms of offensively skilled blueliners.

 

29. Ty Smilanic

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 29  G: 9  A: 16  P: 25

Born: 01/20/02, Denver, CO

Like with Sanderson, stats are a combination of his season.  I love this kid’s motor.  He plays with a ton of energy and a ton of passion for the game.  His game reminds me a bit of Liam Foudy’s at this point where I’m not sure where he’ll end up fitting, I just think he’s a pretty safe pick for someone.

 

30. Ryan O’Rourke

Team: Sault Ste. Marie  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 36  G: 6  A: 20  P: 26

Born: 05/16/02, Pickering, ON

O’Rourke is a kid who I might continue to win me over more and more as we go on here.  Again, not the undersized puck mover on the blueline we’ve seen so much of the last few drafts.  He’s terrific in his own zone, but he also has a bomb of a shot.  A lot to like here.

 

31. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 43  G: 5  A: 25  P: 30

Born: 09/20/01, Prince Albert, SK

I’ve been much lower on him than most, but now I’m just a bit lower on him than most because I was too hard on his upside and ignoring the fact that he’s such a safe pick.  He’ll play in the league, it’s just a matter of whether he’ll be a Matt Benning type, or a Travis Hamonic type.

 

32. Rodion Amirov

Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa  League: KHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 21  G: 0  A: 2  P: 2

Born: 10/02/01, Salavat, RUS

Stats are misleading, as he’s had 19 points in 19 games combined VHL and MHL.  Another kid like Ponomaryov who isn’t the “prototypical” Russian forward.  Amirov has good speed and skill, but plays a very responsible game.

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