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

FINALLY, I have a new top 32 out.  Why 32?  Because it’s about to be 32 in the 1st round, so why not just jump the gun?  Truth be told, I was working hard on doing a top 64 (again, jumping the gun) list for a lot of the pandemic, but I got this far and just decided to put this one out now since it now seems as though the draft is going to be a ways away still.  A top 64 list won’t be too far behind this one, but for now, I’ll give you this.  A few things off the top for you to know, especially if this is the first time you’re reading my draft stuff:

  1. I have an annoying need to explain things…
  2. I attempt to do my rankings from the POV that a GM would have, which means I’m looking at the value of players more so than simply ranking best to worst.  I also put more stock into upside than most do.  I love and value the draft as much as anyone, but it’s not the only avenue that can be used to build a team.  So there are times where it makes sense to me to take some big swings.  Don’t confuse this for a “90’s mindset” though.  I just mean that in comparison to most lists you’ll see.
  3. I’m big on tiering.  You can’t tell me that organization fit doesn’t matter, or that the separation with players as the draft goes on doesn’t get smaller and smaller.  If players are even, you should be looking at things such as fit and need.  No way that teams should draft strictly for need, I just mean that if you need tiebreakers and I believe you need tiebreakers more and more as the draft rolls on.
  4. You’ll see that I have some players positions different from most.  Those are the positions I would draft the player to play, not the position they perhaps are playing currently.
  5. As you’ll see, I didn’t go too in-depth with most of my write-ups.  I don’t have the time right at the moment.  If you want to know more on most of these kid’s games though I can’t recommend my buddy Yannick St.Pierre’s YouTube page!  The quality of work is outstanding and probably should be behind a paywall, but thankfully for all of us it isn’t!
  6. I’ll likely be accused of having a big WHL bias here, and that’s fine I completely understand and worry that I do too.  But I also know what I saw this season and have a theory as to why someone who watched the league closely is higher on the kids than someone who didn’t.  Coming into the season, there wasn’t any buzz about the dub kids.  But I knew it was ridiculously deep for the league this season and that there are going to be a TON of dub kids going in the 12-62 range.  Doing my WHL/Western Canadian rankings this season, it was tough for 3/4 of the season to find much separation.  Nobody was killing it, but about 12 kids were extremely intriguing (of course, Jarvis emerged as the clear cut top guy).  So, forgive me for being bias if I am, but know that I’m really trying hard to avoid it.  It’s a very deep year in the West, and we’re going to see that both in the draft, and for years to come as these kids grow.

If you want more information on my views on scouting and what all I look for and how I come to my conclusions, I actually just put out this blog explaining things in detail.  I try to be consistent with my logic.  I have no issues with anyone who disagrees with me or sees things completely different from me, but they better be able to explain why.  I see a ton of lists with no explanation and frankly, it always makes me wonder if the person doing the list ACTUALLY knows, or if they’re just taking an hour out of their day to list players and call it their list.

Ok, time to get on with the top 32 because you didn’t click this link to read all this bull shit, you want rankings!  Here you go:

 

Tier 1

1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 52  G: 35  A: 77  P: 112

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

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

2020 Stats – GP: 45  G: 32  A: 50  P: 82

Born: 08/19/02, Newmarket, ON

Comparison: Evgeni Malkin

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 downside is what?  2nd line winger?!  Wake up, he’s closer to Lafrenière than he is to Stützle, don’t overthink this.

 

Tier 3

3. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 49  G: 9  A: 38  P: 47

Born: 04/08/02, Toronto, ON

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

He has all the ability to become a franchise defenceman.  He also is 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.

 

4. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 41  G: 7  A: 27  P: 34

Born: 01/15/02, Viersen, GER

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, and maybe two 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.

 

5. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 33  G: 4  A: 6  P: 10

Born: 03/28/02, Göteborg, SWE

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.

 

6. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

2020 Stats – GP: 18  GAA: 2.45  Sv%: .920

Born: 06/16/02, Omsk, RUS

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

Did you know that three of the last five goaltenders to go in the top five of a draft are going to the hall of fame (Luongo, Fleury, Price)?  One flat out busted, but did so because of injuries (DiPietro).  The other one didn’t live up to expectations but had some big seasons and also ran into a lot of injury issues.  Don’t get me wrong here, this is 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.  Given his 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. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 56  G: 39  A: 81  P: 120

Born: 09/23/01, Feldkirch, AUT

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 I have him in my top 10.  But because of how rare it would be for someone as small as he is to thrive down the middle, I can’t bring myself to put him higher than 7th even though I’m a massive fan of his game.

 

Tier 5

8. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 42  A: 56  P: 98

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

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.

 

9. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 35  G: 9  A: 7  P: 16

Born: 01/23/02, Saltsjö-Boo, SWE

Comparison:

I’m not the biggest fan of snipers.  You’ll often see in my rankings that I’m more down on them than most.  So Holtz is further down my list than he is with most.  But with Holtz, what does intrigue me more than most shoot first types is that he has a solid game away from the puck, he isn’t basically a floater as so many shooters are.  So he’s a kid who at least has a chance to develop a much more well-rounded game thanks to that mentality.

 

10. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 37  A: 74  P: 111

Born: 01/01/02, Whitby, ON

Comparison: Ray Whitney

I saw SPR take 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 that essentially proved Russian forwards weren’t being scouted properly.  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.

 

11. Jack Quinn

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 62  G: 52  A: 37  P: 89

Born: 09/19/01, Cobden, ON

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.  Love his speed.  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 his speed and motor make him very endearing.

 

Tier 6

12. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 64  G: 11  A: 29  P: 40

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

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. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 66  G: 9  A: 34  P: 43

Born: 07/08/02, Whitefish, MT

Comparison: Hampus Lindholm

His dad would thrive even more than he did in the 90’s and early 2000’s if he were playing today as speed is much more of a priority and Geoff was a fantastic skater.  Jake is too, but that is where the similarities end.  A polarizing kid in this draft.  It seems as though the NHL scouts really love him, while the independent guys aren’t too enthralled.  Some probably think that I’ve got him too high at 13, but his skating and IQ are going to give him a chance to continually develop his offensive game.  His ability to defend is high end, so he’s a lot like Guhle only minus the physicality.

 

14. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 35  G: 8  A: 9  P: 18

Born: 09/23/01, Calgary, AB

Comparison: Timo Meier

Rare that I compare a centre to a winger or vice versa, but they do remind me a lot of each other, despite the fact that I believe Holloway will be able to play the middle.  Three big traits that he possesses which I love: speed, motor, physicality.  On top of that, he has the versatility to slot in several different places in a lineup.  Some worry about the numbers at Wisconsin, but you have to remember, the jump from the AJ to the NCAA is an enormous one.

 

15. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 19  A: 38  P: 57

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

Comparison: Jordan Staal

I’m well aware you likely think this is insanely high.  For me, I don’t need a kid to be toe dragging everyone to see how he can thrive in the NHL.  He’s not anything sexy, but he has all the tools to be an elite 2nd line centre in the league which in my opinion is an extremely vital piece for a franchise to have.  He showed both the skillset and the mindset this season to be that player.  His production doesn’t jump off the page, but he got most of the tough minutes for Spokane this season, didn’t see much PP time until late, and didn’t see much time on Adam Beckman’s line (who was the leading scorer in the dub).  47 ES points for Finley, just one shy of Connor Zary who he is both a better skater than, much bigger than, and a full year younger than.  Don’t mean to write forever on Finley, but it kind of drives me nuts that so many people are sleeping on him.  It feels almost like backlash because he’s big.  Skates well, works hard all over the ice, very high IQ, showcases very good hands, good vision, and then he’s one of the youngest players in the draft so there is a ridiculous amount of room to continue growing.  He’s FAR from a coke machine.  I’m not expecting him to be drafted anywhere near here, but I truly believe people are going to be kicking themselves for sleeping on him.

 

16. Anton Lundell

Team: HIFK  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 44  G: 10  A: 18  P: 28

Born: 10/03/01, Espoo, FIN

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.

 

17. Dawson Mercer

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 179  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 24  A: 36  P: 60

Born: 10/27/01, Bay Roberts, NL

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.

 

18. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 64  G: 25  A: 45  P: 70

Born: 03/09/02, Calgary, AB

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 be a 3rd line winger, but the upside is definitely there to be a fantastic complementary piece in a top-six role.

 

19. Noel Gunler

Team: Luleå HF  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 45  G: 4  A: 9  P: 13

Born: 10/07/01, Luleå, SWE

Comparison: Tyler Toffoli

The work ethic gets questioned, but I wonder how much of it is simply that this guy isn’t a checker.  Because he’s not lazy and plays with a decent motor.  No doubt there are concerns about his play away from the puck.  But he has a terrific shot.  As you’ll know if you’ve read my rankings in the past, I’m not as big on the shoot first guys as some.  But once we’re down around this point, it makes a lot more sense to an anti shoot first guy like myself.

 

Tier 7

20. 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

Comparison: Brayden Point

So difficult to rank.  I’m a huge fan of 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 my one boss rushed back to work running heavy equipment just three days later (which if you’ve ran heavy equipment, then you know how awful that is for someone coming off a concussion), 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.

 

21. Jan Mysak

Team: Hamilton  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 22  G: 15  A: 10  P: 25

Born: 06/24/02, Litvinov, CZE

Comparison: Patrick Sharp

I loved what I saw in his 22 games in 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.

 

22. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 12  A: 12  P: 24

Born: 05/17/02, Nürnberg, GER

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

One thing I admittedly worry about is that I and others are overrating the German/DEL kids this season thanks to a Leon Draisaitl influence, but more so how badly most of us (not all, Yannick for one, Yzerman for another) underrated Moritz Seider.  Anyway, with Reichel he is just scratching the surface with what he can be.  He’s showcased a really high IQ, and a good work ethic.  Combine that with how raw his game still is and the upside is really intriguing.  As is the case with anyone raw though, he needs time.

 

23. Mavrik Bourque

Team: Shawinigan  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 49  G: 29  A: 42  P: 71

Born: 01/08/02, Plessisville, QC

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.

 

24. William Wallinder

Team: MODO J-20  League: SuperElit

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 37  G: 5  A: 19  P: 24

Born: 07/28/02, Sollefteå, SWE

Comparison: Jacob Trouba

The skating ability/size combo is ridiculous.  So raw, but all the tools are here to be a legitimate stud defenceman.  Will Souch did a terrific video breaking down all of Wallinder’s game that you can see here.  Just like Guhle, he needs a lot of time.  He might even need more time than Guhle before we’re talking about him playing in the show.  He’s a kid who an interview could make or break his ranking for me.  Comes off as highly intelligent and committed to his craft, and I might be tempted to put him up with Guhle and Sanderson.  But without that knowledge, I can’t put him higher than this.

 

25. Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 12  A: 63  P: 75

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

Comparison: Ethan Bear

Most are sleeping on 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.

 

26. Ronan Seeley

Team: Everett  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 63  G: 3  A: 29  P: 32

Born: 08/02/02, Yellowknife, NT

Comparison: Josh Morrissey

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.

 

Tier 8

27. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 159  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 56  G: 26  A: 34  P: 60

Born: 08/08/02, Lethbridge, AB

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.  I thought about having him as high as 21, but one red flag would be the assists.  Half of his 34 apples came with the man advantage.

 

28. Rodion Amirov

Team: Tolpar Ufa  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 17  G: 10  A: 12  P: 22

Born: 10/02/01, Salavat, RUS

Comparison: Kyle Connor

I realize he actually played more games in the KHL, but his MHL numbers give a better indication of the type of prospect the team who drafts Amirov will be getting.  Anyway, I have made no bones about how I feel about drafting Russian born forwards the last few years…I’m leery.  That stance could be softening with guys like Gurianov showing signs of becoming a real player this season, obviously Andrei Svechnikov is fantastic, but the track record on these kids in the first 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 28, but I’m well aware that he has tremendous talent.

 

29. John-Jason Peterka

Team: EHC München  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 7  A: 4  P: 11

Born: 01/14/02, München, GER

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.

 

30. Jacob Perreault

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 39  A: 31  P: 70

Born: 04/15/02, Montreal, QC

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 defensive defenceman rather than goal-scoring winger, Finley is a giant centre rather than a puck-moving defenceman, 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 9

31. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 60  G: 7  A: 35  P: 42

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

Comparison: Travis Hamonic

May as well call this one  “the WHL safe bets tier”.  I wasn’t as high on Schneider as most were this season, mainly because the upside doesn’t intrigue me.  Don’t mistake this for me not liking the player, I really love his game.  He can skate, defend, and plays very physical.  But I don’t see him becoming more than a number four defenceman.  That’s a nice piece to find, but it’s not an overly difficult piece to find.  So he’s very close to a sure thing, but I would take some bigger swings before I’d settle on the safe bet that is Schneider.

 

32. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 38  A: 48  P: 86

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

Comparison: Jarret Stoll

I got eight WHL and nine Western kids in total in my top 32.  I won’t hide from it very likely being thanks to how closely I watched the league this season.  But it speaks to what I saw all season which was while there wasn’t much high-end with the West this season (though Jarvis emerged as that guy), the depth is insane!  I feel as though a lot of people are going a little overboard on Zary, so I’m going to tell you some of the reasons why I’m a little leery.  The skating is suspect.  It’s passable, but it needs work.  He played on the best line in the dub this season, and though Franklin and Centazzo (shoutout to my fellow Wildcats) aren’t drafted, it’s not as though Zary was carrying them.  Finally, 44% of his production came with the man advantage.  I like him, but it’s just a case of there being more question marks then some are suggesting.  He plays a complete game and is very coachable, but much like with Schneider I question how much upside there is.

 

Keep in mind, this is just a top 32.  My top 64 won’t be too far behind this (at least as of writing this that’s the plan).  There is a lot of depth in this draft.  I’m not sure I LOVE this draft as much as I thought I would, but it is very deep and the separation from about 20-60 is pretty nominal in my opinion.

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2020 NHL Draft: Top 25 Western Canadian Prospects

I’m finally finishing up all these draft pieces that when the pandemic first hit, I figured I’d be able to knock out in NO time!  So while it sucks that we won’t get a June draft, it does help me out as now the heavy lifting part of doing my lists is basically done!  Likely that this list will not be my final list given we are so many months away.  We’ll hear more about players in interviews from here on, we’ll still be able to look through more video, lots of things can still happen.

Note the title here.  No WHL in that title, because this time around I’m not ranking just the WHL kids.  BCHL are in.  AJHL are in.  SJHL are in (though they don’t have anyone factoring into this).  MJHL is in (though they’re the same as the SJ).

Something I added this time around that I figured might help is a draft grade.  But it’s not A or B’s, it’s more of a “where I would take them” in the overall draft.  Perhaps will give you a better idea of how I see the kids.  Sure I might have some guy ranked way up high and some guy ranked about 12 spots lower, but 12 spots could mean that I hate the lower guy, or 12 spots could speak to there being a logjam of players.  So hopefully the draft grades help sort that.  They kind of replaced tiering guys.  Not sure why I didn’t just tier them, but I guess I’m just trying something new.

Also, if you want to know more about how I do my rankings lists, I just recently got done this blog laying out in great detail what I look at, what I value, how I rank guys, etc.

 

1. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 42  A: 56  P: 98

Previous Rank: 2

Born: 02/01/02, Winnipeg, MB

Comparison: Brad Marchand

First of all, the comp because I know people see that comp and think “he’s an instigator and a chicken shit?!”  Nope, Marchand without all the BS.  I still haven’t soured one bit on Guhle, but Jarvis crushed it this season and not only have I moved him to the number one spot in my WHL rankings, he is starting to get buzz as being a top 10 pick in the draft.  Sorry Oilers fans, I know a prominent Oilers blogger/radio personality believes the Oilers can get him at 20, and trust me I would be well beyond thrilled if he were still on the board, but that seems like big time wishful thinking.  Skating, skill, IQ, and motor is all good-great.  It was really amazing to watch his progression this season.  I was pretty high on him from the get-go (4th on my first list) but didn’t see THIS coming.  But as the year went on, he grabbed the reigns of the Winterhawks and took his game to a whole new level.

Grade: Top 10

 

2. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 64  G: 11  A: 29  P: 40

Previous Rank: 1

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

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

As I said, I’m still very high on Guhle.  Perhaps higher than most.  The reason I’m higher on him than most is that I see him as a kid who an organization can really develop.  He might not be ready until the 2nd season of his ELC contract, but if he is given the proper time to develop he is going to be a damn good top-four D-man.  The skating, edge he plays with, size, IQ, and work ethic he displays tell me that he could really grow by leaps and bounds in the next few years if he is brought along slowly.  Safely, I believe that Guhle is going to be a top-four defenceman who a coach can lean on to play a lot of tough minutes.  But thinking about a couple of WHL alum’s from the 2003 draft who had a lot of similarities to Guhle in their draft year, Guhle compares well which are Shea Weber and Brent Seabrook.  Guhle has similar games to those two in their draft year, but has superior skating ability to them.

Grade: Top 15

 

3. Jack Finley

Team: Spokane Chiefs

Pos: C  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 19  A: 38  P: 57

Previous Rank: 3

Born: 09/02/02, Kelowna, BC

Comparison: Jordan Staal

Most in the internet scouting community see Finley just as a potential 3rd line centre.  But as you can see, I am very high on Finley.  I see him as a kid with all the tools to be an elite 2nd line centre, and on top of that, he’s a safe pick.  He skates well, he has a very high IQ, good hands, good vision, as you can see has outstanding size, has a great 200-foot game, and he is extremely coachable.  That’s not sexy for anyone.  He doesn’t have goals that people can put on twitter and try to “scout-splain” to everyone why he’s so great, desperate to look intelligent to their followers as their inferiority complex overtakes them…anyway…he can produce in many other ways and doesn’t need to toe drag anyone.  He uses his size very effectively to protect the puck, take the puck hard to the net, and has good hands in tight once there.  It should be noted too, this is a kid who spent much of the season in a shutdown role for Spokane.  Not much time until late in the season playing with the WHL scoring leader Adam Beckman, not much time on the top PP unit.  People like Connor Zary has had all the love as far as WHL centre’s go this season, yet the ES production of the two players in nearly identical, and Zary played on the best line in the league.  Finley is bigger, a better skater, and a full year younger.  There have been two sets of head to head battles I’ve looked at hard this season where I come away saying “by no measure should one guy be ahead of the other”.  Guhle vs Braden Schneider, and Finley vs Connor Zary.  Give me Guhle and give me Finley and if you’re truly doing your homework on these kids then I’m not sure how you can have the latter ahead of the former.

Grade: 1st round

 

4. Ozzy Wiesblatt

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 64  G: 25  A: 45  P: 70

Previous Rank: 6

Born: 03/09/02, Calgary, AB

Comparison: T.J. Oshie

Sometimes I really love my comparisons.  There hasn’t been one that I’ve disliked to this point, but Wiesblatt to Oshie might be my favourite thus far.  The versatility, motor, hands, skating ability, and the gritty/greasy games that both players exhibit, I just see very similar players.  Wiesblatt played the most of the second half for Marc Habsheid, but I like him better as a winger in the pros.  I believe he’s going to be best playing a complementary role again…similar to Oshie.  Such a safe pick.  Very possible that he’s only ever a very good top-nine winger, but I see Wiesblatt being a kid who rides shotgun on a big line because he can provide a little bit of everything for a line and he has the type of game where he’s an easy fit with everyone.

Grade: 1st round

 

5. Michael Benning

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 12  A: 63  P: 75

Previous Rank: HM

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

Comparison: Ethan Bear

Before I start here, honourable mention for all the tier II kids because again this is the first list ranking the Western kids, not just the dub kids.  I’m not going to be a slave to stats, but I’m not going to completely ignore them either.  I tracked it all year comparing Benning’s stats in this his 17 year old season vs Cale Makar’s numbers in his 18 year old season.  The end result: even.  Makar had twice as many goals, but both played 54 games, both had 75 points, and both were playing with elite teams in the AJHL so nobody can give me a “yeah but this guy played with this player and the other only played with…” save it.  They were even teams.  Don’t get it twisted, Benning isn’t the prospect Makar was.  Makar is a tremendous skater, Benning is a good skater.  Makar is a rover, where Benning plays much more cerebral.  It’s funny though, I’m seeing guys knock Benning’s skating and this is the same ridiculous logic that people had two years ago with Bouchard and Sandin where people are mistaking skating ability with pace of play.  With Benning, I think it’s best to think of a guy like Bear.  Moves the puck very well, knows when to jump in the play, rarely makes a risky decision.  He’s not going to play a “loud” game, but it’s going to be extremely effective.  It’ll be interesting to see what he does in the fall at this point.  Initially when I released this, I had in it that it was questionable whether or not Benning would go to DU in the fall with the COVID concerns.  Jim Matheson tweeted out the other day though that Benning and Savoie are planning to play at DU in the fall.  Matty said that DU will play games with no fans, though that’s nice…they still would need opponents and I’m not sure a decision on these things has been made by the NCAA…but at this point it looks as though Benning and Savoie will play at DU in the fall.  So no extra year of development for the teams that draft Benning or Savoie.

Grade: Late 1st round

 

6. Ronan Seeley

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 63  G: 3  A: 29  P: 32

Previous Rank: 11

Born: 08/02/02, Yellowknife, NT

Comparison: Josh Morrissey

Might be a little strong on my comparison here, but I’m thinking more so about what Morrissey was in his draft year, not so much what he’s become which is a top pairing D-man.  Massive jump up my rankings for Seeley, but if you followed along since the beginning of the season then you know I’ve been pretty high on Seeley from the start.  I can honestly say, it’s been a case of me not having the balls to put him higher than most have him.  But as I always try to tell myself “fuck’em, trust what you see”.  Easier said than done…What I see with Seeley is a terrific defenceman with a lot of upside.  He will only get better the more responsibility he is given.  Standard stuff for a sub 6’0 defenceman as he is a terrific skater and can really move the puck.  But then in the D-zone he is very sound fundamentally with his positioning, angles, and stick.  Comes off as a very coachable kid and displays a very high IQ.

Grade: Late 1st round

 

7. Ridly Greig

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 159  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 56  G: 26  A: 34  P: 60

Previous Rank: 10

Born: 08/08/02, Lethbridge, AB

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.  I thought about having him as high as 21, but one red flag would be the assists.  Half of his 34 apples came with the man advantage.

Grade: Late 1st round

 

8. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon Wheat Kings

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 60  G: 7  A: 35  P: 42

Previous Rank: 5

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

Comparison: Travis Hamonic

He’s such a safe pick.  He plays such a pro game already that I have a very difficult time seeing him not playing in the league.  I’ve used the Travis Hamonic comparison all year long, and it is just very fitting not only because of the way he plays but also given that Hamonic spent time in Brandon.  Can more offence come?  Absolutely.  His skating ability is very solid and so perhaps he starts jumping up in the play a lot more and the offensive ability starts coming along, you never know with defencemen.  But Schneider seems to really take pride in being a terrific defender.  His punishing style especially low in the zone coupled with fantastic positioning and angling makes him just miserable to play against.  A throwback, but a piece that is still very valuable as long as a player can skate and Schneider can.

Grade: Late 1st round

 

9. Connor Zary

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 38  A: 48  P: 86

Previous Rank: 4

Born: 09/25/01, Saskatoon, SK

Comparison: Jarret Stoll

The more I dig into the film on Zary, the more concerns I’m finding.  That’s not just me, that’s pretty much everyone.  I’ve said it in every write-up I’ve had on Zary this season that the skating concerns me, and it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that his numbers are inflated playing with my fellow Wildcats Zane Franklin and Orrin Centazzo.  Now, that’s the negative.  It isn’t as though I don’t see the upside with Zary, and what’s especially intriguing in my mind is that he wasn’t a highly touted kid coming into the WHL.  He’s really had to work to get to this spot.  I use Stoll as the comp and some might see that as a slight.  You look at their 17 year old and 18 year old numbers in the dub, they’re production is nearly identical, their style is nearly identical, and if Zary were to “only” be a high end/tough minutes 3rd line centre like Stoll, that’d be a terrific get in my mind.  While I was rough on him in my write up on Finley, I really do like the player, I just don’t understand what the measure is for most to put him ahead of Finley.

Grade: Late 1st round

 

10. Connor McClennon

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 157  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G: 21  A: 28  P:  49

Previous Rank: 8

Born: 06/25/02, Wainwright, AB

Comparison: Brendan Gallagher

His draft stock took an even bigger hit than most with this shutdown, seeing that he broke his collar bone in his 42nd game of the season (right when he was on fire).  I just love the combination here of his motor, skill, and determination he plays with.  This kid is fearless.  But I can’t bring myself to put him any higher than this on my list because of his skating concerns and obviously we didn’t get to see him dominate for an overly long stretch as he was when he got hurt.  Man though, when Krebs came back, obviously Krebs is a great player, but it just gave McClennon ONE guy to help and the game just went through the freaking roof.  17 goals, 22 assists in his final 29 games, a 91 point pace.

Grade: 2nd round

 

11. Jake Neighbours 

Team: Edmonton Oil Kings

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 64  G: 23  A: 47  P: 70

Previous Rank: 7

Born: 03/29/02, Airdrie, AB

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.  There is a reason you don’t see power wingers being playmakers.  So those are the cons.  But he’s still a 2nd rounder for sure with a very high IQ and good size.  But a more assertive game with the puck is definitely something I’d like to see, and I believe he’ll need to really work hard on his conditioning.  As a guy who has put on weight with ease all his life, I can tell you that I need to burn 1000 calories a day to safely say I’m shedding weight, and that’s with a proper diet.  The point I’m getting at is that Neighbours looks like he has that kind of build where it’ll be a little more difficult for him to not so much shed weight, but change his body type a bit which would likely really help his skating.  The potential is here, it’s just that it’s quite a bit that needs work.

Grade: 2nd round

 

12. Tristen Robins

Team: Saskatoon Blades

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 62  G: 33  A: 40  P: 73

Previous Rank: 12

Born: 11/15/01, Brandon, MB

Comparison: J.T. Compher

So here is the thing about Robins.  You see him at 12 on the rankings and you say “why does Soups hate Robins?”  I really don’t.  But A) it’s a deep class in the dub, and even deeper when I factor in the tier II kids (specifically the AJ), and B) when I’m doing my rankings, sometimes guys will get punished because of what I see them becoming and not being a difficult type of player to find as some of the things I take into consideration with my rankings aren’t the same as how most do it.  Take Braden Schneider earlier in this list for example.  I really love the way Schneider plays, but even if he maxed out I see him as a number four defenceman.  That’s a nice piece, but it’s not overly difficult to find that piece.  So if I’m a GM, I don’t see his “draft stock” being as high as someone who is perhaps a little more likely to bust.  I’m a big fan of Robins game, which is speed and a very high motor.  He’s terrific on the forecheck.  Wouldn’t write off the possibility of him playing the middle in pro hockey, but more likely that he plays the wing.  I see him as a safe bet to be a top-nine winger, with a chance to be a top-six guy.

Grade: 2nd round

 

13. Cross Hanas

Team: Portland Winterhawks

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 60  G: 22  A: 27  P: 49

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 01/05/02, Highland Village, TX

Comparison: Ondrej Kase

BIG jump for Hanas on my board.  First of all I should say, I’m not a fan of this comp, but he was an extremely difficult guy to find a good one for.  Basically my thinking is a very talented kid who has yet to put it all together, and I came up with Kase.  Something I kept coming back to with Hanas is “what’s he going to be once he fills out?”  Because he looks to me like he might be a little bigger than his listing of 6’1, he’s SO lanky.  So when he fills out and is playing around 190-200lbs and has some legitimate strength…he could be lethal!  That added weight/strength could especially help his skating, which is below average in my opinion at the moment but appears to be from a severe lack of lower body strength.  And so you might then say “his stats aren’t very good compared to others” but you have to look deeper than that.  Only 9 of his 49 points were with the man advantage.  Also, according to pick224.com, Hanas estimated TOI was just under 14 minutes a game, which places him 13th of 15 among the forwards who made this list (I’m guessing on Carter Savoie but it’s a pretty safe guess).  Add on top of all this, have you seen exactly how this kid scores?  In looking to review some stuff on Hanas I went to YouTube to see if there was a highlight pack just to grade his goals or points or whatever I can find (do it with all players).  Four times this season he had the WHL highlight of the night goal.  The second time he pulled off the lacrosse goal he didn’t win it.  So realistically he probably should have had that five different times.  Now, I’m far from a guy who gets wowed by lacrosse goals (Mike Legg played how many NHL games?…) but the point is that this kid has a TON of skill.  Finally, pound for pound he protects the puck better than anyone else in the WHL, which is a trait that’ll serve him well in pro hockey.  He was someone who I underrated all season (despite liking what I had seen) due to concerns over the production.  But once I had the chance to dig deeper on him, those concerns are history and I’m really intrigued by Hanas.  He could make this ranking look pretty stupid in a few years.

Grade: 2nd round

 

14. Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 53  A: 46  P: 99

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 01/23/02, St. Albert, AB

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

I hate using a comp that I used a year ago.  Last year this was Caufield’s comp, now it’s Savoie’s.  It fits better for Caufield than Savoie in my mind, even though there are a lot of similarities.  Some worry about Savoie’s skating, but I don’t.  I don’t because I don’t believe that many people saw it showcased to its maximum ability this season.  Savoie looked bored at times.  There were times though that he would turn it on, whether it be in a big game, or when (for lack of a better term) someone would piss him off, as he isn’t afraid to go after someone.  He plays what I would call a “bitchy game”, and I know that sounds like an insult but I really don’t mean it to be.

Grade: 2nd round

 

15. Justin Sourdif

Team: Vancouver Giants

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 57  G: 26  A: 28  P: 54

Previous Rank: 9

Born: 03/24/02, Surrey, BC

Comparison: Sam Reinhart

Nobody is going to question his talent.  Great skill and a very good skater.  I am concerned about the determination though.  It’s where the Sam Reinhart comp comes from in that the talent is there, but how bad does he want it?  If you look at Reinhart, while he isn’t EXACTLY what we thought he’d be, he’s pretty good.  And again, Sourdif gets hurt by the dub being so deep this season.  If I did grades on these kids like most of the NFL guys do, I’d have a 2nd round grade on Sourdif.  It’s very likely he is still in my top 62 when I get around to putting that out.   What makes me nervous about having him this low, his ES numbers.  Only 7 of the 54 points came on the man advantage.  But again having said that, it just feels like the passion is lacking.  This is a scenario where I’d put a ton of stock into his interview.

Grade: 2nd round

 

16. Kasper Puutio

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 185  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 56  G: 5  A: 23  P: 28

Previous Rank: 17

Born: 06/03/02, Vaasa, FIN

Comparison: Damon Severson

The thing that I’ve really liked from the get-go with Puutio was his skating.  And then Larry Fisher told me earlier in the season when he watched Puutio live, the skating jumped out even more at him.  He moves it really well too, and only 7 of his 28 points came on the man advantage.  Statistically, a guy who came to mind was Henri Jokiharju who went 29th in 2017.  Jokiharju had 30 ES points in that season.  Puutio was at a 26 ES point pace this season.  Same size, Puutio might be a better skater, not as aggressive as Jokiharju but that might be better!  He’s like Hanas where the numbers aren’t showing, but I worry that in a few years I’m going to feel embarrassed about where I ranked him.  Some might wonder why he’s so much lower than Seeley despite having similar numbers on the same team, and it’s simple.  I feel Puutio’s game is tailor-made for Everett’s system, where Seeley I believe gets restricted by it.  But while it’s a 10 spot gap in these rankings, they wouldn’t be much further apart than that in the actual draft for me.  Benning/Seeley is where the Western logjam begins for me, and this is where it ends.  One more note with Puutio, he’s done with Everett.  Headed back home for the 20-21 season.

Grade: 2nd round

 

17. Pavel Novak

Team: Kelowna Rockets

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 25  A: 33  P: 58

Previous Rank: 14

Born: 04/16/02, Tabor, CZE

Comparison: Frank Vatrano

Yet another victim of it being such a deep year in the West (are you sick of me mentioning this yet?!)  It’s actually not much deeper this year though than last year.  The 17th WHL/tier II kid to come out of the West went with the 77th pick.  I think the 17th kid to be picked from the West this year will likely be around that range, so while it looks like I’m down a bit on some of these guys in the 10-20 range, I’m really not.  Anyway, Novak isn’t the best skater, but it’s definitely passable and has room to grow.  He has a pretty good motor to go with good hands and vision.  Would have been VERY interesting to see Kelowna’s season continue in particular as they were really getting it going after the coaching change.  10 more regular-season games, combined with (what I would have guessed as a max) maybe 14 playoff games, and of course they were hosting the Memorial Cup.  Could have given a huge boost to Novak’s stock as he was playing very well right before the break (6 points in his last 3 games).

Grade: 3rd round

 

18. Ethan Edwards

Team: Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)

Pos: LD  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 50  G: 9  A: 24  P: 33

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 06/06/02, Grand Prairie, AB

Comparison: Jordan Oesterle

He’s only ranked 18th for me, but Edwards has me as fired up as anyone out of this list.  He’s committed to Michigan but isn’t going until the 21-22 season, meaning that the team which will draft him will get four years before they need to look to sign him (yes, I’m well aware that you can sign him after his senior season, but by then it’s highly unlikely a player wouldn’t go to free agency).  And as much as I like Edwards, it’s mainly because of his upside.  That development time combined with his skating ability makes him extremely intriguing to me.

Grade: 3rd round

 

19. Alex Cotton

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 63  G: 20  A: 47  P: 67

Previous Rank: 15

Born: 05/12/01, Langley, BC

Comparison: Cody Franson

The first OA checks in at 19 on the list.  Cotton, as you can see, was 15th last time around, so he essentially only moved down one spot as the AJHL kids weren’t factored in the last time around.  The mobility is a concern and is what likely kept him from being drafted last June.  Great size though and a hell of a shot.  It’s a big “if”, but IF he can clean up his skating and take it to another level, he would be one very exciting prospect.  Obviously the concern though is how many points came from being paired with Calen Addison?

Grade: 3rd round

 

20. Dylan Garand

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 172  Glove: L

2020 Stats – GP: 42  G.A.A.: 2.21  Sv%: .921

Previous Rank: 13

Born: 06/06/02, Victoria, BC

Comparison: Carter Hutton

I’m not a goaltending guru, but it’s tough to ignore the season Garand had playing for a squad in Kamloops who definitely weren’t known for their defensive prowess!  Highest scoring team in the WHL, yet 17 year old Garand still put up those ridiculous numbers.  And to my eye, Garrand moves very well and is pretty technically sound for this stage of his development.  My buddy Kirk Morris had a pretty good write up on Garand earlier this season that you can find here.  The big question is the size.  He’s right on the fence for being too small.  Obviously he has some more filling out he has to do, I’m talking about the height, but it’ll be interesting to see how teams view him.  This is essentially a 3rd round grade for Garrand, which seems about right as to where he could go in the draft.

Grade: Late round

 

21. Christoffer Sedoff

Team: Red Deer Rebels

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 5  A: 14  P: 19

Previous Rank: 16

Born: 02/20/02, Helsinki, FIN

Comparison: Luca Sbisa

He is their horse, chewing up a ridiculous amount of minutes a lot of nights for Brent Sutter’s club.  He’s a very smooth skater, good puck mover, and despite not having stats that jump off the page he has displayed some pretty good offensive skills at times.  He’s solid in his own zone also with good gap control, a good stick, and a willingness to compete down low and in front of the net.  There is a lot to work with here.

Grade: Late round

 

22. Daemon Hunt

Team: Moose Jaw Warriors

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 28  G: 0  A: 15  P: 15

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 05/15/02, Brandon, MB

Comparison: Michael Stone

He basically ends up 22nd for me because of pedigree.  I don’t believe that people have done the homework they maybe should on Hunt.  I’m still seeing him in people’s top 62, and essentially as the 6th or 7th best prospect out of the west, it just makes no sense at all to me.  Not at all to suggest Hunt is a bad prospect or can’t make it, but we have to be honest, the shortcomings are tough to ignore.  He doesn’t bring a lot of offence to the table despite getting all the gravy time for the Warriors when he was healthy (of his 15 assists, only 3 were even strength, and I believe of those three only 1 of them was a primary assist), his skating is questionable, it’s not as though he has a lot of physical development left as he is already near 200lbs, and he essentially missed a season of development.  I’m not saying he can’t be higher than I’ve got him, but if someone has him in their top 62 they obviously haven’t spent a second actually looking into him.

Grade: Late round

 

23. Josh Pillar

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 174  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 63  G: 14  A: 30  P: 44

Previous Rank: 18

Born: 02/14/02, Warman, SK

Comparison: Conor Sheary

I really wonder if we end up seeing a similar jump in Pillar’s production next season as we saw with Tristen Robbins this season.  They have a ton of similarities, and with Zane Franklin moving on from the Blazers next season, a spot is open on that top line (although he’ll have Logan Stankhoven to contend with).  Really love Pillar in the later rounds because of that speed.  In rounds 4-7, just give me guys with one elite quality, and Pillar’s speed is just that.

Grade: Late round

 

24. Orrin Centazzo

Team: Kamloops Blazers

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 163  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 63  G: 44  A: 37  P: 81

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 04/17/00, Marwayne, AB

Comparison: Tyler Ennis

Finished 2nd in the WHL with 44 goals on the season and there were very few “cheapies”.  Centazzo has always had a ton of skill, and know that this is someone I’ve watched since he played Atom hockey.  This season he REALLY started to put it together and has so much room to grow both in his game and physically.  Most see a 19 year old who has been twice passed over as someone who doesn’t have much of a ceiling, but Centazzo is the exception to that rule.  Truth be told, I had a tough time coming up with a comp, but I settled on Ennis for a few reasons.  Obviously the size is very similar.  Also, the numbers in their 19 year old seasons are very similar.  Finally, the skill is very similar.  Ennis is a better skater, but Orrin might get there once he starts filling out.  I strongly believe a team should be taking a swing on him late in the draft.  I have a lot of reasons to believe he’s a late bloomer.

Grade: Late round

 

25. Kyle Crnkovic

Team: Saskatoon Blades

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 161  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 63  G: 21  A: 43  P: 64

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 02/10/02, Chestermere, AB

Comparison: Johnny Gaudreau

Obviously, that comp is much more in terms of style than upside.  I’m pretty stunned that you literally don’t hear a thing about this kid.  No doubt that the size is a concern, and the skating isn’t great for someone this small.  But he’s also very slight as you can read, so with added weight/strength he can perhaps take his skating up a few levels and if he adds that to his skill, now it gets pretty interesting.

Grade: Late round

 

Honourable Mention

Ethan Bowen

Team: Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 41  G: 12  A: 19  P: 31

Born: 05/14/02, Chilliwack, BC

Bowen had a disappointing season with quite a few injury problems.  Admittedly I didn’t see all that much of Bowen outside of a few games on Hockey TV.  But a kid with a lot of intriguing qualities that’ll make him of interest at the draft in the later rounds.

 

Cole Fonstad

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 60  G: 15  A: 59  P: 74

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 04/24/00, Estevan, SK

After being drafted in the 5th round (128th overall) by the Habs in 2018, they announced that they will not be giving Fonstad a pro contract.  So barring his rights getting dealt before the new signing deadline, he will be re-entering the draft.

 

Gage Goncalves

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 60  G: 33  A: 38  P: 71

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 01/16/01, Mission, BC

1 goal in 67 games last season, and 33 in 60 this season.  Pretty massive turnaround.  He’s played centre all season, but I believe he’ll end up moving to the wing in pro hockey which is why I list him there.  Pretty good skill.

 

Michal Gut

Team: Everett Silvertips

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 51  G: 13  A: 23  P: 36

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 08/16/02, Kadan, CZE

His offensive totals do take a hit as he plays further down the lineup for the Silvertips and sees a lot of tougher minutes.  Pretty good two-way game, nothing flashy.

 

Landon Kosior

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’ll  Wt: 190  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 64  G: 5  A: 18  P: 23

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 08/15/02, Regina, SK

Played a lot of minutes with Guhle this season, some might say overshadowed by Guhle.  Good skater, moves it well (as you could guess from a sub 6’0, 23 point defenceman) and a high IQ.  Could be a kid who really pops next season.

 

Owen Pederson

Team: Winnipeg Ice

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 61  G: 28  A: 22  P: 50

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 03/27/02, Stoney Plain, AB

His skating needs a ton of work, but the hands and ability to finish are definitely there with Pederson.  The fear from most with him will be that he basically lived off Peyton Krebs.

 

Luke Prokop

Team: Calgary Hitmen

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 218  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 59  G: 4  A: 19  P: 23

Previous Rank: HM

Born: 05/06/02, Edmonton, AB

Tremendous size and not a bad skater either.  But I just really don’t see it with Prokop.  Definitely a chance he gets drafted simply based on his size and ok skating, but I feel he’s only on some people’s radar due to being a top 10 pick in the 2017 Bantam draft.

 

Lukas Svejkovsky

Team: Medicine Hat Tigers

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 18  A: 20  P: 38

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 11/28/01, Point Roberts, WA

Some people really love what they’ve seen from Svejkovsky.  Speedy and skilled, but while I’m not a stats whore, I also can’t ignore that this was his 18 year old season and he’s well under a PPG pace.

 

Bryan Thomson

Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Pos: G  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 181  Glove: L

2020 Stats – GP: 30  G.A.A.: 2.83  Sv%: .898

Previous Rank: 20

Born: 04/09/02, Moose Jaw, SK

Thomson has a lot of tools to work with.  Obviously he has the size for a goaltender that NHL GM’s crave.  A lot of work is needed, but you can say that about basically every goaltender taken in any draft!

 

Ilya Usau

Team: Prince Albert Raiders

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 58  G: 22  A: 30  P: 52

Previous Rank: NR

Born: 08/03/01, Minsk, BLR

Performed well in his first season in the WHL.  Doesn’t really do anything exceptional but does everything well.  It seemed from afar that he was a very coachable kid for Marc Habsheid this season.

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Soups on Scouting

This is a piece I have been wanting to do for a very long time.  And then it became a piece that I worked on for a very long time.  Some of the reason for that is time constraints, but mostly it was fear of leaving anything out.

Let me start this off by saying this: I’m not a scout.  I’ll never claim to be a scout, unless of course, someone hires me to actually be a scout.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t do it.  I try to watch as much as I can with any player.  But the majority of the work I do is research.  Other ACTUAL scouts are who I primarily base my rankings off of.  I try to listen to the best people out there (which is key as there are a lot of people out there right now, specifically on social media, who want to pretend to be scouts and call themselves scouts, but they aren’t), but I don’t pay too close of attention to any rankings they may do.  I rank based off what the consensus is of their reports.  If I’ve seen something myself that maybe I disagree with, then I’ll trust my own eyes, but for the most part, I go off the reports they do.

Now, having said all this…

I do have my own theories on it and this is basically how I scout when I do it.  Let’s just get right to it because this is pretty damn long!

 

Need

Pretty self-explanatory, these are the traits I covet the most.

Skating

It has always been at the top of my list, but in the last three or four seasons it has gotten to a point where it is tough for me to give the time of day to anyone who isn’t at least above average.  At least.  If I’m building a team these days, it is imperative that the team has two qualities: they are among the fastest teams in the leauge, and the blueline is full of puck movers.  But of course I’m not just talking about top-end speed.  Foot speed, edge work, lateral mobility, etc.  It all factors in.  But skating is so far above anything else for me at this point that I have trouble giving love to anyone who isn’t at least an above average skater.  Average skater?  You better do everything incredibly well, or I better have reason to believe you can improve it.

IQ

I need to see a guy show his intelligence.  Sometimes that player might not show it on the ice as he’s developing.  A perfect example of this that I’ve used for years is Darnell Nurse.  Fans and media think that Nurse is a dumb player for lack of a better term.  I say that Nurse has shown off the ice that he is a HIGHLY intelligent guy, whether it be in interviews or the fact that he was the OHL scholastic player of the year in 2013, and when he was coming up he was always able to get by on his incredible ability and never had to think the game.  This, in my opinion, is the reason why Nurse keeps fooling the analytics crowd.  Insanely gifted, highly intelligent, and an incredible work ethic combine to make Nurse a guy who is continually growing and that growth may not quit until he’s perhaps into his 30’s much like Brent Burns.  Now, does he have the “hockey IQ” that so many crave?  No, it’s fair to say he doesn’t.  But this is why I believe a player like himself will keep improving is because his intelligence will catch up with his physical gifts at some point and when they do he could be something special.  Anyway, that’s the one rare example.  Nine times out of ten you see it in a players game.  I’m just saying that just because a player doesn’t display it on the ice, don’t necessarily discount them as lacking it.

Compete

Very obviously vital to the development of a prospect is going to be his will to compete.  I’ll get into work ethic specifically a little later on, but the fact of the matter is that we have very little insight as to how hard a player does or doesn’t work away from the rink, but we can absolutely see how hard they compete on a night to night basis.  Going to the tough area’s on the ice, not backing down when physically challenged, willingness to play physical, etc.  All of those are examples of compete.  A player in junior, college, Europe, whatever, better show some signs of competing because if he isn’t willing to at those level’s, then what is he going to do once NHL players go up against him?

 

Important

These are traits that a player doesn’t HAVE to have, but they’re pretty damn vital!

Vision

I’ll actually get into it more later when I talk about something related to vision, but simply put for this section, I place a pretty big value on it.  I was torn for a long time whether or not I’d list this as a “need”.  I can argue it either way.

Hard on Pucks

When I say hard on pucks, the three things that I think of are the ability to protect the puck, the ability to win puck battles, and that a player doesn’t get knocked off the puck easily.  You could label this under compete and that is completely fair.  But the reason I don’t is that I feel this is something that can come with development (mainly a player gaining strength).

Numbers

It’s not a “trait”, but a factor.  I talk numbers more than I value them.  But the one thing with numbers is that I’ll dig into them because there are just so many variables.  The big thing I look at is even-strength numbers.  Casey Mittlestadt is a good example of someone who had awesome numbers, but so much of his damage was done on the PP.  Fast forward to the 19-20 season, and it looks like Mittlestadt can’t play in the NHL (and don’t twist that, I’m not saying he IS a bust, just that he is on track to do so).  At this point, I’m not overly big on analytics when looking at prospects (I’ll discuss that later), and while I look at NHLe, I definitely don’t take that as the gospel as some do.  I’ll look mostly at even strength numbers and then take into consideration the role the player is in, how much talent is around that player, etc and try to find players from past drafts who were in similar situations and how they panned out.

Hands

People think hands, they think of goal scoring only.  And no doubt, great hands can create a lot of goals.  It’s a trait that can get overrated by a lot of people because sweet hands gets a player on the highlight reels more than anything else.  Having said that, there is no denying that no matter what position you play, the ability to handle the puck is pretty damn important.  Do you need to be able to toe drag anyone at any time?  No.  But it can’t be like handling a grenade for a player.

 

Want

Some of these (not all, for example the first one isn’t) are traits that a player can develop.  So while it’s big to have them on draft day, it’s not as if it is hopeless that it can be developed.  The others are straight forward…you hope every player has them, but if they don’t it isn’t the end of the world.

Balls

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I will anyway.  Basically a guy who is willing to throw hits, block shots, not just be willing to go to all the dirty areas but go the extra mile.  Some call it “heart” and that’s fine, but I believe guys can have heart and still choose not to block shots with their teeth.  To me, it takes serious balls to do that!  Obviously some are going to file this under intangibles.  I’m going to talk about intangibles in a bit, but basically my belief is that you can see a guy who plays with balls, therefore it gets its own category.

Gamesmanship

For some reason, many scouts don’t seem to know how to properly describe this, or maybe they just don’t value it nearly as much as I do.  It is huge for me though, mainly because it is so damn rare to find.  Playing with balls as I just described is one thing.  Someone who is willing to battle his ass off is endearing.  But finding guys who are willing to do whatever they feel they need to in order to win is another level and SO valuable.

Shot

For most, shooting ability would be placed under the important category, if not the need category.  It’s not to suggest that if a player literally has a muffin of a shot that it’s not concerning.  I’m referencing players like Owen Tippett, Eeli Tolvanen, more recently Cole Caufield, or if I go Oilers eccentric then Raphael Lavoie.  All players with dynamite shots, but a lot of people seem to fall in love with the shot and don’t look at the overall package.  And again, high volume shooters can’t play with each other.  A line of Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine likely wouldn’t work, or at least nowhere near the level that some would believe it would.  Anyway, I love a guy with a big shot, but I need more than that which is why the shot is a “want” for me rather than being “important” or a “need”.

Defending

I debated whether I would put this in the “important” category or not, but I put it here because when scouting a player I won’t dismiss a guy because he can’t defend.  The ability to defend can be coached up as we all know.  What does get concerning with someone who can’t defend is whether or not they’re willing to be coached up to do it?

Size

I’ll talk about it still where others won’t.  Can we stop pretending that it doesn’t even deserve to be discussed?!  A lot of the time with size comes strength.  Weight is more important than height as it goes without saying (yet here I am saying it) that the heavier the player, the tougher they’ll be to knock off the puck or move in general.  It’s funny, a few years ago I recall Craig Button being involved in a debate about whether or not wingspan mattered.  I can’t recall where Craig came out on it (I think he was pro wingspan), but to me, wingspan matters more than a players height because that is actually about reach.  Just because someone is tall doesn’t mean they have the wingspan to match.  So just because someone is tall doesn’t really matter, but the fact of the matter is that someone taller can put on more weight and will usually have a large wingspan which makes it much easier to protect the puck.  I don’t believe that you should sacrifice speed and/or quickness for size, but it still is a very big bonus if a player has it.

Positional traits

What?  I couldn’t think of another way to say this.  Basically I’m thinking about shit like face-off ability obviously for centres, ability to walk the line well for defencemen, play along the wall for wingers, all things that I believe can be fixed with proper development time and coaching which are based on where they play.  I’m not going to punish D-men for being awful in the dot…

 

Wildcard

Intangibles

First thing I should say is that intangibles would be work ethic, passion for the game, coachability, leadership, and how teammates view the player.  Someone reading this is saying “of course, why is this schmuck explaining this to me” and the answer is I’m just trying to cover all the bases.  For people such as myself who aren’t with an NHL club and/or don’t have access to interviewing the players, this is a wildcard.  If I had that ability, intangibles are pretty high on my list.  The analytics world probably would vehemently disagree with me on this, but we’re not talking about kids who have already made the show.  The intangibles are pretty vital to a players ability to make the jump to pro hockey.  In junior, a player can get by on his talent alone.  But that is much tougher to do in pro hockey, and damn near impossible to do in the NHL.  If a player is lacking in the intangibles, his chances of sticking in the NHL are pretty slim no matter how talented the player is.  I will say however that I’m not going to go overboard on a player who only has the intangibles covered and not much else.  You still need the talent to play.  Remember: Rudy only played one series as a Senior at Notre Dame.  That was college…not the NFL…

Analytics

I list them as a wildcard only because of how fresh they are to the process.  I’m DEFINITELY not anti analytics.  And there are things we find out about players analytically throughout the process which is very beneficial to ranking players more properly.  But you can also say that with intangibles after the combine is complete and word comes down about how well players did or didn’t interview.

Conditioning

It’s tricky.  Is it a good thing if a player is in amazing shape?  If they are, then they’ve likely maxed out to this point.  If they aren’t, then they clearly have a lot more room to grow.  But the flip side to that is if they aren’t, then will they learn to be better conditioned (the best example that comes to mind is Drew Doughty)?  If they’re in shape, they must care…right?  And if they aren’t, then they don’t…right?  But if they have been so good without being in shape, then what could they be once they are?!  And if a kid was so good while in terrific condition, then he is limited with how much he can improve, right?  If a tree falls in the forest…

 

Now, I think that covers everything as far as skills/assets go.  Hopefully I didn’t forget things, but it’s a lot to cover!  But when doing the rankings, for me, it doesn’t end there.  What I factor in (and this is where I end up differing from most other independent guys) is I try to look at things from a team-building perspective.  There are things I believe you NEED as a team, and things that people simply want on their team.  You want snipers, but you need playmakers.  You want a dynamic winger, but you need a 200-foot centre.  I always make the comparison with wingers and centres that it is like buying a Ferrari when living in Edmonton.  For six months of the year you’ll look deadly!  But you better own a truck, because that Ferrari isn’t going very far down an unplowed street.  You want the Ferrari, but you need the truck.

 

Centres

I value centres more than any other position in the draft.  Obviously in hockey, your goaltending is the most important position.  But 18 year old goaltenders are in the absolute best case scenario a MINIMUM of three years away, and can be a total crapshoot due to the mental aspect of the position.  Defence is at least as important for a club as centre is, but the big thing I notice in this league is that it’s easier to win without marquee defencemen then it is without marquee centres.  History shows that simply having depth on D has won a lot more than depth down the middle has.  And then of course if you’re looking at winger vs centre, most centres can easily play the wing where it’s rare for a winger to make the jump to the middle (even with the most recent example being Blake Wheeler, he’s a guy for years I’ve wondered why he’d never been tried at centre and I’m asking myself the same question this season with Lafrenière).

Wingers

A lot of this can completely depend on what kind of winger we’re talking about.  I look back on a guy like Mitch Marner, and I ranked him 7th in a draft year where I feel I got my rankings pretty spot on.  Obviously, that one wasn’t though and it was because I discredited wingers too much.  I failed to think “he’s an elite playmaker, which means he’ll make people better” a trait which I adore as everyone should.  I can also think of guys like the Tkachuk brothers who were legitimate power forwards which is incredibly valuable.  So basically for me a winger has to bring something very special to the table.  For the most part, wingers are 3rd in the pecking order for me.  For the most part, if you’re drafting a forward, then they better be pretty clear cut better than any other centre who is on the board.  Most centres can play the wing, and very few wingers can play centre.

Defencemen

IQ, skating, and ability to move the puck are the big ones I look at for defencemen.  I don’t really even want to look at a D-man who doesn’t possess these traits.  We probably get too caught up these days with pure numbers for D-men and assume they move the puck well.  I believe a team full of Hampus Lindholm or Jacob Slavin types would not only win a shit ton of games, but probably be sustainable under the cap with how those types of players get undervalued.  The only reason defencemen aren’t on equal footing with centres for me (again, always exceptions to the rule) is A) I find them to be a little riskier than centres (although I don’t have official numbers on that, could be wrong) and B) as I said above, I feel as though you need at least one elite centre if not two to win a Cup, where I don’t believe a true number one defenceman is a necessity.

Goaltenders

Basically…forget about them.  I personally just have a few rules on tendys.  1) I’d take one a year, and I’d select him no earlier than the 63rd pick.  2) No smaller than 6’1 (I’m a “sizest” when it comes to goaltenders).  3) Have to be quick and athletic.  Like everything in life, always exceptions to the rule.  Yaroslav Askarov is the exception to this rule, as was Ilya Samsonov, as was Andrei Vasilevskiy (Russia has become quite the goalie factory!)  For certain teams in the 2020 draft I would be taking Askarov in the 1st round.  But that terrifies a lot of people because of how unpredictable goaltending is.  As I say when talking about Askarov in my rankings though, you need to be able to identify when the time is right to recognize an exception to the rule.

 

Terms I’m not a fan of

Dynamic

This isn’t figure skating.  We aren’t judging production in hockey.  A highlight reel goal isn’t getting a 6 (although only a 5.7 from the Russian judge).  Now obviously I’m not looking to shit on skill, but I feel it is simply a quality that gets overrated by some.  People get enamoured with a player pulling off the lacrosse goal or toe dragging a number five defenceman who is attending Western next fall.  Obviously I love skill, but as soon as I start hearing about dynamic someone is, I start wondering just how bad his flaws are because it is often a term people will use to distract from a players flaws because they like watching that player play.  Does that make sense?

 

Types of players I really value

All situation centres and defencemen

You would think this is obvious for all, but it very much so is not.  I think of a kid like Kaiden Guhle in this upcoming draft and think “how exciting, that kid has a legitimate opportunity to be a 25+ minute a night defenceman.  Another kid I think of is Anton Lundell, specifically at the idea of Buffalo getting him.  If the Sabres had a centre who can put up 50-60 points and do all the dirty work?  Well…I guess they’d give him to St. Louis…but they know they need that guy playing behind Jack Eichel and if they could get that guy it’d likely take them from not close to a playoff spot to a playoff regular.  If you’re building a team and you can’t get that franchise centre, then in my mind you need most, but likely all your centres to have great two-way ability.  I believe that’s the only way teams can win if they lack a franchise centre.  These type of centres and defencemen aren’t sexy in the slightest, but FUCK ME they are vital to a hockey clubs success.  And you can never have enough of either.

Playmakers

My basic rule (and it’s not really “my” rule, it’s more so “the” rule) is that playmakers can play with playmakers, snipers can’t play with snipers.  It doesn’t mean that every playmaker is going to mesh, and it doesn’t mean that high volume shooters can’t ever figure out how to play with each other, but for the most part this is how it works.  And in today’s game, as much as it’s a speed game, it’s a playmakers game too.  Due to the lack of physicality and the league becoming increasingly smaller, we’re seeing fewer and fewer playmakers playing on the perimeter as we did 10-15 years ago, and therefore they are able to have their way a lot more than they used to.

Types of players I’m not as high on

Snipers

The guy I have gotten a bit of hit for not liking as much as others in last years draft was Cole Caufield.  I didn’t hate Caufield by any means, having him 16th overall isn’t something I view as a big slight.  But it was lower, especially in comparison to independent scouting.  I’m bigger on the viewings than the numbers, but the lack of assist numbers given the centres he had to play with all of last season (three of whom were top 10 picks) was extremely concerning to me and I’m not sure how anyone can suggest his vision is high-end when the kid only had 44 assists in 99 games playing with kids like Hughes, Turcotte and Zegras is not good.  A lot of people want to compare him with Alex Debrincat given their stature, nationality, and skating ability.  Debrincat never had concerns with his playmaking ability, and I’m personally not going to give extra points to the exception to the rule over of the rule.  Of course with Caufield, I strongly believe that many independent guys want to be so “anti-establishment” that they purposely overate those players so that they won’t be viewed as the guy who “overlooked” the undersized kid.  Point being here that with me, don’t ever expect shoot first, second, third, fourth, etc type guys who can’t do much else to be too high in my rankings.

Undersized AND slower

I often call this “size to speed ratio”.  I would have whiffed on Alex DeBrincat (I had him 43rd in my top 50 going into the 2016 draft).  But the fact is that DeBrincat is an exception to the rule.  Now, perhaps a kid like Cole Caufield (a lot of DeBrincat and Caufield stuff in here, but I just think they’re two great players to use as examples) will be another exception to that rule, easy could be.  But I got a lot of flack for having Caufield 16th last season when it seemingly became a game of “how high can we rank him to prove we don’t undervalue undersized guys”.  The fact is that at 16 I’m still saying I believe he can play in the league and put up 20-30 goals a year, but I also believe he’s far from a lock to do so and if he can’t do that, then he’s not playing in the NHL.  If Matthew Boldy (for example) can’t do that, there are still lots of other roles Mattew Boldy can fill.  It’s also much tougher to find Matthew Boldy if you pass on him.  The Toronto Maple Leafs got Nick Robertson in the 2nd round.  Robertson and Caufield at the time of writing this, aren’t too different as prospects.  Both are highly skilled, but they don’t have great wheels AND they’re undersized.  If they’re both burners, I have very little issue.  The skating is much more the issue than the size.  But if a guy has size and can’t skate, they still have the reach to do protect the puck extremely well and the ability to wear down opposing players where that is much more difficult for undersized guys to do if they don’t have the skating.

 

Now, after I take into consideration everything I just laid out, then I still take a lot of other things into consideration.  The reason for this is because I try to look at things like a GM would, not how a person who isn’t drafting these player would do so.

 

Rankings

Team Building

You have wants and you have needs when you’re building hockey teams, and this is where I believe so many people mess up how they rank their players.  People WANT guys like Ovechkin, Stamkos, Matthews, etc.  But teams don’t NEED those guys to win.  To win, teams need high end centres and top four D-men.  It’s tricky doing independent rankings though because I can easily do a list for every team in the league, and those lists for each team would be vastly different.  I’ve used Cole Caufield as an example lots (and negatively to this point) but here we go again.  While I would have had Caufield lower for most teams, I actually liked him a lot for the Oilers.  The reason being that the Oilers could play him down the line with McDavid or Draisaitl, which is what he needs.  He needs (in my opinion) to play with a centre who can do nearly everything and allow him to find the dead spots offensively and utilize his shot.  Right now he’s with Montreal…who is the centre they have either on the team or in the system who can do that for him?  Every team goes BPA.  But this is why the BPA’s can be so different for each team.  And for those people who then scream “just pick the best player and make trades for fit later”, have you been paying attention the last decade?  Trades aren’t happening anymore.  Especially hockey trades.  Team building has to be a massive consideration.

Tiers

More people are using tiers now than when I first started doing my own rankings in 2015 which is good to see.  You must have a pretty damn big ego on yourself if you think that tiers aren’t necessary.  The fact of the matter is that with most prospects we are splitting hairs, and therefore you draft whichever player within a tier is the biggest need for your organization.

“Acquireability”

It is a term I came up with prior to last years draft.  What do I mean?  Let me give you the best example: Matt Tkachuk was rare.  Matt Tkachuk should have gone higher in his draft than 6th.  He should have been 2nd overall in hindsight.  I had him 5th, but I kick myself because when he was eligible, I knew that he was a rare type of player for a team to get their hands on.  And that is huge for me.  Kirby Dach gets taken 3rd overall in the 2019 draft.  Why?  So many people think this is a ridiculous pick, Chicago reached, on and on and on.  In the rest of the 2019 draft, you know what you without a doubt were not going to find?  A 6’4, RH shot, playmaking centre who moves well.  In free agency, you know what you are extremely rarely going to find?  A 6’4, RH shot, playmaking centre who moves well.  In the trade market, you know what you are extremely rarely going to find?  A 6’4, RH shot, playmaking centre who moves well.  Rare is massive, and hardly anyone thinks in those terms when they do their rankings.  Most who do independent rankings don’t give any thought to rounds 2-7 or assembling a roster in general.  “Acquireability” is so big for me, and the more of that which teams can find in the draft, the easier it’ll be for them to fill out the rest of their roster.

Special trait

Some of you reading all this (and thank you if you’re still reading as I’m over 4,000 words on this) might think about the draft as the top 10/15/20/1st round in general.  And that’s fine.  But the reality is that the draft is seven rounds.  It’s about to be 224 picks.  So when you get down to pick 66, 106, 146, 206, etc then you’re looking at guys who are going to take 3-5 years to develop.  I want those guys to have one thing they do extremely well.  Take your pick of the trait, but they need to have at least one.

 

Ok, I think I’m done…finally!  This is likely a blog that I’m going to add to, subtract from, basically adjust a lot over the years as it’s meant to be a bit of a guideline for how I do my rankings.  You can disagree with them all you want, but at least I can point to this blog and say “this is why my rankings are like that”.  And even though there are many people who do rankings who I find myself disagreeing with what they’ll have to say, all I ask is you can back it up.  That’s it.  Just back up what you’re saying.  Nearly everyone puts out a list, and the list has nothing on the players.  And I’m often raising an eyebrow at those lists because while some just don’t have the time, I believe most (independents) simply don’t know what the hell they’re doing.  Maybe I don’t either.  But at least now you can see where I’m coming from whether you agree with it or not.

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