By The OilKnight 01/28/2020
If you have followed me for awhile on social media, you’ll know I highly value what I call NHL translatable skills when it comes to scouting prospects. In particular, the most important to me are: Skating (speed/agility/acceleration), Smarts (also known as hockey IQ or hockey sense), Puck skills (stickhandling/creativity), Shot (release & accuracy), and Stats (production). I also lean heavily towards players with a high compete level. Some call it determination, work ethic or “motor”. If a prospect is a great skater, with a high hockey IQ, good puck skills & a relentless work ethic, odds are I’m going to be a fan of his game. Stats are important but typically I don’t care HOW MANY POINTS a player gets, I care more about HOW they get them. I use tiers in terms of production and work from there based on the translatable skills.
On the flipside, I also factor in Red flags in my analysis and penalize a player’s ranking accordingly. Let’s face it, not EVERY SINGLE prospect drafted in the 1st round all make it. Typically, if you go back over the years you can point to a few things that directly caused the player to fail at the NHL level. All the top prospects had skill & Junior production, but likely also had red flags that were underestimated or ignored. The red flags I look for: Lack of compete level (poor effort, lazy, loses too many battles), poor skating (including speed), poor decision making (low hockey IQ), Inconsistency (takes shifts & games off), and too much flashiness.
Now the last one is a much debated topic among draft enthusiasts. For me, NHL players are too good to fall for the behind the back, spin-o-rama, no-look passes that many prospects can get away with in Junior. Sure, it might work the odd time but it’s more likely a player like that will become a turnover machine – which drives coaches crazy and gets you stapled to the bench. So, skill & creativity is definitely a good thing, but too many unnecessary low percentage, high risk plays are a red flag for me because they don’t translate well to the NHL usually. Really, that falls under decision making. And I don’t care what anyone says, there is ABSOLUTELY a difference between a “Junior style game” and a “Pro style game”. Just because a prospect has a monster Draft+1 year doesn’t mean they are automatically going to succeed at the next level.
So that’s how I come up with these rankings. Keep those in mind when reviewing the list. I’m confident having viewed countless games in all 3 Major Junior leagues that most of these Top 31 will all be drafted in the first 2 rounds of the 2020 Draft. Again, this list isn’t necessarily where I think each player will be drafted in order but who ranks as the best prospects in terms of potential NHL impact down the road. Enjoy.
Other notables: Martin Chromiak, Brandon Coe, James Hardie, Luke Evangelista, Ethan Cardwell, Evan Vierling, Pavel Novak, Justin Sourdif, Connor McClennon, Lukas Svejkovsky, Ryan Francis.
*** Lapierre is injured having suffered his 3rd concussion in the last year. His status is still uncertain hence the ranking.
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