By The OilKnight
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it 1000 times – scouting is subjective. You could watch a prospect for 10 games straight and I could watch that same player during a different 10 game stretch and we could form completely different conclusions based on our separate viewings. That is the beauty of scouting. No one can tell you with 100% accuracy how a prospect is going to ultimately perform as a pro – it’s all subjective.
Just so you have context when evaluating this Top 31 list, I project IN ORDER who I think will have the greatest NHL impact and career. It’s not a mock draft and it’s not a “who had the best junior stats” list either. I ignore the “general consensus” and form my own lists completely by how I project these prospects will perform at the NHL level. My list is also comprised of critical analysis which at times may rub people the wrong way, but it’s important to note that none of this is personal. It’s simply a critique of soon-to-be professionals on their profession, and how I envision that translating to the NHL level. If they were all guaranteed to be stars there would be no reason for such analysis. However, history tells us that despite all the glowing reports & sparkling numbers a prospect may put up as a 17 year old – it still doesn’t guarantee they will be stars as a pro.
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), Playmaking (passing/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, excellent playmaking ability or big shot, & 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 this year probably more than ever having viewed countless games in all 3 Major Junior leagues, Europe and the U.S. now 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.
Lastly, I also want to add and give a shout out to my good friend Yannick St. Pierre, who I talk to almost on a daily basis and who’s scouting report videos I have linked up to most of these prospects. I really appreciate the work he puts into each one and although we don’t always agree with each prospect, I thought it would be cool to add perspective to you the reader. Please be sure to check those out and subscribe to his Draft Dynasty channel on Youtube.
Top 31 Prospects
Alexis Lafreniere is a franchise player who has everything you look for in a #1 pick including tremendous skill & playmaking ability, high hockey IQ, great work ethic and determination. Lafreniere is someone who doesn’t shy away from the physical part of the game either, which should add even more appeal to whichever team picks him 1st overall. He’s an extremely tenacious player who finishes his checks, and will light you up physically if you’re not paying attention.
Lafreniere can beat you in a variety of ways and his ability to process the game is elite. He wants the puck when the game is on the line, and has that certain level of relentlessness and determination only the greats truly possess. That’s what really separates him from a guy like Byfield. His puck skills are jaw dropping and his playmaking is just dazzling to watch. He’s very capable of providing both highlight reel goals, and highlight reel passes. Such a dynamic prospect with great leadership qualities and a burning desire to be the best.
Outlook: Lafreniere is much more NHL ready than Jack Hughes was last year, and is probably more along the lines of an Auston Matthews in terms of overall talent. He shouldn’t have any problem stepping in on Day 1 and contributing, given his ability to handle himself physically. I could definitely see him moved to center and be a true franchise #1C at some point in his career. Even if that doesn’t happen, he’s still too good in too many areas to not be anything short of one of the best players in the NHL eventually.
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Drysdale is a future #1 Dman with huge upside. The complete package. One of the smartest players in the draft and one of the best skaters in the draft. Real student of the game capable shutting down even the fastest players in the league. Excels at out thinking opponents & beats them with superb positioning. Also has a very active stick & terrific gap control. Tremendous puck mover who is deadly in transition. Point per game player on a bad team, would be in conversation for 1st overall if playing for a better OHL team. Still room to grow offensively but flashes all the traits that indicate he’ll get there. Great vision, poise, passing ability to go with a keen understanding of the position. Competes hard in all zones. Makes everyone around him better. A true leader.
Outlook: Unlike most young offensive defenders, Drysdale is probably further along defensively than they were at his age. Which means, he’s likely closer to NHL ready than you think. He does need to get stronger & put on some weight so I’d give him a year then expect him to be in the NHL. Has impressed more than Byfield in several tournaments & best on best games which is why he’s ranked ahead. Plus, they’re only 3 months apart in age. A legit #1 dman capable of playing in all situations and logging huge minutes in the same mold as guys like Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes & Miro Heiskanen. Reminds me so much of Scott Niedermayer back in the day.
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Stuetzle is such a dynamic player with a huge ceiling it’s hard to ignore. His ability to stickhandle at high speeds is drool worthy. He is such a good skater with great edgework he can embarrass defenders with his creativity & agility. Extremely active and terrific motor. All over the ice. Can be a little careless with the puck at times but is so determined will fight to get it back. Very good 200-foot player.
I do have a bit of concern that quite often Stuetzle will pass up open shots in favour of an extra pass at times, which is something he’ll definitely have to work on. He needs to be a bit more selfish but that’s easily coachable. His shot does need work though so it’s probably more of a confidence thing right now. Still ranks higher than Byfield for me due to his better compete level, dynamic skating ability & overall creativity. Can also play center.
Outlook: Someone on Twitter (I forget who) mentioned Stuetzle reminds him so much of Taylor Hall and I can definitely see why. Stuetzle is a premium driver with the puck who attacks you with speed and energy. Playing in a mens league and running the powerplay and excelling the way he has, tells me he’s ready to turn pro now. He’s an elite skater with elite puck control even at top speed. Easily a Top 5 pick and still has a lot of upside. Will still likely spend one more year overseas.
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Byfield has such a tantalizing mix of size, speed and skill it makes scouts drool. He has soft hands and terrific puck handling skills. He has a heavy shot. He also possesses breakaway speed. His hockey IQ is good but not great, he exhibits a good work ethic, and is a highly creative player. Byfield is also an excellent 200 ft centerman and is very good at faceoffs. He certainly looks the part of a future stud with upside. He’s a big kid who’s still a bit raw and has room to grow. Byfield is pretty young for this class too with an August birthdate which also excites people.
However, despite what supporters will tell you, Byfield does need to do a better job stepping up against tougher competition and needs to show more determination to fight thru checks. He’s big but not overly physical. He loses more puck battles than he should for a guy with his size and reach. Could he get there? Sure. But for now, he’s considered a gentle giant who consistently underwhelms on the scoresheet in big games. Looks pretty average whenever it’s best on best. People said similar about Joe Thornton at the time and he turned out pretty well (though never won a Stanley Cup). Not a huge concern but something to consider.
Outlook: Byfield’s ceiling is as high as anyone’s in this draft but he’s not there yet which means there is a slight risk here if he doesn’t reach it. Some automatically think he’ll reach his maximum potential but I’m more hesitant. The compete level is not up to par for a Top pick or future elite superstar, and he shies away from contact too much for my liking. Lafreniere is easily better in those categories. I don’t see Byfield as a dominant, future Top 5 NHL player but more of a Rick Nash/Eric Staal type perennial All-star who might fall just short of some people’s lofty expectations. Still a terrific talent nonetheless and future #1 center.
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Holtz is likely the best shooter and goal scorer in this draft. He has a terrific shot & release and a real nose for the net. He’s gotten much stronger physically and as a skater throughout the year which makes him very well rounded. He’s a high IQ player with underrated playmaking ability and shows good commitment to a 200 ft game. A real offensive catalyst who loves to score goals. Looks and plays like a pro. Shot selection will need some work but hard to criticize a guy who can shoot like him for shooting too much. A true sniper and likely a hot commodity come draft day.
Outlook: Holtz has handled himself very well in the Swedish league amongst men, which means he is likely more pro ready than Lucas Raymond at this point. He’s also bigger and stronger on his skates which should also bode well. He has future 30-40+ goal scorer in the NHL written all over him. Maybe not quite as high a ceiling as Raymond longterm but much safer. I’m banking on more of the sure thing. Definitely reminds me a bit of David Pastrnak.
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Rossi might be the most pro ready player behind Lafreniere. Rossi is a coach’s dream in that he is so solid every aspect of the game. He’s the best 200-foot player of this group and he makes so many great decisions with the puck it’s easy to fall in love with his game. He has wonderful hands in tight and great puck skills. In terms of skating, he’s not necessarily a burner, but he’s very quick and elusive with terrific edgework. He does a great job of finding open ice and can bait defenders as he looks to set up his teammates. He reads the ice incredibly well it always looks like he is in complete command out there. He’s a bull on his skates too. He does a great job on the cycle and in puck protection. He’s the type of player that is just about as dangerous without the puck as he is with it. Makes everyone around him better.
Outlook: The only reason Rossi is ranked 6th is because he just missed being drafted last year as a late 2001 birthdate. I’m not even sure if that really matters at this point as he has been THAT good. There aren’t many smaller centers like him in the pros, but much like Sebastian Aho I expect him to excel at the position. Complete player who sytlistically reminds me of a less turnover prone version of Claude Giroux.
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Lucas Raymond is ranked #7 here but he could easily be #2. He has that type of ability and ceiling. To be clear, I don’t dislike anything about him as a prospect. I actually think he and Tim Stuetzle are close in terms of skillsets and ability. Like Stuetzle, he is very adept at attacking defenders with speed & skill and he is a terrific playmaker. He also has a good work ethic and plays a good 200 ft game. I love how he reads the play and makes players around him better. Raymond is also responsible defensively and can play both PP and PK.
I guess the main reason why I have him 7th is probably due to his lack of size and strength, along with lack of production in a men’s league. Now, I understand he’s only getting limited minutes. But, he’s only (listed) at 5’10”, 165 lbs. In terms of NHL translatable skills, Stuetzle can do everything Raymond can but he’s 6’0″, 187 lbs. I’ve seen enough shifts & clips of Raymond trying to duck or shy away from contact that has me a slight bit concerned. Yes it’s nitpicking, but it’s what I do to help differentiate between prospects. Raymond is extremely talented and deserves to be ranked higher.
Outlook: Lucas Raymond might be the most talented player I have ever ranked at #7 overall. Ever. Part of it is, I just think the other six are shoe-in top line NHL’ers. Another part is, he’s just a bit too risky for me to rank any higher. There’s no doubt he has the ability to be a top line NHL player and I am fully prepared to eat crow years later for ranking him this low. But, I just sense a bit of bust potential based on lack of size, strength, & production. I hope he proves me wrong. Could very well be another Elias Pettersson.
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Amirov is smart, fast, skilled, and owns a high work ethic. In other words, he’s my kind of player. His hockey IQ is quite often mentioned as one of his best qualities, but he’s also a beast with the puck. He’s solid in all 3 zones and plays a very consistent, all-round game. In terms of puck protection, I think @hckyprospects on Twitter said it best: “You have to kill him to get the puck off of him”. I personally love his work ethic and tenacity. He always impressed me internationally with his decision making, and watching him play in the MHL & KHL, he always found ways to make an impact. Highly skilled player with very quick set of hands. Equally dangerous as a scorer or playmaker.
Outlook: I ranked Amirov behind Lucas Raymond because he’s almost 6 months older, and doesn’t quite have the elite qualities that Raymond has. But, his overall game might translate better. So smart, so reliable, so versatile. Amirov is a complete player in my mind who is tenacious on the puck, and competes hard every shift. I definitely think he is underrated by many due to the leagues he plays in. Very polished with no real weaknesses, Amirov looks like a bonafide future NHL’er. Almost reminds me of a lighter version of Andrei Svechnikov.
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Jarvis is an absolute workhorse and very talented playmaker. He processes the game quickly even at high speeds. He’s such a terrific skater who doesn’t break stride even with the puck. Loves to take the puck hard to the net off the rush. He plays with a ton of energy and pace it’s really tough for defenders to handle. Great hands in tight. Displays great vision and poise with the puck. Dynamic offensive threat but also versatile capable of playing multiple roles.
Outlook: Stylistically, Jarvis reminds me so much of Kailer Yamamoto as a prospect. In fact, they both had 42 goals, 98 and 99 points respectively in their draft years (7 more GP for Yamo). Jarvis is bigger & probably a bit faster which is why he is ranked this high. I was even tempted to rank him higher quite honesty but it’s such a deep group at the top I couldn’t. He needs to get stronger as most kid’s his age do, but he’s a gamer who brings it every single night. Should be a high impact player in the NHL. Definitely a lot of Matt Barzal in his game too hence the high ranking.
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Mysak is an excellent all-round player who appears to be underrated by many. He immediately stepped into Hamilton of the OHL and played like a boss. He was easily the Bulldogs best player most nights and averaged over a point a game for the season (so much for an adjustment period to North American ice). Not only is Mysak highly skilled, but he works hard and is reliable in all 3 zones. He played both PP and PK in the OHL and was very effective at both. Can also play C or W.
Mysak appears to have great command of the ice. He is deadly off the rush and in transition. He knows when to attack defenders with speed and when to try and overpower them. He has a very good shot & release, and a big one-timer. He’s not overly dynamic but relies more on power, puck protection and quick hands. He shows great acceleration and the ability to change gears to throw off defenders. Quite often he likes to lower that shoulder and use his strong edges. He also has the puck skills to dangle and the soft mitts to finish in tight. He’s smart, he’s poised & reliable.
Outlook: For me, Mysak has more potential than most because he’s relatively young compared to his peers and still appears to be a bit raw physically. I see him as a center in the NHL based on how well he sets up his teammates and attacks the middle of the ice. I’ve heard a lot of Tomas Hertl comparisons and I can definitely see that. In many ways, he also reminds me a bit of Leon Draisaitl. If he adds a bit of mass and gains even another step he could be an unstoppable force given his already developed skillset. No idea where he ultimately gets drafted but this kid is a Top 10 talent in my mind.
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Quinn is a late 2001 birthdate who has really blossomed into a legit goal scoring threat this season. He’s much quicker and stronger than last season and appeared to play with great confidence. His shot and release are elite. He has such soft hands around the net too. He scores off the rush, off-balanced, and can stickhandle thru traffic. Quite often you will see him blow by defenders with his speed. His edgework is also terrific which allows him to execute some nasty dekes. Probably an underrated playmaker too since he is a shoot first type player. Overall, Quinn just has great offensive instincts and is a constant threat on almost every shift.
As far as the rest of his game goes, Quinn is pretty much solid in every area with no glaring weaknesses. He shows good effort in all 3 zones and battles hard for the puck. He shows a good hockey IQ and has a lot of experience on the PK which adds to his versatility.
I also want to point out that Jack Quinn scored an insane 34 even strength goals. It’s important to note too that he did not play with Marco Rossi 5 on 5 either. That’s what makes his numbers so impressive. He drove the play on the 2nd line which made Ottawa such an offensive threat.
Outlook: Stylistically, Quinn reminds me an awful lot of Kyle Connor. He likes to score, he knows how to score, and he scores a lot. He should be a bonafide NHL’er one day soon. Just a slight bit leery that he’s one of the oldest prospects in this draft and played on such a strong OHL team. Otherwise, he’d be even higher. There’s no denying the offensive skill-set which should translate well to the NHL.
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Dawson Mercer is another one of my favourite prospects. He has a non-stop motor, great hockey IQ, is an excellent skater, and a very solid 2-way playmaker. He’s not quite as dynamic as Jarvis but very similar in that he brings a ton of speed & skill to the table. Another late 2001 birthdate, he and Jack Quinn are neck and neck for me but I gave the slight edge to Quinn just because of his goal scoring production. But make no mistake, Mercer is an extremely talented kid with a lot of elite qualities himself. He can stickhandle in a phone booth and no one works harder than him on the ice. He also has great vision and will sacrifice his body to make a play. One of the most well-rounded players in the Top 15.
Outlook: Jonathan Huberdeau was known as a terrific stickhandler and passer who scored a pile of goals in is draft year, and Dawson Mercer reminds me so much of him. In fact, Mercer was pretty much on pace with Huberdeau for awhile until he got hurt and then ultimately traded. Whether Mercer is able to reach that potential at the NHL level remains to be seen. But, he should have a bright future thanks to his natural skill-set, skating ability & work ethic. Mercer is pretty much a coach’s dream as a player.
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Sanderson is regarded by many as the best defensive prospect in this year’s draft. He’s quick, he’s aggressive and he enjoys being tough to play against. Looks like a true shutdown defenceman that skates well and can move the puck. He’s quicker than Kaiden Guhle and passes the puck better but a lot of similarities there. Sanderson is also a very smart kid who makes a lot of good decisions and really understands his position. Straight line speed is very good and he is adept at carrying the puck out of his zone on breakouts if need be. Offensively, his shot isn’t great and he isn’t nearly as dangerous in transition as Drysdale, though he takes a lot less chances jumping up into the rush than Drysdale did.
Sanderson does look a little stiff and slow skating backwards which is one of the biggest differences between he and Drysdale. You would think he would get beat wide a lot with speed. But, he’s so sound positionally and has a long reach and active stick it helps him compensate and recover. His gap control is excellent which makes him so difficult to beat one on one especially in middle of the ice. He does tend to reach a lot but I also like how he gets down to take away passing lanes and will sacrifice his body to break up a play.
Outlook: Sanderson appears to be the 2nd best defenceman in this class and the type of prospect some teams will fall in love with. He’s big, he’s physical, he competes hard and he can skate. He’s not quite on Drysdale’s level in terms of offensive upside but they have some very similar qualities. I have him ranked #13 in terms of overall eventual impact, but it’s almost a guarantee he gets drafted in the Top 10 at the NHL draft. Type of defensive player that teams highly covet. Son of former NHL’er Geoff Sanderson.
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I’m not going to pretend I’m some sort of goalie expert because I am not. I do know Askarov has been highly touted for awhile now, every since he completely shut down a stacked USA team in the U18’s last spring. In fact, he has been outstanding on the International stage minus the most recent World Junior Championship where he struggled a bit.
Askarov is a hybrid goalie with good size, impressive athleticism and is technically sound. He has a real quick glove and shows great anticipation. But, that’s about it in terms of my analysis. I’m sure you can google “Askarov scouting report” if you want more a detailed breakdown.
Outlook: There were only about 6 or 7 netminders in the NHL drafted in the 1st round, that were ranked in the Top 40 in games played this past season. That means, there have many more busts than hits over the years. Especially ones who shined in International tournaments. So for me, there is always risk involved in drafting a goalie in the 1st round. But, Askarov appears to be the real deal and if he lives up to his potential, he should be staple in net for a franchise for many years.
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I like Kaiden Guhle a lot. I never really saw him play until the Hlinka-Gretzky in August but I was very impressed. He has a nice mix of size, skating, hockey sense and physicality. He can also rip the puck and is good in transition. What I really like though, is how good he is defensively. He battles hard in his zone and is a pain in the ass to play against. He finishes his checks and makes opponents pay. He does a great job of gap control and has the speed & reach to recover if he does get beat. He’ll occasionally get beat by being too overaggressive, but overall he makes good decisions.
Outlook: Guhle’s game is a combination of Jake Sanderson and Ryan O’Rourke. Competitive, feisty, versatile and a leader with some sneaky good offence to go along with some nastiness on defence. Guhle will be an eventual Top 4 defencemen in the NHL and should be highly coveted on draft day. Could still be a bit of untapped offensive potential too so good upside here.
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Holloway is one of the most puzzling prospects for me in the 1st round. For one, he’s one of the oldest kid in this draft. He’s big and physically mature. He is a very fluid skater with a powerful stride and excellent speed. He is also a tremendous stickhandler and has some real nice puck skills. Both his shot & release are very good. Holloway works hard at both ends of the ice and doesn’t mind throwing his body around. But, I struggle a bit with envisioning him being an elite contributor offensively as a pro. I don’t think he has elite offensive instincts but does have the tools to score a lot of “garbage goals” in front. Which, could still be very valuable for an NHL team.
Outlook: As mentioned, Holloway looks the part and was highly productive in the AJHL but hasn’t produced as much as you would like in the NCAA yet. He has the size, strength, speed, skill mix to be very productive in the NHL. I’m just not sure how high his offensive ceiling is. He has big time power forward potential, but also quite often looks like a middle six energy guy. In terms of a comparison stylistically, I see a lot of Evander Kane. He’ll play in the NHL, I’m just not sure how high up the lineup.
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Perfetti has been highly productive since entering the OHL, finishing 2nd in scoring this season behind Marco Rossi. He is an excellent playmaker and natural scorer with very quick hands and an array of slick moves. He is also extremely dangerous on breakaways and shootouts. His vision and passing ability seemed to improve this year too. He’s very creative and does a great job of using his teammates to create offense. Perfetti is also a huge threat on the PP but is more of a “dust off the puck” then shoot type rather than using the booming one-timer of a Perreault or Foerster for example.
Once we get to #17th overall, the Red Flags I mentioned earlier become much more apparent and clearly identifiable in these prospects.
Perfetti’s lack of speed & explosiveness, inconsistent work ethic & 200 ft game are causes for concern. He probably improves in those areas eventually but there are no guarantees. In terms of translating his game to the NHL, he’s not a real threat off the rush, can be out-muscled along the boards quite easily, and really needs to be more consistent in his overall game to be successful at the next level. He’s more of a what I call a “stationary sniper” and PP threat right now. Works in Junior, but won’t translate to the NHL as defenders are quicker, smarter and defend better.
Outlook: I know, I know. 111 points & +49 only ranked 17th? Perfetti is the type of player I typically drop in my rankings every year because his skating & work ethic aren’t great. He’ll definitely be a winger in the NHL but has the hockey IQ & creativity to be an impactful player. But, his career will likely be determined by his compete level & skating ability. If he improves those significantly over the next couple years he could be an All-star. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a fringe NHL’er at best. Just can’t rank him any higher.
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I’m going to go against popular twitter opinion and say Noel Gunler is a bit overrated. I see the big shot and release and understand the appeal. He’s pretty solid all-round and really likes to go hard to the net. But, Gunler’s speed, skating, puck control, and playmaking ability are well behind guys like Raymond, Mysak, Jarvis & Mercer to me. I also like Holtz and Quinn’s scoring ability & 200 foot games better, and I think Holloway has the tools to be more dominant. Gunler is ranked right there with Perfetti for me because I have questions about his game translating to the next level quite frankly. He’s good in a lot of areas, but other than his shot I don’t see anything elite about him. He also doesn’t PK so if he isn’t a Top 6 forward what is he?
As far as perceived lack of work ethic, I’ve talked to many people who have tracked him for awhile now and they assure me that is no longer as issue. Watching the terrific breakdown by @DraftDynasty1 on Twitter (posted below), he does a good job of dismissing that concern. I still wouldn’t call him a “workhorse” or say he has a strong 200 foot game but the effort level seems to at least be good enough.
Outlook: Gunler has the feel of a solid 2nd line winger in the NHL as long a he continues to improve in a few areas. There has been talk of issues off the ice in the past which is why he has been left off Sweden’s national team several times. I can’t speak to whether it was maturity issues, or just inconsistencies in his game but if coaches don’t trust them for whatever reason, it’s something I’d want to know more about before drafting him. Regardless, Gunler is still a risky pick for me in the Top 15 but if all goes right, he should still be a fine NHL player some day.
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Foerster is a big-time shooter, capable of scoring many “Big boy” goals. His wrist shot has a nasty release and his one-timer from the top of the left circle is elite. He’s a huge threat on the PP where he led the entire OHL in PPG’s with 18. He’s also equally dangerous off the rush where he can rip it from far out. Some don’t realize but Cole Perfetti had 37 goals, while Foerster had 36. Foerster is an underrated playmaker too. He reads the ice very well and has great offensive instincts overall. He has good vision and is very adept at anticipating the play and getting into a prime shooting position or going hard to the net.
Foerster’s skating will need some work as he doesn’t have very quick feet, but his straight-line speed is above average. He just needs to continue to work on his short burst and acceleration while also keeping his feet moving. Sometimes he can be caught gliding out there. If he improves in that area then watch out.
Outlook: In terms of a ceiling, it might surprise you but I think Foerster has a massive ceiling. The progression he made from last year to this season was huge. He appears to have the work ethic and determination to improve which means if his skating continues to get better, he could develop into a legit power forward in the NHL. He’s smart, he works hard and he has the ability to score a lot of goals in the NHL with that cannon of a shot. He reminds me a lot of a young Jamie Benn to be quite honest. Whether or not he gets to that level is a different story but he’s a legit power forward prospect.
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Tristen Robins is probably my favourite player out of the WHL because he is so underrated. He has all the traits I look for – Smart, speedy, skilled. Great work ethic. He’s pretty gritty for his size too. Yet for some reason, he isn’t often mentioned among the elite forwards in this draft. In terms of offensive production, he had 24 points in the final 13 games of the season which was a ridiculous 120 point pace.
In terms of NHL translatable skills, Robin’s wrist shot and release are elite. His one-timer is dynamite. His speed is also excellent and he is always moving his feet. His vision and playmaking ability are also top notch. On top of all that, I love his motor and competitiveness. There is so much to like about Robin’s game it baffles me how he doesn’t get more love. Heck, I even had to create my own highlight reel on Youtube and I was shocked how many people didn’t realize how skilled he was.
Outlook: There’s no doubt in my mind, if Robins were a couple inches taller and few pounds heavier, he’d be a Top 15 pick – he has that type of ability. But, many prefer a guy like Ozzie Wiesblatt over Robins even though there is only a 4 months age difference. For me, Robins has the more dynamic offensive skill-set that will translate to a top 6 role in the NHL eventually. I do see him as a winger though in the NHL which is fine given his speed to beat defenders wide. He looks like a sure-fire 2nd round steal to me.
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Martin Chromiak is one of the youngest players in the draft and one of the most intriguing for me. I saw him in limited viewings internationally, and definitely thought he was a guy to keep an eye on. Once he came over to the OHL mid last season, I wasn’t disappointed.
Like Mysak, Chromiak immediately stepped into the OHL and adapted quickly. He had instant chemistry with 15 yr old phenom Shane Wright and his superb offensive skill-set quickly became evident. Chromiak can really shoot the puck and he also has excellent playmaking ability. The puck jumps off his stick with his quick hands, and he gets a lot of torque on his wrister. He also has big one-timer when he times it right.
Chromiak has a high hockey IQ and elite offensive instincts. He reads the play extremely well and always seem to be able to get into the right position to create a scoring chance. I also love the energy he plays with and his work ethic is terrific. His defensive game still needs some fine tuning but his feet are usually always moving so that’s a good sign moving forward.
Outlook: Chromiak is one of the youngest players in this draft, and will be playing with Shane Wright for the next couple of years in Kingston. Which means there is plenty of room for growth and an opportunity for some of that elite talent to rub off on him. The fact he was able to step in and have an immediate impact in the OHL is a huge positive too. I still consider him a bit raw and there is big upside here.
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There are a few real talented Swedish defencemen in this year’s draft so it took me awhile to figure out who I like the best. But, I’m now confident that Emil Andrae is that guy.
Andrae has all the things I love in a prospect (which you should be able to identify by now – lol). He’s very smart, skilled, quick and has a good work ethic. He’s not as big as a guy like William Wallinder or Helge Grans, but he reads the ice better, makes better decisions, and offers the most offensive potential due to his ability to effectively quarterback a powerplay. He’s also a terrific puck mover and holds his own defensively. He’s smaller but I like his compete level. All that translates to a bonafide NHL defenceman for me. Size and strength are an issue but those are for most.
Outlook: So many draft enthusiasts love size and “potential ceiling” which is why Andrae is likely ranked behind Walliner and Grans. But for me, it’s a no-brainer. Gimme the sure thing regardless of size. Andrae is a lot like Lukas Cormier but a better overall skater which puts him higher on the list for me. I’ve heard a few Erik Brannstrom comparisons and I can definitely see it, though Brannstrom was almost 6 months older than Andrae same age in their draft year.
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Vasily Ponomarev is a strong skater and talented playmaker with a big shot & quick release. He’s also a bull on his skates. His puck protection especially down low below the circles, makes him a difficult player to handle for defenders given his low center of gravity. He has a good work ethic and is responsible defensively. In terms of skating, he’s not a burner but has very quick feet with that short burst that makes him dangerous below the circles. He also displays great vision and has the ability to find teammates in tight windows.
Production wise, Ponomarev didn’t light it up in the QMJHL as an import but he still had his share of highlights. He really stood out in International tournaments for Russia where his true skill-set really was apparent. He has a nice mix of grit and finesse, and is not afraid of going hard to the net to score.
Outlook: Some might have Ponomarev lower based on his lack of eye-popping offensive output in the QMJHL, but I love the skillset and style of game he plays and think it will translate well to the NHL. He was a bit inconsistent playing for Shawinigan, but again he was an import adapting to the league so I cut him a bit of slack. Stylistcally, I see a lot of Viktor Arvidsson in his game and think he will end up being a very solid pro.
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Peterka is a very talented German blessed with terrific hands and scoring ability. His speed is also very good which makes him a real threat off the rush. He has the ability to dangle and has no problems going hard to the net. Peterka’s work ethic is another strength. He’s a battler and doesn’t mind the physical part of the game. He we was absolutely terrific at the World Juniors which really helped showcase his offensive talent and boost his stock.
Like many young prospects, Peterka needs to work on his defensive game. Consistency also appears to be a bit of an issue much like Mavrik Bourque who I have ranked right below. I like Peterka better because he competes hard and will throw his weight around.
Outlook: Drafted by the Barrie Colts in the Import draft last year, I was really hoping Peterka would consider joining the likes of Tyson Foerster & Brandt Clarke in the OHL next season, but that doesn’t sound like it will happen. Peterka has a very intriguing skill-set & his work ethic is very good so there is plenty of upside here. However, the momentum he built off one tourney and the success he is having in a lesser league does create some hesitation in his ranking. I can see his game translating well if he cleans up his game defensively & adds a step so while I’m a bit torn, I think he has enough talent to (at least) be an impactful Top 9 player in the NHL one day.
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Mavrik Bourque is a highly skilled player who loves to shoot the puck. His shot is very accurate and he possesses a dynamic release. He loves to snipe it top shelf and has some slick hands in tight. His playmaking skills have definitely improved too as his passing ability is much better now. He has great vision and puts great touch on his passes. Skating wise, he’s not a burner but has good top speed, agility and edge work so it’s certainly an asset. Bourque has great offensive instincts and is a real threat on the ice with the puck on his stick. The problem I have with his game is when the puck is not on his stick.
Consistency is definitely an issue with Bourque especially in his own zone. His 200 foot game is spotty at best and I’m not a fan of his board play at all. Bourque plays a very soft game and gets knocked down a lot. I worry about injuries and him being able to sustain the rigors of the NHL. He tends to shy away from contact & won’t work hard enough to help break up a play.
Outlook: Bourque has a high offensive ceiling but there is also bust potential here. Has a lot of skill but I’m not convinced about the will. One of the riskier picks in the 1st round for me but could pay off if he improves in a few areas. Definitely a winger for me at the next level.
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Jacob Perreault – I have to admit, I want to love this player – but I don’t love this player. His stats are impressive (especially goal scoring), he has the NHL bloodlines and he was registered as the fastest skater at the CHL scouting combine. He can score off the rush with his big shot & release, and has nice hands in tight. His one-timer from the left circle is also deadly. However, for some reason I am quite often not impressed enough or am left yearning for more when watching Perreault.
For me, shot selection is a bit of an issue and Perreault isn’t the greatest playmaker. He also turns over the puck a bit too much for my liking. Was a -34 on the season (team low) but on a pretty bad defensive team in Sarnia. Like Perfetti, Perreault seems to easily fall down on the ice a lot too. His work ethic can be spotty at times. Shows flashes but inconsistent effort. He also doesn’t always use his speed and ability to adjust gears effectively. No real glaring red flags just a lot of little things that give you that underwhelming feeling after several viewings throughout the year.
Outlook: Despite all that, Perreault SHOULD turn out to be a solid NHL’er based on all the positives I highlighted, so I’m going with my head over my gut a bit on this one. I don’t think he has top line potential and do worry if he’s not a Top 6 type, does he have the skillset to be a good bottom 6 guy in the NHL? Regardless, his ceiling is probably a 2nd-3rd liner which still makes him a solid pick at the back end of the 1st round. I’m torn on this prospect. Your mileage may vary.
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Zary is a solid all-round prospect with no real holes in his game, but nothing really elite stands out either. He’s plays a pro style game and is pretty consistent in all 3 zones. His hands are pretty sweet and he can dangle. But, the speed and playmaking ability are nothing real special. He doesn’t really create a lot in terms of separation speed like Jarvis for example. His shot is good but not great either. His overall skill-set screams good but not great. It does seem like his offensive production is a bit in part due to the team around him.
Connor Zary was considered the consensus best WHL player by many for most of the year, but for me, it was apparent back in November that Jarvis offered more in terms of dynamic playmaking ability. Not to say Zary isn’t a promising prospect, but he doesn’t have quite as high a ceiling to me. Plus, he’s one of the oldest prospects in this draft and it feels like he’s kind of already peaked physically. He also played a ton of minutes in all situations and had two WHL vets he played with most of the year.
Outlook: To be clear, I like Connor Zary as a prospect. I just don’t see the offensive upside. He’s very similar to Jake Neighbours in my mind. Versatile, well-rounded but likely more of a middle six forward than a Top line guy. Middle of the lineup role player who could still be a vital piece of a Championship team in the NHL one day. Probably an Adam Henrique type ceiling.
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Lukas Cormier is a smart savvy player with terrific offensive instincts. He’s very active in the O-zone and a real gamer on defence. He’s excellent at jumping up and joining the attack, and is a natural quarterbacking a powerplay. As a 16 yr old, he set a league record with 15 goals so you know he has great scoring ability. He has low hard shot, quick release and puts great touch on his passes. He clearly thinks the game at a high level and has terrific vision to set up his teammates.
Cormier is a good, not great skater though what he lacks in overall speed, he makes up for with quick puck movement, smart decision making and strong edgework. He’ll need to continue to work on his defensive game but that goes for most young NHL defencemen. The main thing he is smart & competitive so it should come eventually. He excels at zone exits and is very poised with the puck. Doesn’t turn over the puck much. Plenty of talent to justify a 1st round pick with a relatively high offensive ceiling.
Outlook: Stylistically, Cormier reminds me a lot of former NHL’er Brian Campbell who played over 1000 games in the league. He was a smart, savvy, positive possession player who racked up a ton of assists. If Cormier continues to get better as a skater, I could definitely see him play a similar role for his NHL team – with the added bonus of a racking up a pile of powerplay points.
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Wiesblatt is a fun prospect to watch because he brings it every night. He plays a rugged, fast pace game and is an absolute puck hound. He certainly likes to throw his weight around and is a forechecking demon. Offensively, he goes hard to the net and cleans up a lot of garbage goals. He’s also got a pretty good one-timer on the powerplay and good shot overall with a terrific release.
His puck skills, and in particular his puck control though do need work. Seems like his hands can’t keep up to his feet sometimes and he wastes a lot of energy without producing a high danger scoring chance. His vision is sometimes questionable too from what I’ve seen. Doesn’t always seem to process the play quickly enough as he skates himself into trouble. Is a zone entry machine though.
Outlook: Wiesblatt is a lot like Robins in that he is a terrific skater, high energy guy who can push the pace and put a lot of pressure on opponents. They’re only 4 months apart too but the key difference for me is Robins has a bit more elite skill & a better shot. Plus, Robins seems to play more under control and allow plays to develop, whereas Wiesblatt tends to force it too much. Not to mention, Robins really drove the offense for Saskatoon whereas Wiesblatt benefited a lot playing with Aleksei Protas. Regardless, Wiesblatt still has a terrific all-round game, one that should translate well to the NHL. More of a middle of the lineup energy guy with grit but could play on my team any day. Should quickly become a fan favourite.
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Brendan Brisson is a guy I knew little about until recently but I had a chance to watch a few games of his and I was very impressed. He’s a talented kid who checks a lot of boxes for me. He’s very a quick skater, and appears to have a very high hockey IQ. His shot & release are both deadly, and his playmaking skills are very impressive. He has great offensive instincts and is very poised with the puck. First and foremost though, I consider him a shooting winger who loves to one-time snipe it from the right circle. Very dangerous on the powerplay.
I also really like Brisson’s compete level at both ends of the ice and how he’s not afraid to get dirty. He makes a lot of smart, subtle plays that tells me he really understands the game. I’ve seen mixed reports on his skating from great to above average. For me, it’s good but could definitely use more refining.
Outlook: Admittedly, I haven’t watched this kid a ton but I wish now I would have. From what I’ve seen, he may not be elite in a lot of categories but he’s pretty darn good so I’m going on a hunch here based on a small sample. He didn’t do a whole lot last year and is a late 2001 birthdate so there is a bit of risk here. But, based on his NHL translatable skills I think he has a real chance to surprise in the future. Not as big or strong as his teammate Sam Colangelo, but better overall skill in my mind. Has a chance to be a real good 2nd liner one day.
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Some will see this and literally laugh out loud. But, if I were to ask you who is the worst all-round skater of all 1st round prospects, it would be hard not to say Lundell. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot to like about his game. He’s a very smart, heady player who is reliable in both zones. He has great anticipation and poise with the puck and adept positioning. He works hard and has excellent 2 way ability. He also has quick release and some nice hands in tight.
But, in today’s NHL you have to be able to at least keep up speed wise and I have my doubts Lundell is capable of that. His skating is a huge red flag and is the #1 reason why he might not make it as a pro. Even if he does, I see him as a defensively responsible, 2 way center at best. Lundell is also a late 2001, just missing last year’s draft by less than 3 weeks. I don’t see much room for growth and his offensive ceiling is limited. As smart as he is, I have a hard time seeing how he generates offense with NHL defenders limiting his time and space.
Outlook: Let’s keep it real. Not every single prospect drafted in the 1st round will make it to the NHL, and I worry that Lundell might really struggle to stick due to the aforementioned. That’s why he’s the last pick in my Top 31. Could he improve his skating? Sure. Some have, but too many have not and busted out. Gotta trust my gut on this one. He will still get a chance and will likely have a role in the NHL at least for a bit, but a 3rd line 2-way center is probably his ceiling.
For the record, I really wanted to put Veeti Miettinen here in this spot. He’s tiny, but his speed & skill are off the charts and he is super competitive too.
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