Sat. Dec 4th, 2021

Written by Simon St. Laurent 07/21/20

Here is my personal ranking in anticipation of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. My list will keep the same format as in previous seasons, namely: Top 31 players accompanied by a description, justifications as to the rank of each player by comparing their projection, as well as establishing comparisons with players from previous drafts to put the expectations into perspective. I’ve never been the biggest fan of comparisons with NHL players, but since people like them, I’m going to offer them on most players. Following this, I will present a handful of players I like for rounds 2 to 7, as well as justifications for the absence of some players from my top 31.

As in every season, my ranking differs greatly from the consensus but the evaluation of the players remains a subjective exercise. If you look back at any draft it a few years later, you realize that the original order of the draft would not be accurate in hindsight. Which is why I do a Top 31 and not a mock draft. 

In addition, I want to clarify that I am not a scout, I do this only for personal pleasure and my opinion (just like the ones from every Twitter scouts, by the way) should be taken with a grain of salt. I would also add that in recent seasons I have had some difficulty finding the right balance between what I thought would most likely the 31 best players in the NHL in the long term, and what would look like my list if I were a head-scout for a team. When making a list, it’s inevitable that we’re going to be wrong in several places, so this year my list was made by putting myself in the shoes of a head-scout. Depending on the location in the draft, the reasoning behind a choice will not always be the same.

A brief analysis of the 2020 draft: Hockey is a world of consensus where there seems to be a lot taken for granted, and the simple idea of ​​questioning the consensus draws a lot of criticism. One of these concerns is regarding the quality of the draft of 2020. Since last year, we have been constantly told that this draft has been one of the most promising for a very, very long time, and this is an assertion to which I never agreed with. There are several criteria for evaluating a draft as a whole, the quality of the players at the top, the depth of the first round, the quality of the subsequent rounds, the quality and depth of the various positions, etc. I agree with the fact that the top of this draft is very strong and that the quality of the top 10-12 is very good, but it is as if people have amnesia and seem to forget the quality of prospects available at these spots during the previous draft. I don’t want to take anything away from this draft but I find that it was criminally overestimated from day one. I would even go so far as to say that I found last year’s draft much better in the second half of the first round. The draft of this season is quite poor in quality defensemen which also impacts its overall quality. Personally, I wonder if there are really 30 players that I like in this draft. Several players are in my first round a bit by default, some vanilla-players, others more talented but with relatively low chances of establishing themselves in the NHL.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière: As in the previous two seasons, my position on the player at the top of my ranking changed along the way. Unlike Dahlin and Jack Hughes, however, my expectations and my appreciation of the player increased. As of the start of the season, I was of the opinion that Lafrenière was a slightly inferior prospect to Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko. I ended up changing my mind, and no, the disappointing seasons of Hughes and Kakko have nothing to do with it. When you think of Lafrenière you don’t automatically think of a precise quality, which makes it easy to attenuate the overall excellence of his game. His hands, his vision of the game, his shot, his skating, his intelligence, his defensive responsibility, his physical maturity, the intangibles he brings, his leadership, everything, absolutely everything, is of an elite level.

I also believe that the mental aspect of a player is innate and in some cases can be as important as the physical aptitudes and individual skills of a player. In the case of Lafrenière, he has this determination and this desire to make a difference in the important moments that only the great players have. He’s a franchise player who will hide the weaknesses of the organization that will draft him. I would say a slight notch below Jack Eichel as a possible impact on his team. As for the NHL comparison, his physical strength on the puck, the quality of his game in both directions of the ice and his vision of the game. he reminds me a lot of Marian Hossa and a bit of Andrei Svechnikov also for the offensive punch.

2. Tim Stützle: I discovered the DEL (hockey league in Germany) this season and I was very surprised at the quality of the game. Stützle excelled there and orchestrated the best powerplay in the league at 17. He is the most dynamic forward in the draft. When in possession of the puck, he uses every inch of ice offered to him and he has almost a “bully” attitude. Not by attacking the net recklessly as Vasili Podkolzin did last year, but the way he will rush towards the defensemen with all the confidence of the world to challenge them with a dangle or to beat them with speed. He still lacks physical strength and it was quite obvious in the games in Germany where he was easily pushed around.

To me, Stützle is better than Jack Hughes. He has better shooting and is better at playing games off the rush and at full speed unlike Jack Hughes who likes to retrace his steps, a style of play that works less well in the NHL. I would even go so far as to say that I would not be surprised if in 5 years the gap between Stützle and Lafrenière is practically non-existent. People may be surprised to see that Byfield is not in 2nd place on my list but when we look at the previous draft, we see that it is much less frequent than we think that the first two players taken in the draft end up as the two best players from their draft.

3. Quinton Byfield: Definitely a unique player combining finesse and agility with a 6’5 frame. Byfield has everything to become a dominant center in the NHL – the size, speed, hands, shooting, and playmaking abilities. But personally, I side with the skeptics in his case.

Without going as far as to call him a case of “style-over-substance”,  I believe that the attraction of a center of this size and his flashy style of play slightly blurs people’s perception of his real potential. He has never dominated against the best teams in the OHL and in international competitions (U-17, Hlinka). I omit the WJC since Byfield did not play much and it is rare that Team Canada gives a leading role to a player of 17 years in this tournament. When it comes to OHL games, I know statistically it has been proven that Byfield does not have a very large statistical regression based on the quality of the opposition, but the argument was never based on statistics. There is a huge difference between scoring in the junior and dominating a game.

One argument that plays in favor of Byfield is that he is one of the youngest of his draft year.  However, it’s been 2 years that we’ve see him in junior now and I do not see the dominance that you keep hearing or expecting (I found Shane Wright more impressive this season at 15, than Byfield was at 17). Despite being 6’5″, he is relatively easy to counter and he does not use his size effectively enough.

At the moment, I would be more surprised if Byfield became the best player in the draft than if other players came to beat him. Moreover, if Jamie Drysdale had shown even a little more offensive punch, I would have ranked him ahead of Byfield. The logical comparison in stylistically is Evgeni Malkin, but that only stops at the style of the two players. Byfield will not come close to Malkin’s ankle. We seem to forget how dominant Malkin is – we are probably talking about one of the best 10-15 centers in the history of the league. Since 07-08, only McDavid and Crosby have had a better average of points per game than Malkin. He’s also won 2 Art-Ross trophies, one with having Ruslan Fedotenko and Petr Sykora as his linemates (without taking anything away from these players).

Unlike Lafrenière, I don’t see the same aggressiveness in Byfield of being the player who will make the difference in big moments. Byfield remains a prominent prospect and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify some things; when you criticize a player or you show reluctance, that doesn’t mean that you don’t like him or that you don’t respect different opinions from the others.

In the end, I have Byfield ranked 3rd instead of 2nd. Many people on the internet have treated it like a personal vendetta for some reason, and it seems like artificial drama when in reality, only one rank separates the player in our rankings. Regardless, in no case should we seek to ridicule the opinion of others.

4. Jamie Drysdale: A number one defenseman in the making, Drysdale is an exceptional skater with a remarkable sense of play. Defensively, he is already extremely mature, it is impossible to beat him wide and despite a size under the bar of 6 feet, he is quite strong in one-on-one battles. He’s not as dynamic offensively as the defensemen drafted early in the previous draft (Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, Rasmus Dahlin, Quinn Hughes, Bowen Byram). Without being the one who goes end-to-end on every shift, he never misses an opportunity to support the attack and is an excellent puck distributor. If he had shown even more offensive punch, he would have been ahead of Byfield in my ranking.

Of the defenders listed above, Miro Heiskanen is the one that Drysdale most closely resembles in terms of potential, although Heiskanen is better at carrying the puck and Drysdale is a better passer. I think Bowen Byram, who was picked 4th last year, is probably a bit better overall than Drysdale.

5. Jake Sanderson: There really seems to be a dichotomy regarding Sanderson. On one hand, NHL scouts have him top-5. On the other hand, most Twitter-scouts do not consider him a top 10 pick. Sanderson is a big 6’2″ defenseman, extremely mobile and irreproachable defensively. He’s also very physical and better offensively than he is given credit. He is very keen on identifying open spaces in the offensive zone to exploit them with his skating stride. He reacts very quickly to the errors of the opposing defensive cover, and takes advantage of it with his skating, This proves he has high processing-speed and confidence, which is why I think he has more offensive potential than people think. He also has a pretty good quick shot from the point.

It’s not just the European players who are paying for the cancellation of the U-18 tournament. It is important to remind people that the NTDP is primarily a development program and Sanderson played 18-20 minutes per game, just like all the other defensemen on his team. At the 5-nation tournament in February, where he played more, he was by far the best player in the tournament. In the same context at U-18, people would have started to understand why NHL scouts love him so much. In my eyes, he is a carbon copy of Mathias Ekholm who is undoubtedly among the 31 best defenders in the NHL. I believe there are around twenty number one defenders in the league. Ekholm is somewhere on that thin line but even if we exclude him, Sanderson remains a first-pairing defenseman. He is easily worth a top 10 pick and it is justified to have him in the top 5.

I believe that the gap is quite thin between Sanderson and Drysdale. It will be interesting to judge next year (draft which promises to be very rich at the top in defensemen) if Sanderson would have been in the top 10. The gap between the players within range 6 to 12 is not huge and I would be okay to accept arguments for each of these players. It might displease many, but for me the U-18 tournament would have been the deciding factor for the order of these players. Also, at this point it would be a good strategy to step back a few ranks and accumulate additional choices. While I like this group of players, it would be a mistake to say that it is far superior to the group of players I had 6 and 12 last year.

6. Seth Jarvis: First major surprise. It’s hard to let go of preconceived notions and when some players have been approached to be top 10 picks for almost a year and a half, people are reluctant to rank other players who have entered this conversation late.

Some will argue that Jarvis does not have or has very few elite traits and that he should not be ranked as high. I find that sometimes people are too inclined to look at and dissect the sum of the player’s individual skills, rather than appreciating the impact he has on the ice. This is exactly the case for Jarvis. Very few players in this draft create as many chances to score on the ice as he does. And I strongly oppose the argument that he does not have an elite quality. His skating easily figures among the best of this draft, not only in terms of top speed but especially by what he manages to do with it. He is always in 5th gear and he overflows the defenders like no one else in this draft. Jarvis is very agile and difficult to counter along the boards and behind the net. He excels in transition and carrying the puck. he is tireless on the forecheck and can easily catch the puck carrier during backcheck.

Other than that, Jarvis has a very accurate shot, good hands and is above all a very good playmaker. Although he is a right winger, I compare him to Brayden Point, who is a center, by judging on the number of chances to score that they manage to provoke thanks to their speed and the fact that they manage to raise the level of play of their teammates. Jarvis does however have some tendency to cheat offensively.

7. Jack Quinn: Quinn is considered the second-best goal-scorer in the draft with Alexander Holtz but in my opinion, it wouldn’t be fair to only consider him as a scorer. First, it’s not only his shot that is very impressive but his scoring instincts, he can score in many ways and has this 6th sense which allows him to always be free in dangerous area. He very difficult to counter offensively because he rarely scores from the same spot.

Quinn is also a much better game playmaker than his statistics suggest. I’ve seen him make very difficult passes through the opposing team’s defensive box without even looking. He’s probably one of the best players at that in this draft, and he can also create plays for his teammates while on the forecheck. He has excellent hands and is one of the few forwards in this draft that can blow by opposing defenders on a regular basis with his mix of speed & power.

Quinn is among the best defensive forwards in this draft, André Tourigny used him way more on the PK than Marco Rossi. He has the size needed at 6’1 and does not hesitate to do the dirty work. Quinn is like Sanderson – one of those players this season where there really seems to be a clash of opinion between NHL scouts and people on the internet. Even though I take issue with labelling Quinn as a mere goal-scorer, the criticism people make of him is even more misleading. The first being related to Quinn’s age and his production last year. Being a late DOB, people look at his point number from last year and come to the conclusion that he is producing this season because of the advantage that his advanced age gives him. Despite being late, Quinn is only in his second junior season and last year he barely played since the Ottawa 67’s were the best team in the league and brimming with veterans. Quinn also did not play elite hockey until his last midget season and had a big growth spurt late. I think we’re dealing with a typical late bloomer case.

The second argument people use is that Quinn is a product of team excellence. This argument seems to be nothing short of a vulgar intellectual-shortcut. I’ve never been too keen on statistics but looking at them closely you can see that Quinn and Rossi didn’t contribute much to the other one’s success at least 5 on 5. 

At some point, people will have to realize that one of the reasons the 67’s were so strong is that Quinn was playing for them. If we compare him with Holtz, the latter probably has a better shot but Quinn is better for shooting while moving or at full speed. Quinn is more intelligent in his shot selection, has better hands, has better vision, is more creative offensively and is much better defensively. Holtz, however, has a better resume internationally against the best of a slightly older age group the past two seasons, and has also managed to held his own in the SHL.

As an NHL comparison for Quinn, I use TJ Oshie. Very good scorer, creative offensively, difficult to play against, can inherit heavy defensive responsibilities.

8. Marco Rossi: After Lafrenière, he is probably the most NHL-ready. Despite being 5’9, Rossi is extremely strong on the puck and plays much bigger than his size suggests. He’s definitely not afraid of going to the net. Rossi is a very talented dynamic center that thinks as fast as he executes. He’s a great playmaker and also a good goal-scorer with his wrist shot that requires almost no wind-up. He can lead his team’s powerplay as well as Lafrenière and Stutzle can.

In terms of comparison, Rossi looks a lot like Brad Marchand on the ice. He has an excellent sense of the game, excellent hands and very strong physically despite a small stature. He is not a pest like Marchand but he will stop at nothing.

The projection of a player is an important aspect of scouting. In Rossi’s case it’s difficult because there’s no 5’9 center in the league right now. And I might stray a bit here, but a debate that I find very interesting in hockey is about the actual number of number one center and number one defenseman in the NHL. For me, there are not 31 first line centers and there are not 31 number one defenders (let alone 62 first pair defenders).

Realistically, how many teams are there that really aspire to the cup? About ten? I don’t think a team can give themselves a realistic chance by having the 31st best center and the 31st best defenseman (although there are many other factors to consider, I think you get my point).

If we rely on the average points per game and exclude the centers who have played the wing this season, players like Bryan Little, Dylan Strome and Mikael Backlund would be in the conversation as borderline first line centers. Otherwise, they’d be in the good 2nd line center group of the league. I understand that it is a little simplistic and archaic to use only this statistic. But, it is only to illustrate the fact that when one reads the projections of people on the prospects, there can be a world of difference in the interpretation of terms like 1st center, top 6 winger, top-4 defenseman etc. if these are not defined beforehand. I’d say right now there are about 20 or so number one centers in the league.

The more the season progressed, the more I wondered about Rossi’s skating, he seemed tired. I would have liked to see him in the playoffs. Because of his size and skating, I think it would be better to make him a winger.

9. Lucas Raymond: Raymond started the season by appearing in 2nd place on my list (yes, ahead of Byfield) so what happened so that he ended up in 9th place? Absolutely nothing. Simply that the other players had more opportunity to improve their status. Personally, I expected more from him this season because he repeatedly proved the previous season that he could dominate against a higher age group but the step had to be too high against men because he misses a little physical maturity. It is not easy to assert yourself against men by playing only 7 to 10 minutes per game.  Yet, despite this, I found that he still played well in the 10-15 games that I saw him in the SHL, however, not at the same level as the players I have before him.

It’s hard to forget how dominant he was last year against older players in Hlinka (the gap between him and Lafrenière was not huge), U-18 and WJSS. However, it is very risky to rank a player this high based on his 16-year season. Without saying that the player has leveled off, we should not rule out the possibility that his progress may have slowed down. Offensively he is a very special player, the combination of his hands and his intelligence is his best asset. His sneakiness for taking the puck away from defensemen in the offensive zone and the way he can dekes one or two players before making a play, reminded me a lot of Pavel Datsyuk the first few times I saw him play.

In terms of comparison, we could also say a Mitch Marner who likes to shoot a little more at the net. His rank in my list does not do justice to the love I have for him. The cancellation of the U-18 will have cost him dearly.

10. Alexander Holtz: I have never been a big fan of Holtz. In international tournaments I found him to be a bit of a Lucas Raymond product and unlike a guy like Jarvis, he is not a player who will create scoring chances out of nothing or who will create chances for his teammates.

Remaining objective, Holtz has the best shot of all the players eligible for the draft this season, he has a powerful skating stride, an impeccable work ethic and he has just enough IQ to make some plays. He also has a good build and finished as one of the leaders of his team in SHL during the physical tests, which is extremely impressive. For these reasons, it is very easy to project Holtz as a first line player in the NHL. However, he’s not the most creative offensively and I don’t always approve of his shot selection.

In terms of comparison, several people use that of Filip Forsberg. It is true that they have a similar size, physical strength, work ethic and shooting but Forsberg has much better hands, is more offensively creative and more importantly, he is much more effective in all three zones. His efficiency in the neutral zone for a winger is at a level which very few players can boast of having reached, Marian Hossa being the epitome.

More realistically, I see a bit of a bigger version of Alex Debrincat perhaps.  It’s a bit lame by comparison but if we ignore size, the quality of their goal scoring, their work ethic and defensive games are comparable. In terms of role and impact within a team, I don’t see Holtz inheriting the same tasks as Forsberg, I see him mainly as a shooter.

11. Dawson Mercer: I think one of the most underrated players in the draft. The fact that he offers such a mature game at his age and that he played a supporting role with Team Canada in his draft year means that people seem to be ignoring the level of his offensive skills. His skating seems funny at first, but he is very fast and he has this additional speed which allows him to create separation between him and his pursuer. He has a lot of unique dekes that I’ve rarely seen before, a real magician with the puck. He has great vision, but he’s not a playmaker who is going to use the full width of the rink for passing, he’s more like making ingenious passes near the net.

Few people talk about it, but his shot is very good, especially off the right half-wall during powerplays. He can play in any position up front and can be inserted on any line in the lineup, which means he will find a way to make an impact. I wonder if there is a player who excels as much as he in zone-entries in terms of puck possession when surrounded by a bunch of opponents. Thanks to his hands and poise, that’s one of the many reasons why you want him on the ice late in the game when trying to tie the game.

Some have concerns about him since his statistics at Chicoutimi are not mind-boggling but apart from him, only Raphael Lavoie and Harvey-Pinard obtained more than one point per game. Chicoutimi was not the offensive powerhouse that some would have thought. Mercer was also bothered by injuries late in the season. He has a lot in common with Jack Quinn in terms of what he can offer for a team.

For his NHL comparison, I think of David Krejci of the Boston Bruins. A center very responsible defensively but way too underestimated offensively, who is very creative and who will definitely help a club to win games.

12. Cole Perfetti : If a player can make me look bad in this draft, it’s Perfetti. He’s probably the player I’ve had the hardest time assessing properly, even after countless games. He is among the best of this draft in a few categories; hands, playmaking, shooting, intelligence but he also comes with a lot of question marks – the biggest being his skating.

Perfetti has a rather short stride and does not generate much power with each stride. I admit I have been too harsh at a certain stage this season on his skating, he probably was bothered by an injury because it did not appear so catastrophic at Hlinka and later in the season. But still, Perfetti doesn’t really generate much speed when he carries the puck into the neutral zone which makes me strongly doubt that he will be able to play in the center in the NHL.

Aside from his below-average speed, Perfetti has a glaring lack of physical strength. It is especially visible along the boards, however, Perfetti is surprisingly good at protecting the puck in open spaces. His defensive play and the consistency of his intensity also leaves something to be desired. Many of his plays that result in points or scoring-chances probably wouldn’t have worked in the NHL. Nevertheless, I still have some fears of regretting to rank him so low. As said before, he has excellent hands, lightning wrist shots, excellent game vision and his intelligence on the ice is elite. We’ve seen this season with Nick Suzuki, that a prospect with an average speed can have an impact in overcoming with a higher intellect. However, I preferred Suzuki as a prospect to Perfetti. I preferred his dekes, his defensive responsibility, his game as a center, I found his skating better and I especially found that his style would translate more easily at the pros.

Perfetti risks becoming a player capable of scoring, but his effectiveness is likely to be limited to the offensive zone only (and probably not as a center player). I may be wrong, but for the top 10, I prefer not to run this risk. The team that will draft him should ideally already rely on key pieces of their core, or hope to fish again in the top 10 for the years to come because he’s not a player whom I would solely build around.

After the top 12, range 13 to 15 is extremely tight for me and was very hard to decide, these players are really not far from the end of the previous grouping of players and I consider that after them, the quality and the potential of the following players decreases a lot.

13. Mavrik Bourque: Bourque is a 5’11” right-handed center that I really like. In my eyes he is one of the top 5 game playmakers in this draft, and I would even go as far as to say, probably top-3. He is extremely accurate in his passes being able to find his teammates even through a host of skates and sticks. He is as capable of making plays at full speed as being static along the left wall during powerplays.

Something I like a lot about a player, especially a playmaker, is the ability to change the tempo and be able to slow down the game to open up pass options. It’s a bit difficult to explain because each season we repeat that the game is getting faster and faster but very intelligent players have this ability to slow down the game and push back the defenders. Leon Draisaitl is the first player that comes to mind when I think of this aspect. Nick Robertson was a prospect who did very well last year.

One of the reasons Bourque is able to make these plays, is that opposing defenders have to respect his excellent hands as he can easily outplay them. He’s also a Dual-Threat in the sense that not only the opposing teams must respect his skills as a passer, he has an excellent wrist shot that he can use in motion and also an excellent one-timer on the powerplay.

Bourque’s weak points have been exaggerated in my opinion this season. His skating was average last year but he has made tremendous progress at this level this season and that is by no means a weakness at this time. Another criticism I have heard is that he can be a bit soft, which I object to because he fights for free pucks whenever it has the opportunity and I see him initiating contacts regularly. His defensive play has also been questioned by a few people but I don’t find that to be the case, except for a few concentration errors here and there, it is not due to lack of effort or conscience. In addition, he excels at faceoffs which gives optimism to the fact that he will play center at the next level.

Bourque was the undisputed leader of a young team in Shawinigan. Every game he went out very hard during his first few shifts and his teammates had no choice but to follow the pace he had just given. If I compare him with a guy like Jacob Perreault, the latter is much more dynamic and has more pure skill but Bourque is more intelligent and also has more room for growth. Both are the same size but Bourque has a good 20-30 lbs to catch up on Perreault.

In terms of NHL comparison, Bourque reminds me a lot of Claude Giroux. A right-handed center, who’s not too strong during his draft year, but involved in all facets of the game whose teammates follow. A threat due to his fantastic skills as a passer but also by his shooting. What cemented this comparison for me is how they drive the powerplay. The decisions Bourque makes with the puck strikes me as a copy of Claude Giroux.

14. Jacob Perreault: As I mentioned earlier with Jake Sanderson, it’s not just the European players who are paying a big price due to the cancellation of the U18 tournament. In my eyes, Perreault could be the biggest loser in this outcome. Sarnia was one of the five worst teams in the OHL this season and Perreault hardly ever played with Jamieson Rees (Hurricanes 2nd round pick last year, whom I had in my top 20) who was plagued by injuries and suspensions. Despite this, Perreault has scored 35 goals in his last 43 games, representing a pace of 55 goals over a full season.

There are a lot of good scorers in this draft and Perreault would most certainly deserve to have his name mentioned among them He has one of the best arsenals in the draft; wrist shot, stationary or in motion, one-timer, backhand shot. Excellent hands, a powerful skating stride and an already mature build, around 200 lbs at 5’11”. However, several things work against him.

Even within these listed qualities, Perreault has small flaws that prevent him from fully exploiting his talent. His skating is very powerful but we only notice it when he carries the puck. He has a good size but does not play at all in a robust way even in puck protection. He is not very strong.  I’ve been surprised quite often to see him get jostled easily this season. He has less room for improvement in this case than a guy like Bourque who has a good 20-30 lbs on him.

Perreault is a fantastic scorer but he has not yet learned to use his teammates properly and he does not have the same instincts as Jack Quinn. Most importantly, he can’t find a way to make himself useful if he doesn’t score. He has somewhat underrated playmaking skills, but he only manages to create for his teammates in one way and that is when he is at full speed.

His defensive play and level of effort can leave much to be desired. He is electrifying and can make fans jump out of their seat, but the vast majority of his flashes occur on individual plays. I wonder, however, if he is not playing that way because he is not surrounded in Sarnia. All in all, he remains a talent worthy of the top 10 and around the 15th choice, I would definitely try the home run with him. As an NHL comparable, we can think of a goal-scorer like Kyle Palmieri or Phil Kessel. Perreault is very fast, a little inconsistent in his efforts and his defensive game, can surprise with his talents as a playmaker, and quite heavy for his size without playing physical. Just like the two of them.

15. Lukas Reichel: Another German from DEL. Reichel played most of the season on the same line as Maxime Lapierre, and was also a regular on the powerplay. The thing I like most is his rapid development and how he projects as a pro ready player. Reichel has grown several inches in the past year, which means he still has a lot of weight and strength to gain. Yet despite that, he remains very coordinated in his movements.

Despite some excellent qualities in his game, what I really like about Reichel is his intelligence and maturity. He is very calm in possession of the puck and he does not force any plays. He is excellent when cycling in the offensive zone and it is in these circumstances where he is best able to make plays. His wrist shot is excellent, largely because it doesn’t need a lot of momentum to unhook on the move, which deceives the goalkeepers.

Reichel is very fast and unlike a guy like Jacob Perreault who only seems to use his speed when carrying the puck, Reichel finds different ways to exploit this quality. He’s excellent in pursuit of the puck and on the forecheck. He actively stands out in the offensive zone and during the backcheck. I really like his agility and how he escapes along the boards, etc. Of the three Germans this season, he is the one who rushes to the net the most.

I don’t really see any glaring faults in Reichel’s game. The only thing that can work against him is that the other players have dominant qualities. As a comparable NHL, I would say Andre Burakovsky. A tall-rangy, very fast winger who is not afraid of going to the net despite not being the strongest strong player, and who makes his wrist shot and his speed his bread and butter.

16. John-Jason Peterka: the Top-20… .. OKTOBER-FEST IS THE SHIT !!

Peterka is a player I really like and I find him relatively underestimated offensively. One of the reasons that makes me say that, is that Peterka manages to create offense a variety of ways for a player who is considered to have limited potential. His best asset is undoubtedly his speed. He’s one of the fastest skaters in the draft and what’s most impressive about his skating is the power he generates. He probably has the best first three strides in the draft.

Peterka also has a very good wrist shot which does not require a lot of wind-up. It is far from being as precise as that of his fellow German Lukas Reichel, but the shot of Peterka is very heavy and comes out quickly, which gives a lot of difficulty to opposing goalkeepers and it gives several chances to score on the rebounds in the crease. He is also capable of shooting at very difficult angles and in full acceleration.

As mentioned earlier, I really like it when a player is able to play at different tempos in a game and even more so when a player has the rare ability to slow the game to his advantage. This is an asset that is found Peterka’s toolbox and it is one of the main points to which I refer to when I speak of how manages to create scoring-chances. If we draw a parallel with Bourque who also has this quality, the latter will use the space offered to him by the defenders because they are wary of his intelligence. In the case of Peterka it’s different, he will use his high speed and the defensemen have no other choice but to respect his skating. So, they will back up with him until he brakes suddenly which will create a significant separation between the puck and the opposing players. It will then leave a lot of space for his teammates to position themselves in a dangerous area and receive a pass from Peterka. However, he is not a playmaker that will make passes that cross the width of the rink or the defensive boxes, he will be more comfortable with short distance passes.

Peterka also has good hands that serve him well along the boards and he’s not afraid to try dekes regularly. One of the reasons that I really like this player is that he brings a lot of intangibles and he is good in small facets of the game. I like his intensity on the puck carrier and that on occasion he can be quite physical.

One subject that I find very interesting is that looking at the composition of the lines in the NHL, the first lines (or the top 6) are not always composed of the 3 best attackers in the team. Often players find themselves in this position because they are complimentary to talented players and they bring specific qualities like recovering the pucks in the corners, the game in front of the opposing net, etc. Guys like Brendan Gallagher, Zack Kassian, Zach Hyman, Tom Wilson and so on, are not what we consider to be top-6 skill players, yet they have their place on these lines in their club. I know that there are arguments for the salary cap and that the teams do not want to put all their eggs in one basket, but the fact remains that these players are an integral part of the offensive successes of their line.

There’s a big difference between the NHL and all the other leagues in the world, so players cannot only rely on their talent alone to make it. Quite often, they must find a way to adapt their game to suit the NHL. Peterka has what it takes to become a useful player in the NHL that can play anywhere in your lineup.

As for an NHL comparable, a big, very fast winger, who has a very heavy wrist shot and who is exhausting for the opposing defensemen on the fore-check, I think of Brandon Saad.

17. Dylan Holloway: Holloway played at the University of Wisconsin this season in the NCAA. His offensive statistics leave a bit to be desired with 17 pts in 35 games but it is a very difficult league for a young player to produce. There has definitely been an acclimatization period for Holloway since half of his points occurred in the last month of the season. He has finished the last few games on the same line as Cole Caufield. He also scored 40 goals last year in the AJHL, so there is offensive potential in his case.

I got caught in 2018 having judged Brady Tkachuk far too harshly on a few NCAA games, yet I had always found in international competition that he was a special player. Sure, Holloway is not the same caliber as this player, but he does offer a few things to like. He has a good size with which he managed to easily shake up players 5-6 years older than him in the NCAA and he likes to initiate contact. He has an extremely powerful skating stride, his acceleration is what makes him stand out, also the fact that he moves very easily in 4 directions and can beat players by moving sideways or by changing direction.

His shooting, especially his wrist shot when going up the top of the circles during a cycling, is very good. Without being a playmaker, he is able to complete long distance passes in the offensive zone in a surprising way. He has soft hands that allow him to maneuver near the net. He is not very creative offensively however, the rare demonstrations of creativity that I saw on his part were near the net. He can overwhelm a defender by entering on the right side, cutting in the center of the ice and pass the puck between his legs to a teammate who entered in a crossover with him.

Holloway can play both left wing and center. Surprisingly, there is a lot of similarities between him and Peterka and we don’t hear about it. A bit like I said earlier, the top 6 are not only composed of ultra talented players. The complimentary aspect is important and past the 15th rank in the draft, it is not realistic to expect the players chosen to all become top 6 attackers. At this point, I would like to see what the player can do to adapt to another role in the NHL.

People don’t seem to realize how limited the spots are in a Top 6. When we look at the composition of these lines, we see that players drafted 15 years ago (17 in some cases !!) occupy these spots. Of course, the drafted players will take 3-4, maybe even 5 years before settling on the first two lines of their team. In this time window, the older players will have regressed or retired. However, in this same time-frame time, the players of the next few drafts chosen in the top 5 top 10, will carve out a place fairly quickly on these lines. Places are much more limited than we think and that’s why we have to look at how a player can contribute for a team in the scenario (very likely) that he plays on a 3rd line.

A likely NHL comparison, a big power forward who skates like a train and still has good offensive skills, Holloway compares a little to Chris Kreider.

18. Rodion Amirov: Amirov is a Russian winger who does a bit of everything very well. His skating is of top 20 caliber without having anything worthy of mention. In terms of intensity and defensive play, it’s a bit of the same story.

On the other hand, he has excellent hands and  combined with his agility and his ability to avoid body checks, he is very difficult to counter when entering the offensive zone. However, he has the annoying habit of wanting to do too much and can turn out to be a victim of turnovers.

Amirov has a good offensive flair, particularly in the way he manages to be forgotten near the net to score. His best offensive quality is probably his game in puck protection, which is still surprising since for a late birthdate, Amirov is rather frail physically (which is also the case for Mercer and Zary).

In his offensive arsenal, I find that his shot, although accurate and with good mechanics, lacks a lot of power, which limits his offensive potential. Last year I did not rank Dorofeyev, who was also a late birthdate (which implies that they are not at the international events like the Hlinka, WJAC, 5-Nations and U-18 tournaments) despite having seen him close a dozen times in MHL. Mainly, because this league is very difficult to assess from a projection perspective for the NHL; large skating rink, very disparate caliber of play between teams, game system practically nonexistent for many teams, etc.

I decided to rank Amirov top 20 because I was able to watch him in the playoffs, precisely against Dorofeyev, who plays for a good MHL team but more importantly, against the CHL teams during the Subway Super Series. He played against very good junior players and above all, on a North American rink. Amirov started playing sporadically against the QMJHL and finished on the first line with Vasili Podkolzin and Ivan Morozov against the WHL (only one game because he missed the 2 nd one due to an injury). The other reason I also allow myself to rank him is that I find that the 2020 draft is really not deep in the second half of the first round.

19. Tyson Foerster: Without saying that he is their antipode, the case of Foerster is very different from the one of Peterka and Holloway. Instead of being a player who can find himself everywhere in the line-up and find a way to be useful no matter what missions he is given, Foerster is a player who will have to be deployed in an offensive role or else he will have difficulty establishing himself in the NHL. This is one of the reasons why I like to offer justifications for the position of each player in my ranking. Depending on the rank and what is left, I will sometimes prioritize safer players and in other places, I’m going to take a riskier bet.

At this point, I consider Foerster to be worth it despite some fairly serious flaws in his game. If we focus on the positives, Foerster has an electrifying shot. Each of his shots appears dangerous; he is able to shoot while moving his feet, and his stationary shots are among the best I have seen. Even his shots from far away without screen in front of the goalkeeper are dangerous. But his best asset is his one-timer, which is very probably the best of all the draft. A bit like Cole Caufield last year, his shot is so remarkable that it silences the rest of his offensive game.

Foerster has great hands and he has the offensive IQ to know when to use them to deke a defender to open a pass option for a teammate. He’s a pretty good play-maker, but for some reason I don’t know almost nobody talks about it.

As mentioned earlier, Foerster comes with his fair share of risks, the main one being his skating. It’s never easy to assess whether or not a player will be able to improve his skating, especially since each case is different. Some lacks speed or acceleration due to a lack of physical strength for an already imposing physique (Samuel Poulin), others because of an underdeveloped muscle mass (Jason Robertson). In other cases, it will be on technicalities.

In Foerster’s case, he has many, many things to tweak in his skating mechanics. To begin with, his torso is way too upright, which means that he cannot use gravitational force to seek acceleration and that limits his extension to the hip very much during his pushes. He pushes a little too much backwards rather than on the sides and one of the most important points is that his heels leave the ice a lot, which means that it takes him more time to return his foot to the initial point and it decreases his skating frequency. When a player has been skating this way for several years, there are limits to the changes that can be made in his case. If we try to change everything he might be constantly thinking on the ice and that’s not what we want from a guy with innate offensive flair like Foerster. Despite that, his speed is very acceptable, which makes it a funny case.

Beyond the technical flaws, what bothers me most is that he stops moving his feet too often and for too long. In such cases, it can either be laziness, which is not the case for Foerster or it can also be the case for a player who is not able to process the information in front of him but in his case, his offensive IQ is too high for to be overwhelmed at this point when he is not in possession of the puck. I think it’s mainly mental errors.

Despite this, the rest of the offensive package is too attractive to miss, I would take my chance while being ready to take the consequences. His soft hands, his long reach and his ability to make plays reminds me of Rickard Rakell.

20. Tristen Robins: Being an unknown player at the start of the season, Robins has made tremendous strides this year. His situation is very similar to that of Jack Quinn. Although he is a late birthdate, he was only in his 2nd season in WHL. And just like Quinn, he played for a very powerful team last season which explains why he didn’t receive a lot of ice-time then.

Robins has a very offensive mentality. Whenever he jumps on the ice, he is hungry to create something offensively. Often he takes matters into his own hands, to the extent of playing a bit too individually some times. He has the skating and the hands to make some coast-to-coast plays with the puck. His shooting is probably his best offensive asset, especially on the power-play where he can one-time on the left side or by using his wrist from the top of the right circles. His wrist shot is a bit unusual because his hands are very close to each other.

One place where I found him a bit inconsistent is at the level of his vision of the game. Sometimes he seems limited in this aspect and in other games, he will make very difficult passes without even looking. For a small player, Robins has a lot bite in his game too. He is very, very similar to Ozzy Wiesblatt who is one of my favorite players, the deal-breaker between the two for me is Robins; shot and his desire to create scoring-chances every shifts (Wiesblattt has a better vision and is more agile, however).

Considering where they are ranked on the lists, mainly Bob McKenzie’s, I would draft Wiesblatt first and take the risk of waiting until the end of the 2nd round, maybe even at the start of the 3rd to draft Robins.

21.  Kaiden Guhle: Guhle is a 6’3 left-handed defenseman. He’s a very good skater in all directions, but his skating backward and his lateral mobility in particular are what jump out at me. He is kind of a modern defensive defenseman, he manages his distance very well from opposing forwards, he does not leave them too much space without compromising himself. He plays very physical but at 185 lbs at 6’3, he still lacks a good 20- to 30 lbs to add to his frame, which suggests that he still has a lot of improvement in his case.

Offensively, there is not much to chew on.  He’s not particularly good at carrying the puck, nor does he do anything special to move the puck on powerplay. He doesn’t have a big one-timer on the PP but he is still able to move elusively at the blue line to escape a forward who puts pressure on him. He has a good little quick shot which can be effective even if it’s not a booming shot. He ended the season on the first wave of power play, which is a big improvement from the start of the season.

To put things in perspective, I like to compare Guhle to Matthew Robertson, another left-handed defenseman playing in the WHL (I had Robertson 21st on my list last year, he was drafted 49th by the New York Rangers). The two project themselves somewhat in the same role in the NHL but I personally prefer, by far, Robertson. I don’t see Guhle playing on a powerplay one day in the NHL, but I will take the opportunity to talk about something that really bothers me when I read people on the internet talking about prospects. The word upside is constantly used and now seems to be meaningless.

People seem to only want to attribute this quality to a player who can toe-drag and pass the puck between his skates. A player like Guhle who will clean the front of the net, who will come out of the corner with the puck and who will make effective breakout has as much if not more upside; than the junior player who plays fancy with the puck but refuse to go in the corners.

22. Ozzy Wiesblatt: For the past two years, the players I like at the start of the season have ended up being players who leave me indifferent at the end of the season. Wiesblatt, however, is a player I have never stopped loving. I have probably seen him at least 40 times and he has been excellent in the vast majority of these games.

A very talented little right-handed center, he has great hands and he can handle the puck with ease at full speed. He also has a good repertoire of dangles and moves. He’s a very fast skater, he doesn’t necessarily generate a lot of power with each stride but he has a very fast skating frequency and his feet move as fast as his hands. The two ensure that he excels in transition and to gain the offensive zone.

Wiesblatt is definitely more of a play-maker. He thinks of passing the vast majority of the time. He doesn’t have a very powerful shot, it’s very rare that he will shoot on one-timer opportunity. This is one of the reasons why I prefer to see him on the right wall during powerplays. When he is on the left, he never use his one-timer which limits a shooting option. When he is on the right however, he has more pass options and being on his strong side, he can move the puck quicker.

One thing I love about Wiesblatt is that he’s very feisty. He’s strong enough for his size and I have seen him apply some pretty good hits, even some borderline dirty too. I’ve even seen him drop the gloves three times this season. As I said earlier, at some point in the draft, you have to start looking at what the player can do to adapt to a role of 3rd-4th liner. Wiesblatt has the intensity for it and also, he is very elusive along the boards and that makes it a very useful player during the PK to save time.

Surprisingly, there are several similarities between him and Amirov, the two are very elusive, excellent at gaining the zone and both have a shot that leaves something to be desired, all in all, people would be surprised at how much the gap between the two are not as big as you might think.

23. Ridly Greig: Greig is a 5’11 left-handed center. He’s very fast and is a good playmaker. When I say he is fast I am not only referring to his skating but also in his decision making and execution. He’s very smart and seems to be a step or two ahead of the other players on the ice, before he even gets the puck he already knows what he’s going to do. He definitely thinks of passing before shooting. He does not have a bad shot but it is quite rare to see him shoot in movement, he prefers to pass, most of the shots he takes is when the game is already established in the offensive zone, his one-timer is far to be lacking however.

Even though I like him a lot, not everything in his arsenal is worthy of a first round pick. His puck-handling is not at the same level as the rest of his game, he is still able to make out some nice dekes on the occasion. What I like most about Greig are the intangibles he brings. He’s very physical, I saw him go for the open-ice hit while skating at full speed. He has a pest side to him. Another thing I really like is that Greig is one of the youngest players in the draft and his body mass index is very low, which indicates that he still has a lot of muscle mass to gain and that despite that, he still plays that abrasive style of play. He should have a very big progression next year.

As a NHL comparison, I think of a player who plays much bigger than his size, who is very intense and who has some offensive skills despite a little limited puck handling: Sam Bennett.

24. Sam Colangelo: Colangelo is a 6’2 right-handed winger who can take faceoffs on occasion. He has a very good top speed and is very comfortable carrying the puck for a winger. He has very good hands and is an excellent passer, probably top 10 in this draft. He can make very difficult passes through a host of sticks and skates with ease.

On the other hand, for a player of his size, I find that Colangelo is playing far too much on the perimeter. An example is that often during odd-man rushes, it doesn’t matter which side he enters, he will turn his shoulders at the game so that he is no longer in a shooting position, slide away from the center-ice drifting towards the outside to pass the puck to the third man following behind. I would like to see him a little more aggressive, even when he doesn’t have the puck. I don’t find him active enough to get to open area. On occasion, he happens to pop out of nowhere in a dangerous area to take a wrist shot.

Colangelo’s shooting mechanics are very fluid and he manages to change angles effectively but his shot is not very accurate. He is able to cycle by himself in the offensive zone while in possession of the puck and he manages to create separation using his skate and his body. He is probably less talented than his teammates Brendan Brisson and Sean Farrel but I think that his game translate better to the pros; better size, faster, tries less fancy plays, etc. Next year he will play at Northeastern University with the Habs prospects Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble.

I compare Colangelo a little to Blake Wheeler: a large right-handed winger, not necessarily physical for his size but who is very fast, who is above all an excellent playmaker and who took a few years to develop.

25. Connor Zary: No player this season has seen their rank fluctuate as much in my ranking as Zary. His skating is very average, he lacks power and since he is one of the oldest players in this draft, it is a little more worrying. Of course, by working hard in the gym he could gain muscle mass and gain in explosiveness.

The problem with such comments is that we ignore the athlete’s profile. Does he have the genetics to add muscle and strength? Does he have the muscle fiber profile needed to generate power? He is a little bit too hunched over forward which is not a bad thing in itself (as seen in Tyson Foerster’s analysis), Zary’s problem is that his shoulders are too forward and he seems to be a dissociation between his trunk and his pelvis, which means that he loses a lot of power and balance.

Zary has very good vision and is a good playmaker, however, he only demonstrates these qualities when the game is set up in the offensive zone or on the power play. He doesn’t really have a good shot and many of his points are the result of plays that would not result in goal in the NHL. Playtime statistics for CHL players are not available to the public, but Zary is probably one of the most employed players of all those I have watched this season, practically every other shift he would jump on the ice. This may be one of the reasons why I found him inconsistent this season and his skating seemed very slow some nights, fatigue might have caught up with him during the season. He has good dekes and can still be useful if he doesn’t produce offensively.

I see Zary a bit like Nick Bonino, a 3rd line center that can provide secondary scoring and can be useful on a penalty kill. 

26. Noel Gunler: Gunler could very well prove to be a steal at this rank but it is difficult to rank him higher given that we have not seen him against the best in his age group in international competition. Even if he did well in SHL, it was not him who drove the game. I saw 12-15 games of him this season, he played an average of 13 minutes per game but the game did not pass not really by him so it’s pretty difficult to assess.

Gunler is very active in the offensive zone when he does not have the puck to stand out, much more than Colangelo. He is also very effective in forward check. His skating is decent despite that many have offered criticism on this subject. His hands, however, are not at the level that one would think to read the people who profile him as a player with top 6 potential.

Gunler’s shooting is really the bread and butter of his offensive arsenal. It is particularly threatening when he descends on the right flank. I find that people in the world of Internet scouting are very quick on the trigger to give the label of top 6 to a player who has only one or two qualities. Yes, his shooting is formidable but it does not guarantee him a key role. So far, the rest of his offensive play is ok but needs to improve.

Several rumors have circulated about his attitude but personally, it is something to which I do not care, I assess the players according to what I see on the ice. There are also examples of players who have changed dramatically between their draft season and today. Alain Chainey, former recruiter of the Anaheim Ducks, told TVA Sports that the best interview he has seen in his entire career was Alex Galchenyuk. A few years later there were several documents relating to life player’s nocturnal.

Conversely, Tony Deangelo, who had a bad reputation in junior, is now one of the most popular players in the locker room of the New York Rangers.

Coming back to Gunler, I see him as Jakob Silfverberg, a 3rd line winger with a devastating wrist shot that everyone expected to have more offensive output.

27. Braden Schneider: The position of defenseman is more difficult to assess on video, especially for one like Schneider. The fact that he has a good size, is reliable defensively and has good skating make him an easy player to project in the NHL. If he starts making some nice plays, we can start taking him for a player he is not and rank him too high. On the other hand, taking into account the fact that Schneider risks being a 5th defender, it is easy to rank him lower when many players chosen before him risk not playing in the NHL.

Schneider is probably the best player in the draft to time his hits. He’s more comfortable than Guhle carrying the puck, but his puck handling is a bit lacking. Offensively, he was playing on the first PP unit in Brandon because it was a fairly weak formation, it could have distorted his statistics and, by the same token, people’s perception of him.

28. Jan Mysak: My initial opinion of Mysak was too hasty and above all way too optimistic. Having not yet started to rank players on my list, I compared Mysak to a guy like Perfetti and I found him much faster, more hard-working and better defensively. In the aspects that Perfetti had the upper hand, like his shooting and his hands, I found that Mysak was no slouch either.

After watching almost all of Mysak’s OHL games this winter, my enthusiasm has diminished a lot. I’m having trouble seeing more than a 3rd line player in him, some games he didn’t seem worthy of a first round pick. As I said, he’s a good skater and can carry the puck effectively in the neutral zone, he can overtake the defenders and also dangle at full speed (which is a fairly rare quality). He also uses his skating very well in forecheck to aggressively put pressure on the defenders in possession of the puck or to find free pucks.

Offensively I find him quite limited, however, he can do great things by cutting to the net, but he does not create plays for others and he is still limited in his way of creating the offensive. 

29. Thomas Bordeleau: A small left -hander center (5’9-5’10). Bordeleau is a good skater, he has a low center of gravity which gives him excellent balance and he also has a wide skating position which makes him very effective in protecting the puck when he overflows a defenseman. His speed is very acceptable in itself, however, for a player of this size I would like to see him a little faster and explosive and the fact that he is already strong enough and solid on his skates makes me a little perplexed at the progress that he can do in this regard (which is pretty much the same story with Rossi).

Bordeleau is one of the best playmakers of this draft and his wrist shot is surprisingly very powerful for a player of his size (also very accurate).

He showed very well against the NCAA teams. Next year he will play at the University of Michigan. The team is already counting on John Beecher (Bruins first round pick last year) and will see Kent Johnson (likely top 5 pick next year), Brendan Brisson (likely first round pick this year)
and Matthew Samoskevich ( Brisson’s teammate and possible first round pick next year) join the ranks. One wonders if being surrounded by all talent will help him in his development or if it will rob him of top 6 minutes next year.

Small interesting fact, Bordeleau takes face-offs on both sides of his stick, he turns his stick as if he were right-handed to take face-offs on the right, it was the first time that I see a player do this.

Very difficult to project the role that Bordeleau will have in the NHL, if he reaches this level. But at some point, it’s worth trying your luck on a talented player you love and hope for the best.

30. Anton Lundell: Somewhat a big surprise to have Lundell so low, I admit that his chances of establishing himself in the NHL are very good and this simple fact should allow him to be higher on my list, especially in front of players who are more risky and who in the end may not have much greater potential than Lundell. That being said, I never really liked Lundell.

Something that has always grind my gears a little bit is that when hockey fans in general talk about NHL players, they can say they don’t like or would not take a 30-goal scorer in their team for reason X or a 50 pts defenseman for reason Y. But when it comes to prospects, it seems almost forbidden to say that you don’t like a player. This does not mean that we want to see him fail or that we attack the individual, it is only a subjective opinion. We know from the outset when we make our ranking that we are going to be wrong, and we risk being wrong often.

So I have no problem ranking players I like more ahead of Lundell. Being an NHL-scout I would not be super excited to work super hard for a year to leave the draft table with Lundell as my first round pick. In addition, since he did not take part in the WJC due to an injury, I only saw Lundell 6 games in Liiga this season, the last having to go up in January. I could have not ranked him but I’ve seen him about 15 times in the previous two seasons and he’s still a first-round caliber player. He has a mediocre skating, his top speed in itself is not catastrophic but he has no agility, he is not able to turn in tight spaces.

His wrist shot is very heavy and is probably his best offensive asset. He is quite strong physically and protects the puck well. His vision of the game and his hands are very good. Yes, he has a very good defensive game but as is often the case with a quality of prospect, it has taken on disproportionate proportions.

Some speak of him as a finalist for the Selke Trophy in the future. It will displease several people, and they will be able to say that this trophy is awarded wrongly but the winners or the nominees of this trophy are all players with a big offensive production. In the past 15 years, the only player who won this trophy with less than 60 pts was Patrice Bergeron in 2017. I don’t see Lundell producing as much.

Many talk about the 17 year old Lundell season where he had very good statistics in Liiga but the case with the prospects is that some are more mature and close to their potential at 16-17 years than some are at 18, which was the case with Lundell. In his two Liiga seasons, he went from 0.5 points per game to 0.63, which is not a big improvement (And Lundell had minutes of quality). Aleksander Barkov had gone from 0.5 to 0.91, Kasperi Kapanen had gone from 0.31 to 0.51, Arthurri Lekhonen had gone from 0.22 to 0.67, Mikko Rantanen from 0.25 to 0.5. Lundell made almost no progress, the last to have had almost non-existent progress is Jesse Puuljujarvi going from 0.52 to 0.56.

I see Lundell as a 3rd line-center, good defensively and with a heavy wrist shot, he looks a lot like Lars Eller, who ironically, I have always appreciated. I don’t think Lundell is getting that good. I may be too hard on him, depending on who is always available, he could come out towards the beginning of the top 20 and I would not condemn this choice either, only that I would not spend my pick with this player.

31. Mitch Miller: As in every season, I always like to include a choice completely out of the left field to complete my ranking. Miller is a 5’10” right-handed defenseman who plays in the USHL. He’s a great skater and he excels at carrying the puck. He has very good hands and he has the audacity to try spectacular plays.

His shot is not particularly heavy but he still finds the net every single time. He can be a little too prone to think offensively, even when he doesn’t have the puck. If one of his teammates is in possession, he leaves his defensive position to give an additional pass option which can leave gaping holes in the defensive cover if there is a turnover. He has the same aggressiveness when defending, he is very aggressive on the puck carrier and surprisingly, he can give very big hits and plays with some bite in his game.

He will go to North Dakota University and should have the opportunities to perfect his overall game. He will have two more years to develop compared to CHL players. His playing style reminds me a lot of Sami Vatanen.

The forgotten: Obviously, my list is not intended to be a prediction of the course of the first round. I expect to see more defenders chosen because the quality of these in this draft leaves something to be desired and my views on European defensemen like Helge Grans, William Wallinder, Topi Niemela, Emiil Viro, etc. were too limited for me to have a definitive opinion on them.

Yaroslav Askarov: I don’t have the knowledge to properly assess goalkeepers, that simple.

Hendrix Lapierre: Lapierre is a player I loved, I didn’t rank him because of his concussion history. Yes I am aware that we are now talking about neck problems rather than a third concussion, the fact remains that he has already had two big concussions and that the check that resulted in his neck-problems was still a blow to the head.

Talent wise, I firmly believe that he is at least a top 15 pick in this draft, I could very well have ranked him somewhere from the 20th rank given the risks with which come the players ranked from this rank , however, I didn’t feel very comfortable ranking a player I haven’t seen since October.

Lapierre is an extremely intelligent player on the ice and a great playmaker. He’s also a good leader on the ice, at Hlinka he reminded me a lot of Peyton Krebs. He’s always in control of what’s happening on the ice and he seems to be able to handle the pressure of being the go-to-guy.

Brendan Brisson: Colangelo’s teammate, Brisson is a 5’11” left-handed center. He is the son of player agent Pat Brisson. He is very talented. His best asset is his one-timer. He also has very good hands but he will have to learn to use them at the right times, he can sometimes sabotage chances because he tries too hard to dangle. 

Brisson is not really a playmaker, most of the passes he makes in the offensive zone are fairly short passes and often it is to move the game away from him so he can find holes in defensive coverage to use his one-timer. However, when there are odd-man rushes, he is able to be creative and pretend to open the game for a teammate.

In approximately the 15 games I have seen Brisson, I have only come away impressed in a handful of them.

Jake Neighbors: Neighbors is not a consensual first round pick but I include him in this category because I was very vocal about him at the start of the season. He’s a big left winger who makes very good decisions with the puck, he never forces plays for nothing. He has a very good sense of the game and good anticipation, he can do everything on the ice, has underestimated offensive skills, among other good hands and a NHL-caliber shot.

The problem with Neighbors is that more than I watched, I liked the decisions he made with the puck and he was very precise in his passes, but I was still waiting to see more. He didn’t showed the offensive flashes I expected after his Hlinka and my first 7-8 WHL views. His shot is very good but it takes him time and space to release. He plays with a fairly long stick and that could be the reason why it takes him so long to shoot and he didn’t try to dangle more with the puck. Not only did I find him a little too shy
offensively, but what probably cemented my change of opinion in his case was that during a game against Prince Albert in December, he was annihilate at his own blue line by the captain of the Raiders.

It is said that Neighbors plays hard and that he has a pest side to him, and on the same shift, he had a golden opportunity to give a big hit to a player and he didn’t. In fact for the whole game, he stood very quiet. Afterward, I watched a few other games and he did nothing to impress me.

Sleepers : Here are some players I like for the latter rounds, considering that most of the players I have from 20th onward may be available in 2nd round, we are talking more about choices for 3rd to 6th round here. You will be able to note that there are several players who are identified as 2nd round pick who could have appeared in this list but a just like I said previously, we cannot be in love with all the players of the draft and also , at some point it is not possible to have a strong opinion on all the players in the draft. I prefer to present only those which I would target.

I’m going to include where I think these players will go out based on Bob McKenzie’s TSN and NHL central scouting lists. If I’m talking about a player I like for the 4th round, that doesn’t mean that I prefer 93 players over him, it’s only because he’s slotted to be picked there. It always makes me smile when I see people on the Internet talking about a player they love but they have him rank 124th, if you like him, rank him accordingly. Anyway, I doubt that they saw all these players playing….

Luke Reid: Quite similar to Miller, Reid is a right-handed defenseman whose best attribute is his athleticism, mainly his skating and I am not just talking about speed but the ease with which he can change direction and speed to get rid of pressure or to outwit an opponent. At the moment he is not very offensive but he has a lot of potential to exploit. He played with Brisson and Colangelo in Chicago this season.

Landon Slaggert: Slaggert has been one of my favorites with the NTDP this season. He’s not the most talented but he does the little things on the ice so well. He spent most of the season on the same line as Bordeleau. He has to get the most intense players out of the whole draft, he is extremely hard-working, he can play physical, he’s a good skater and is intelligent. He is not a giant at 6 feet but he is very efficient in front of the net. Even if he isn’t the most talented, I find it hard to imagine that there won’t be a team that fell in love with him with due to his work ethic. Target for the 4th round, unless a player slips.

Jacob Truscott: 6’0 left-hander. A bit like Slaggert, Truscott does not excel in anything but I find him effective and I like his stroke. He is very fluid and his offensive instincts are surprising. He is going to the University of Michigan next year (like Bordeleau, Brisson and Johnson), he will be
mentored by the blue line Cam York (last year’s Flyers first round choice) and Owen Powers (possible top 3 next year). He has an active stick and is generally quite aggressive on the puck carrier, if he gets caught on the wrong foot he has the necessary kick to return to the back. Target for the 4th or 5th round.

Nathan Staios: Ignored in the last year’s draft, Staios is the number one defenseman for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL. He’s only 5’9. His skating is is his greatest strength, he uses it to avoid the opponent’s pressure in forecheck with fluidity, he excels at transporting the puck and he can deceive attackers at the opponent’s blue line with changes of directions. He plays very well in front of the net despite his small frame. He reminds me a little of Will Butcher. I would be a little surprised to see him get drafted, if nothing else interests me, I would take him in the 5th round.


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