In terms of scouting for the NHL entry draft, the book opens on a player two — in some cases three — years out. That is especially true for the elite of the elite of a given draft class. My early impressions of the 2020 draft is very strong. The top of list is littered with potential franchise altering players.
With a somewhat down year for the OHL’s 2001 and late 2000 born class, they are set to answer back with a historic first round. The talent coming out of Ontario will be the highlight of my early preview, but they share the top with products from Sweden and the QMJHL. The United States, however, sees a drop off in comparison to their 2019 eligible players. But they do have the top defender in the draft going for them.
This early preview is meant to get things going and create a reference point for when I circle back to this group in September. These are the top names to know for the 2020 NHL draft.
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, QMJHL
Lafreniere is a superstar level talent. He plays with a fiery drive that overwhelms defenders with an elite set of hands. He owns an explosive first step that allows him to positively impact transition, and his hockey IQ is well represented by finding the dangerous areas of the ice. The Rimouski forward was born just a month late of being eligible for the 2019 draft, where he would have topped my rankings.
Statistically speaking, his scoring rate is almost identical to Nathan Mackinnon at the same age.
2. Lucas Raymond, LW, SuperElit
The gap between Lafreniere and Raymond is quite large, but Raymond is no consolation prize. He boasts the best motor in the draft, being a nightmare for defenders trying to break the puck out. He is dynamic with the puck on his stick and can score from range. His goal scoring ability is high-end.
3. Antonio Stranges, LW, OHL
Stranges gets a 10 out of 10 for fun. One of the most unique players I’ve ever scouted, the former Michigan commit has immense creativity. He tries things other would never even think of. He roams around the ice with a beautiful 10-2 skating style that meshes so well with his elite puck skills.
He has been very sheltered on a stacked London team this year, but could easily break out into the star that he is next season.
4. Rodion Amirov, C/RW, MHL
Quite easily the most underappreciated prospect of this draft, Amirov will soon be on the radar of many scouts. He plays with such drive and intensity that makes him effective in all three zones. His hands are silky smooth and difficult to read. Vision is a standout trait, but he is also a goal scorer who knows how to score in a multitude of ways. Despite playing wing for Tolpar UFA, he has proven he can play center internationally.
5. Quinton Byfield, C, OHL
A big, strong, quick center with really good hands. Whats not to like? Byfield has been on the radar for years, and has taken full opportunity in his rookie season in the OHL. The prodigy is one of the most noticeable players on the ice because of his ability to move in such a large frame. He doesn’t play your typical power forward style of game. He plays with more grace than power.
6. Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP
Sanderson is one of the most mature players you’ll find in this draft. He is so intelligent with and without the puck, his control over the game is what allows him to be so effective, despite lacking the flashy traits you look for in a number one defensemen.
He’ll be the driving force for the United States’ 2002 born group.
7. Kasper Simontaival, RW, Mestis
Simontaival has some of the most elusive hands in this draft. He’s not afraid to make the skill plays off the rush, but at the same rate, doesn’t sacrifice defense to do so. His quick feet make him hard to contain with the puck. His slight frame, however, does leave some concerns about his play in the corners. The willingness is there, but the ability not so much.
8. Alexander Holtz, RW, SuperElit
Holtz is another name who has been out there for a few years. He’s lived up to the hype, displaying possibly the best shot in the entire draft. His release in particular stands out. He’ll be a very dangerous powerplay option. My concerns do hover around his compete level and awareness. Sometimes you get the impression he expects just his skill level will get the job done.
9. Jean-Luc Foudy, C, OHL
Jean-Luc, brother of Liam, is one of, if not the fastest prospect I’ve ever evaluated. His speed has an extra two gears and allows him to blow by defenders with ease. His vision and puck skills are also quite noticeable. The only thing holding him back from cracking the top-five is if he can consistently play that playmaker role, or he may end up on the wing long-term.
10. Noel Gunler, RW, SuperElit
Gunler set the world on fire with his ludicrous scoring pace in the Swedish junior league, as well as a hot start in the SHL. Things have settled down for now, but there is still so much skill in his game. His shot is his most dangerous weapon, as he has the make-up to be a lethal sniper in the NHL. His playmaking and compete level, however, leave concerns about him becoming a one-dimensional player.
11. Marco Rossi, C, OHL
Rossi hails from Austria, but has really built up his name in the OHL. He is an exceptional playmaker with standout vision and deceptive hands. Yet, hockey IQ is probably his best attribute. He reads the game at another level. The main draw back is how much pace he can play with. Skating isn’t a weakness, but he lacks the explosiveness you search for in a true difference-maker.
12. Anton Lundell, C, Liiga
Lundell’s standout play in the top Finnish pro league has been very intriguing. His hockey IQ is his best attribute, quite evident by the way he picks apart a game. He doesn’t wow you in the same way that others will, but his smart, sound game have molded into one of the best under-18 seasons in Finland ever.
13. Jamie Drysdale, D, OHL
Drysdale comes in as the second defensemen on the board. He is a smooth skating blue-liner who steps up and makes the flashy plays with his hands and feet. The offensive IQ is what separates him from the next group of defensemen.
He’ll be a very popular player among fans for his ability to create offense from the back-end.
14. Ryder Rolston, RW, USNTDP
Rolston is so damn fun to watch. His teammate Cole Caufield is often compared to Alex Debrincat, but I believe that notion should go to the Notre Dame commit. His goal scoring ability is high-end. He can score goals from anywhere on the ice, but the difference is Rolston is an excellent skater. The wheels he has makes him even more dangerous.
15. Connor McClennon, LW, WHL
McClennon has slowly but surely been on the rise for me all year. He has high-end puck skills and makes highlight reel plays that are tough to ignore. His speed is not ideal for a player of his size, but he is just too dynamic with the puck to think twice about.
Other names to know
|17.||Veeti Miettinen||RW||Jr. A SM-Liiga|
|28.||Kasper Puutio||D||Jr. A SM-Liiga|