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Photo Credit: @DetroitRedWings

Ferrari: 2020 NHL Draft Rankings and Preview — November 2019

With the Detroit Red Wings struggling, as expected, the eyes of most Wings fans have already started shifting their attention towards the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. This year’s draft class is among the best in recent memory. It has more star power and more depth than last year which was considered to be a strong draft. The annual infusion of youth next June should rival the best draft classes since the turn of the century. In prior years, any of the players in the top-five could have been number one picks. The top-15 could have all realistically been top-five picks in many recent drafts. In short, if you’re going to suck, this is the year to do it.

So who are the top players? Who are the kids that the Red Wings should target early in the draft? Today we will be going over my personal rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft and I’ll be filling in some of the blanks, giving you a brief of a scouting report on the top-10 and a line or two of information on the rest of the top-31 prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft.

Image courtesy of Tony Ferrari

If you’re going to trust my analysis, you should know a bit about what I do to prepare and how I put together my rankings. My name is Tony Ferrari and I currently write for both Dobber Prospects and Future Considerations, primarily covering the NHL Draft as well as already drafted prospects across the NHL. I attend junior games regularly around the Windsor-Detroit area and have been fully credentialed by the CHL. I also attended the World Junior Summer Showcase in July and U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) games in Plymouth, Michigan. I watch countless hours of game tape and video and comb-over stats sheets relentlessly to ensure that I’m getting as much of the full picture as I can get, regardless of where the game is played around the globe.

As for how I choose the players, I have watched every ranked player multiple times and I have shared discussions and debates with other analysts and even some NHL scouts. I value skill, speed, and hockey IQ very highly. Size and grit are generally less important in my eyes, specifically early in the draft. I do my best to be unbiased and fair to each and every player and I understand that I will not be 100% right on every player. Grading and evaluating prospects is an inexact science but its fun, informative and gives us all hope for the future. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

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The Top-10

Player Name, Position, Team (League)

1. Alexis Lafrenière, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): The clear cut number one player in this year’s draft, Alexis Lafrenière, is a borderline generational talent*. It’s hard to say what Lafrenière does well because there’s so much, virtually strong in every facet of the game. He is a strong skater with a solid base that lets him skate powerfully along the ice and excel in board battles and on the cycle. He has speed through the neutral zone that allows him to be a one-man transition machine. He has elite vision, able to find teammates all over the ice in dangerous scoring areas. His shot is fantastic and he locates it with proficiency.

Lafrenière is a do-it-all player who won’t need to rely on a player who fishes the puck out of piles or wins races to loose pucks because he does that too. He is an “Elite skilled grinder” in the same mold and playing style of former Rimouski star Sidney Crosby (stylistically, not a direct comparison). Lafrenière will change the fortunes of whatever team is lucky enough to win the lottery and select the future franchise player.

In the video below, we see Lafrenière (#11 in Pink) race up the ice, deke a defender and make a beautiful pass as he crashed the net. 

 

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2. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): The top center in this draft class, Quinton Byfield blends a tantalizing mix of size, speed, strength, and skill. There isn’t a more intriguing overall package in this draft. Byfield has been compared to Eric Lindros for a few years now, as the 6’4″, 215lbs 17-year-old has towered over his competition, both in terms of physical size and ability. Despite being on a very weak Sudbury Wolves team last season, Byfield was nearly at a point-per-game as a 16-year-old in the OHL. He has one of the best shots in this draft class and the ability to change a game in an instant with it. He has a sturdy base that allows him to protect the puck and do virtually whatever he wants, even with defenders constantly on his back.

Byfield’s skating ability is almost unfair for a player of his size. His ability to transition the puck from his own zone to the offensive zone is remarkable and he does a great job of identifying the opening on a play. Whether the game calls for him to drive the net or stop-up and find the trailing player, Byfield has the skill set to dominate with size, speed, and strength to do so at will.

Watch below as Byfield does a good job of protecting the puck with his size as well as scoring a beautiful goal between his own legs with his skill. 

 

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3. Lucas Raymond, LW/RW, Frölunda HC J20/Frölunda HC (SuperElit/SHL): One of the most fun players to watch from this group, Lucas Raymond does an outstanding job of creating offense. He has the ability to weave in and out of traffic while attacking the dangerous areas of the ice. His hockey IQ is unreal. He sees the ice a step ahead of players who already think a step ahead. His dynamic skating is immediately noticeable. Raymond is one of the best playmakers in this draft class and isn’t afraid to show his creativity with the puck. He has lightning-quick hands and the ability to keep the puck on a string at high speeds. Raymond has unreal vision and can be a flashy playmaker. He has the ability to make cross-ice passes through traffic and the understanding that it isn’t always the best play.

Don’t mistake the shifty winger as just a playmaker though, he has a great wrist shot that he isn’t afraid to use which makes him a legitimate scoring threat at any level. He is currently playing in the SuperElit (Swedish junior league) after starting the year in the SHL (Swedish men’s league). He wasn’t getting adequate playing time so they elected to send him down. He had the skill to compete at the SHL level but the coaching staff didn’t want to play a young kid top-six minutes. Below you can see a beautiful goal by Raymond at the World U18s.

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4. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga): Anton Lundell is the most complete player in this draft class. He is responsible defensively and has the offensive tools to put his team up on the scoreboard offensively. His 200-foot game is NHL-ready and his offensive game isn’t far behind. Some evaluators have deemed him offensively-conservative and not dynamic but the young Finn has produced at every level, including the Liiga where he currently has five goals and nine points in just 16 games. This is impressive considering the fact that the Liiga is a top-five league in the world and he’s doing this as a just-turned 18-year-old.

Lundell’s shot is electric. He has a quick release and can get it off effortlessly in stride. He has great hands in tight and excels in the cycle game. His defensive play is what bumps him into the upper tiers of this draft class, however. He is able to play against tough competition, and not only hold his own, but win that battle and still produce offense. He plays a mature game that will translate to the NHL quickly.

Lundell’s quick release is shown below. You can see how quickly the puck jumps off his stick.

 

5. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL): Alexander Holtz has been the running mate of Lucas Raymond at all international events for years. Now, Holtz has taken his talents to Djurgårdens in the SHL and has been producing without his best friend. With six goals in 19 total games with Djurgårdens, Holtz has proven to be a reliable goal scorer for the Swedish club.

Holtz has the best shot in this draft and could challenge for a Rocket Richard trophy in the future. He scores in a variety of ways, whether it’s with his deadly wrist shot off the rush or cleaning up garbage around the net, he just has a nose for the net. Holtz’s one-timer is a dangerous weapon — specifically on the powerplay — where he is able to play an Ovechkin/Laine type role of drawing defenders in towards him. His powerplay presence forces the opposition to stay honest, opening up space for his teammates without removing his ability to be the most dangerous weapon on the ice.

Holtz is also a capable playmaker who is able to find his teammates when he doesn’t have the time and/or space to get his shot off. The only issue is he doesn’t need a lot of either to put the puck past the netminder.

We can see how good Holtz shot is in the video below.

 

6. Tim Stützle, C/W, Adler Mannheim (DEL): The fast-rising German was outside of the top-31 for many at the start of the year, mostly because analysts still didn’t know how playing at the DEL-level would translate to the NHL. I think it’s safe to say that the skill set that Tim Stützle brings is too good to ignore. Playing for the same team that the Red Wings 2019 first-round pick, Moritz Seider, played for in Adler Mannheim, Stützle has been putting on a show.  He is currently on a point-per-game pace and his raw skills are mouth-watering.

Stützle is an elite skater who can stop-and-start on a dime. He has the ability to embarrass defenders with his quick feet, superb edge work, and agility. He takes unique routes around the offensive zone, staying unpredictable and dangerous. He has a predatory nature to his game. He is creative offensively and does a good job of keeping his opponents on their toes.

We can see how dangerous Stützle can be below. Despite his teammate not being able to finish on the play, Stützle makes a beautiful play.

 

7. Noel Gunler, LW/RW, Luleå HF (SHL): One of the most divisive prospects this year, Noel Gunler isn’t in the good books of Swedish Hockey as he’s been left off of numerous national teams at the U18 and U20 level that he clearly had the skill set to crack. There have been rumors of attitude issues but there hasn’t been anything substantiated. Without question, Gunler is a high-end talent and until something is confirmed or revealed as to major off-ice issues, Gunler will and should be in the top-10 of most rankings.

What makes him special is his full-offensive arsenal. He has an elite shot, top-three in the draft class behind Holtz and about even with Perfetti, and his playmaking is dynamic. Gunler can shoot the puck from a variety of body positions and he has the ability to find his teammates after drawing attention from the goalie and defenders. His skating is good but not great, he could stand to be a bit more efficient with his stride. Overall, Gunler could be a prospect that falls, should teams find out what the off-ice issues are, but for the purpose of this exercise, his skill-level is undeniable and he deserves to be in this spot.

We see Gunler’s attacking mentality below where he beats the goaltender but not the post and his teammate cleans it up.

 

8. Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): “Goal Perfetti” as he came to be known as during the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in August has become “Playmaker Perfetti” since the OHL season started. He dealt with an oddly low shooting percentage at the start of the year, down to 2.8% at one point, but it’s started to rebound. The nice thing about the goal-scoring slump that he started the year on was the fact that he was able to showcase his playmaking ability, leading the OHL in assists coming into this past weekend.

Cole Perfetti isn’t the best skater but he has shown improvement over the last year. He is also showing his vision and connecting on passes much more consistently this year. His shot is elite, top-three in the draft class. He has a knack for the big moment, showing up big in high-pressure situations, leading Canada in scoring by setting a new record at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with 12 points in just five games. Perfetti has a real shot of leading draft-eligible players in the OHL in scoring this year, even with Byfield dominating the league at the moment.

Perfetti’s dynamic hands and nose for the net can be seen below.

 

9. Jaime Drysdale, RHD, Erie Otters (OHL): Jaime Drysdale is a smooth-skating defender who has massive offensive upside. He is a smooth skater who can walk the blue-line with more efficiency than some players can skate in a straight line.

Drysdale has the potential to quarterback a top power-play unit at the next level, thanks to his high-end hockey sense and elite puck skills on the blue-line. He is able to transition the puck from defense to offense with possession and is able to do so with good pace to his game. He has a good shot that he locates well but it isn’t a traditional bomb from the point. He shoots the puck a lot like Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which means he shoots with accuracy for the purpose of creating a rebound or bounces for his teammates down low to clean up.  He is able to step up and join the play, which is when he is able to find the back of the net. When he gets below the circles, he has a quick release that beats goaltenders before they even know it.

He is easily the top defenseman for the 2020 NHL Draft. In the video below, we can see Drysdale’s offensive instincts and great agility as he sets up Perfetti in front of the net.

 

10. Yaroslavl Askarov, G, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL): The best goalie prospect in a decade, Yaroslavl Askarov is calm, cool, and collected in the net. He has great size, standing 6’3″ and covers the net well. He plays the butterfly style, taking away the bottom of the net with efficiency. He moves well laterally with quickness and precision, rarely over-sliding in his crease. He is strong mentally, rarely seeming rattled in the net. His reflexes are elite, snagging pucks out of the air with regularity. Askarov has been tearing up international tournaments over the last year or so, including a dominant Hlinka-Gretzky Cup with a .960 save percentage over four games, leading Russia to gold.

Although he is a goaltender, a position that tends to take a longer time to make an impact on an NHL roster, whoever gambles early in the draft will be getting a player that could become a franchise centerpiece. The save below is his first save as a professional this past August. He shows a strong base and great athleticism.

 

The Best of the Rest

11. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Undersized forward who has great hands and a dangerous shot. He’s been suspended once this year for dirty play and has been close on at least one other occasion. A high-skill player who may need to control his temper.

12. Dylan Holloway, LW, University of Wisconsin (NCAA): Dominated the AJHL last season and has moved onto the NCAA with the University of Wisconsin. A sturdy, power winger who gets to the net.

13. Antonio Stranges, LW/C, London Knights (OHL): One of the best and most unique skaters in the draft, Stranges 10-2 skating style has been divisive in the prospect world. A highly skilled winger with great hands. Good playmaker with a good shot.

14. Jérémie Poirier, LHD, Saint Johns Sea Dogs (QMJHL): Smooth skating defenseman who has developed his defensive game over the last year. Developing into a solid two-way defender.

15. Justin Barron, RHD, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Sturdy and responsible defender who is able to contribute offensively with a big shot. He is a decent distributor of the puck from the blue line.

16. Zion Nybeck, RW, HV71 J20 (SuperElit): Speedy, silky smooth forward who hounds the puck in the offensive zone. The diminutive winger moves through the ice with one intent, get the puck, find the back of the net.

17. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL): Lapierre is the kind of player that is good at just about everything but doesn’t really have a standout trait. He produces at every level.

18. Rodion Amirov, LW, Salavat Yuleav UFA/Tolpar UFA (KHL/MHL): Playing primarily in the KHL so far, his role has been muted but the skills are there to be a productive forward. If he gets time in the MHL, he should be able to show off his skill. He should be a player to watch at the World Junior Championship if he makes the team.

19. Jan Mysak, C, HC Litvinov (Czech Extraliga): Highly skilled center from the Czech Extraliga who has been producing at a half-point-per-game pace thus far. He is an extremely smart player who flashes his skill whenever given the chance.

20. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Leading the WHL in scoring as a draft-eligible player, Zary is proving that his big scoring totals from last year aren’t a fluke. He’s one of the older players in the class and he’s playing like it.

21. Lukas Cormier, LHD, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL): Fast-rising offensive defender who has produced at an impressive rate. Quick feet and quick hands help him control play when the puck is on his stick.

22. Roni Hirvonen, C, Ässät (Liiga): He optimizes his linemates thanks to excellent vision. A smooth skater who has excellent edges and agility to elude defenders.

23. Kasper Simontaival, RW, Tappara J20 (Jr A SM-Liiga): Fast winger who has great touch. He’s a playmaker who is always thinking offense which sometimes leaves him behind defensively.

24. John-Jason Peterka, RW/LW, EHC Munchen (DEL): Good all-around player who can play any role that’s asked of him. He does a good job of finding where to be offensively and taking advantage. Rising up most boards quickly with a hot start in the DEL.

25. Jacob Perreault, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL): Perreault is a high-level finisher who has a nose for the net. He attacks the slot area and makes his presence known. Decent but not great playmaker.

26. Dawson Mercer, RW, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): Mercer is a high IQ player who uses his smarts to take advantage of opponents’ mistakes. He finds his teammates and makes sure the puck is on the tape of the most dangerous player on the ice.

27. Emil Andrae, LHD, HV71 J20 (SuperElit): Smaller defender who plays a great transitional game. He moves the puck effectively and efficiently up the ice and is a battler in his own end. Added strength will help Andrae in his own end.

28. Carter Savoie, LW, Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL): Dominating the Junior A level in Alberta, Canada, Savoie is an offensive catalyst doing it all for the Crusaders. He has 39 points in just 19 games and should produce at that rate or higher all year.

29. Will Cuylle, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): One of Windsor’s many draft-eligible prospects, Cuylle has had a slow start but has started to come around. He is a big power winger with a huge shot and he’s also added some nastiness to his game.

30. Michael Benning, RHD, Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL): With 28 points in just 19 games from the back-end, Benning has been one of the best players in Junior A. He is a good skater who uses his skating to defend rather than his physicality because of his small stature.

31. Jaromir Pytlik, C, Soo Greyhounds (OHL): He understands the game offensively and knows where to be. He isn’t a play driver but he’s a high-level passenger which is a valuable asset. He has a good shot and can make crisp passes in the attacking zone.

 

Detroit’s Perspective

It may come as a surprise but the Detroit Red Wings are not a very good team this year. They are currently on pace for less than 60 points which would have been good for dead last in the standings last season. This year, it looks like the Red Wings have some company in the basement with teams like the Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, and Chicago Blackhawks, among others, who all look like they could continue their futile play. Detroit has games in hand on all of those teams, which means that they are actually on pace to finish at the bottom of the standings by points percentage. If Detroit is able to get a top-five pick, it will be equivalent to getting the first overall pick in many years. Adding any of the players in the top-ten will change their future landscape.

*******

Thank you for joining me for the November NHL Draft rankings, we will be back with another update after the World Junior Championships in January. For now, you can check out the Top-31 here on Wings Nation or you can go to my Twitter, @theTonyFerrari, and check out my full Top-100 in my pinned tweet. Until next time, enjoy all the hockey and be sure to check out the Red Wings October Prospect Report for all of the latest on the current crop of Red Wings prospects.