Best of 2020 Draft: Top 10 Playmakers

Welcome to Part 2 of the Best of 2020 series. For today’s feature I will be covering the top 10 playmakers in the draft. Like shooting, excelling at playmaking in one’s draft season is one of the top ways to be a high-upside player with point scoring capability at the NHL level. Every player ranked here aren’t just good prospects– they’re all in my top 20. Even moderately talented players can be productive and considered high-upside so long as they possess high hockey IQ and vision (Mavrik Bourque is a prime example of this). Even so, the reason most of these playmakers are so elite is not just their pure playmaking ability but the skills they combine that playmaking with.

Without further ado, here’s my top 10 playmakers in the 2020 NHL Draft, complete with the three things that make them elite playmakers and some video evidence of their high-quality playmaking.

The Top 10 Playmakers of the 2020 NHL Draft

10. Seth Jarvis

Best aspects:

  • Skate and distribute
  • Short, effective passes
  • Powerplay puck movement

Results: 56 assists in 58 games

We’re kicking off the Top 10 Playmakers with a very unique player in Seth Jarvis. Jarvis doesn’t have one particular playmaking attribute that immediately stands out; for Jarvis, playmaking is a calculated process and more specifically, the calculated skate and distribute process he has mastered this season. He thrives at collecting the puck, taking a few strides for separation and then distributing the puck to a higher danger area. While he has good hockey sense, is usually accurate on his passes and can be creative, it’s the subtle style of playmaking he has taken up that vaulted his lofty assist totals all the way up to 56 in 58 games.

9. Mavrik Bourque

Best aspects:

  • Exceptional vision
  • Cross ice passes
  • Precise passing accuracy

Results: 42 assists in 49 games

Though he lacks size and quality skating, Bourque is a magician when it comes to making spectacular plays from a standstill. There are very few in the draft who you can say the same about. There are so many examples in the video above that show Bourque’s elite, elite vision and his absolute precision when making passes across the ice. Because of his playmking skills, Bourque will be mainstay on NHL team’s powerplay unit. There are simply not many guys who can do what he does. Where Bourque loses marks is when it comes to being able to skate and distribute, an area where he is visibly lacking and could cause problems at 5 V 5 play in the NHL.

8. Quinton Byfield

Best aspects:

  • Passing off the rush
  • Using reach to create passing lanes
  • Gets passes to high danger areas frequently

Results: 50 assists in 45 games

Quinton Byfield finishes 8th in the Top 10 Playmakers list and not for lack of results– the 50 assists in 45 games is spectacular. Byfield ranks 8th, which I’m thinking is a littler lower than most would think and it’s because he’s not really a pure playmaker. Compare him to Mavrik Bourque above, who is much better at making plays without using his skating or size. However, Byfield CAN use his skating and size to make plays and thus becomes a slightly better overall playmaker than Bourque. Nobody in this draft is as elite as Byfield as making passes to dangerous areas at top speed.

7. Jamie Drysdale

Best aspects:

  • Giving one-timer passes
  • Deception
  • Powerplay puck movement

Results: 38 assists in 49 games

The only defenseman on this list, Drysdale is easily the best passer among defenders available for the 2020 draft. The value he brings with his one-time passes on the powerplay is incredible; he’s excellent at selling the shot and giving a crisp, accurate pass to an open shooter. You’ll see two examples of this in the first two clips of the video above. It’s a subtle but important skill for an offensive defenseman. Even when he’s not making those exact passes, Drysdale is always accurate and keeps his head on a swivel looking for passing options. He is also excellent at using his skating as a device to create better passing lanes, allowing him to make many passes that other defenseman aren’t able to.

6. Hendrix Lapierre

Best aspects:

  • Excellent vision
  • Freezing opponents by slowing it down
  • Versatile passer (backhands and saucers)

Results: 15 assists in 19 games

Lapierre missed most of the season, but in his short QMJHL career he has really showed how impressive of a playmaker he is. He sees the ice so well and knows how to slow the game down to take advantage of his opponents. Lapierre also finds lanes that few in this draft class can see and he is able to exploit those lanes in a variety of ways. It’s really unfortunate he was out for the whole season because I think a lot more people would be more fond of Hendrix Lapierre and his brilliant playmaking. The good news is that Lapierre is back and healthy and should produce a lot of assists in the 2020-21 season.

5. Marco Rossi

Best aspects:

  • Makes the right pass every time
  • Crisp and accurate passer
  • Poised with the puck

Results: 81 assists in 56 games

Rossi had a mind-blowing offensive season for the 67’s in 2019-20. If you need any proof of his playmaking ability, pointing to the 81 assists he racked up should be enough. What makes Rossi an effective playmaker is his ability to consistently and frequently make the right passing play with a high degree of accuracy. Rossi also is incredibly poised with the puck and is never afraid to hold on for an extra second in order to make a succesful passing completion. I’m not sure he will ever be a skate and distribute type playmaker like Lucas Raymond and Tim Stutzle, but Rossi will excel at making the simple, smart plays. It’s what he did on Ottawa this past season and it’s what he will do in the NHL, which could be as early as next season.

4. Lucas Raymond

Best aspects:

  • Skate and distribute
  • Excellent vision
  • Versatile passer (backhands and saucers)

Results: 6 assists in 33 games

While Raymond didn’t necessarily put up the results you’d expect from an elite playmaker due to his limited role in Frolunda last season, he possesses a very high-degree of natural playmaking abilities and makes my Top 10 Playmakers list as the #4 player. Raymond is a natural playmaker who excels at skating and distributing, meaning he primarily relies on his offensive zone agility to create opportunities. The first two clips in the video above are prime examples of that particular playmaking style on display. Outside of that, he also has great vision and can complete a variety of passes, whether it be from his backhand or forehand thanks to his top-notch puck skills.

3. Tim Stutzle

Best aspects:

  • Skate and distribute
  • Creativity
  • North to south passing

Results: 27 assists in 41 games

Although he is 3rd on this list, the best way to describe Stutzle is that he’s a playmaker in the making. He’s got absolutely incredible tools to become an elite playmaker in the NHL; skating, vision, creativity and puck skills. I wouldn’t describe him as a precise playmaker (Rossi, Lafreniere, Perfetti types) with his current ability but he’s certainly able to generate a lot of assists with the raw tools and hockey sense he does have– the 27 assists in 41 pro games certainly speaks for itself. The other thing with Stutzle I’ve noticed is his prowess at making north to south passes, which can be much more dangerous than typical cross ice passes.

2. Cole Perfetti

Best aspects:

  • Excellent vision
  • Skate and distribute
  • Poised with the puck

Results: 74 assists in 61 games

Nobody in the draft holds onto the puck with such poise that Perfetti does. He skates around the offensive zone looking for the best passing option and he can deliver that pass deceptively and accurately every time, whether it be from his forehand or backhand. This process allows Perfetti to create several dangerous changes for the Saginaw Spirit every game. It’s no surprise he ended the season with 74 assist in 61 games, the most of any U18 OHLer since McDavid, Strome, and Marner in 2014-15. It’s very likely Perfetti will be an elite NHL playmaker for whatever team takes him (I think Detroit) since he’s already so far ahead of most peers.

  1. Alexis Lafreniere

Best aspects:

  • Deception
  • Cross ice passes
  • Gets passes to dangerous areas frequently
  • Best vision I’ve seen in a draft prospect

Results: 77 assists in 52 games

I’ve been following the draft closely since 2014 and in that time, nobody is on the same level as Alexis Lafreniere when it comes to pure playmaking. A guy like McDavid is gonna get more assists at the NHL level thanks to his world-class skating but from a pure playmaking perspective, Alexis is the best I have seen. He can dominate the game without even moving his feet, something that is so underrated and equally impressive. The way he slows the game down and absolutely terrorizes the opposition to create countless high-danger scoring opportunities is remarkable. The deception, accuracy, and understanding of where his teammates are/will be is mind-blowing to me. Lafreniere is going to be piling up assists right from the get-go for the Rangers. Some will be subtle mastery and others gorgeous spectacles, but one thing’s for certain– they will be abundant.

Lafreniere simply excels at deceptive cross-ice passes, freezing the goaltender and defenders. Clips from 0:00 to 0:45 in the video above provide some examples of Lafreniere’s deception and ability to freeze opponents. Looking at those clips, you might think “Wow, those defenders look so bad and slow!” but trust me, they aren’t– that’s just what Alexis does to his opponents.

Clips from 0:50 onward are some of my favourite assists from Alexis Lafreniere. There’s some amazing examples in there of his spectacular talent and world-class vision. I know he is already going #1 but get excited Rangers fans, I think this guy is even better than most think.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading part 2 of the Best of 2020 Draft series! I hope it was worthwhile and informative. If you agree or disagree with any of the Top 10 Playmakers list or want to share your thoughts feel free to in the comments or by replying on Twitter.

Part 3 of the series should be coming out within the next week and will cover the top skaters in the draft, once again complete with video evidence and a breakdown of each top skater!

If you don’t already, be sure to follow me at @BBMHockey on Twitter as well as the site account at @TPN_Hockey!

Huge thanks to the following YouTube channels for providing the clips used in the videos on these top prospects. All are great producers of hockey prospect content!

Puck Prospects: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCenIeqP3SMsitS2PLpRa2_Q/featured

Puck Daily: https://www.youtube.com/user/GardoTheMan2

Best of Hockey: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfIrGdL23EcYxcqLf1Lw6BA

bigwhite06: https://www.youtube.com/user/bigwhite06

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