ROUND 1 BREAKDOWN:
- Alexis Lafreniere
My obvious choice for #1 and I wouldn’t consider anyone else for the pick. Coming into the draft, Lafreniere is the best prospect since Matthews and is in the same tier as Eichel and Matthews. I really believe Lafreniere could be a 70+ point player in his rookie year for the Rangers. Just an incredible playmaker who performs game in and game out. Can’t find a single red flag for him.
2. Tim Stutzle
Stutzle barely edges above Byfield on my list but I’m all aboard the Stutzle hype train. He managed to score 0.83 P/GP in the DEL using his raw and unpolished offensive talent alone. Give him some more time to adapt to men’s hockey and he’ll be piling up more points. Seriously, always bet on insanely-talented kids who put up big points in their first year of pro and have showed signs of dominating their peers.
3. Quinton Byfield
I’ve always liked Byfield and have been cheering for him since his minor midget year. However, somewhere along the line, I feel like the idea of Quinton Byfield became better than the actual Quinton Byfield. He’s a fantastic player with high potential but he also has his flaws like any other prospect. I’d like to see him rely on his scoring and playmaking skills rather than physical skills more often, but at the same time, why would he stop using the phyiscal skills if that’s what’s enabling him to dominate the OHL? I think the only way Byfield can figure this out is by playing another level where he will have to use his other skills.
4. Cole Perfetti
The 2nd smartest player in the draft after Lafreniere, Perfetti is a genius on the ice. I’m shocked he doesn’t get more love on hockey prospects twitter like Byfield and Raymond do. He’s flashy, incredibly talented and has always put up big numbers. Perfetti just has a knack to figure out the opponents and manipulate them in a way that so few can. I’ll admit it is a bit scary projecting a smaller, mediocre-skating forward to carry his offensive game to the NHL but I firmly believe Perfetti has the mindset, talent, and hockey IQ to overcome it. He’s just so proactive that he will surely find ways to be a contributor and a point-producing offensive player.
5. Lucas Raymond
Raymond is a fantastic winger. His surprising lack of ice time and opportunity in 2019-20 definitely limited his offensive production and overall impact. I’ll also admit he never seemed to be able to adapt and be a proactive player at the SHL level last season. However, his utter dominance against peers leads me to believe he’ll be a much improved SHLer in 2020-21 and a player who holds high NHL potential.
6. Jamie Drysdale
Drysdale is probably the best defenseman in the draft but it’s very close between him and Sanderson. I think Drysdale has a lot of room to grow and improve his other skills to complement his high hockey IQ and elite skating. I am a little iffy on his overall ability to take over games and control the puck like a #1 defenseman can. He could stand to work on his offensive zone puck control and use his feet more to make plays.
7. Jake Sanderson
A player I completely overlooked in the first half, I finally gave in to the Sanderson hype around February. He really is an incredible two-way defenseman. His skating just seems so easy and he’s able to keep the puck out of reach pretty easily. He defends so well and never is out of position. He could see some nice development over the next few years. Don’t expect him to put up big numbers in college but he’ll continue growing as an all-round player until he’s NHL ready.
8. Marco Rossi
There’s no question that Rossi is an offensive powerhouse and a strong, hard-working all-round player. However, I worry a little bit how his offensive game will translate. He’s a perfect junior hockey player who does every single thing right, which worries me; what’s he going to improve if he already does everything well? At the end of the day, I think Rossi could step into the NHL right away, but I also think his game is very mature and he’s a lot further in his development curve than most players around him. His ridiculous prowess for offense and two-way potential keeps him at 8.
9. Yaroslav Askarov
Is the best goalie in the draft and potentially the best in over a decade worth taking in the top 10? I think so. Maybe a team like Ottawa even reaches for him at 5. All depends on how much risk you;re willing to take on but by all accounts, Askarov is a goalie who brings less risk than most, having established himself in pro hockey already.
10. Seth Jarvis
It’s hard to believe Jarvis was seen as a 2nd rounder before January. I’ve never seen such monstrous split between the 1st half of the season vs the 2nd half. Here’s how it broke down for Jarvis;
- 36 points in his first 33 GP
- 62 points in his last 25 GP
62 points in 25 GP is mind-blowing for a draft eligible player. It was only 25 games but Jarvis has the skill and speed to go along with his production. A very high upside player. By many statistical accounts, Jarvis was right up there with Lafreniere, Rossi, Byfield and Perfetti as the top eligibles in the CHL.
11. Jack Quinn
Jack Quinn improved so much over the past year it’s quite shocking to think about. I wrote him off at the beginning and didn’t give his early goal scoring enough credit. Quinn is a player just coming into his own who has lots of room to grow. For my money, Quinn is almost on par with Holtz in the scoring department but finds himself ranked ahead on my list for his other qualities.
12. Alexander Holtz
Holtz is an incredible goal scorer and there’s no doubt about it. I’m just not sure about his overall game being effective in the NHL. He has trouble playing in tight spaces but can absolutely rip the puck when he gets open space. His NHL potential depends on him adding more layers to his game. Had a really good season in the SHL though and would be a great pick at 12.
13. Anton Lundell
If I was picking all-round players to have on my NHL roster today, Lundell would rank 3rd after Lafreniere and Rossi. However, that’s not what we’re evaluating these players for. I really want to like Lundell– he’s an awesome player as is but I just don’t see any elite skill that would warrant having him higher. He plays like 10 year NHL veteran in a 3C role– a valuable piece and impressive for a draft prospect, but also concerning in the upside department given his reliance on steady play versus pure talent.
14. Lukas Reichel
It’s puzzling to me why Reichel’s name doesn’t get brought up in more top-15 discussion. Let’s give a rundown of Reichel’s current bio and abilities as a prospect:
- Improved drastically over the past year
- Physically underdeveloped at 6’0″, 170 lbs (room for growth)
- 24 points in 42 games in the DEL while adjusting from poor quality league
- Flashes high-end skill frequently
Add that up and you have a typical top-15 prospect. The fact that Reichel’s 24 points in 42 games are going unnoticed is a crime. I’d forgive it if he didn’t have the skill to match the points and was just a beneficiary of his linemates/situation but that’s not even the case; Reichel’s got skill in spades. There’s so much potential in this player and the fact that he’s being talked about as a 2nd rounder is remarkable. I really doubt he lasts long and I actually think he’ll go top-20 and before Anton Lundell.
15. Tyson Foerster
Foerster is my favourite player of the 1st round. He’s so damn good at making NHL style plays. Sometimes I don’t even know what I mean when I say that but watch him and you’ll get it. He scores from the outside frequently, doesn’t rely on anyone else to produce, and he reads the play a step ahead of everyone else. Sure, he’s a fairly poor skater but rarely do you see a player who makes the most of his abilities like Foerster does. He’ll be an elite goal scorer in the NHL and I have no doubts.
16. Hendrix Lapierre
A clear top 10 player on my list before his season ended in 2019-20. Lapierre is still a fantastic player despite the injuries. With no injury concerns, Lapierre would likely be ranked 10th for me. He’s an amazing playmaker, he sees the ice so well and he thrives as the primary puck carrier on his line. I really hope he can stay healthy and with his impressive early season play, it’s looking more and more likely a team will take a chance on him with a top-20 selection.
17. Mavrik Bourque
I really love Bourque’s offensive game and I believe he has the potential to be a phenomenal powerplay guy in the future. As fun as it is to draft these players, I’m a little skeptical about his defensive and transition abilities. Once he’s already in the offensive zone and in possession in the puck, few in this draft are better creators of offense. I’d say Lafreniere, Stutzle, Perfetti, Rossi and that is it.
18. Connor Zary
As a weak skater, Zary makes up for it by using his hockey IQ, puck skills, playmaking, and shot to dominate the ice surface. Zary was easily one of the premier players in the WHL last season and he can play in all three zones. He’s for sure a likely player to have some sort of impact in the NHL, but I’m just not sure there’s high top-6 upside for Zary. However, as a top-3 player in the WHL last year, Zary deserves a spot in my top 20.
19. Rodion Amirov
I love Amirov’s skill and rawness but he needs to figure out what he’s going to do as a player to produce points. I don’t see any consistency in his goal scoring or playmaking to consider him elite in any category. However, for Amirov, his hands, skating, and tenacity make him a fun, speedy winger that could play up and down the lineup. I have a gut feeling he gets picked by New Jersey with one of their two mid-round picks.
20. Lukas Cormier
One of my favourite players in the draft. Cormier doesn’t need size to dictate the pace of play and dominate the ice as he commands play by making the right decisions and being in the right positions. He also has an improving offensive flair. A good, but not great skater for his size, Cormier loses some points for that. If Cormier was just as good but stood at 6’2″, no doubt he’d be on the same level as Drysdale and Sanderson. Surely 4 inches can’t push him down too far.
21. Noel Gunler
Gunler, for all his skill, had a disappinting 2019-20 season. I really want to like him as a goal scorer but he just didn’t improve enough in that area to have him higher. He still is incredibly skilled though and can rip the puck when he gets the chance. The attitude issues are also a bit concerning but Gunler definitely has more skill than most 1st rounders.
22. Dylan Holloway
An underwhelming offensive season leaves a little concern about his offensive upside. However, Holloway really showcased his ability to be a north-south power forward and an effective all-round player. If the offense comes around, a team could have a steal in Holloway but I’d rather bet on more established offensive producers like Bourque, Zary, and Lapierre.
23. Ridly Greig
Ridly Greig is a very underdeveloped prospect. At 162 pounds, Greig is going to put on a substantial amount of muscle to fill out his frame and when he does the results are going to come. He has great instincts with the puck and loves to mix-it-up. I think Greig has some potential to be a big-time player. Within two years, he will be a top 3 player in the WHL and a top NHL prospect.
24. Ozzy Wiesblatt
Wiesblatt is incredibly talented and should really be on teams’ first round radar. I love how much pace and skill Wiesblatt plays with. He zig zags his way around defenders and can slip into spots better than almost anyone in the draft. He should work on his shot and also threading passes to high danger areas to become a better all-round scoring threat.
25. Braden Schneider
A very good two-way defenseman, I’m fairly certain Schneider will be serviceable NHLer at some point. His offensive and transition upside isn’t high enough for me to have him in the top-20. Either way, Schneider is the best defensive defenseman in the draft after Sanderson.
26. Dawson Mercer
Nothing about Mercer really stands out to me and for that reason he falls to 26. I do like his agility and puckhandling but I don’t see elite-level scoring out of Mercer. He can be an excellent player in any role but I would roll the dice on players like Greig and Wiesblatt before Mercer.
27. Jacob Perreault
Perreault is a tough one for me. The points and skill are there but he just lacks an ability to play a consistent game and use his skills effectively. I have concerns about his overall defensive play, work ethic, and hockey IQ. You could give him top marks in every other categories but those factors keep me cold on Perreault.
28. Ryan O’Rourke
O’Rourke is an incredible defenseman. He’s so good in the OHL I’d be willing to argue he was a better overall defenseman last year than Drysdale. He’s so good at making accurate passes in the breakout, he always makes the right play, he plays hard, he defends well, and can add some offense as well. There’s so much to like with O’Rourke. However, he’s only an average skater and at 6’0″ will have trouble playing his style of game in the NHL. I’d still bet on him in the 1st though.
29. Kaiden Guhle
Guhle is often labelled as a bottom-pairing defensive guy. Guhle is good defensively of course but he has a blossoming offensive game as well. I think he could be a point per game defenseman in junior by the time he’s done. I’m personally a little sour in his decision-making and effectiveness in transiton. He needs to be better in the breakout especially when considering the skating ability he has.
30. Jan Mysak
Mysak didn’t have quite the offensive impact I thought he would when he came to Hamilton. He scored a few goals but didn’t display an elite shot or playmaking. I was very impressed with his speed and ability to play an energy and power style of game. I think he will make a very good bottom-six player one day but perhaps not a good scoring winger.
31. Helge Grans
Grans really should be a better prospect than he is. With strong skating ability, a 6’4″ frame and almost a point per game in the SuperElit last year, Grans sounds like a surefire top 15 pick. However, Grans leaves a lot to be desired in his all-round play. He doesn’t use his size well and needs to get involved offensively more often, perhaps by using his skating as a weapon. He has a lot of potential but plays like a bottom-pairing guy. Could be a good player to gamble on with a first for his tools.
ROUND 2 FAVOURITES:
32. Tristen Robins
Robins has seen incredible improvement over the last year and is such a skilled player in every facet. Was by far the best player on Saskatoon last year and will be an amazing pick in round 2. Small but battles very hard.
34. Joni Jurmo
You have to bet on Jurmo’s raw talent early in the 2nd round. You’re not gonnna find another 6’4″ defender who can fly like Jurmo can. Needs a lot of work in his own zone and with decision making but he’s still really raw.
41. Jean-Luc Foudy
The fastest player in the draft is an easy choise in round 2 and might sneak into round 1. His skating is just so far ahead of everyone else. He’s a project but one worth taking on. If Foudy figures out how to be an effective player, he’ll be a complete steal if he goes on day 2.
46. Evan Vierling
One of the draft’s more underrated players, Vierling is a hell of a playmaker with soft hands. He’s early on his development and needs to add a lot of strength and maturity to his game before he’s ready to make an impact but his playmaking ability alone makes him a good pick in round 2.
52. Brandon Coe
Coe did a lot with little help in North Bay last season. His skill complements his size very well and he has a knack for making smart plays. Has improved a lot and puts up points. Has a long way to go to fill out his frame which should make him an even better player in tight areas. Easy 2nd round pick for me.
8 THOUGHTS AND PREDICTIONS
- Where’s Yaroslav Askarov going?
Askarov has a good chance of going to Ottawa at 5. They have showed they aren’t afraid to go off the board to take a player they need or like. After getting Byfield at 3, they couldn’t be better suited to take a goalie. They have so many prospects and picks that they can absolutely afford to do this. If not Ottawa, look for NJ, Buffalo, Minnesota, Nashville, and lastly Edmonton as the team’s he could go to. No chance he gets by Edmonton though.
2. The Divide on Anton Lundell
I’ve seen Lundell being ranked in the 20’s. That’s a little low for my liking. He’s too good right now to have lower than 15 but I understand the concern about his upside. I think Lundell would be highly sought after by NHL GM’s if he was a 30 year-old free agent but the fact that he just turned 19 and is already so developed might have him going lower than expected. Don’t think he falls past 20 though.
3. Byfield at #1? No way.
I wouldn’t recommend this and there’s a 0% chance the Rangers are taking Byfield at #1. Fun player and has the ceiling of a first overall pick, but Lafreniere is currently a much better player, is more likely to have a succesful translation to the NHL, and doesn’t need as much development to be a star. Lafreniere is the clear pick here.
4. Top 10 Fun Draft Prediction
5. Reichel goes before Lundell
This one of my bolder predictions. But with similar offensive output in 2019-20, Reichel posseses much more elite skill with his skating and a team will take him before Anton Lundell.
6. Wiesblatt, O’Rourke, and Foudy go 1st round.
I don’t know if this will actually happen but it sure would be fun. Liam Foudy went way higher than expected in 2018 and the same could happen with JL. Teams are always willing to gamble on elite skating, especially playoff teams. I could see a team’s WHL scout being head over heels for Wiesblatt and a team taking him top 20 even. O’Rourke’s leadership and all-round steady play could draw a team in with picks 20-31.
7. The European D
It seems like most of the top European defenseman in this year’s draft have at least one significant flaw each. Grans, Wallinder, Andrae, Niemela, Viro, Jurmo, Mukhamadullin, Johanesson. It’s very interesting to me because there’s a lot of potential with getting one of these players with a 2nd round pick but none of them strike me as safe picks except Niemela and maybe Grans. Jurmo, Wallinder, Mukhammadullin all offer size and skating but have major issues either in their own zone or with decision-making. Andrae, Viro, and Johanesson are undersized and rather unpredictable with and without the puck but could be really good puck movers or offensive players in the NHL.
8. Taking On Risk
If team’s are willing to take on risk, this draft is perfect for that. Injury concerns for Lapierre and Barron. Defensive concerns for a lot of defensemen (Poirier). Size concerns for a lot skilled players. Look for teams like Ottawa, New Jersey, Montreal, and New York to assume more risk given the amount of picks they have in the first two rounds. I think there’s a good chance Lapierre and Barron go to one of those teams.
Thanks for reading! Can’t wait for everything to unfold!