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Welcome back to my mid-week, every week Prospect Ramblings! This week I’ll be expanding on some of the answers to the question I recently tweeted out. I asked the Twitterverse to give me two players from the 2020 NHL Draft class and I would choose between them and give reasons as to why I would choose that player if the draft were today. Without further ado, let’s get at it!
Alexander Holtz v. Tim Stützle
My Thought Process: Stützle’s rise in the first couple of months of the season has been astounding! Coming into the year there were questions of whether his play could translate from the DNL (German junior league) to the DEL (Top German men’s league). Stützle has put up almost a point-per-game and dominated at times in the DEL against grown men. After that, the questions were about whether the DEL was legitimate enough competition. In Champions Hockey League play, against the championship level teams from the top European leagues, Stützle had five points in eight games prior to his Adler Mannheim team being eliminated from the playoff bracket. Stützle is good.
Why I chose him over Holtz however has to do with his overall ability to affect the game in a wider variety of ways, while still providing the dangerous offensive threat. While Holtz’s goal-scoring is at the top of this draft class, he lacks in other areas. He has above-average speed, good puck skills and an offensive-IQ that is lethal. Stützle, on the other hand, is an elite-level skater, a predatory offensive presence and an above-average two-way player. He provides a balanced goal-scoring and play-making attack, doing both quite well. Stützle has proven that he deserves to be in the conversation for the top-five in this draft class and to do that, he’s going to need to pass a couple of high-end players with Holtz and Lundell being the two players at the back-end of that grouping in many eyes. Stützle has worked himself into that conversation and in my eyes, he has passed Holtz. It has nothing to do with Holtz playing poorly because he’s had a pretty good season. It has everything to do with the reveal of just how good Stützle is.
My Pick: Tim Stützle
Marco Rossi v. Cole Perfetti
My Thought Process: These two are very close and it was difficult to choose between them. Perfetti is an elite-level finisher, in the same realm as Holtz. He does a good job of finding the soft spots in the offensive zone and his release is deadly accurate. He struggles to score goals to start the year but he was able to adapt and take on a play-making role where he also excelled. The versatility and adaptability have been impressive to see. Rossi is an awe-inspiring player at times with elite puck skills and a dual-threat approach in the offensive zone. He has a quick release that allows his shot to play up and excellent vision, finding teammates with regularity. He isn’t a big player at just 5’9″ and 179lbs but he isn’t afraid to get to the middle of the ice and fight his way to the net.
For much of the past year, Perfetti has been ahead of Rossi in the view of most draft analysts and scouts but times are changing. Rossi production is becoming undeniable. Perfetti is producing as well, and when you look at the two players statistics on the season, they aren’t far off. The difference? Games played. Rossi has played five fewer games and has four more points. While raw statistics should never be used as the only determining factor, if players are already close in skill level and your evaluations deem both players nearly even in terms of future projections and rankings for the draft, they can be used as a tie-breaker. These two players are almost too close to call but Rossi wins the tie-breaker with his 2.316 points-per-game over Perfetti’s 1.667 points-per-game.
My Pick: Marco Rossi
Michael Benning v. Carter Savoie
My Thought Process: This is an interesting one. They are most likely grouped together because they are both not only in the same league, the AJHL (Junior A), but they are also both integral members of the same team, the Sherwood Park Crusaders. With their position differences, it becomes hard to compare but I’ll treat it as a “Best Player Available” situation.
With Benning, you’re getting a smooth-skating, puck-moving defender who has a smaller stature. He is a risk-taker who likes to push the pace but gets burned once in a while. His production speaks for itself and rivals that of Cale Makar during his draft season with Benning averaging 1.42 points-per-game while Makar averaged 1.39 points-per-game. While I don’t think they are the same player, the production at the same age is intriguing and a welcome sign for Benning. He isn’t without warts, however. His defensive play could stand to improve and he will likely need to bulk up before playing in the professional ranks.
The one advantage Benning has is another NHL-quality prospect with him. That prospect is none other than the aforementioned Carter Savoie. Savoie is an offensive dynamo in the AJHL, tearing the league apart with 48 points in just 26 games. He has a great shot and he is a very good skater. Savoie sees the ice well and involves his teammates, raising them to his level with consistency. Savoie could sneak into the first round of the NHL Draft whereas Benning is likely a second-day pick.
My Pick: Carter Savoie
Lucas Raymond v. Quinton Byfield
My Thought Process: The battle for the second spot on most rankings is currently between these two players. In Raymond, we have a shifty, skilled forward who plays with speed. He sees the ice better than just about anyone in the draft class and his skating sets the standard. Raymond has been playing in a pro-league in the SHL but he hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to show what he can truly do as he’s been severely limited in ice-time and opportunity. While I haven’t docked him at all yet for his playing time issues, it is a concern to monitor during his season.
Byfield is a freak of nature. He has an unmatched size, speed, and skill combination and he has been putting it all on display at numerous times this season. His shot is high-end as is his passing ability, making him a headache for opposing defenses as they can’t overcommit to him or he can make them pay. Byfield is a force of nature when he gets going. Strong on the puck and physical in the offensive zone, Byfield can dominate a shift by wearing the opposition down on the cycle along the boards before bursting into open ice and showing off his soft hands and excellent touch by attacking the slot.
Prior to this season, this was much closer than it is now. To no fault of Raymond himself, Byfield’s play has been on such a high level that he has moved closer to Alexis Lafreniere for the fist overall pick than falling back behind Raymond as the third. I had him at two in my personal rankings to start the year, he was second on November 1st and he’s second now.
My Pick: Quinton Byfield
Antonio Stranges v. Dylan Holloway
My Thought Process: This is tight. This one may be the closest of any of the players I was given. While both Holloway and Stranges are vastly different players, I value them very closely and they are 12 and 13 in my rankings. Both players affect the game in a variety of ways and both have uncertainties about them.
Holloway is a two-way center who plays effectively at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t often go for the big hit but doesn’t shy away from engaging physically to separate the puck from the man. In the offensive zone, he is heavy on the puck and has a big, booming shot. He likes to draw defenders in by protecting the puck and attacking the middle of the ice below to face-off circles. Once he notices the second defender cheating towards him, he is able to find the open attacker for the scoring chance. Holloway has been centering the top-line at the University of Wisconsin for many of their games, creating chances and not looking out of place with NCAA aged players.
With Stranges, elite skating, speed, and puck skills are the centerpieces to his game. He’s the latest ’10-2′ skater to wow audiences in the OHL. He isn’t getting primetime minutes consistently with the London Knights as is the case with many prospects who go through the Knights organization which hinders his production. This season he has shown an ability to utilize the ’10-2′ a bit more effectively, using to evade his opposition in the neutral zone and in transition and less often just circling the neutral zone. When he does use the technique in the offensive zone, its generally to create space, change his angle and open up passing lanes. This allows him to be a playmaker at all times and gives him to option of changing directions in the blink of an eye.
My Pick: Flip a coin. I’ll default to Holloway because I love two-way players.
Thanks for joining me for my mid-week Ramblings! This week I had a bit of fun with an assist from all of you on Twitter! Feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari, my DMs are always open! Be sure to check out my newest project, Shift Work: Lucas Raymond, where I do a shift-by-shift analysis of Raymond’s game and figure out what makes him a top-five prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft. Until next time, be kind, relax and enjoy the hockey!