The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is still 19 months away but it’s shaping up to be such an exciting draft class that I wanted to release my way-too-early ranking already now. This will likely look ridiculous a year from now when some new prospects work their way towards the spotlight and others fade away but that’s just how it goes.
The reason why this is a good time for these rankings is that the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge has just ended, and most of the top prospects for the 2020 draft were playing in that tournament. The talent level in that tournament was amazing which just reaffirms why so many scouts are so excited about this draft class. European teams were strong in that tournament as gold went to Russia, silver to Finland and bronze to Sweden.
If you were looking for 2019 rankings and opened this one by mistake, don’t worry, we got you covered: 2019 NHL Draft Rankings – November 2018 Edition.
The first overall race in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft will likely end up being between two Canadians, Alexis Lafrenière from the Rimouski Océanic in the QMJHL, and Quinton Byfield from the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL. Both players were drafted first overall to their major junior leagues, and both players have been impact players immediately upon their arrival. Canada’s latest first overall pick in the NHL draft was Connor McDavid in 2015, and there’s very little chance 2019 changes things. But the 2020 draft is a different story. They’re not McDavid level talents but both look like above average first overall picks in the NHL draft.
Byfield has all the tools to become a dominant No. 1 center in the NHL. He’s 10 months younger than Lafrenière and it wouldn’t be surprising if Byfield took over the top spot in my rankings at some point. He’s a beast at junior level, and has the upside to be a beast in the NHL as well. But for now, I need to see him play at a high level for a longer period of time, and I want to see more consistency from him. What Lafrenière did during his rookie season in the ‘Q’ (42 goals and 80 points in 60) was unbelievable, and his second season is off to a great start as well (12 goals and 35 points in 20 games). Byfield has the tools to get to that level but for now, he’s sitting comfortably at number two.
My next tier includes Swedish winger Lucas Raymond and Finnish center Anton Lundell. Lundell is a great two-way talent who projects to become a Patrice Bergeron type player. He’s not as flashy as Raymond but he’s already playing very well at the top level in Finland in the Liiga. Besides Lafrenière, Lundell is the most NHL ready player from this group, and I’m expecting both of them to play at the World Juniors this winter. But Raymond is such a smart and dynamic offensive talent that I had to put him at three. His offensive upside is huge. He can both make plays and finish them. He’s also a good defensive player who can kill penalties as well. Raymond has already played a few games at the top level in Sweden in the SHL.
Up next is a pair of Swedish wingers in Noel Gunler and Alexander Holtz. Coming into this season, Holtz was the biggest name out of Sweden, and even though he’s played well, he’s dropped behind Raymond and Gunler because they’ve been even better. Gunler is four months older than Holtz but his game is further ahead as well. He dominated in the Swedish junior league to start this season, and since then he’s been playing in the SHL and impressing there as well. Most recently he was impressing at a U18 Five Nations tournament in Czech Republic where he was one of the best players for Sweden.
At number seven, I have Canadian defenseman Jamie Drysdale. He’s a great two-way defenseman with upside to become a top-pair defenseman at the NHL level. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 but looks bigger than that. Drysdale can do it all. He can move the puck, run the power play, play solid defensive game, play physical… And he has that right-handed shot which is always valuable. At the U17 tournament, Drysdale was the team Captain for Canada Black, a team that also included Byfield. He was drafted fourth overall in the OHL Priority Selection, and he’s off to a great start with the Erie Otters with nine points in 14 games.
At number eight, I have Finnish winger Kasper Simontaival. He was eligible to play at the U17 tournament but he was busy playing a top-line role for Team Finland at the U18 tournament in Czech Republic. Simontaival is a creative and dynamic offensive winger who creates a lot of offense for his linemates. He’s not big but isn’t intimated by bigger players. He’s already made his Liiga debut this season, and he’s produced at every level he’s played at.
First Russian on my list can be found at number nine. Daniil Gushchin is yet another talented offensive winger with a history of producing points wherever he plays. Most recently he played a major role for gold-winning Russian team at the World U17 Challenge. Gushchin finished the tournament with six points in six games, and he scored an important shorthanded goal in the final against Finland. He is also the leading U17 scorer at the USHL this season.
Rounding out the top ten is Czech winger Jan Mysak. Mysak is a talented winger who is already playing against men at the Extraliga which is the highest level in Czech Republic. In 15 games so far, Mysak has put up four points which is already one of the best U17 scoring seasons in that league over the past two decades. Just goes to show how rare it is to play at that level as a 16-year-old. And he’s also very young for this draft class.
There’s a strong European flavor in my top ten but the next wave of prospects is definitely coming from the Canadian Hockey League. At No. 11 I have Canadian defenseman Justin Barron from the QMJHL, at No. 12, Canadian forward Jean-Luc Foudy (brother of Liam) from the OHL, at No. 13, Canadian forward Connor McClennon from the WHL, at No. 14 Austrian forward Marco Rossi from the OHL, and at No. 15, Canadian forward Jake Neighbours from the WHL.
|Rank||Player||Position||Shoots||Nationality||League||Date of Birth||Height||Weight|
|8||Kasper Simontaival||RW||R||FIN||Jr. A SM-liiga||2002-01-11||5-9||172|
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
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