Image Courtesy: @S7Dsn
Amateur scouting departments were thrown a curveball the minute the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No CHL playoffs, Memorial Cup, or U18 World Championships. Massive opportunities for young players have been wiped aside. Heck, we don’t even know if this group will have their moment on stage on draft day. It’s all completely worth it of course. This is bigger than sport. It’s bigger than individuals. It’s life and death.
And so, we stay inside.
What has also gone by the wayside is the potential for recency bias. There won’t be anything recent by the time this draft occurs (whenever that is). What’s left is for the talent evaluators to hunker down and pour over old game tape. Looking for new tidbits of information. Checking in on players that they maybe didn’t have as many views on earlier in the season.
That’s exactly what I’ve been doing during this isolating period.
I’ve been asked if this will be my final rankings for 2020. It won’t be. I’ll use the remaining months to foster a greater understanding of the players by continuing to review old games and picking the brains of scouts and execs the world over. If we can’t watch them play today, we sure as hell can break down everything they’ve done to this point.
As always, my assessments are limited. I am but one man who also has a four-year-old son, an eight-month-old daughter, a teaching career, and many writing commitments. However, I’m fortunate enough to have a very patient and supportive wife. Additionally, I’m privileged to have several experienced scouts to bounce things off of.
This is not intended to mock up what the selections will eventually be this… summer? This is how I perceive the player today in conjunction with how I believe they will progress and develop. I’m limited to mostly assessing these players on their on-ice achievements. Knowing these young men as individuals would be telling towards their drive and determination. Something that cannot be understated.
Regarding my method, I place immense value on skating ability and processing speed. Physical attributes are great, but if you can’t see the play develop or recognize your options quickly, both offensively and defensively, you’ll be destined for an uphill battle. It’s hard not to love a creative player with a rocket of a shot or incredibly slick puck skills. But those attributes come behind speed and smarts.
As for tiers, Tier 1 is a two-player cabin. Quinton Byfield remains at the top with Alexis Lafrenière less than a whisker behind. I have been very vocal in my belief that Lafrenière is the better player today. He’s the best player in this crop with a bullet. But I cannot shake the feeling that Byfield has a higher upside. I’ve tried to stay committed to that gut feeling as in year’s past I may have fell victim to outside pressures.
I’d argue that Byfield’s U18 campaign was equal to or even greater than Lafrenière’s U18, CHL Player of the Year winning season a year ago. And statistically, Byfield produced at a greater rate in both goals and points. It’s a big swing to leave the big man at the top, but I haven’t been able to convince myself to make the change. Not to say that I won’t before we actually see names called.
Tier 2 houses players 3-11, Tier 3 is 12-22, Tier 4 starts to thicken up with players 22-41, and Tier 5 can be the rest.