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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.
- Quinton Byfield, C / 08-19-02 / 6’5 214lbs / OHL
A physical specimen who blends exceptional power to a speed-driven, skill game. His quick hands allow him to maneuver in tight spaces, while the long reach propels his puck-protection. A mammoth of a man at just 17. He’s not the best player today, but his upside is too large to ignore.
[Read More: Film Room – An Extensive Breakdown of Quinton Byfield’s Game]
- Alexis Lafrenière, LW / 10-11-01 / 6’1 192lbs / QMJHL
A premier, point-producing machine of a forward. Extremely dangerous in one-on-one situations. Scores in a variety of ways. Brings the noise. Will be one of the rare wingers who will dictate everything. There’s little reason to believe he won’t immediately step into the NHL next fall and make an impact. A very worthy first-overall pick.
- Marco Rossi, C / 09-23-01 / 5’9 179lbs / OHL
One of the elder statesmen of the class gives up size but makes up for it in skill. Has the ability to drop-jaws with his puck skills. A duel-threat off of the rush or set up. A monster on the man-advantage. Constant battler with solid defensive ability. Could conceivably be in the NHL next fall.
- Lucas Raymond, LW/ 03-28-02/ 5’10 165lbs / SHL
An explosive winger who is equally dangerous with his shot or pass. Moves with quickness and handles the puck at a high-level even at top speed. His puck skills are fluid, controlled and capable of embarrassing. Finishes with accuracy off of a quick release. Capable of converting from all over. Possesses that rare trait of escapability. The lack of deployment this year has dampened the hype, but his skillset demands attention.
- Tim Stützle, C / 01-15-02 / 5’11 165lbs / DEL
High-end speed propels this creative pivot. Elite two-step quickness blends into an explosive, puck-possession style. Has good hands but can overhandle it at times. Has shone on every stage put in front of him.
- Alexander Holtz, RW / 01-23-02 / 6’ 183lbs / SuperElit
An elite shooter who can finish from all around the offensive zone. Anticipates well and gets his body into a position to fire. Owns above-average speed and puck skills to go with the killer instinct. Future first PP triggerman.
[Read More: 2020 NHL Draft Ranking: European prospects (February 2020)]
- Jamie Drysdale, RHD / 04-08-02 / 5’11 165lbs / OHL
A fluid, puck-possessing rearguard who plays with a terrific pace. Has his head up at all times, and can bomb outlets the length of a football field. Uses his brain to get a jump on bigger opponents. Offensive ability to spare. He’ll devour minutes in the NHL.
- Cole Perfetti, C / OHL / 01-01-02 / 5’10 185lbs / OHL
A highly productive pivot who can set it up almost as well as he can finish it himself. Has nice puck skills to go along with high-end intelligence. Lacks the two-step quickness to be considered a locked-in future star, but he’s not far off.
- Anton Lundell, C / 10-03-01 / 6’1 183lbs / Liiga
A polished, two-way centre who already brings the full package. His patience with the puck allows him to distribute the puck with more efficiency. Boasts an elite brain to support his well-rounded style. Super safe.
- Seth Jarvis, RW / 02-01-02 / 5’10 172lbs / WHL
Speedy, creative winger who thrives off of the rush. Was downright dominant in the final 40 games of the WHL season. Converts at a high-level thanks to his IQ and willingness to get greasy. Will transition extremely well.
- Yaroslav Askarov, G / 06-16-02 / 6’3 163lbs / VHL
Hits all the markers – size, composure, puck-tracking, elasticity, and competitive fire. Was very good in the VHL as a 17-year-old – something we never see.
- Jake Sanderson, LHD / 07-08-02 / 6’1 185lbs / USNTDP
A raw defender who oozes potential. His game seemed to transform as the season wore on. Has all-around upside, including untapped offensive skills. Someone will fall in love early.
- Rodion Amirov, LW / 10-02-01 / 6’ 168lbs / KHL
An impressive two-way winger. Competes for every puck and tends to win thanks to his balance and strong core. Makes the subtle plays that add up. Still searching for that separation speed.
- Noel Gunler, RW / 10-07-01 / 6’1 176lbs / SHL
For whatever reason, Sweden has shied away from including Gunler on their national teams, but wherever this kid goes, he produces. Owns one of the most lethal shots in the draft. A great mind for finding soft spots. Skating could still be improved.
- Dawson Mercer, RW / 10-27-01 / 6’ 172lbs / QMJHL
Intelligent, play-creating winger. Makes the hard plays, but can also dazzle with his puck skills. Two-step quickness already showing improvements. Wears opponents down.
- Emil Andrae, LHD / 02-23-02 / 5’9 183lbs / SuperElit
Creative, shifty, and intelligent. Throw in strong edgework and deceptive speed and you’ve got the recipe for success for an undersized defender. Can dance out there.
- Zion Nybeck, RW / 05-12-02 / 5’8 176lbs / SuperElit
Speedy, competitive winger who can terrorize on the forecheck despite his size. Plays bigger than he is. Can make plays in-tight. A duel threat. One of my favourites.
- Jack Quinn, RW / 09-19-01 / 5’11 176lbs / OHL
It’s not too often we see a draft-eligible OHLer pop 50 goals. Quinn did it despite his season-ending abruptly thanks to Covid-19. He accomplished this while playing on a stacked 67s squad, but played his 5v5 minutes away from Rossi. He’s nearly as old as you can be for the class, but his release is legit.
- Mavrik Bourque, C / 01-08-02 / 5’10 165lbs / QMJHL
The type of player who sees the game a step ahead of most. A dual-threat offensive catalyst who thrives on the man-advantage. More strength and speed would be nice.
- Connor Zary, C / 09-25-01 / 6’ 174lbs / WHL
A puck-possession pivot who clicked well above a point-per-game this season. Great speed, deft puck skills, and equally dangerous with the shot and pass. An elder statesman.
- Dylan Holloway, C / 09-23-01 / 6’ 192lbs / NCAA
A powerful, two-way pivot. Boasts a heavy release that he uses to draw defenders before expertly distributing. Made a nice impact at Wisconsin as a true freshman. Strong overall package.
- Kaiden Guhle, LHD / 01-18-02 / 6’3 187lbs / WHL
Strapping blueliner with great mobility and a keen eye for defending. Has the potential to be a minute-muncher down the line, albeit with a somewhat limited offensive ceiling. Safe.
- Willam Wallinder, LHD / 07-28-02 / 6’4 192lbs / Allsvenskan
Large and in-charge. A lot of upside. Quality feet. Quick outlets. Not afraid to jump into the rush. Looked competent in a pro league as a young ’02.
- Topi Niemelä, RHD / 03-25-02 / 6’ 163lbs / Liiga
Won’t often wow you with his offensive creativity, but blends intelligent reads with effective transitions. A heady player with a lot of upside. A modern, two-way defender with a very high floor and untapped potential.
- Roby Järventie, LW / 08-08-02 / 6’2 185lbs / Mestis
A big, gun-slinging goal-scorer. Can finish from out high and is deadly in the slot area. Was far and away the best U18 player in Mestis history this past season. Very young for this crop so there’s loads of space to grow.
- Brendan Brisson, LW / 10-22-01 / 5’11 179lbs / USHL
A finisher by nature, but the intelligence and wherewithal to draw opponents and make a nice play. An assassin on the PP from the right circle.
- Jérémie Poirier, LHD / 06-02-02 / 6’ 192lbs / QMJHL
Toolsy defender with above-average skating and elite puck skills. Transitions extremely well with his feet, but can skate (and pass) himself into trouble at times. Swims around in the high-risk, high-reward waters.
- Jan Mysak, C/LW / 06-24-02 / 6’ 176lbs / OHL
A quality finisher who can read the play quickly and efficiently. His stride could use some cleaning up, but he moves around well. Transitioned well to the OHL midseason.
- Helge Grans, RHD / 05-10-02 / 6’3 192lbs / SuperElit
Smooth-skating, transitional defender. Enjoys activating off of the rush and owns a big point shot. Isn’t as advanced defensively but has the physical tools to get there. Can make questionable decisions with and without the puck. Someone may jump early.
- Jacob Perreault, C/RW / 04-15-02 / 5’11 198lbs / OHL
A versatile pivot who uses a heavy release to create space to distribute to his wings. Good hockey sense with sharp cuts. Can get lost in the shuffle at times.
- Marat Khusnutdinov, C / 07-17-02 / 5’9 165lbs / MHL
An impactful, all-around centre. Excellent play-driver who already boasts strong defensive ability. Plenty of runway ahead of him.
- Roni Hirvonen, C / 01-10-02 / 5’9 163 / Liiga
- Theodor Niederbach, C / 02-25-02 / 5’11 172lbs / SuperElit
- Hendrix Lapierre, C / 02-09-02 / 6’ 165lbs / QMJHL
- Thomas Bordeleau, C / 01-03-02 / 5’9 179lbs / USNTDP
- John-Jason-Peterka, LW/RW / 01-14-02 / 5’10 181lbs / DEL
- Daniel Torgersson, W / 01-26-02 / 6’3 205lbs / SuperElit
- Martin Chromiak, LW / 08-20-02 / 6’ 181lbs / OHL
- Vasili Ponomaryov, C/LW / 03-13-02 / 6’ 176lbs / QMJHL
- Ryan O’Rourke, LHD / 05-16-02 / 6’2 181lbs / OHL
- Lukas Cormier, LHD / 03-27-02 / 5’8 170lbs / QMJHL
- Tyson Foerster, C / 01-18-02 / 6’1 194lbs / OHL
- Ty Smilanic, C / 01-20-02 / 6’1 170lbs / USNTDP
- Justin Sourdif, C / 03-24-02 / 5’11 165lbs / WHL
- Braden Schneider, RHD / 09-20-01 / 6’2 209lbs / WHL
- Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW / 03-09-02 / 5’10 182lbs / WHL
- Brett Berard, LW / 09-09-02 / 5’9 152lbs / USHL
- Ridly Greig, LW / 08-08-02 / 5’11 159lbs / WHL
- Kasper Simontaival, RW / 01-11-02 / 5’9 172lbs / Metis
- Sean Farrell, LW / 11-02-01 / 5’9 179lbs / USHL
- Lukas Reichel, LW/RW / 05-17-02 / 6’ 170lbs / DEL
- Jean-Luc Foudy, C /05-13-02 / 5’11 168lbs / OHL
- Luke Evangelista, RW / 02-21-02 / 5’11 165lbs / OHL
- Veeti Miettinen, RW / 09-20-01 / 5’9 159lbs / Jr. A SM-liiga
- Anton Johannsesson, LHD / 03-26-02 / 5’9 154lbs / SuperElit
- Eemil Viro, LHD / 04-03-02 / 6’ 168lbs / Jr. SM-liiga
- Joni Jurmo, LHD / 04-19-02 / 6’4 190lbs / Jr. A SM-liiga
- Calle Clang, G / 05-20-02 / 6’2 176lbs / SuperElit
- Colby Ambrosio, C / 08-07-02 / 5’9 165lbs / USHL
- Jake Neighbours, LW / 03-29-02 / 5’11 201lbs / WHL
- Emil Heineman, LW / 11-16-01 / 6’1 185lbs / SuperElit
- Sam Colangelo, RW / 12-26-01 / 6’2 205lbs / USHL
- Daniil Gushchin, RW / 02-06-02 / 5’8 161lbs / USHL
I just had to sneak my guy, Gushchin in there at #63. He’s too much fun to leave on the long list.
Robinson: 2020 Draft Rankings – Quinton Byfield Sits Atop The Mountain (December 2019)
Robinson: 2020 Preliminary Rankings (September 2019)
Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson