Why are you here? That’s not an existential question, I just mean, what brought you to DobberProspects today?
If you’re anything like me, it’s probably the draft rankings. The thing that brought me to DobberProspects in the beginning and a large part of what still brings me in now is simple, to the point draft or prospect rankings. Let’s be honest, most of us don’t have the time, the money, the patience or the care required to dedicate ourselves to creating our own unique, uninfluenced draft rankings for fantasy hockey or otherwise. We rely on the expertise and the dedication of this site’s best and most dedicated people. Cam Robinson, Jokke Nevalainen, Peter Harling, Tony Ferrari, Dobber, and more are all people who have the proverbial balls to offer you and me a glimpse into what they dedicate countless hours to on a daily basis.
Robinson: 2020 NHL Draft Rankings
Nevalainen: Comparing 2020 NHL Draft Rankings
Dobber: Top 200 Fantasy Prospect Forwards
Ferrari: Mid-Season Draft Rankings Breakdown
I love hockey, and I love evaluating players, but to date, I haven’t been able to dedicate the time required to create such a list – for that, I rely on this site and those people. Now don’t get me wrong, I put a lot of time into what I do here – just ask my wife, but my focus is mostly dedicated to a couple of specific areas of the prospect world. Nonetheless, I do trust my own eyes and my own evaluation equally, when it comes to prospects that I have watched. So, while today I can’t offer you a comprehensive quality ranked list of prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft, I feel confident in sharing some of the evaluations and observations from my hockey locale in a year cut short.
2020 NHL Draft Eligible Prospects
F | Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski Oceanic (1st – North American Skaters)
Observations: Lafreniere has an exceptionally high hockey IQ which allows him to outwit entire 5-man systems and create offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. He conserves energy when possible which can be perceived as a lack of urgency, particularly on the man advantage. His skill level and IQ are above the major junior level to the point where I believe it has held him back. I believe he will have a short adjustment period to the NHL, unlike the 2019 top-3 selections.
F | Ryan Francis, Cape Breton Eagles (42nd – North American Skaters)
Observations: I noticed that Francis likes to play predominantly on the perimeter, and is skeptical to join in physical battles for the puck. He avoids any and all contact when he does have possession which I don’t think will be quite as possible at the next level. On the positive side, the puck usually ends up being directed towards the other teams’ net because more often than not, he is able to maintain that possession by avoiding contact. He is always prepared to receive a pass and is stronger on the puck than most of his peers. If he can leverage that skill, it might allow him to transition his more skillful play to the next level.
D | Lukas Cormier, Charlottetown Islanders (27th – North American Skaters)
Observations: Cormier is a defenseman who is very strong on the puck and whose long powerful stride can often get him out of any trouble. If given the time, his skating gives him the ability to be elusive and beat defensemen unscathed, otherwise he will fight off a hit in order to make a good play rather than cough up the puck. His puck handling isn’t quite as skillful as other players in this draft class, but he is more refined in many more of the fundamental skills.
F | Elliot Desnoyers, Moncton Wildcats (141st – North American Skaters)
Observations: As an 18-year-old playing on a stacked, predominantly 19-year-old roster, Desnoyers received less exposure than he was probably due this year. When given the opportunity, he has the ability to transition the puck well at high speeds. I’m confident we’ll see a significant jump in his production next year when the Wildcats roster is depleted.
F | William Dufour, Drummondville Voltigeurs (99th – North American Skaters)
Observations: Dufour protects the puck quite well, but where he truly shines is in exposing whatever holes are left in the low slot. Dufour has an opportunistic playing style in the offensive zone that allows him to float responsibly and exploit loose pucks when they appear. Here’s a clip of one of Dufour’s uber nifty passing plays I had the opportunity to see live this year:
F | Xavier Simoneau, Drummondville Voltigeurs (211th – North American Skaters)
Observations: After being passed over in the 2019 Entry Draft, Simoneau led the Voltigeurs in scoring by a wide margin. He’s extremely fast with and without the puck and is able to identify and exploit holes in a defense. As far as two-way play goes, he might not be able to satisfy the defensive needs of an NHL team.
F | Josh Lawrence, Saint John Sea Dogs (NR)
Observations: Lawrence didn’t have the productive growth that I expected him to have in his second season of major junior. Despite the lack of offense, I love how Lawrence always supports and is available as an outlet for his defenders. He passes and accepts passes accurately and with ease. His skating mechanics are great but at the end of a shift his speed drops off dramatically. Where he struggles most is in the sector of puck possession under pressure – he tends to bobble the puck upon reception and doesn’t have the modern magician-like skillset that many other forwards from the top classes of years gone by. Here’s a play showing Lawrences speed that I made note of being impressive in person. I was afraid that the video wouldn’t do it justice, but I was wrong…
F | Brady Burns, Saint John Sea Dogs (188th – North American Skaters)
Observations: Burns is the anti-Lawrence in almost every way possible, so the Sea Dogs are lucky to have both. He has an acute awareness in the offensive zone but doesn’t offer the reliable defensive coverage that Lawrence does. His puck handling is likely his strongest asset, but that can only carry him so far. At 5-7, he doesn’t have the physical tools or two-way awareness to compensate, so I think he likely tops out as a skilled minor league asset.
D | William Villeneuve, Saint John Sea Dogs (108th – North American Skaters)
Observations: As the Sea Dogs’ leading scorer through the 2019-20 campaign, Villeneuve possesses a strong offensive skillset. In his case, however, that comes at a heavy cost. His biggest strengths lie in his ability to move the puck into the neutral zone in a solo style breakout, and his ability to get pucks through to the net from the point to create scoring opportunities. Those strengths have proven to make him an effective player in the QMJHL, however, I believe his primary weakness as a general defensive liability will limit his ability to become an effective NHL player. He tends to provide ineffective coverage of his defensive assignments while facing either rush or sustained pressure.
D | Jeremie Poirier, Saint John Sea Dogs (16th – North American Skaters) | Deep Dive
Observations: Poirier has exceptional elusiveness and creativity with the puck. In many ways, he would make for just as effective forward as he does a defenseman. While his open-ice skating is good, his in-tight edgework provides the perfect complement to his puck skills. He has a quick release with a snapshot that he uses when driving the net and an equally fast half-slap-shot release that is effective in creating offense from the point. His offensive awareness is exceptional, but his semi-frequent lapses in judgment can lead to catastrophic breakdowns and subsequent scoring chances against. When he’s on, it looks a little something like this:
D | Charlie DesRoches, Saint John Sea Dogs (169th – North American Skaters)
Observations: DesRoches is one of the quieter prospects among Sea Dogs, but I believe his lack of hype is unwarranted. He is far from being describable as dynamic, but easily one of the most reliable defenders on the team. He supports the teams’ offensive and defensive systems without having to be the center of attention and makes important plays when they matter. This clip shows the types of plays that DesRoches makes on a night-in night-out basis.
F | Patrick Guay, Sherbrooke Phoenix (NR)
Observations: Well rounded forward who lacks size but compensates for it just fine with an awareness of his surroundings and no lack of desire to win puck battles.
D | Justin Barron, Halifax Mooseheads (15th – North American Skaters)
Observations: Quarterback in almost every sense of the word. From breakouts to powerplay coordination, Barron’s vision and technical distribution skills are second to very few in this draft. He has the size awareness and physical nature to effectively defend his assignments effectively and makes very few mistakes.
F | Senna Peeters, Halifax Mooseheads (NR)
Observations: Skates, shoots and passes well but is very raw when it comes to putting it all together. He’s the type of player that looks very good in warmup but when it comes time to do it all at game speed, the gears don’t seem to mesh as well.
Some of the players that I really like from the Q for subsequent drafts include a pair of defensemen in Charlottetown’s Oscar Plandowski (2021), and Cape Breton’s Jeremy Langlois (2022), but I’ll save 2021 for another day.
While I know these notes don’t necessarily provide the immediate gratification of a 1-100 list of ranked players, I hope they help to give some perspective as to what each DobberProspects contributor puts into their work.
Thanks for tuning in, @olaf1393