Yevgeny Oksentyuk celebrating a goal for the Flint Firebirds of the OHL (photo courtesy of the OHL)
This week, we’re going to have a bit of fun and debate some prospects! I’ll be expanding on a few 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!
D Emil Andrae vs. D William Wallinder
I love this one because I don’t think there is a wrong answer here, rather it depends on one’s personal preference. These two are very close in my own personal rankings and the reason for that is because I know it will depend on what a team values when they make the draft pick to take one over the other.
With Emil Andrae, you get a smooth-skating and smart defender who excels at both ends of the ice. He brings creativity and some offensive flair. His defensive game is quite good, especially considering that the biggest weakness that Andrae has is his size. His awareness in his own zone is good and he has an excellent stick. He gets into passing lanes quite well and when he gets the puck on his stick, he moves it up ice quickly. If he were 6’0″, this likely wouldn’t be a conversation but at 5’9″ there will be questions of whether he can play in the NHL until the day he cements himself as an NHLer. He is an intelligent player who sees the ice and attacks his opponent’s weaknesses.
William Wallinder certainly doesn’t have the size issue. The 6’4″ defender has the size that NHL teams covet and the skating ability that makes players his size special. A fluid skater with excellent lateral movement and smooth transitional skating, Wallinder excels in transporting the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone and can do so with his passing ability or his natural puck rushing instincts. His instincts in the offensive zone are solid but unspectacular. He gets a lot of flak for his defensive play but he plays on a team that tends to be a bit hectic in their own end in general. He certainly needs to work on it but there have been plenty of instances when he does his job and the four others on the ice don’t do theirs. He is a physical specimen who has plenty of raw upside.
My Choice: I generally lean towards the smart player, especially when the biggest weakness in his game is that he is a bit small. He plays a better defensive game and his offensive game is more creative. He may not have the physical gifts but Emil Andrae is my choice between the two. As you can see above, his size doesn’t prevent him from picking corners.
RW Veeti Miettinen vs. RW Kasper Simontaival
Often ranked very close together, these two Finnish forwards have some fo the same issues and a few that differ from each other. To start, both are 5’9″ wingers who have found success in the offensive zone. They both play the game at a fast and exciting pace. The two wingers are both players who present a high upside and come with some risk.
Veeti Miettinen is probably the safer of the two slightly risky picks. He has a wicked wrist shot and he isn’t afraid to use it. He is good skater who doesn’t stop moving his feet. He is a high-effort player that works hard at both ends of the ice. Due to his high motor, his play without the puck is an area that will likely improve through his development. He set the Jr A SM Liiga scoring record for a U18 player with 73 points in 52 games and he did that on a team that didn’t provide him a whole lot of help. Miettinen had a very strong second half and helped improve his draft stock in the process.
When it comes to Kasper Simontaival, he comes with a bit more of the boom-or-bust potential in his game. He plays a high-risk, high-reward game, the kind of hockey that gets fans excited. He plays with a ton of skill and speed. He has one of the strongest offensive skillsets in the draft class and he stayed fairly healthy this season which has been an issue in the past. His defensive game is improving but still not good. He cheats a bit at times and doesn’t always keep up the pressure in the defensive zone. He is a silky playmaker who can burn your netminder if left alone in the high-danger areas thanks to a quick release on his wrist shot. As we can see below, Simontaival works his way around the ice well and can find the back of the net because of it.
My Choice: I’ll be honest, I love both of these players. There is a lot to like about both skilled forwards. If forced to choose, I will lean towards Simontaival. He is the higher upside player but he comes with a bit more risk as well. Miettinen is going to St. Cloud State in the fall, plying his trade in the NCAA for a few seasons. This likely means that a team can get Simontaival in their system a bit quicker and working with the young Finn to work out some of his kinks in the defensive zone. There is a chance that both of these players could be gone early in the second round but the likelihood of at least one falling is high because of their 5’9″ frames. If one or both drop, there could be some happy scouts and organizations when on day two of the draft.
W Yevgeni Oksentyuk vs. W Egor Sokolov
Two of the overage players that seem to be at the top many fans overage draft lists are wingers Yevgeni Oksentyuk and Egor Sokolov. While they are often two of the more known overage players, only one of them is really worth a draft pick in the first three rounds whereas the other is likely to get drafted later in the draft or sign as an undrafted free agent.
Sokolov is the winger from the Cape Breton Eagles of the QMJHL and he is a physical specimen, not strictly in a good way. At 6’4″, he is an intriguing winger who could project as a power forward but he also tips the scales at 240lbs and has been rumoured to have exceeded that mark at times during the season. He is a very good goal scorer and he generates offense at the junior level. The biggest issue with Sokolov isn’t even his tendency for being a bit out of shape, rather its is his sluggish skating stride. He needs a lot of work still on his skating and rounding out his game overall. Despite the high-level production and goal-scoring ability, there are a lot of red flags that explain why he hasn’t been drafted in the prior two drafts.
Oksentyuk just finished his D+1 season after coming over to North America to join the Flint Firebird of the OHL after playing in his native Belarus the season prior. There was two primary reasons that the feisty Belarussian went undrafted last June. The first was that his skating was subpar and for a smaller player (5’8″) that’s not ideal. The second reason was a little more simple. He played in Belarus. There was very little exposure so the diminutive forward went undrafted. Since his arrival in Flint, he has made great strides (no pun intended) with his skating and he has been able to show off the outstanding skill and tenacity that he blends. He is an abbrasive forward who plays a bit of a pests game but also led a very strong Flint team in scoring. Despite his small frame, he plays with his shoulder down and drives the net constantly. He plays an aggressive and in-your-face style. He could be the best skilled-pest to come out of this draft. Imagine him getting in your best players face one shift and then doing this (below) on the next shift.
My Choice: This one is the easiest of the group. I have to go with Oksentyuk here because I think not only is he the better player today, he is the more likely to be an NHL player in the future. He plays the kind of game that fans love. His defensive game will need to improve but he plays bigger than he is and has a ton of skill to go with it. His skating has improved dramatically and he has shown the ability to puck races and weave through the neutral zone with control of the puck. He may never be a burner but he is certainly at least an average skater overall at this point.
I appreciate all the responses to the initial question on Twitter. I am always available there, you can find me at @TheTonyFerrari! Check out the Easter Monday Mock Draft from last week where I used Tankathon to simulate the lottery and mocked the top-15 picks for the lottery teams. Be sure to check out the March Draft Report where I dive into what scouts and draft analysts do now, the All-Overage Team and a profile on defenseman Eamon Powell. Also, check out the full Dobber Prospects 2020 NHL DRAFT PAGE! There are over 60 player profiles and a ton more draft content including the January Mid-Season Draft Report with a full breakdown of my Top-100 Rankings with video and analysis on 60+ players including nearly every player in the top-40!