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 were swiftly wiped aside. Heck, we still don’t even know if this group will even 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.
However, what once looked like there would be no chance for any recency bias with this crop, now may have the most unique set of recency bias ever. We could be looking at players in Europe having a solid month of action under their belt before the draft occurs. The potential for list swings is palpable. That’s also the reason why I’ll leave the door open for one final ranking in the fall. Just in case. An offseason of training and a dozen games in pro circuits could change some perspectives.
As always, my assessments are limited. I am but one man who also has a four-year-old son, a 10-month-old daughter, a teaching career, and many writing commitments. However, I’m fortunate enough to have a very patient wife and am privileged to have several experienced scouts to bounce things off of.
I’ve trimmed my list to the top-80 for this assessment. Why 80? Because if I left it at 75 I couldn’t have included Blake Biondi and Brady Burns.
This is not intended to mock up what the selections will eventually be this… fall?. This is how I perceive the player today in conjunction with how I believe they will progress and develop. It’s projection over current product. Translatable traits trump all. 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. I lean on established scouts, coaches, and agents to help fill in the gaps.
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.
Regarding tiers, Tier 1 ends as 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. His development is advanced and whoever lands the pole position will immediately be inserting a first-line winger. There are all sorts of value in that. However, 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. And believe me, I’ve felt those pressures on this decision, both from scouts, colleagues and the always-polite Twitter mob. But I remain resolved.
I could sit here and make the argument that Byfield’s U18 campaign was equal to or even greater than Lafrenière’s U18 season a year ago. And statistically, the big man produced at a greater rate in both goals and points. But I won’t. Because, as I said, the views don’t lie, Lafrenière is better by most metrics at this time. What I’m banking on is the development of Byfield to take him to a new, more unique level. 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.
In a decade I’ll either be the smartest person in the room or have a blemish on my record. We shall see.
The next class of talent falls into the 3-11 area. That group is tightly compacted. The first big decision was monumental. After great deliberation I found myself torn between four players; all of which are remarkably close yet bring different skills to the table. Marco Rossi landed in the third hole due to his superb combination of skill, strength, and sheer will to win.
Alexander Holtz has that element you can only describe as it. It landed him at number four. Tim Stützle vs. Lucas Raymond wasn’t easy either, but in the end, the electric speed of the German-born winger just narrowly lost out to the all-around impressive skill package and intelligence of the Swede.
The battle of the top defenders ended up coming down to a fight for seventh overall. Jamie Drysdale took it but I can’t express how close that was for me. Hell, I might even delete this paragraph and swap them before clicking publish. Y’all won’t see this if I do, so I’ll just stop now.
Cole Perfetti, Anton Lundell, and Yaroslav Askarov round out the top levels of this group. Afterwards, we’re looking at upsides and could-be’s. A lot of talent, but not a lot of assurances. It falls off a bit again around pick 20. Another level around 31, and then we’re looking at the longer shot group that litters Day Two of the draft.
The Board – Stats and Video Powered by InStat
- Quinton Byfield, C / 08-19-02 / 6’4 215lbs / OHL
What you see is not necessarily what you’ll get with Byfield. His game right now is already dominant at the junior level, but it does own flaws. What you’re buying is his extremely rare potential. A 6’4 power centre who can skate and handle the puck like few in this class. Here’s hoping he adds a little nasty to his game in the future as well. If he can put it all together, there will be no stopping him.
[Read More: Film Room: An Extension Breakdown of Quinton Byfield’s Game]
- Alexis Lafrenière, LW / 10-11-01 / 6’1 193lbs / QMJHL
A premier, point-producing machine of a forward who continued to elevate his game throughout the season. Extremely dangerous in one-on-one situations. Scores in a variety of ways and will be one of the rare wingers who will dictate everything. Joined Sidney Crosby as the only two-time CHL Player of the Year winner. A very worthy first-overall pick.
- Marco Rossi, C / 09-23-01 / 5’9 183lbs / OHL
The CHL leading scorer can beat you in any number of ways. His shot is quick and accurate. His hands have magic woven into them. Despite his size, he’s excessively strong in his core and legs. He may not live in the middle of the ice in the NHL, but he has elite two-way upside even from the wing.
- Alexander Holtz, RW / 01-23-02 / 6’ 192lbs / 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. Owns a passion for finishing and demonstrated adaptability to finding the harder scoring regions. Future first PP triggerman ith 40-goal upside.
[Read More: Robinson: Alexander Holtz is the 2020 NHL Draft’s Premier Finisher]
- Lucas Raymond, LW/ 03-28-02/ 5’11 170lbs / 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 while in-flight. Possesses that rare trait of escapability. The lack of deployment this year has dampened the hype, but his skillset demands attention.
- Tim Stützle, LW / 01-15-02 / 6’1 187lbs / DEL
High-end speed propels this creative forward. Elite two-step quickness blends into an explosive, puck-possession style. Should develop into one of the premier transitional players in the NHL. Better served on the wing.
- Jamie Drysdale, RHD / 04-08-02 / 5’11 175lbs / OHL
A fluid, puck-possessing rearguard who plays with 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 but needs to unwrap it more.
- Jake Sanderson, LHD / 07-08-02 / 6’2 185lbs / USNTDP
An elite transitional defender who owns advanced defensive instincts and tremendous skating ability. Has a heavy shot but uses it sparingly. He wasn’t afforded high-end forwards to work with at The Program this year, but that will change at NoDak in the fall. Will chew up the minutes in the NHL.
- Cole Perfetti, C / OHL / 01-01-02 / 5’10 177lbs / 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 special processing skills. Lacks the two-step quickness to be considered a locked-in future star, but he’s not far off. He’s as good a bet as any for a smaller, skilled centre without blazing speed.
- Anton Lundell, C / 10-03-01 / 6’1 185lbs / 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. Shot is powerful but needs to use it more. A super safe selection.
- Yaroslav Askarov, G / 06-16-02 / 6’3 176lbs / VHL
Hits all the markers – size, composure, puck-tracking, elasticity, and a competitive fire. Was very good in the VHL as a 17-year-old – something we never see. It’s difficult to imagine he doesn’t turn out.
- Jack Quinn, RW / 09-19-01 / 6’ 176lbs / OHL
A finisher by nature, Quinn joined rare air by breaking the 50-goal mark in his draft-eligible season. Works well on the inside and converts at a high rate because of it. Is one of the older players in the this group and his defensive abilities match the added maturity. Should thrive next to an intelligent, playmaking pivot.
- Dawson Mercer, RW / 10-27-01 / 6’ 180lbs / QMJHL
Intelligent, play-creating winger. Makes the hard plays, but can also dazzle with his puck skills. And I do mean dazzle. Two-step quickness already showing improvements. Wears opponents down. He’s a pro.
- Seth Jarvis, RW / 02-01-02 / 5’10 175lbs / 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. The question is whether he can get to those spots in the NHL at his size.
- Rodion Amirov, LW / 10-02-01 / 6’ 177lbs / 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. Can fit all over the lineup.
- Helge Grans, RHD / 05-10-02 / 6’2 206lbs / SuperElit
Smooth-skating, transitional defender. Enjoys activating off of the rush. Isn’t as advanced defensively but has the physical tools to get there. Can make questionable decisions with and without the puck but that eased as the season wore on. Can make complex passes look easy. Someone may jump early.
- Brendan Brisson, C / 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. Some like him to have 1C upside.
- Mavrik Bourque, C / 01-08-02 / 5’10 178lbs / QMJHL
The type of player who sees the game a step ahead of most and uses that advantage to get a jump. A dual-threat offensive catalyst who thrives on the man-advantage. More strength and speed would be nice. Played a ton of minutes this year so his pace was shallow.
- Noel Gunler, RW / 10-07-01 / 6’2 176lbs / SHL
A deadly finisher who showed capable of fighting for hard ice in the SHL in order to get his. Wide skating stride limits explosion and has a penchant for taking shifts off. Top six or bust.
- Kaiden Guhle, LHD / 01-18-02 / 6’2 186lbs / 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.
- Dylan Holloway, C / 09-23-01 / 6’ 203lbs / 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.
- Connor Zary, C / 09-25-01 / 6’ 178lbs / WHL
A puck-possession pivot who clicked well above a point-per-game this season. Decent speed, serious puck skills, and equally dangerous with the shot and pass. An elder statesman who brings flair.
- Braden Schneider, RHD / 09-20-01 / 6’2 202lbs / WHL
A bit of a throw-back, two-way defender. Decent feet and smart outlets. Makes the safe play but can look lost in the offensive zone. Questionable whether he’ll play up the lineup in the NHL, but has a very safe floor.
- Brock Faber, RHD / 08-22-02 / 6’ 190lbs / USNTDP
Looking to safely and efficiently move the puck up the ice? Then Brock Faber is your man. Was a breakout machine for the NTDP this past season. Boasts high-end skating ability, quick processing skills, and a penchant for making the smart plays. Won’t wow you, but will eat up the minutes.
- Wyatt Kaiser, LHD / 08-31-02 / 6’ 173lbs / USHS-MN
A split season kid who dominated the high school circuit but looked strong in his USHL contests as well. Started the season with a strong, albeit quiet, outing at the Hlinka. Elite brain. Reads the play very well. A modern transitional defender who has a long road ahead, but the upside is very real.
- Jacob Perreault, RW / 04-15-02 / 5’11 192lbs / OHL
This kid can absolutely let it fly. His shot is already NHL-plus rated. The issue will be finding the time and space at the NHL-level to get it away. A force on the man-advantage. There’s some boom here, but also a healthy dose of bust potential.
- John-Jason-Peterka, LW/RW / 01-14-02 / 5’11 192lbs / DEL
A nifty offensive player who has strong anticipation skills and the confidence to jump into openings and drive hard. His finishing ability is hinged on a quick and accurate release where he limits the movement of his bottom hand to add further deception. Boasts a non-stop motor.
- Hendrix Lapierre, C / 02-09-02 / 6’ 179lbs / QMJHL
A creative distributor with quick hands and a mind for offense. Makes plays at a high rate and often with a high degree of difficulty. Doesn’t possess separation speed, but his awareness and anticipation make up for it. Relies a little too much on the PP. Concussion issues are concerning.
- Marat Khusnutdinov, C / 07-17-02 / 5’11 176lbs / MHL
An impactful, all-around centre who thrives when in traffic. An excellent play-driver who already boasts strong defensive ability. A terrific motor. Plenty of runway ahead of him.
- Daniel Torgersson, W / 01-26-02 / 6’3 199lbs / SuperElit
A heavy, puck-possession winger who excels in finding soft spots in high-danger areas. Boasts underrated vision and a high work rate. Has untapped two-way upside.
- Thomas Bordeleau, C / 01-03-02 / 5’10 175lbs / USNTDP
A puck-possession pivot who is able to distribute through advanced defensive schemes. Lacks the size and strength to live in the middle of the ice, but is efficient at getting the puck there via the dish. The type of player who grows on you.
- Jan Mysak, C/LW / 06-24-02 / 5’10 175lbs / OHL
A poised, intelligent forward who anticipates the play well. Has already added better speed to his package and will look to continue that trend. An underrated finisher.
- Jérémie Poirier, LHD / 06-02-02 / 6’ 196lbs / QMJHL
A toolsy defender with above-average skating and elite puck skills. He might be the best stick handler in the class. 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. Boom, meet bust.
- Tyson Foerster, C / 01-18-02 / 6’2 194lbs / OHL
The kid can rip it.
- Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW / 03-09-02 / 5’10 183lbs / WHL
The frenetic ball of havoc plays the game like he’s just been shot out a cannon. Loves to create chaos on the forecheck and has enough skill to create chances and points from the forced turnovers. You’ll love him on your team, or hate playing against him.
- Ryan O’Rourke, LHD / 05-16-02 / 6’ 178lbs / OHL
Considered an offensive-minded defender, he was relied on to anchor the blueline in the Soo this season. His defensive abilities are solid and there should be more offensive to give.
- 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. Not the smartest player out there. If he was, you could cut this spot selection in half.
- Ridly Greig, LW / 08-08-02 / 5’11 163lbs / WHL
A high-end motor and always more than willing to muck it up. This despite being very young for the group and physically underdeveloped. Is more quick than fast. Screams pesty, energy line type.
- Vasili Ponomaryov, C/LW / 03-13-02 / 5’10 180lbs / QMJHL
A high-tempo forward with quick hands and plenty of offensive instincts. Can clean up the stride yet. Has made a habit of showing up on the international stage.
- Roby Järventie, LW / 08-08-02 / 6’2 184lbs / 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 scorer in Mestis history this past season. Very young for this crop so there’s loads of space to grow.
- Topi Niemelä, RHD / 03-25-02 / 5’10 156lbs / Liiga
Won’t often wow you with his offensive creativity, but blends intelligent reads with effective transitions. Heady player with a lot of upside. A modern, two-way defender with a very high floor and untapped potential.
- Roni Hirvonen, C / 01-10-02 / 5’9 164lbs / Liiga
Some of the quickest and deadliest hands in the crop. Stepped up to the Liiga full-time this season and performed well in a limited role. Destined to be a winger. Needs more speed.
- Theodor Niederbach, C / 02-25-02 / 5’11 172lbs / SuperElit
An agile centre who can make plays in tight spaces. Loves to pull the puck in and let it fly. Has been excellent in the J20.
- Kasper Simontaival, RW / 01-11-02 / 5’9 177lbs / Metis
A splendid playmaker who has decent speed and incredibly soft hands. Is capable of driving offense from the wing. Tremendous vision and the patience to wait for lanes to open up. Can get caught cheating at times.
- Emil Andrae, LHD / 02-23-02 / 5’8 181lbs / SuperElit
Creative and shifty. Is already well developed physically and enjoys engaging. Might not be the best approach as he moves up though. There’s sheltered upside here.
- Emil Heineman, LW / 11-16-01 / 6’1 185lbs / SuperElit
- Ty Smilanic, C / 01-20-02 / 6’1 175lbs / USNTDP
- Jean-Luc Foudy, C /05-13-02 / 5’11 177lbs / OHL
- Lukas Reichel, LW/RW / 05-17-02 / 6’ 170lbs / DEL
- Ty Tullio, C / 04-05-02 / 5’10 165lbs / OHL
- Justin Sourdif, C / 03-24-02 / 5’11 165lbs / WHL
- Joni Jurmo, LHD / 04-19-02 / 6’4 190lbs / Jr. A SM-liiga
- Eamon Powell, RHD / 05-10-02 / 5’11 165lbs / USNTDP
- Sean Farrell, LW / 11-02-01 / 5’9 179lbs / USHL
- Justin Barron, RHD / 11-15-01 / 6’2 195lbs / QMJHL
- Nico Daws, G / 12-22-00 / 6’4 202lbs / OHL *
- Zion Nybeck, RW / 05-12-02 / 5’6 182lbs / SuperElit
- Anton Johannesson, LHD / 03-26-02 / 5’9 144lbs / SuperElit
- Daniil Guschin, RW / 02-06-02 / 5’8 165lbs / USHL
- Ryan Francis, C / 12-02-01 / 5’9 170lbs / QMJHL
- Brett Berard, C / 09-09-02 / 5’9 152lbs / USNTDP
- Veeti Miettinen, RW / 09-20-01 / 5’9 159lbs / Jr. A SM-liiga
- Theo Rochette, C / 02-20-02 / 5’10 159lbs / QMJHL
- Sam Colangelo, RW / 12-26-01 / 6’2 205lbs / USHL
- Martin Chromiak, LW / 08-20-02 / 6’ 181lbs / OHL
- Eemil Viro, LHD / 04-03-02 / 6’ 168lbs / Jr. SM-liiga
- Dylan Peterson, C / 01-08-02 / 6’4 192lbs / USNTDP
- Ian Moore, RHD / 01-04-02 / 6’3 165lbs / USHS
- Alexander Pashin, LW / 07-28-02 / 5’7 154lbs / MHL
- Ethan Cardwell, C / 08-30-02 / 5’10 157lbs / OHL
- Drew Commesso, G / 07-19-02 / 6’2 181lbs / USNTDP
- Jaromir Pytlik, C / 09-25-02 / 6’3 196lbs / OHL
- Daemon Hunt, LHD / 05-15-02 / 6′ 198lbs / WHL
- Jake Neighbours, LW / 03-29-02 / 5’11 201lbs / WHL
- Lukas Cormier, LHD / 03-27-02 / 5’8 170lbs / QMJHL
- Blake Biondi, C / 04-24-02 / 6’ 181lbs / USHS-MN
- Brady Burns, C/LW / 05-27-02 / 5’10 161lbs / QMJHL
- Tristen Robins, C / 10-15-01 / 5’10 174lbs / WHL
- Jack Finley, C / 09-02-02 / 6’5 207lbs / WHL
- Carter Savoie, LW / 01-23-02 / 5’10 181lbs / AJHL
Robinson: 2020 NHL Draft Rankings (April 2020)
Robinson: 2020 NHL Draft Rankings (December 2019)
Robinson: Preliminary 2020 NHL Draft Rankings (September 2019)
For comparison, here is a look at the top-31 from my September 2019 Preliminary List
Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson