Robinson: “Final” 2020 NHL Draft Rankings (June 2020)

Cam Robinson

2020-06-25

 

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 LafrenièreR