Here we are. Another summer in books and all over the globe, hockey is being played at high intensities. We’re just a stone throw away from NHL action. It’s just swell. It’s also officially the draft-eligible season for the 2020 class which is set to put on a show.
I usually begin to divert some of my attention to the next group around the start of a new calendar year. It’s a side perspective because so much time is spent on the current crop. However, this 2020 eligible class is so juicy it probably pulled a little more than usual.
This group is deep. Giant Squid, ice-cold, middle of the ocean deep. Mariana’s Trench deep.
I’ve spent the summer going back through draft-minus one footage, along with some summer tournaments like the Hlinka, Champions League, and Four Nations. This has landed me with a nice preliminary list of around 60 players of which you’ll see around half today. The list will grow as the year goes on of course. But I am just one man with a job, a wife, a four-year-old and now, a fresh baby girl!
This is not intended to mock up what the selections will eventually be this June. 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.
Regarding tiers, the top of the pile is much roomier than usual. Alexis Lafrenière leads the pack, but he has some very real competition in Quinton Byfield and Lucas Raymond. At this stage of the game, there are probably five very real threats for the pole position. Tier 2 runs from 4-9, Tier 3 10-14, Tier 4 we’ll call 15-31 because its September and these later tiers are going to see significant change throughout the season
- Alexis Lafrenière, LW / 10-11-01 / 6’1 192lbs / QMJHL
A premier, point-producing machine off of the wing. Extremely dangerous in one-on-one situations. Scores in a variety of ways. Brings the noise. Can still improve on his two-step quickness and hitting the top gear sooner… but we’re nitpicking. Will be one of the rare wingers who will dictate everything.
- Quinton Byfield, C / 08-19-02 / 6’4 214lbs / OHL
A physical specimen who blends exceptional power with 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 16. His absolute ceiling is so rare, that it’s scary to even consider.
- Lucas Raymond, LW/ 03-28-02/ 5’10 165lbs / SuperElit
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. I love this player.
- 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 with high efficiency. Boasts an elite brain. Looks bigger, stronger, and faster than he was even four months ago. He’ll play serious minutes for HIFK this season after producing 0.5 points-per-game in the top tier last season.
- Alexander Holtz, RW / 01-23-02 / 6’ 183lbs / SuperElit
A rare type of finisher who can convert in the blink of an eye. The puck explodes off of his stick. Anticipates well and gets his body into a position to fire. Owns above-average speed and puck skills to go with the killer instinct. Set the U17 SuperElit goal-scoring record last season. He’ll break a few more records on his way up.
- Yaroslav Askarov, G / 06-16-02 / 6’3 163lbs / VHL
The best goaltending prospect I’ve seriously scouted. Hits all the markers – size, composure, puck-tracking, elasticity, and competitive fire. His body of work thus far deserves a top-10 slot. He’s going to tear up the VHL this year which is unheard of for a U18.
- Cole Perfetti, C / OHL / 01-01-02 / 5’10 185lbs / OHL
An elite finisher. Perfetti led all CHL rookies in tallies a season ago and he broke the Hlinka record a minute later. This kid has ice in his veins and can convert from out high or down low. Reads the play, finds the soft areas and finishes with deadly accuracy. More quickness would be great.
- Jamie Drysdale, RHD / 04-08-02 / 5’11 165lbs / 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. Transitions for days.
- Dylan Holloway, C / 09-23-01 / 6’ 192lbs / NCAA
A powerful, two-way pivot. Boasts a heavy release which he uses to draw defenders before expertly distributing. Will make an immediate impact at Wisconsin as a true freshman.
- Tim Stützle, C / 01-15-02 / 5’11 165lbs / DEL
Germany: Elite Producer of Prospects. After Adler Mannheim incubated Moritz Seider into the top 10 last June, they’ll look to do the same with the skillful centre in Stützle. Speed and quickness are the names of the game. Quality vision and a nice release round out the profile.
- Hendrix Lapierre, C / 02-09-02 / 6’ 165lbs / QMJHL
A premier distributor with quick hands and a mind for creating. Makes plays at a high rate and often with a high degree of difficulty. Doesn’t possess high-end skating abilities, but his awareness and anticipation make up for it. Smart, skilled and deadly on the power play.
- Jan Mysak, C/LW / 06-24-02 / 6’ 176lbs / Czech
A poised, intelligent forward who anticipates the play as well as anyone in this class. Has already added better speed to his package and will look to continue that trend. An underrated finisher.
- Noel Gunler, RW / 10-07-01 / 6’1 176lbs / SHL
In most classes, Gunler would be the premier finisher in the group. In 2020, he’s fourth or fifth. That’s no slight to him. The Swede possesses a killer instinct and never hesitates to put a shot on net. Despite that ability, he has a strong distribution game to go along with quick hands. The skating is a work in progress. Improved quickness would be nice, but it’s the top gear that is lacking most.
- Justin Barron, RHD / 11-15-01 / 6’2 192lbs / QMJHL
An offensive rearguard who can create at a high-rate during even-strength play. Brings plus-speed and awareness to the offensive side of the game. Off-puck and defensive zone play needs far more polish.
- Marco Rossi, C / 09-23-01 / 5’9 179 / 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 on the man-advantage. The most skilled Austrian prospect since Thomas Vanek.
- Kasper Simontaival, RW / 01-11-02 / 5’9 172lbs / Metis
A splendid playmaker who has the speed and soft touch needed to drive offense from the wing. Tremendous vision and the patience to wait for lanes to open up. Can get caught cheating at times.
- Rodion Amirov, LW / 10-02-01 / 6’ 168lbs / MHL
An impressive two-way winger. Competes for every puck and tends to win thanks to his balance and a strong core. Was electric at the U18s. Has a quick, deadly release to go along with soft hands. More speed and strength would vault him up.
- 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.
- Helge Grans, RHD / 05-10-02 / 6’3 192lbs / SuperElit
Intelligent, smooth-skating, transitional defender. Enjoys activating off of the rush and owns a big point shot. Isn’t as advanced defensively but has the tools to get there.
- Connor Zary, C / 09-25-01 / 6’ 174lbs / WHL
A puck-possession pivot who clicked above a point-per-game last season. Great speed, deft puck skills, and equally dangerous with the shot and pass. An elder statesman.
- Seth Jarvis, RW / 02-01-02 / 5’9 165lbs / WHL
Speedy, creative winger who thrives off of the rush. A big second season in Portland is on the way.
- 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.
- Vasili Ponomaryov, C/LW / 03-13-02 / 6’ 176lbs / QMJHL
A high-tempo forward with quick hands and plenty of offensive instincts. Can clean up the stride yet.
- Antonio Stranges, C/LW / 02-05-02 / 5’10 179lbs / OHL
A wizard with the puck. The new king of the 10-2 skating style. Will elevate up the lineup in London and the production will spike. Needs work away from the puck.
- Jake Sanderson, LHD / 07-08-02 / 6’1 170lbs / USNTDP
A raw defender who oozes potential but needs a lot of refinement. Flashes premier qualities. NoDak commit.
- Justin Sourdif, C / 03-24-02 / 5’11 165lbs / WHL
An all-around winger who is quick to engage. Owns deceptive puck skills and vision. Can complement high-skill players.
- Jérémie Poirier, LHD / 06-02-02 / 6’ 192lbs / QMJHL
A toolsy defender with above-average skating and puck skills. Transitions well with his feet, but can skate (and pass) himself into trouble at times.
- Will Cuylle, LW / 02-05-02 / 6’2 201lbs / OHL
A shoot-first winger with a quick and accurate release. Uses his frame well to protect the puck and fight through traffic. A bit one-dimensional so can be smothered at times.
- Theo Rochette, C / 02-20-02 / 5’10 159lbs / QMJHL
Loves having the puck on a string. Quick. Agile. Smart. Needs time and strength, but hey, who doesn’t?
- Ty Smilanic, USNTDP / 01-20-02 / 6’1 168lbs / USNTDP
Hard-working, versatile forward who plays every shift like it’s his last. I’m waiting to see if the hands can start to keep up with the feet.
- Kaiden Guhle, LHD / 01-18-02 / 6’3 187lbs / WHL
A strapping defender with great mobility and a penchant for stepping up and laying the boom. Lacks consistent creativity.
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