As April rolls around, so does the draft lottery and a taste of draft season starts to appear. As most hockey fans have a good idea on the 2019 draft class, this is a good time to share my thoughts on the 2020 draft class, one in which we will be analyzing for another year to come before they are selected. These players still have another year to prove themselves, and their rankings will most likely change drastically, but this should give a good early look at the top talents in 2020. I have had at least one viewing of all 31 players I have ranked in the first round, and compared them weighing for the obvious skill set, potential, NHL readiness and weaknesses like always. The draft is dominantly led by Alexis Lafreniere, a franchise winger who can turn the fortunes of an organization around come next June, but followed by plenty of room to change. Currently, the chasing pack is made up of a unique group of forwards led by two skilled centres, Finn Anton Lundell and Canadian Quinton Byfield. These two will jockey for the second and third positions for a while until someone can separate or a new player joins the fray. Czech forward Jan Mysak is someone who has not been extremely exposed at this point, but has recently dominated the Extraliga to a pace matching future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr. Jamie Drysdale leads the defensive charge at number seven on my list. The two way defenseman has shown plenty of promise on a weak Erie Otters squad this year. The Swedish big three of Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz and Noel Gunler will also be interesting to watch throughout the coming year as they look to assert Swedish dominance in 2020. The first round looks extremely deep, deeper than we’ve seen in a long time.
- LW/C Alexis Lafrenière– Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL
Has all the top end skill and tendencies you look for in a franchise player packed into one. His puck control and creativity is some of the best around coming out of a draft class since McDavid. Fantastic skater who uses his balance and edges to ward off defenders and stay strong on the puck. He’s played some center, but left wing still remains his best and most consistent position. Dominating scorer with a wicked release and incredibly smooth hands, hands down the best player in the class.
2. C Anton Lundell– HIFK, Liiga
Hard working two-way center two has a lethal wrist shot. Nice hands and fantastic hockey sense, is always aware of what’s going on around him. Uses his body well and is a good faceoff taker, natural center. Produced at 0.5 PPG in the Liiga, near identical stats to Alex Barkov. Not the most elite offensive player, but defends very well for his age, gives maximum effort on both ends of the ice.
3. C Quinton Byfield– Sudbury Wolves, OHL
Physically dominant two-way center who uses a deadly combination of size, speed and skill to score and set up goals. Not just a big body, Byfield has a very high skill level and often gets creative with the puck. Skates very well for a larger body and is very hard to knock off the puck with his large size. Lots of power in his wrist shot which he loves to use from various angles.
4. C/LW Jan Mysak– HC Litvinov, Extraliga
The Mouse, Jan Mysak has took the Czech Extraliga by storm, scoring at a pace that hasn’t been seen since Jiri Hudler in the Czech league at such a young age. Through limited viewings, his best asset is his skating, specifically his fast acceleration, being able to burst past defenders and finish with ease. His first few steps are lightning quick and separate him from defenders well. He scores a lot of goals through breakaways or odd man rushes with his speed and finishing ability
5. LW/C Cole Perfetti– Saginaw Spirit, OHL
‘The Genius’ as labeled by some, Perfetti has some of the highest Hockey IQ I’ve ever seen in a prospect this young. Evaluates the unfolding play around his with such accuracy and acts accordingly, almost always choosing the right options through cutting, passing, waiting, shooting or whatever it may be. Destroyed the OHL this year and led all rookies with ease. Played center all year until Ryan McLeod was acquired, may end up as a left winger.
6. RW Lucas Raymond– Frolunda HC, SuperElit
An all around offensive talent up there with the best. Great offensive toolbox with all of the top features you look for in a goal-scoring winger, specifically his quick release and playmaking abilities. He uses a high hockey IQ and quick hands to create space and find his teammates in open space. Will sometimes try to force the play all the time, needs to slow down and take his time on occasion.
7. RD Jamie Drysdale– Erie Otters, OHL
The top defender of the draft class by a margin to date, plays a calm and collected two-way game with high end skating ability. Works hard every shift and gives high effort every time, never giving up on a play. Breaks out of his own zone with high end explosive speed and jumps into the rush often.
8. RW Noel Gunler– Lulea HF, SHL
An pure sniper, Gunler has a lightning quick release and a heavy wrist shot that makes scoring goals seem easy, even in the SHL. He thinks the game super well and uses his IQ to his advantage, shooting the puck from unexpected places with such power and accuracy. Has a good nose for the net and has shown some decent puck distribution. Will sometimes disappear in a game for a period of time.
9. RW/LW Alexander Holtz– Djurgarden IF, SuperElit
Holtz is a well-rounded goal scoring winger who has an elite offensive package highlighted by his wrist shot and offensive instincts, finding seams and the right spots to be in all the time. Consistent goal-scorer who looks like he can bag a hattrick every game. Could work on his skating and improve his first steps which look a little muddy at times.
10. C Marco Rossi– Ottawa 67’s, OHL
One of the older players in the class who has feasted in the OHL using his fantastic skating ability to give him an offensive advantage by shifting with great edges and agility combined with his soft hands. Rossi has been injured a few times throughout the last few years and missed some time, but when playing has been a dominant force who can create plays and finish with an accurate wrist shot.
11. C Connor Zary– Kamloops Blazers, WHL
One of the oldest players in the draft class, Zary has asserted his dominance on both ends of the ice as one of the best two-way forwards in the entire draft. He work hard going forwards and backwards, leading his team with the best offensive pace and playing lockdown defense. Has shown good offensive instincts and vision as a playmaker this year with a decent wrist shot to match.
12. C Tim Stützle– Jungadler Mannheim, DNL
The most dynamic offensive talent to come out of Germany in a long time, Stutzle combines his great skating ability with high end offensive skill to destroy the German U20 DNL in unseen fashion. He has committed to the University of New Hampshire in 2020 and will most likely move over to the USHL for his draft year. Great puck skills and speed make him a handful for defenders.
13. RD Justin Barron– Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL
Smooth skating two-way defenseman who creates offense through his breakout and skating ability. Soft hands, controls the puck well through traffic and in tight scenarios. Smart player who evaluates the play well and acts justly. Good gap control and positioning defensively. Needs to work on his show power and pass accuracy to complete his package.
14. C Jacob Perreault– Sarnia Sting, OHL
High end offensive talent, quite strong and powerful for being 5’11, he’s bulked up 200 lbs and uses it well striding powerfully and winning puck battles. Really nice wrist shot with a good release and power, scores a lot of goals drifting in from the circles with his wrist shot. Decent playmaking as well, but the shot is his number one asset. Always gives high effort level every shift
15. C Antonio Stranges– London Knights, OHL
An agile skating center who’s produced impressively with very limited minutes on a top team after opting to take the OHL route instead of playing with the USNTDP into the NCAA later. Will combine his effortless skating with dazzling stickhandling to create space and offense for teammates to finish.
16. C Hendrix Lapierre– Chicoutimi Saguenéens, QMJHL
A pure playmaker, Lapierre has high end vision and playmaking skills that really make his game stand out. Skates very well with good acceleration and uses his hockey IQ to find teammates in favourable scenarios. Adept at protecting the puck and holding off defenders with his body. Could improve his wrist shot to elevate his offensive game
17. C Jean-Luc Foudy– Windsor Spitfires, OHL
Brother of Liam, Jean-Luc is another absolute speed demon, but plays more like a playmaker than Liam does. His vision and soft hands create plays out of nothing, using his speed as separation to find time for his passes. He could work on his wrist shot to improve his offensive threat and keep defenders guessing more often. Dynamic playmaker
18. LD Kaiden Guhle– Prince Albert Raiders, WHL
A complete two-way defenseman who uses his skating and size to his advantage well. Plays a smart game with a high hockey IQ. Puts in a shift and works hard every shift, leading by example when on the ice. Shows a smooth transition style, getting better at jumping into the rush and joining the attack
19. RW Kasper Simontaival– Tappara, Liiga
Dynamic offensive talent with great hands and infectious playmaking skill. Good at finding his teammates with impressive vision and a decent wrist shot. Creates tons of offense and is creative with the puck on his stick. Somewhat of a lazy skater and defender, will cheat up for offense or spend all his effort in the offensive zone
20. RW Zion Nybeck– HV71, SuperElit
Hard working winger who pushes the pace each shift with a high intensity. Fast skater who forechecks hard to strip the puck off of opposition and feeds it to teammates. Good offensive package with a hard wrist shot with a nice release. Smaller player with a high motor that can produce at a high level
21. LW Vasily Ponomaryov– MHK Krylia Sovetov Moskva, MHL
Agile winger who uses soft hands and quick bursts of speed to make plays at a high speed and clip. Plays a smart game with a high hockey IQ, makes the right play most of the time. Owns a nice accurate wrist shot with a quick release and can find teammates with accurate passes in a tough situation
22. LD Jeremie Poirier– Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL
Offensively talented defenseman with a large toolbox of skills. Quick hands and good vision help him command the point offensively making him a powerplay threat. Solid hockey IQ, good at assessing the play and making the appropriate decision. Needs to develop his skating ability and add some speed to help cope with faster forwards
23. RW Danil Gushchin– Muskegon Lumberjacks, USHL
Dynamic small winger who has a high-level offensive package and is filled with offense. Quick acceleration and agile skating used to find separation around defenders paired with soft hands. Loves to drive towards the net and finish goals in close. Sees the ice well and can create plays with vision. Needs to bulk up to help him hold onto the puck better at times
24. C Roni Hirvonen– Blues U20, Jr SM Liiga
A small and skilled center who uses his creativity to earn time and space on the puck, often using his vision to create passes for his teammates with tape to tape passes and backdoor feeds. Good wrist shot that could use some accuracy improvements to be more effective but good offensive instincts help counter
25. C Mavrik Bourque– Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL
Two way center who visibly outperformed teammate and 2019 eligible Valentin Nussbaumer, becoming the main option on a struggling Shawinigan squad. Great wrist shot release and accuracy, will score a lot of goals moving in from the slot or on breakaways with speed. Sets up teammates well with varied passes, creating offense often
26. RW/C Ryder Rolston– U18’s, USNTDP
The son of Brian Rolston, Ryder plays a much slighter, goal scoring game. He uses a soft pair of hands and agile skating to beat defenders in isolation scenarios so he can release his quick wrist shot which is both hard and accurate. At time he’ll hold on to the puck too long or make a questionable play
27. LD Tyler Kleven– U17’s, USNTDP
Large shutdown defenseman with a big frame. Skates quite well for a large guy and really uses his body physically to stop attackers from maintaining an attack. Uses his stick well to break up passes and intercept the puck. Doesn’t provide much offense aside from an occasional assist due to his stay at home tendencies and doesn’t move the puck too often. Should still develop a shot and offensive abilities to some capacity
28. C Theo Rochette– Chicoutimi Saguenéens, QMJHL
Slick and rapid center, Rochette has a pair of quick hands and feet which help him maneuver through the neutral and offensive zone at a high speed with his head up looking to make intelligent passes and plays. Great vision and good at finding teammates through traffic. Needs to work on protecting the puck a little better in tight areas
29. RW Seth JarvisPortland Winterhawks, WHL
Hard working winger who’s smaller in stature but makes up for it in skill and drive. A shot first player who loves the puck at his stick, using quick moves and bursts of speed to beat defenders and get in a position to score. Proficient forechecker and good at taking the puck away from bigger players
30. C/LW Martin Chromiak– HK Dukla Trencin, Slovakia
Goal-scoring forward who scores prolifically, using his wicked wrist shot to score at a high rate. He can also spread the play to his teammates well, sometimes with pro level passes. Has a very high offensive awareness, sometimes will score simple goals just by knowing where to be at the right time. Needs to improve his skating stride, his first steps are sometimes too slow
31. C Thomas Bordeleau– U17’s, USNTDP
Smaller sized center who plays an impressive 200 foot game, utilizing the whole ice with his solid skating and playmaking skill. He loves to prowl the offensive zone with the puck at his stick, searching for options around him. Good positioning in the offensive end, good at poaching onto loose pucks and putting them away. Size is a small issue with the physicality around him.
LW Will Cuylle – Windsor Spitfires, OHL
LW Sean Farrell – U18’s, USNTDP
LD Helge Grans – Malmo Redhawks, SuperElit
RD William Villeneuve – Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL
C Ty Smilanic – U17’s, USNTDP
RW Connor McClennon – Kootenay Ice, WHL
LW Jake Neighbours – Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL
C Justin Sourdif – Vancouver Giants, QMJHL
RW Dawson Mercer – Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL
C Jaromir Pytlik – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL