Rimouski Oceanic forward Alexis Lafreniere is considered the top player available for the 2020 NHL draft and for good reason.
The 17-year-old finds himself leading the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring with 92 points in 51 games.
And that comes after an outstanding rookie season a year ago.
With Lafreniere leading the class, the Canadian Hockey League has plenty of talent available for 2020 including a standout defenceman with the Halifax Mooseheads.
Justin Barron is widely considered among the elite defencemen in the draft class.
The 17-year-old blue-liner combines good size – six-foot-two, 188 pounds. – with mobility and an ability to produce.
Playing on a talented Mooseheads club, Barron has seen regular minutes and moves the puck well.
Shifting to the Ontario Hockey League, Sudbury Wolves forward Quinton Byfield, the top pick in last spring’s OHL Priority Selection, is a big body with high-end skill.
In his first season, the young forward has played big minutes for a Wolves team that is among the best in the OHL’s Eastern Conference.
Averaging a point per game, Byfield also moves well for his size – the 16-year-old is already six-foot-five and 214 pounds.
One name that is generating some interest in Ontario is Soo Greyhounds forward Jaromir Pytlik.
A late birthdate – Pytlik is a 2001 birth year – who joined the Greyhounds just prior to the OHL’s trade deadline, the 17-year-old stepped into the Greyhounds lineup and was put on the top line with Philadelphia Flyers prospect Morgan Frost.
The plan when selecting Pytlik in the CHL Import Draft last summer was that he was “50/50” on playing with the Greyhounds this year but would look at joining the team next year in his NHL draft year.
“Playing in the men’s pro league, that’s tough for any 17-year-old,” Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis said at the time of the signing. “He was up and down a little bit with ice time there.”
“We have the right environment right now to put him in,” Raftis added. “He skates really well, he’s big and he’s got good skill. It’s only going to be a matter of time before he really takes off.”
As he’s adjusted to North America, the young forward has begun to find his stride and is coming off a three-goal performance against Sudbury over the weekend.
“He has confidence and he’s getting used to the league,” Greyhounds coach John Dean said. “He’s going to be a special player. You can tell he’s really starting to get used to the team, the system, and the players he’s playing with. There’s a trust factor with his linemates.”
“He really plays like a professional,” Dean added. “He’s really hard on pucks. He drives to the net. Everything gets finished really crisp. He earned that night tonight.”
In the Western Hockey League, Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Kaidan Guhle will become the second member of his family drafted, following in the footsteps of his brother Brendan, a Buffalo Sabres prospect.
The younger Guhle had shown an ability to produce offensively prior to joining the Raiders this season.
In his first full season with the Raiders, the 17-year-old has adjusted well to the WHL on a top-notch Raiders team. The experience of playing in a winning atmosphere this winter and having some success on the ice will only help the young blue-liner going forward.
Portland Winterhawks forward Seth Jarvis has also turned some heads ahead of the 2020 draft.
A small centre at five-foot-nine and 164 pounds, Jarvis showed an ability to score in minor hockey and that ability has transitioned into the WHL game well.
After playing 11 games with the Winterhawks last season, Jarvis stepped in early this year and played good minutes on a solid Winterhawks team that sits second in the WHL’s U.S. Division.