The scuttlebutt in the scouting world continues to be about a bumper crop of NHL prospects coming out of the CHL in 2020.
But as European teams take the early part of November to focus on international play, more players from overseas will dominate the conversation as we lead up to the world juniors.
There is a strong contingent of Russian-born players, a nice mix of high-end Swedes, along with some Finns and Germans that will be scrutinized heavily thanks to events overseas. In North America, teams are settling in, and learning a lot more about what their draft-eligible players are bringing to the table.
There’s a solid runway of regular season and tournament play leading up to the world juniors, which will take over the conversation in early December. As the year continues, the picture will become clearer in terms of identifying players up for first-round consideration.
Here’s our November list of the top 31.
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Remains on track as he continues to pick apart the QMJHL at a Connor-McDavid like pace. Had to miss the Canada-Russia series with a lower-body injury that is expected to keep him out of action for 1-2 weeks.
2. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Dominates because of size and strength, but the skill is not left behind.
3. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga): Adjusts well to the level of competition and to the task asked of him. Is so responsible that he doesn’t have to be leaned on for offence to be effective.
4. Lukas Raymond, RW, Frolunda (SHL): Gets around the ice so well with slick lateral movement and excellent edge work. He’s an elite playmaker who fits the bill as a player who “plays fast.”
5. Cole Perfetti, LW/C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Once the puck luck turns and the goal totals rise, there’s no telling what’s in store for this gifted sniper.
6. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djugarden (SHL): When he’s not hunting pucks, he’s adept at finding open ice. Could be more sturdy on his skates, but that should improve with physical maturity.
7. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Despite his size (5-foot-9, 179 pounds), still projects as a centre because of his attention to detail in all three zones. Intelligent enough to easily make in-game adjustments.
8. Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL): Has dazzled scouts dating back to his Division 2, U18 performance. Putting up a point per game against men while averaging over 16 minutes per game.
9. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL): No doubt his skating ability is what jumps off the charts, but he’s also loaded with character. Living up to being an elite player nightly is the next task to tackle.
10. Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin (NCAA): Is an all-around player who brings some bite to the table. Passes the eye test as a pro despite question marks surrounding his ceiling.
11. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Gifted playmaker who, for the second year in a row, is being challenged by the injury bug.
12. Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): Has taken all of his success against his peers and experienced the same proficiency as a pro.
13. Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL): Excitement around this player stems from his knack to score and all of the elements that go along with that — from an NHL-type shot to finding the ice to utilize it.
14. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Took the off-season to educate himself on nutrition and learning pro habits away from the rink. This excellent skater is still searching for his offensive identity.
15. Zion Nybeck, RW, HV71 (Sweden U20): Combined to score 42 goals a season ago playing on a variety of club and international teams. He’s mastered that trait at the U20 level in Sweden, but will that goal-scoring translate to the pro levels as the year progresses?
16. Rodion Amirov, LW, Ufa (MHL): Thinks the game well, with excellent vision, creativity and magic hands to complete the job. Not just a one-trick pony.
17. Daniil Gushchin, RW, Muskegon (USHL): Got off to a slow start in his second USHL season, but has turned it around lately. This smallish, skilled winger is shifty with excellent hands and is not afraid to go to tough areas to create a scoring chance.
18. Braden Schneider, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Although the numbers don’t bear it, he has shown steady improvement from the start of the season. Projects as a complementary-type defenceman.
19. Jan Mysak, C, HC Litvinov (Czech Extraliiga): No issues with the offensive side of the game. If he’s going to be considered a high-end prospect, though, continued effort needs to be made on improving his skating.
20. Dawson Mercer, C, Drummondville (QMJHL): Out to prove his success from a year ago was more individually driven than it was team driven. Has a good motor with the speed to play today’s game.
21. Ty Smilanic, C, USNTDP: Good character kid who has a wide variety of tools at his disposal. Scouts need more time to determine how that will play out at the next level.
22. Jaromir Pytlik, RW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): Quietly goes about his business as a well-rounded player who can lean on opponents with a 6-foot-3 frame.
23. Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John SeaDogs (QMJHL): Handles the puck well at high speeds, which makes him an efficient one-man breakout option. These skills also make him a consistent offensive threat.
24. Tyler Kleven, D, USNTDP: Somewhat of a throwback for his willingness to play the body. There are elements of offence that have yet to be exposed in his game.
25. Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL): Showing his underrated playmaking ability of late. Would like to see the goal totals more in line with what they were last season (30 in 63 games).
26. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Through this juncture in the schedule he has answered any questions about his ability to consistently produce — has 24 points in 16 games.
27. Jean-Luc Foudy, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): The speed will play all day, but the hockey sense and finishing ability are the areas of most interest.
28. Max Groshev, RW, Nizhnekamsk (KHL): Admitted recency bias here. Although the skating is awkward, it’s not deficient. Will go to the net and has good hands to handle the puck in traffic, or simply use his 6-foot-2, 194-pound frame to get there.
29. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Tries to pattern his game after Brayden Point, where effort, smarts and skill converge to make an effective 200-foot player.
30. Ryan O’Rourke, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): It’s not often a legendary franchise gives the keys to a 17-year-old to be captain.
31. Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): Very much an understated game from a player who uses his feet and quick processing ability to help him defend.