With several high-end draft eligible players likely to represent their country, this year’s world juniors should provide great theatre in advance of the 2020 NHL Draft.
This is also typically the time of year where this age group experiences fatigue. Injuries have also started to impact this group. Justin Barron is at the top of that list, but the injury bug has also impacted Anton Lundell and Hendrix Lapierre. Revitalization usually follows the WJC and then we get into the Top Prospects Game portion of the season before a final run to the playoffs.
Here’s our December list of the top 31 NHL Draft prospects.
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Mystery surrounding his absence from the CIBC Canada-Russia series along with an incident involving an official, have shown an edgier side.
2. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Exhibits the ability to play in all three zones. Is extremely agile for his size, yet he has plenty of room on his frame to add strength.
3. Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL): Numbers playing against men (five points in 16 games) are mitigating due to lack of ice-time. Should excel once again at the world juniors, which would be a big confidence booster.
4. Cole Perfetti, LW/C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Consistently willing to improve his game. Sees the ice so well that he can play a step ahead of the competition.
5. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Some GMs will be cautious to draft a 5-foot-9 centre, but Rossi can literally do it all and his hockey IQ should allow him to do it all at the next level as well.
6. Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL): When returning to play with peers, Stutzle will have to walk the tight rope between playing his game while not trying to do too much for his country at the WJC.
7. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL): There are no holes in his game and his ability to defend doesn’t take a back seat to the offensive production (30 points in 27 games this season).
8. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djugarden (SHL): Checks all the boxes to fit into today’s game as a goal-scoring winger. Possesses excellent hands and can score in a variety of ways.
9. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga): Displays an excellent two-way game, but how much offensive upside is there? Due to an upper-body injury, he’s questionable to play in the world juniors.
10. Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin (NCAA): Nice combination of old-school grittiness and new-school skill, aided by size (6-foot, 192 pounds) and speed.
11. Yarolslav Askarov, G, SKA (KHL): Projects as a franchise-changing netminder and this may vault him well inside the top 10 before we get to Montreal for the draft in June.
12. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): A recently diagnosed blood clot will keep him out indefinitely. When healthy, his basement is a great skating defender who makes a great first pass and has plenty of upside.
13. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Injuries continue to pile up for the second straight season and that has given reason for caution.
14. Rodion Amirov, LW, Ufa (MHL): Highly skilled winger whose lack of strength is notable against older competition, but he holds his own in his peer group.
15. Braden Schneider, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Will likely lean more to the defensive side of the game, but his skating and puck moving ability will allow him to play top four minutes.
16. Dawson Mercer, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): Drives play with a lasting engine. Not afraid to hound pucks and is deadly in transition.
17. Zion Nybeck, RW, HV71 (SWE U20): Dogged in his puck pursuit and skillful once he gains possession of it.
18. Jan Mysak, C, HC Litvinov (Czech Extraliiga): Brings a lot of different elements to the party. He skates well, can make plays, is good around the net and thinks the game at a high level.
19. Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Consistency has been a key for this talented winger. He can play both sides and is utilizing the many resources afforded him in Ottawa to continue his improvement.
20. Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL): Shoots it a ton, but his skating is average and there remains an inconsistency to his game.
21. Ty Smilanic, C, USNTDP: Combines an excellent work ethic with great skill and that combination is rare and highly coveted.
22. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Plays hard, plays fast, and produces (39 points in 26 games this season).
23. Justin Sourdif, RW, Vancouver Giants (WHL): An excellent worker who finishes checks and makes skilled plays with great edges and vision.
24. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Continues to be a leader for a young team. Producing at an alarming rate (41 points in 27 games) considering he consistently faces the opposition’s best.
25. Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): He’s got the offensive side of his game in tune. More attention to detail in his own zone is recommended.
26. Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP: Hockey sense and skating are traced easily to the bloodlines — his father is former NHLer Geoff Sanderson. Rates as the complementary defenceman, but with his foundation, there’s plenty of room for growth in his game.
27. Max Groshev, RW, Nizhnekamsk (KHL): Big body who plays hard and has plenty of skill to make him an effective offensive threat.
28. Daniil Gushchin, RW, Muskegon (USHL): Possesses a quick stick and smooth hands and has great creativity to his game.
29. William Wallinder, D, MODO (SHL): Has a casual look to his game. Never afraid to join the rush. There is some rawness to this package.
30. Jean-Luc Foudy, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Appears as if he’s putting it all together. Half of his 22 points have been put up over the past month.
31. Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Salavat Yulaev (KHL): As fascinating a prospect as this draft has to offer, especially considering his limited opportunity at the top level.