With several key scouting events in the books, the 2020 draft is really starting to take shape.
Over the past month, defencemen have started to emerge as a big part of this draft class. While there isn’t the same volume of high-end players at the position as there has been in recent years, there are a select few who will fall into place behind Erie’s Jamie Drysdale that have great intrigue.
Meantime, Alexis Lafreniere remains untouched as the projected number one pick. There is some doubt starting to surround the projected number two pick, though, which has been Sudbury’s Quinton Byfield since the start of the season. It’s not so much about Byfield performing poorly, although he was rather pedestrian at the Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects game. Rather, recent surges by the likes of Mannheim’s Tim Stuetzle, Drysdale, and Ottawa’s Marco Rossi, have given scouts plenty to think about as we move towards post-season play.
While European play has taken an international break to start the month, the CHL playoffs are starting to come into focus. This year’s draft features plenty of late 2001-born players, and they won’t be eligible for the final major scouting event of the season at the world under-18s in Plymouth in April. Therefore, it’s imperative that those players finish strong in team play.
Here are this month’s rankings:
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Physicality has emerged as yet another top-notch element in his already full tool box.
2. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Excels in all areas. Even for his size (6-foot-4, 214 pounds), he’s still physically immature and that bodes well for his projection.
3. Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL): Continues to perform well in Germany’s top pro league. If teams feel he projects as a centre, his natural position, he may very well end up in the two-hole of this draft.
4. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL): His consistency playing as a top-notch player on a nightly basis has improved. He remains a mistake-free, two-way defender with world-class skating ability.
5. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): An engine that never stops, the Austrian-born phenom has gone just one game without a point since November 8.
6. Cole Perfetti, LW/C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Creativity and offensive zone awareness complement elite goal-scoring acumen. Post-world junior camp assault on the OHL scoring title continues – he’s now just three points behind Rossi for the league lead.
7. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djugarden (SHL): Stuck between being too good for the U20 league and not quite ready to play top-six minutes in the SHL, though he does have 12 points in 27 games there.
8. Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL): Good hands, can play fast, has excellent creativity and playmaking ability. Stuck between leagues the same way as Holtz.
9. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga): Back in action after a lengthy layoff and displaying the two-way game that made him a top-10 fixture in previous rankings.
10. Dawson Mercer, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Top 10 may be a bit of a reach, but he has delivered on every task asked of him to date. He’s less depended upon in Chicoutimi after being traded there from Drummondville, so the numbers aren’t yet what they were with his former team. Still, he is better than a point-per-game player with the Sags.
11. Yarolslav Askarov, G, SKA (VHL): Will be the most fascinating prospect to watch as we inch towards June. Is he a franchise goalie, or a flash in the pan?
12. Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): Possesses a pro mentality and is self-aware, knowing his strength is as a shut-down player whose offensive upside will develop.
13. Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP: Beyond brilliant performance at the BioSteel All-American Top Prospects game gave a glimpse into the future.
14. Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Details and defensive responsibility have led to a breakout year in production, especially goal-scoring, where he leads the OHL.
15. Braden Schneider, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Will be taken because of his ability to defend. However, where teams project his offence will be the determining factor as to how high he’ll go.
16. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Great kid who wants the puck on his stick in the crucial moments. Has been the centrepiece in the resurgence of the franchise.
17. Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin (NCAA): No questioning his rugged style, but production is increasingly underwhelming in the NCAA.
18. Ty Smilanic, C, USNTDP: Three different significant injuries have taken their toll. When healthy, he’s a bundle of energy wrapped in skill and that will see him come to the fore.
19. Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL): Goal-scoring is the driving force behind this player. Plays with energy, especially in the offensive zone. Has deception in his lightning quick release.
20. John-Jason Peterka, LW, Munchen (DEL): Has a knack to find soft areas on the ice, giving him time and space to show off deft finishing ability. Plays roughly 4.5 fewer minutes than Stutzle.
21. Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL): More elements of his game have emerged. He’s deceptively quick, agile and strong on his skates. Efficiency is commonly mistaken for lackadaisical play.
22. William Wallinder, D, MODO (Sweden U20): Crisp, efficient passer who also shoots it a ton, with deft ability to get pucks to the net. Defends well with length (6-foot-4) and has some bite to his game.
23. Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): Could be a Tyson Barrie-type defenceman who might be better suited to play wing in the long run.
24. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Still on track for a late-February or early-March return, but with no playoffs ahead and a late birthday he will have to use what’s left of the season to prove he’s healthy.
25. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Slightly undersized player (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) who deserves the opportunity given to him with a young Shawinigan team. Started the month with a seven-point game.
26. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): There is no timetable for his return, but the Sags should play deep into the spring and that would allow plenty of time for a return to form.
27. Rodion Amirov, LW, UFA (MHL): Presents a dual threat in his ability to make plays and finish. Will hound pucks with smarts and skill, and those same elements are effective in transition.
28. Lukas Reichel, LW, Berlin (DEL): Used WJC as a springboard and continues to gain traction.
29. Ridly Greig, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): A newcomer to the list, the son of former NHLer Mark has an abundance of skill and old-school grit. He’s equally feared for his goal scoring as he is for his brawn.
30. Seth Jarvis, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Excels in the small-area game. Put up 29 points in 10 January contests. Fearless taking it to the net, or playing the vulture to clean-up the trash.
31. Martin Chromiak, RW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): Had he started the year in Kingston instead of Slovakia, he’d be further up this list. High-end hockey IQ mixed with speed and skill. Has 18 points in 13 games since joining the Frontenacs.