There’s no doubt the recently concluded WJC brings some recency bias into the outlooks of draft eligible players. But it is a big event, and anyone who was a first-year draft eligible at the event played it as an underage player.
Late birthdays, such as Alexis Lafreniere (Oct. 11), who were already 18 when the tournament started have a leg-up on their draft competition. Having said that, the WJC is a big stage where scouts can hunker down and get multiple looks at players against varied levels of competition in high pressure situations.
But there were still plenty of scouting eyes left to keep watch of those who did not participate in the WJC, as they continued on in league play during a crucial time on the schedule.
Here are our latest top 31 rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft:
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Any doubt about him going No. 1 overall was removed during the WJC.
2. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Not much of an opportunity to have an impact at the WJC, but still an excellent player who is essentially a year younger than Lafreniere.
3. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djugarden (SHL): Still underaged for playing at the WJC, but in competition against his peers Holtz is a standout with elite goal-scoring ability.
4. Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL): He missed the last two relegation games at the WJC due to being sick, but an overall strong performance keeps his stock on the rise.
5. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Smart, skilled and competitive. At time of this writing, Rossi is in the midst of a 17-game point streak that started in November. He’s posted 43 points during that stretch.
6. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL): No matter the role or the minutes he played at the WJC, his effectiveness never changed. His skating is elite and he is more than a capable defender with offensive upside because of his patience in decision making.
7. Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL): Dynamic player who, like his pseudo-twin Holtz, didn’t get top flight minutes at the WJC and doesn’t get them in the men’s league either. But against his peer group, Raymond is elite.
8. Cole Perfetti, LW/C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Didn’t sulk after being cut from Canada’s WJC team. Instead, Perfetti has dominated the OHL to the tone of 18 points in the eight games since that decision was made.
9. Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin (NCAA): Nice blend of fearlessness, skill and physicality make him a unique prospect in this draft class. There is some concern about a lack of production in the NCAA despite the fact he’s a freshman.
10. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga): Has just returned from injury. Would’ve been great to see him at the WJC with his peer group, but it’s showtime in the Liiga now that he’s healthy again.
11. Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA (KHL): Mediocre WJC performance has added a shade of doubt to his draft status.
12. Dawson Mercer, C, Drummondville (QMJHL): Will have the opportunity to play with more skilled players and should benefit from an anticipated long playoff run with his new team in Chicoutimi.
13. Rodion Amirov, LW, Ufa (KHL): Despite very limited production, he’s playing close to 10 minutes per game with Ufa in the KHL. Slick, skilled and is not afraid to get his hands dirty.
14. Braden Schneider, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): A physical specimen who is difficult to play against. Skates well and moves the puck efficiently.
15. Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL): Will shoot it from anywhere and is dangerous when doing so.
16. Jan Mysak, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL): After a stint at the WJC with the Czech Republic, he will leave his Czech League team and take his act to Hamilton of the OHL with the hopes it turns out for him like it has for his countryman Jan Jenik.
17. Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Has had a banner month and his draft stock is on the rise once again.
18. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Expected to return from injury in March and, after that, the sky’s the limit for this player.
19. Ty Smilanic, C, USNTDP: Gets plenty of chances because of his elite feet. Explosiveness and hands are keys to success.
20. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Another player inspired after being cut from Team Canada who is operating at a point per game pace in the eight games since being returned.
21. William Wallinder, D, Modo (Sweden U20): In terms of size, skating ability and poise, there’s some Thomas Harley in there (18th overall pick last year). Getting games in the Swedish second league should aid in Wallinder’s development curve.
22. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Can score and plays hard, but is missing some well-needed bite to his game.
23. Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): A magician with the puck who needs work on the defensive side and on his play without the puck.
24. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): The further we move away from the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament from last summer, the more the conversation turns to Lapierre’s injury susceptibility.
25. Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP: Good stick and good feet allow him to kill plays quickly in neutral and defensive ice. Leadership comes naturally.
26. Ryan O’Rourke, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): He’s been back on the ice for the past month after nearly missing an entire month to injury — and since his return O’Rourke has reestablished himself as hybrid defenceman with his compete and production. Intangibles also a positive factor here.
27. Jake Neighbours, LW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): Self-assessment as a Matthew Tkachuk-type is pretty accurate. Skates and shoots well and isn’t fun to play against.
28. Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL): Has as many multi-goal games as one-goal games. His calling card remains his ability to score.
29. Vasily Ponomaryov, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Great work ethic lead to great results in league play during the past month and a half. Also shone for the Russians at the World Junior A Challenge, which put him back into the conversation as a first-rounder.
30. Lukas Reichel, LW, Berlin (DEL): The scouting world has more than just one reason to visit Germany.
31. Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Ufa (KHL): Recent viewings and a successful World Junior A Challenge have made him a regular part of the first-round conversation.