It’s crunch time in the scouting world as team personnel plan their final viewings of players. The COVID-19 scare has begun to have an impact as some professional games in Europe have been cancelled. International events are now in question as we further understand the scope of the coronavirus. The impact is just starting to be felt in North America, with the cancellation of some Chicago State basketball games, which has added some trepidation to all big events. Some NHL personnel have been subject to travel restrictions between continents. Individual teams are continuing to monitor international travel.
Having said that, this is typically the time of year where scouts will make their final trip to Europe to corroborate the work that has been done by European scouts. This may not happen for a lot of teams based on travel restrictions/bans. Several teams have altered their viewings of players based on the fact the U18’s are to be held in Plymouth, Michigan in April. That event is now in peril. Teams may be forced to rely more heavily on video and prior viewings to make definitive determinations on players.
Of note, the high-end part of this draft class features plenty of late-born 2001 players (Lafreniere, Rossi, Lundell, Schneider and Holloway, etc.) so plenty of scouting work has already been done on them. Of course, more viewings the better, especially in high-leverage situations, but those may also be limited based on the coronavirus outbreak.
In any event, here’s Sportsnet’s top 31 for the month of March
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): The only drama left will be to see who wins the draft lottery, and the chase for that first overall pick afterwards.
2. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Has been banged up in the second half. May have to take a peak in the rear view mirror at who’s charging from third.
3. Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL): Plenty of discussion surrounding Stutzle as the second-best prospect available in this draft class.
4. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djugarden (SHL): Uses elite spatial awareness equally well for scoring goals and distributing the puck.
5. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): There’s no questioning the ability, but some teams fear he won’t be able to do it at centre in the NHL.
6. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL): Wherever he’s ranked inside the first 10 he is still the top defenceman available.
7. Cole Perfetti, LW/C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Sixth sense for where, when and how to get to a place to create good scoring opportunities individually or for teammates.
8. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga): While there may be some concerns about his offensive ceiling, Lundell’s complete game makes him a safe pick if the floor is a third-line centre.
9. Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL): Tough player to nail down based on limited opportunity in the SHL. There’s still plenty of book on this player for the sheer number of games he’s played above his age group.
10. Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): The goal-scoring pops (48 in 59 games), especially since he doesn’t play on Ottawa’s top line. The developmental curve year over year has scouts excited about Quinn’s potential.
11. Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): Excellent feet allow him to close out plays before they develop. Enjoys engaging in heavy physical play and making opponents aware of when he’s out there.
12. Jake Sanderson, D, (USNTDP): Game continues to improve. Untapped offensive potential. Professional attitude and leadership abilities wreak of a decades-long NHL career.
13. Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA (VHL): His placing in this draft makes him a big wildcard. Uncontested top goaltending prospect by a wide margin.
14. Dawson Mercer, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Slowed recently by injury, there’s great elusiveness to his game because of his silky smooth hands.
15. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Pace of production has been remarkably consistent all season long, and this is Zary’s time of year.
16. Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin (NCAA): Grit and determination are now accompanied by production, as half of his points have been accumulated over the past month.
17. Braden Schneider, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Because of a late birthday and physical maturity, he’s closer to his ceiling than many in this draft class.
18. Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL): Like many of the young Swedes, he’s in between being to good for the U20 league and not yet good enough to be a top six in the SHL. In any event, his ability to shoot the puck will translate.
19. Rodion Amirov, LW, Ufa (VHL): Everything is in place for him to become a middle-of-the-line-up producer. A player who thinks the game well with defensive awareness as part of the package.
20. Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL): A look at old-school stats is fascinating. On track to score 40 goals with a minus-40 rating. NHL bloodlines always add bonus points to a players’ projection.
21. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Met the timeline for his return and still has two weeks worth of games to prove he belongs amongst the best in-class.
22. Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): A wild horse who’s at his best when he’s free to roam. There’s still plenty of work to be done in his own end.
23. John-Jason Peterka, LW, Munchen (DEL): A well-rounded, pro-style game makes him attractive, but there are some concerns about the offensive ceiling.
24. Ty Smilanic, C, (USNTDP): It would be nice for scouts to have seen him play healthy for a long stretch, but that’s not likely to happen before season’s end.
25. Ridly Greig, Brandon Wheat Kings, LW (WHL): Plays mean and has been a key factor in Brandon’s meteoric second-half rise. His game is built for the rigours of a long WHL playoff run.
26. William Wallinder, D, MODO (Sweden U20): Fascinating puck-mover with size and skating ability. Think Alexander Edler, whose value may not be truly appreciated until later in his career.
27. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Mid-March return is not out of the question and his viewings in the playoffs will be important.
28. Jan Mysak, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL): Has excelled since coming to North America. Plays a skill game with pace and patience.
29. Seth Jarvis, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Super reliable player in a variety of situations and his production has exceeded expectations. The next test will be leading a young Portland team on a quest for a WHL title.
30. Lukas Reichel, LW, Berlin (DEL): At this point, there’s plenty of offensive upside, but less certainty about play away from the puck and attention to detail in the defensive zone.
31. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Concussion issues have derailed an amazing summer start to his season. Lapierre’s draft position is likely to be determined by a team’s medical staff prognosis.