The 2019 NHL Draft was all about the USNTDP, where a record eight members were taken in the first round, beginning with the first overall pick, Jack Hughes. The 2020 draft projects to be a banner year for the CHL and it’s not one league in particular.
It starts at the high end with Rimouski’s Alexis Lafreniere and moves on through Cole Perfetti and Quinton Byfield of the OHL to Kaiden Guhle and Braden Schneider of the WHL. For the same amount of time we’ve been hearing about Lafreniere, two Swedes have made their mark as underagers both internationally and at the pro level. Lukas Raymond and Alexander Holtz are likely top 10 picks and will jockey for being the top Swede taken right up until June 26 in Montreal.
What would a draft be without the presence of a high-end Finn? Anton Lundell has the size and smarts that project a basement of being a No. 2 centre. A team that’s looking to draft defence will be enticed by the likes of Jamie Drysdale and Justin Barron, and after that there’s a bit of a drop-off, so there may be premiums placed on both players to be taken ahead of their projections.
Having said all that, here’s Sportsnet’s Top 31 draft prospect rankings for October.
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Projected as the top pick for this draft as far back as two years ago, there will be pressure for him to maintain this status while taking on all challengers at home and abroad.
2. Cole Perfetti, LW/C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Extremely high hockey IQ allows him to find open ice and beat defenders, which gives him endless scoring opportunities.
3. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga): Putting up numbers in the Liiga has proven to be a good indicator of future success. Lundell had 19 points 38 games as a double underaged player and is off to a hot start this season.
4. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): Having a big body down the middle of the ice is essential in the NHL game. Byfield comes in at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds and was already nearly a point-per-game player last season.
5. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): QMJHL rookie of the year jumped off the charts with an 11-point Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. Went somewhat under the radar last year having missed 20 games due to injury.
6. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Has great details in his game, so even when he doesn’t produce he can still have an impact.
7. Lucas Raymond, RW, Frolunda (SHL): Another well-rounded player who is capable of playing in all situations and up and down the lineup.
8. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL): Canada’s ‘C’ at the Hlinka-Gretzky is smooth as silk and uses great skating ability to drive the play from the back end.
9. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djugarden (SHL): Another Swede who has played above his age group, yet still has that goal-scoring asset that is evident regardless of competition.
10. Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Skating is the foundational asset where his second gear is so smooth, he can evade the forecheck and transition quickly.
11. Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL): The same program produced Moritz Seider a year ago. Early returns have this player contributing right away against much more experienced competition.
12. Dylan Holloway, LW, Okotoks (AJHL): One of the oldest players available looks to continue a recent trend of CJHL first-rounders (Cal Makar, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Tyson Jost, Dante Fabbro, etc.).
13. Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): Has built a beautiful international resume and has shone in big games. Shows great athletic ability for a goalie with a big frame.
14. Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL): A true right shot, right winger who anticipates the play well.
15. Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): Smooth skating, multi-faceted defenceman who will have to adjust to more minutes and more responsibility against the league’s best.
16. Zion Nybeck, RW, HV71 (SWE U20): There’s some Nils Hoglander in this player in that Nybeck plays with energy and uses his size (5-foot-8) as an asset to get underneath bigger players.
17. Braden Schneider, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Another well-rounded player who may not produce like a new-aged defenceman, but will excel at taking care of his own end.
18. Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL): Goal scoring knack that will be challenged this year because he will no longer surprise the opposition.
19. Vasily Ponomarev, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Son of a coach who is as intent on teaching skill as he is physical fitness.
20. Daniil Gushchin, RW, Muskegon (USHL): Jumped on the page as an underage at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky and backed that up with a solid 36-point effort as a 16-year-old in Muskegon.
21. Jean-Luc Foudy, C, Windsor (OHL): Speed, work ethic and a path paved before him by his brother Liam, who was a Columbus first-rounder.
22. Ty Smilanic, C, USNTDP: Learned the game under Joe Sakic in Colorado before moving to Michigan to play against better minor hockey competition.
23. Jan Mysak, C, HC Litvinov (Czech Extraliiga): A lengthy audition in the Extraliiga one year ago should allow him to settle in nicely playing against men this season.
24. Will Cuylle, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Has climbed a premium developmental ladder from minor hockey with Toronto’s famed Marlboro program. It’s now time to assert himself as a legit power forward prospect.
25. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Great passion for the game and is someone who can adapt quickly to the role assigned to him.
26. Justin Sourdif, RW, Vancouver Giants (WHL): Deadly when taking it to the net from the dots down, but can put it to both sides off the rush as well.
27. Jaromir Pytlik, C/RW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): Being able to maintain proficiency at centre ice will be a game changer for his draft status.
28. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops Blazers (WHL): Has a knack for having the puck on his stick in key situations without folding in the moment.
29. Antonio Stranges, LW, London Knights (OHL): Following the typical London developmental curve, his offensive side will get unleashed with more top line minutes this season.
30. Theo Rochette, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Early season health setback will force him to play catch-up upon his return.
31. Ryan O’Rourke, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): Improved skating to go along with a solid two-way game and mixed in with a little old school compete makes him an interesting proposition.