6. Marco Rossi – C 5’9 187 lbs
Most likely the player that will be the lowest on the more generic scouting rankings, Marco Rossi is an offensive powerhouse waiting to prove his doubters wrong. Although he may be on the small side, currently billed at 5’9, he makes up for his size with an almost Brendan Gallagher-esque ”never-say-die” attitude with the puck. Out of everyone in the top-10 of this draft, Rossi is by far the feistiest and the one that fears contact the least.
Coming over from Switzerland to play for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s last season, Rossi hit the ground running almost immediately by putting up 65 points in just 53 games. However, as is true to his character, Rossi took his game up a notch in the OHL playoffs by posting 22 points (6 G, 16A) in just 17 games.
What sets him apart from his peers is his constant and fearless drives to the net, which helped him generate an incredibly high number of scoring chances every game. He is also a warrior along the boards when it comes to puck retrieval and 1-on-1 battles. He then uses his excellent vision to find his streaking teammates for high-danger scoring chances in the slot.
How does Marco Rossi follow up an exceptional rookie-season in the Dub? By literally lighting it on fire the following season! Unlike my attempts at stand-up, Marco Rossi has been an offensive juggernaut this season, posting a ridiculous 74 points in 32 games. He currently leads the entire CHL(WHL, OHL and QMJHL combined) in scoring and has the best PPG pace among all players at 2.31 Points Per Game and leads his team in scoring by quite a large margin (17 points differential with second highest scorer).
Although he is billed as a Center, I could see Rossi play Left Wing down the road. However, his great vision and exceptional set of hands will make him a threat anywhere on the ice. In terms of pure offensive potential, Rossi would be a top-5 player for me and could be interchangeable with Drysdale in this top-5, but, as we have seen many times in the past, his size might drop him down a peg or two.
I, for one, do not buy this knock on his game, as he plays with more fire and grit than anyone in the top-10 and will be a fan favourite almost instantly for his new team.
Player Comparable: Brad Marchand
7. Alex Holtz – RW/LW 6′ 186 lbs
At 7th overall, Alex Holtz is a high value pick here, and truly exemplifies how deep this draft’s top-10 really is. Blessed with a strong skating stride and elite vision, Holtz is able to create offensive chances at full speed, without breaking stride or sacrificing his body. He can attack the neutral zone and create zone exits/entries with ease, making him one of the stronger two-way wingers in this draft.
His explosive skating stride makes him incredibly difficult to defend at full speed, and causes many defenders to back off. This ultimately leaves him open to release what I believe to be one of the best overall wrist-shots in the entire draft class. Make no mistake about it, Alex Holtz is a 30-goal scorer in the making, but a complete one at that! Look at this sequence below as an example of how he can attack open-ice with intimidating speed and unleash an absolute laser from the slot that leaves goalies searching for their water bottle.
Often discussed in the same breath as Lucas Raymond, Holtz finds himself a little lower on this list simply due to the fact that he doesn’t possess the consistency that Raymond has when executing his offensive game. Although he does make up for his inconsistencies with solid two-way play, Holtz has certainly shown more consistency in the recent 12 months with 11 points in 23 games (7 G and 4 A) for the SHL’s Djugardens. He is able to use his growing body to help him defend the puck better and it has shown in his game. He is far more responsible defensively than previously credited and can use his vision to help alleviate pressure in the defensive end far better this year than in previous years.
The hands, shot and speed of Holtz are elite. I have no doubt he will become a can’t-miss, top-line forward in the NHL moving forward, as he continues to use his precise and powerful wrist shot to mystify opposing goalies. I had difficulty putting him above guys like Rossi or Raymond simply because I would like to see more from him in terms of physical play and tight-play efficiency, but these are minor spots on what is an incredibly shiny resume for Alex Holtz.
Player Comparable: Filip Forsberg
8. Anton Lundell – C/LW 6’1 183 lbs
Having Anton Lundell ranked 8th make me feel like I’ve committed a crime. This is one of the better names to come out of Finland’s Liiga in recent memory, along with names like Rantanen, Laine and more. He possesses elite vision and passing skills along with one of the more sizzling shooting arsenals in this draft.
Currently with the HIFK Helsinki, Lundell has vaulted himself into top-line duty as an 18-year-old and has looked good doing it. His strong 200-ft game make him one of the more complete players in this Draft, mainly because of his Hockey IQ (from a positional standpoint) and his speed.
As evidenced by the sequence below, Lundell is strong at harpooning loose pucks in open ice and immediately driving towards the net, making him a real force in the neutral zone. His reach and his first two strides make him a very effective puck-hound and has a game that is built for the pro-level.
Lundell uses his strong Hockey IQ to put himself in key positions to either defend of score. As evidenced by the video below, Lundell is easily able to evade defensive coverage and find holes in defensive systems that will allow him to slip in for a scoring opportunity.
Furthermore, he has very good hands, almost underrated I would say, in tight and could be a very good option for any team below the circle on the PP. He plays a strong overall game and controls the puck like almost no other in this class. Truly a unique prospect in his own right, he is quickly proving his doubters wrong by displaying elite-level skill, while playing against men in what many consider to be a defense-first league.
Although many question how Lundell’s offense can translate to the NHL in comparison to his peers, you shouldn’t be worries at all moving forward. Lundell currently boasts 15 points (6 G and 9 A) in just 23 games. However, a closer look will display that, since being on the top-line, Lundell has accumulated 11 of his 15 points in his last 12 games (as of January 10th 2020), which shows his net improvement in offensive decision making.
Lundell is one of the candidates that I predict could rise in the rankings and push for a top-5 spot by June 2020. He possesses all the tools to be an effective top-6 Centre in the NHL, and really, the only question seems to be whether than will be on the 1st or 2nd line. However, any team that could have Lundell on their 2nd line would have a literal gem on their hands.
Player Comparable: Sean Couturier
9. Cole Perfetti – C/LW 5’10 185 lbs
Cole Perfetti has been a joy to watch for the Saginaw Spirit since he first laced up his skates with them in October 2018. He has grown into one of the best offensive talents, due to his powerful wrist shot and elite-level vision. Perfetti is one of those offensive players that can score that clutch goal for you at exactly the right time, no matter the situation.
As a 16-year-old rookie, playing for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, he scored 74 points (37 G and 37 A) in just 63 games and followed it up with 14 points (8 G and 6 A) in 16 playoff games. As a rookie, he was easily the most dominant forward on his team, until the Trade Deadline acquisition of Florida prospect Owen Tippett, and, at times, was able to drive the Spirit’s offense by himself .
Perfetti followed up a stellar rookie season with sensational Ivan-Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in August, putting up up 9 points (2G 7A) in 5 games for Team Canada, pushing many to include him in their top-5 rankings for the upcoming 2020 Draft.
Perfetti has followed up his exceptional tournament with a stellar sophomore year for the Spirit in the OHL, posting 69 points (23 G and 43 A) in just 40 games this year. He has improved his play-making abilities quite a bit over the last year, using his status as a goal-scorer to attract offensive fore-checkers/defenders in order to create space for his teammates and find the opened man in the slot for a scoring chance.
Unfortunately though, many pundits knock Perfetti due to his lack of top-end speed and his, at times, lazy play in the neutral zone. Perfetti projects as a top-6 forward, likely at Left-Wing in the NHL, capable of being a dangerous offensive weapon on the rush and, especially, during a powerplay.
Player Comparison: Nick Suzuki
10. Noel Gunler – RW/LW 6’2 174 lbs
Noel Gunler has top-10 talent and should be considered within the 2nd half of this top-10. He has an incredibly accurate and powerful wrist shot and it what really makes it dangerous is the deceptively fast release on the shot which surprises goalies, leaving them prone to creating a rebound.
As a 16-year-old, Gunler was terrorizing the SuperElit league in Sweden (pro-club’s junior team) with 46 points (27 G 19 A) in just 31 games for Lulea J-20 team. That puts him up with Filip Forsberg or William Nylander for high scoring 16-year-olds in the J-20 league. His near Goal-Per-Game pace immediately made scouts take notice of him as one of this class’ purest goal scorers and he hasn’t stopped scoring goals since.
Gunler also possess great speed and a sweet set of hands (see the play below), where he is able to create space for zone entries and unleash a monster wrist shot that always seems to go bar-down these days. He also has a good positional awareness in the offensive zone, finding holes in defensive coverage, freeing him up to release his devastating one-timer that many have compared to Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson.
Possession good size and a strong centre of gravity, Gunler is hard to knock off the puck and can protect the puck quite well, when he wants to. He is able to use his vision and hands to break out of board battles with the puck and distribute it quite effectively to the opened man in the far end of the offensive zone, thereby stretching the defense out and allowing for more offensive zone time.
Some of you might wonder how a player this skilled is ranked 10th, and you’re right. He is a top-10 talent and could easily be ranked above Perfetti by any other person, but his reported attitude issues, which has kept him of Sweden’s international rosters, have been a heavy point of discussion when it pertains to Gunler.
Although attitude and work ethic are a a huge part of what makes or breaks a player in the NHL, I am confident that Gunler will mature and breakaway from the international politics of player selection decisions to have a very productive NHL career on an NHL top-6 in the near future.