6. NJ Devils: C/LW Cole Perfetti
Cole Perfetti is a clutch performing capable of taking over a game and slotting in virtually anywhere in the lineup. Many folks see the 5’10 forward as an eventual left-wing in the NHL, and that is totally okay when New Jersey already has Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and plenty of other centres in the organization. I see the Devils jumping all over Perfetti because of his complete offensive game. He has the vision, the dynamic scoring ability, the nose for the net and some of the best hands in the draft.
It’s not for nothing that Perfetti followed up a great rookie season in the OHL with one of the most dominant draft-eligible offensive productions in recent years (along with Lafrenière and Marco Rossi). Perfetti put up 37 goals and 74 assists for 111 points in just 61 games, a total which places him as the 3rd best scorer in major junior this season.
Perfetti’s game really reached another level after being cut from Team Canada, going on an absolute tear to end the season, posting 44 points in his last 21 games. He began to attack the danger areas far more frequently and often used this new gained space to create an easy scoring opportunity for a teammate. Another aspect that seemed to improve for me throughout the season was his speed and execution, as he was far quicker in his movements and decision making.
This made him extremely hard to cover defensively, and he was thus able to control the game with far more confidence and poise. Ultimately, he pushed his Saginaw Spirit team up to the top of the standings with some very intense play, something the New Jersey sorely lack in their system at the moment.
Player Comparison: Claude Giroux
7. Buffalo Sabres: RW Alexander Holtz
Alex Holtz has, in my opinion, the strongest pure wrist shot in this draft. The Buffalo Sabres lack secondary goal-scoring (or any form of goal-scoring outside Jack EIchel, Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart) and are in dire need of another top-end winger to complete a top-6 that has taken 6 years (and counting) to build. Alexander Holtz brings his A game practically every time he’s on the ice.
That it be for 3-5 minutes a game for the SHL’s Djurgårdens, or for 20 minutes a game when he suits up for Team Sweden during international tournaments. Holtz has two major things going for him, he has great hockey IQ, which allows him to read plays extremely well and find open spaces for him to attack and unleash his cannon of a shot. That it be his slap shot, wrist shot, one-timer, it really doesn’t matter. Holtz will find a way to burn you.
Holtz thrives on the powerplay, mainly due to his shot. However, what I have also noticed is that, although Holtz is a triggerman, the extra coverage he receives has forced him to also develop the playmaking side of his game, and this is really where Holtz separates himself from other goal-scorers in this draft. He can be extremely hard to track, and his offensive tools make him a threat at all times, which would be a perfect complement for Jack Eichel down the road, who plays a similar high-tempo style of game.
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, but ultimately, his upward trend in progression, coupled by Buffalo’s greatest organizational need, leads me to believe this would be the ideal pick at 7th overall.
Player Comparison: Filip Forsberg
8. Montreal Canadiens: C/LW Marco Rossi
Marco Rossi is one of the most unique prospects in this draft, because, save for his height, he is the total package on the ice. This young man can burn you offensively and defensively and was the most dominant player in the OHL this season (including Perfetti and Byfield). However, it is worth noting that the 5’9 Austrian is one of the oldest players in the draft (almost 11 months older than Quinton Byfield) and his offensive performances, according to some, need to be taken with a grain of salt.
This is a fair point, however Marco Rossi led all Canadian Major Junior in scoring (all three leagues combined) with 39 goals and 81 assists for 120 points in just 56 games. Even if you were to compare him to players drafted in 2018 or 2019, Marco Rossi was a superior player in almost all facets except goal-scoring.
Another point of contention with Rossi is that he played for the best team in major junior, the Ottawa 67s. This is indeed true, but the 67s have been a powerhouse for two years now in large part because Marco Rossi has been their roster. Even as a 17-year old, Rossi was the driving force in Ottawa’s push for the OHL championship, and the only player that could effectively shut down Rossi last year was the eventual MVP, Nick Suzuki, who was 2 years older. This year, Rossi exploded right out of the gate and took the league over with his great speed, his elite vision and his exceptional hockey IQ. If there is one player that I believe can shock the entire hockey world and jump into the top-5 of this draft, it is Marco Rossi.
Although Rossi is listed at 5’9, similarly to the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher, he plays like he’s 6’2. The young man is strong on his skates, protects the puck exceptionally well and is able to create offense with very little effort. I believe he will ultimately fall due to other team’s needs and their fear of drafting another small player. Canadiens fans will likely bemoan the selection of another small player (a year removed from having selected 5’7 Cole Caufield) , but I would trade half my club to ensure that Rossi was properly insulated, rather than pass over a potential star.
Player Comparison: Brad Marchand
9. Chicago Blackhawks: G Yaroslav Askarov
The Blackhawks have done a solid job of retooling their prospect pool. They are covered in literally every possible position, except goaltending. This has been a little bit of an issue for the Blackhawks, due to Corey Crawford’s health and wide cast of failed replacements over the years. With Crawford likely having 1-2 good years left in him, it would be a great time to draft a franchise goaltender like Askarov, who would likely jump right into the NHL in two years’ time when the likes of Dach, Boqvist, Debrincat and the rest of Chicago’s youth begins maturing, while also allowing Kane and Toews a second contenders window.
Askarov has been impressive at his age in almost every single tournament or league he’s played in, except the most recent World Junior Championship. That tournament was a very up-and-down event for the 17-year old netminder. He looked very nervous and didn’t perform like many expected, however prior to the tournament and especially after the tournament, Askarov was on a mission. In his few games in the KHL, he looked extremely confident and fluid. Making incredible saves, primarily due to his strong lateral movements and his cat-like reflexes in net, Askarov showed exactly why many peg him as a future franchise goaltender. He has the speed, size, competitiveness, mobility, and flexibility to be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL within the next 3-5 years. Is that really something Chicago can afford to pass on, given their pool? I don’t think so.
Player Comparison: Carey Price
10. NJ Devils (ARI): RW Lucas Raymond
Having Lucas Raymond fall to 10th overall is an absolute steal for the New Jersey Devils, who clean up very nicely in this draft. Raymond has fallen on many people’s list because he was used very little when he did suit up for the SHL’s Frolunda. Similarly to Alex Holtz, it is difficult for 17-year olds to secure top playing minutes in the SHL, and they are often shuttling between the main club and their junior affiliates (SuperElit). The back and forth never really allowed Raymond to get a foothold on the season and had many scouts questioning whether or not he had taken a step back.
Thankfully those questions were answered at the World Juniors, as Raymond look very comfortable and was very noticeable due to his speed, vision and explosiveness. He is a winger that can light up a game, especially on the powerplay. His vision, his shot and his speed make him a prototypical top-6 forward in today’s NHL with serious first-line potential.
Being a smaller player, Raymond is able to create space for himself, a necessity at the next level, due to his blazing speed and his underrated vision. He keeps defenders on their heels, as he is very slippery to escape a check and set-up a teammate, especially when he is double-covered in tighter games.
Really, all Raymond needs is stability and some quality minutes to show scouts and the hockey world that he is a top-10 (arguably top-5) talent in this talent pool.
Player Comparison: William Nylander