With Covid-19 having put the word on pause for a little bit, this has given me ample time to watch (or re-watch) some tape on the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft eigible prospects. I ranked the players based on their potential AND their likeliness, in my opinion, to reach said potential moving forward. After much deliberation, which I can assure you is still ongoing as I publish this article, here is my top-62 rankings for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft:
1. Alexis Lafrenière – LW
What can we say about Lafrenière that hasn’t already been said? He is an elite prospect with a similar playing style to Jonathan Huberdeau who possesses elite skill, speed and stickhandling. A franchise player in the making, Alexis projects to be that game-breaking forward that can create something out of nothing.
2. Quinton Byfield – C
Oddly enough, Byfield is the most polarizing player on this list. Some think his potential could be higher than Lafrenière’s, whereas some think that he is simply a player that uses his great size advantage (he is 6’4) to dominate at the junior level. Personally, I think he has legit #1 C potential, as his vision, speed, size and reach make him an ideal candidate for any rebuilding club.
3. Tim Stützle – C
Tim Stützle has been rising up everyone’s charts all year! The German forward played mostly RW this year in the German Hockey League (DEL), but didn’t look out of place at all. Stützle uses his speed and excellent edge-work to escape player coverage and win board battles. Many see him as either a C or LW in the NHL, but I personally think he will have more long-term success on the wing. With that said, Stützle has has the skill, character and speed to excel sooner rather than later in the NHL.
4. Jamie Drysdale – RD
Jamie Drysdale is an absolute stud. His skating and speed is eerily similar to top-Ds in past drafts. He is able to use his speed and vision to escape coverage at the blue-line and then fearlessly attack the slot for a quick and powerful wrist-shot, or a slick pass to the forward, hiding backdoor, for a tap-in. He isn’t afraid to join in on the cycle game along the boards and he explodes off the boards in order to transition the puck along the far boards or seek the open man in the slot for a quick scoring chance.
Possessing top-pair potential, primarily because of his elite Hockey IQ and speed, Drysdale is the best defenseman available in this draft, in my estimation. His ability to carry the puck in all three zones make him a possession monster and an overall treat to watch on the ice.
5. Lucas Raymond – RW
Need someone to score a clutch goal in a tight game? Look no further than Lucas Raymond. Raymond has been on my radar for years due to his excellent international play. He is an explosive, talented winger than can attack the net with great speed and stick-handling to create optimal scoring chances and giant passing lanes for his teammates.
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. Ultimately, all Raymond needs is stability and some quality minutes to show scouts and the hockey world that he is a top-5 talent in his Draft year.
6. Marco Rossi – C
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. In terms of pure offensive potential, Rossi is a top-5 player for me and could be interchangeable with Drysdale or Raymond in this top-5, but, as we have seen many times in the past, his size might drop him down a peg or two.
7. Cole Perfetti – C
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. Although he does not have elite speed like other prospects in the top-end of this draft, Perfetti has elite Hockey IQ and always seems to find open ice for himself due to his deceptiveness and soft hands. This makes him extremely hard to cover and defend on the rush, while also making him a lethal threat on the powerplay.
8. Alex Holtz – RW
Holtz’s explosive skating stride makes him incredibly difficult to defend at full speed, and causes many defenders to back off. 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.
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.
9. Jake Sanderson – LD
Many question Sanderson’s overall offensive ability at the NHL level, but the tools are certainly there for Sanderson to be a very competent NHL defenseman in the same light as Ryan McDonaugh. His type of offense is effective because he has many tools and ways he can get the puck into danger areas. He disposes of a very powerful and low one-timer, while having a very underrated wrist shot, which has a deceptively fast release.
His speed, size, offensive instincts and possession skills have really stuck out in a Draft class that, outside of Jamie Drysdale, lacks true, top-end defensive options. Sanderson is the only one to truly rise out of the glut of mid-to-late round defensive prospects to position himself among the elite of his age group.
10. Seth Jarvis – RW
Jarvis is dangerous because of his deception. He is able to keep defenders guessing, while using his strong edgework to shift directions in mid-stride to escape coverage and attack the net. He plays a surprisingly gritty and relentless game for a high-skill player, all while being an absolute puck hound on the forecheck.
What sticks out the most to me is his speed and tenacity. Before his offensive game reached another level (or two?) this winter, Jarvis always had a motor that would never stop and would be incredibly noticeable on the ice for his gritty play and tenacious fore-check. This young man oozes character and leadership, often setting-up or scoring the clutch goal for the Winterhawks this season.