This it is folks. After hundreds of hours of crunching tape and following the best and brightest draft-eligible players all year (and then some… thanks Covid-19), here is my comprehensive guide for the 2020 NHL Draft.
I want to say that my rankings are my own, not influenced by the concensus (although the first 10-15 players will always kinda of be the same). I have mapped out in great detail every single ”spicy” ranking of a certain prospect, even if you’ve never heard of him before!
Moreso, the goal here is to look at the strengths and weaknesses of players, but also to understand the context surrounding the performance or lacktereof of every prospect in this class. This was a super fun exercise and I hope you all enjoy!
1. Alexis Lafrenière LW – 6’1, 194 lbs
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. Lafrenière has a very dangerous set of offensive tools., starting with his powerful wrister. He is able to unleash his shot mid-stride with incredible precision, making him a serious dual-threat on the ice.
Alexis Lafreniere is at it again. He has another 5 points (1+4) today (his fifth 4+ point game this season).— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) October 20, 2019
Here’s the tally pic.twitter.com/nl7opxZCkL
His stickhandling has to be some of the best I have seen in a draft eligible prospect since Patrick Kane. He is able to dance around opponents using his speed and stickhandling to create extra space. Furthermore, he has exceptional vision, allowing him to not only beat 2-3 defenders in one rish, but also make incredibly high IQ plays such as the pass highlighted in the sequence below.
Alexis Lafreniere is a literal bull. Dude just can’t be knocked off the puck. pic.twitter.com/tyh8QoQ9B4— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 1, 2019
A franchise player in the making, Alexis projects to be that game-breaking forward that can create something out of nothing. He is, in my opinion, the best offensive prospect since Auston Matthews.
2. Quinton Byfield C – 6’4, 215 lbs
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. Byfield possesses the skating, edgework, stickhandling and vision to be an effective top-line centre in the NHL.
Byfield loves to cut through the zone and go into the dirty areas to create a scoring chance. As evidence in the above sequence, he is able to rush up the ice quite quickly for a big player, and then cuts through the centre like he’s 5’9 to unleash his very underrated wrist shot. Playing for Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, Byfield often started plays due to his skating and sky-high Hockey IQ. These are qualities that will serve him well at the next level.
Many notable critiques of his game are his lack of aggression or desire in certain games. Although he is quite able of being defensively responsible and using his body (just take a look at the sequence above as one of many examples), Byfield is not yet physically mature nor has he ever really needed to utilize his size to create separation (most big players in junior have the same issue there). With proper coaching and development, that potential to flip the switch and become a dominant, physical C capable of playing skill game make Quinton one of the most intruiging prospects in the draft.
3. Lucas Raymond LW/RW – 5’10, 167 lbs
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.
Lucas Raymond has elite Hockey IQ and passing skills, while being blessed with one of the most dangerous wrist shots in the draft; not necessarily due to it’s power, but because it is precise and heavy. The first thing that sticks out about Raymond is how he knows exactly where to be, especially on the powerplay, In the sequence above, he sees the play develop on the right side, gets himself quickly in position and calls for a pass, unleashing a deadly one-timer for the goal.
Raymond is able to make high skill plays in the danger areas as well due to his great hockey sense on the ice. He is able to aggressively attack the play, retrieve the puck and distribute it just as quickly as he received it. The play in the sequence below exemplifies how Raymond is able to create offensive with small and timely passing plays while under pressure. He is really a dual threat offensively on the ice, which allows his offense to come in a variety of ways.
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). Early signs in the 2020-2021 pre-season have been great so far, as Raymond looks primed for a bigger role this season with Frolunda. He is bigger and stronger with growing confidence, and that is a dangerous hockey player I want on my hockey team for years to come.
4. 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.
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.
Cole Perfetti has been all about that apple sauce this year, but his shot remains deadly af.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) February 15, 2020
2 more goals tonight and he’s up to 95 points (33+62) in 52 OHL games – 2nd most in the league. pic.twitter.com/cCZPPJb0Us
The reason I had Perfetti ranked about Stûtzle is simply because I believe that, although they are both exceptional playmakers in their own right, Perfetti possessions a scoring touch that I do not see in the young German forward. Perfetti has an NHL-caliber shot, making him a coveted dual threat who’s game is predicated on deception and speed of execution. I foresee him topping out as a 1st line LW who could easily slot into a top-6 C role if need be.
5. Tim Stützle C/LW/RW – 6’1, 187 lbs
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. His relentless motor, speed of execution and his exceptional passing abilities make him one of the most exciting prospects in this draft. He was always been a favourtie of mine, specifically because his thinks the game so quickly and creates his offense due primarily to an excellent work ethic.
Nice shift by Tim Stutzle.— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) November 19, 2019
He shows off both his offensive and defensive awareness in this clip, attacking the play while still understanding his responsibilities.
Quick analysis in the tweet below. #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/3q7om5grVT
Stutzle uses his speed and excellent edge-work (as seen in the sequence above) to escape player coverage and win board battles. He then follows up on the play with excellent vision and precise passing to create scoring chances. As seen in the sequence below, where he displays his possession-heavy game, Stutzle is able to use his skating and strong puck-protection to circle around the offensive zone unscathed, while generating a high-danger scoring chance.
Although he may have played on the wing this season, his vision and passing ability, as evidence by the sequence below, make him better suited for pivoting a line at the pro-level. Even though he may not be as imposing as someone like Quinton Byfield, Stutzle plays a very strong game and has a very strong centre of gravity when he skates, allowing him to shake off checks and hooks to power toward the net.With that said, Stützle has has the skill, character and speed to excel sooner rather than later in the NHL.