11. Alexander Holtz LW/RW – 5’11, 181 lbs
I know many people will question having Alex Holtz this low, but I feel that’s more of a testament to the quality of this draft than it is an insult to Holtz. Make no mistake about it, Alex Holtz is a 30-goal scorer in the making! The only reason I have Holtz ranked at #11 is simply due to the overall quality of the players ranked between 6 and 16. To be this is where the wealth of the draft can be found. Alex Holtz could certainly go higher due to his exceptional scoring ability and powerplay presence, however I found the games of players like Lundell, Jarvis and Askarov to be more impactful on a regular basis. On pure skill alone, Holtz is a top-10 talent, and here’s why.
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. In fact, Holtz thrives on the powerplay, mainly due to his shot (see sequence above). He is able to find open space, set-up and transfer his weight seamlessly into a powerful one-timer that will remind many people of Steven Stamkos in style.
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. In the sequence below, we see him attack the offensive zone with speed, gain possession of a loose puck, attract defenders toward him, before sliding a beautiful pass to teammate Lucas Raymond for a pretty goal. He can think the game at a very quick pace in the offensive zone and in transition.
He is 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-6 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 Lundell 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 a shiny resume for Alex Holtz.
12. Yaroslav Askarov G – 6’2, 176 lbs
Yaro Askarov is, in my estimation, the best goalie prospect to come around since Andrei Vasilevski. He is positionally sound, covers a large part of the net and has cat-like reflexes allowing him to make some incredible saves.
Perhaps what is most impressive in regards to Askarov is the strength and effectiveness of his lateral movements (see sequence below). He is able to power through his first stance, to push off toward the left side of the post to block a highlight reel save in the shootout, in the KHL no less. I honestly say Carey Price make that exact move in 2007 during the World Juniors, and the comparison is overdone, but just in this case.
А-СКА-ров! pic.twitter.com/L81wSPhWlu— Хоккейный клуб СКА (@hcSKA) September 17, 2020
He may be lower on lists, including mine, due to the positional bias of a goaltender, but I honestly believe Askarov is a top-10 talent. He is already playing in the KHL at the tender age of 18 and looking sharp. Once his contract finishes with SKA in 2 years, he should be headed over to North America without issue. Askarov has the speed, size, competitiveness, mobility, and flexibility to be one of the best goaltenders in the NHL within the next 3-5 years.
Askarov! He leaves the net, makes a mistake but then manages to keep the puck out of the net! pic.twitter.com/TGBgSuzAI4— Aivis Kalniņš (@aiviskalnins) September 17, 2020
13. Jack Quinn RW – 6’, 176lbs
Quinn started his junior career in relative anonymity. Playing behind the likes of Tye Felhaber, Sasha Chmelevski, Austen Keating and Marco Rossi on the forward chart last year, Quinn was relegated to 3rd line duty most of last season. He was only able to put up 12 goals and 20 assists for a meager 32 points in 61 games. However, even prior to his exceptional 2019-2020 season, the signs were there that, when given the chance, Quinn could be far more than a simple checking forward.
With a less loaded roster pushing him down the pecking order in 2019-2020, Jack Quinn had all the opportunity to shine for the Ottawa 67s, and boy, did he ever. Right out of the gate, you noticed that he had greatly improved his explosiveness and his edge work. He would literally blow by defenders, who had inside positioning on him, within 2-3 strides up the neutral zone. An great example would be in the video below, which shows Quinn using his explosive first few steps and strong subsequent strides to command inside positioning en route to a high danger opportunity.
Jack Quinn or the Flash?— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) December 21, 2019
Long stride and quality crossovers propel Quinn down the ice. Skates by two Generals on the way to the net. #2020NHLDraft | @DobberProspects | @FCHockey pic.twitter.com/39nA2202YL
Quinn is easily one of the best pure goal-scorers available in the upcoming draft (along with the likes of Perreault, Holtz and Rossi), but he could possibly have the best overall shot in the Draft. No disrespect to Alexander Holtz, who has an absolute laser of a shot that I find to be more precise, but Quinn’s shot has the velocity and power to be deadly at the next level.
One thing that is different this year, and has afforded him much more success, is the release of his shot. He is able to let his shot go at a much faster rate and that makes him extremely deadly in the slot with time and space. In the video below, you can see him receive a pass, fake a toe-drag and eventually unleash a cannon of a shot in the top-corner. His shot is able to rise and fly at such a rate that the goaltender, who was admittedly screened, had absolutely no chance of stopping.
Look at this power play snipe! Jack Quinn’s shot release is electric. pic.twitter.com/EdSrYEKw0M— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) March 25, 2020
Jack Quinn can honestly go anywhere from 8th overall to 15th overall, depending on the order of the draft, again speaking to the testament of the 2nd tier of prospects in this draft. I would not put it passed a GM looking for a player with good size and huge growth potential to snatch Quinn up as of 6th overall. I personally think he’s got room to grow, but there’s always a concern for a player that comes out of nowhere like this, especially on a team like the 67s. Nonetheless, I do believe Quinn will be a solid selection for any team selecting in the top-15 of this draft.
14. Dawson Mercer C/RW – 6’, 178 lbs
Dawson Mercer has been an offensive force over the last two seasons in the QMJHL. He has deceptive speed, awesome hands and provides clutch performances when his team most needs him. Mercer is one of those forwards coaches love to have on their roster when they’re down a goal, as he plays a high-tempo, speed and skill game, while also not shying away from the dirty areas or the front of the net.
For me the main qualities that Mercer has are elite Hockey IQ, I mean top-5 in this draft elite, a ridiculous set of hands and a motor that never stops. It is very rare to ever see Dawson Mercer take a game off, while constantly being tasked with shutting down the best players on the other team ( was quite effective vs Lafrenière for example). However, as good as Mercer can be defensively, his offense is truly what shines for me. Even in defensive situations, as evidence by the sequence below, Mercer is able to strip players of the puck and head off for breakaways. His skating technique is good enough to create separation between he and the defenders, and then he is able to use his precise shot to bury it home.
Prior to heading off to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships, usually a rare accomplishment for a Canadian-born player in their draft year,. he was scoring at a 96-point pace in the QMJHL. When he returned to the QMJHL, he had been traded to Chicoutimi, and took 4-5 games to get acclimated to the style of play. He wasn’t able to maintain that rabid pace on a new club (but still posted a PPG ratio), but did finish his last 10 games with 13 points, showing that he was turning the corner and primed for a big playoff run that, unfortunately, never came to pass.
A player like Mercer is simply too intelligent to be kept down, similarly to guys like Rickard Rakell or Jordan Eberle . As shown by the play below, he thinks the game so quickly and efficiently that, even when he does not have the speed advantage, he can stickhandle and protect the puck in ways that mistify the defensive players on the ice. He can literally stickhandle in a phone booth and has absolutely no fear of crashing the net for a greasy goal.
#DevilsDaily: https://t.co/Jvw1JAP914— Devils Insiders (@DevilsInsiders) August 20, 2020
A look at one of the top QMJHL forwards available, Dawson Mercer.
We actually disagreed on him a bit. What are your thoughts? All feedback welcome.
(🎥: @Andylehoux1 ) pic.twitter.com/8ufww1h3bf
During the offseason, Dawson Mercer’s skating was the biggest question mark, as it wasn’t seen to be as elite as the players ranked around him. In my exchanges with folks in Chicoutimi, they pointed out that Mercer’s growth potential is extremely high in his lower body, as he never really trained much in the offseason in Newfoundland due to a lack of equipment and installations.
That changed opver the pause, and Mercer looks like a completely new player during the QMJHL preseason. It was said that he was finally able to truly train his lower body and was able to put on Just look at the highlights of his most recent game. You can clearly notice much more power in his skating and speed in his overall execution (wears #19). If Mercer’s skating continues to improve with another summer or two of intense lower body training (similar to this off season) he could easily entice a team to select early than this rank. Mercer projects as a top-6 RW, but he could easily fill in at centre if the team has a need for it.
Mercer (10th), Lapierre (13th) and Crevier (118th) … ready for #NHLDraft @LNH_FR @NHL— Saguenéens (@SagueneensLHJMQ) September 14, 2020
Take a look of our last game 🤩
Dawson Mercer (1G,2A)
Hendrix Lapierre ( 1G,2A)
Louis Crevier (1G)#FierDetreSags #LHJMQ #NHL pic.twitter.com/R5Pn73MppR
15. Rodion Amirov -LW – 6’, 167 lbs
Rodion Amirov is a highly skilled winger with slick hands and great speed. He is a very difficult prospect to evaluate because he’s mostly played in the MHL (Russian junior) and VHL (KHL minor league) over the last 14 months, where the quality of competition isn’t the highest. That being said, Amirov has managed to stand out in a real way due to his ability to create zone entries almost at will. He is also incredibly chippy, not shying from crashing the net to get a garbage goal.
ok, #hockeytwitter Rodion Amirov is a hell of a hockey player. I underestimated him.— Pascal Lapointe (@SousleradarLNH) August 18, 2020
Rodion Amirov est tout un joueur de hockey.#2020NHLDraft #gohabsgo @CanadiensMTL #NHLDraft @Toutsurlehockey
Powered by/propulsé par @InStatHockey pic.twitter.com/Cidncjx6ZP
Amirov possesses a very good set of hands to go with very strong skating, which is evidence in the sequence below. He can beat you 1-on-1 along the boards or in the middle of the offensive zone and deke goaltenders out of their pants if given the space. One thing to like about Amirov’s game is how he creates space for himself using solid puck-protection skills and his great hands.
He has no fear in putting himself in harm’s way and battles for lose pucks in the high-danger areas constantly. This rewards an otherwise skilled player with many ‘’garbage goals’’, but it also immediately gains the respect of coaches and scouts alike. Once his contract with Salavat Yulaev Ufa ends in two years, Amirov could very well fit within an NHL top-6 and has the upside to really excel as the games get tighter.