It was only four short hot months ago when the names of 217 hockey players were spoken into 31 sets of microphones (plus one on the podium for day one) in Vancouver at the 2019 draft. And it is already time to start looking towards the next iteration of that process, scheduled for June 26-27, 2020 in Montreal.
The main leagues from which North American based prospects play are barely one month old, while their European counterparts have been at it for a stretch longer. There is a ton that will change in the next eight months before 217 more young players move one big step closer to achieving their dreams. But even despite the expected shuffling that will occur, there are a number of things we can already say about the Class of 2020.
- Last year there were only 13 CHL alums taken in the first round, most of whom were taken at the back end of the round. We expect that to change in a big way this year, and 17 of our initial top 31 are CHLers, including four in the top 10.
- Last year, the hottest destination for scouts was the USNTDP. Not only was top pick Jack Hughes a member, but there were seven others from the roster picked on day one. In fact, all but two draft eligible full-time USNTDPers were drafted. This year the USNTDP has a lot of talent, but not nearly to the same extent. We currently see only two squad members as first rounders, although I would note that two or three others have a case if they show additional growth during the season.
- Sweden is still producing a lot of top talent. We currently have five players based in Sweden in our first round, but all eyes will be on the two Swedes in our top four, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz.
- Goalies? Goalie! Last year Spencer Knight was a somewhat contentious first round pick, the first netminder taken in the first round in a few years. He had the skills, but the challenge in scouting goaltenders is real, as our own Catherine Silverman explains in a recent article on this site. This year there is another goalie, out of Russia, who has fewer questions already than Knight even had on draft day and we rank him a few slots higher than where Knight eventually was taken by Florida in June. In other words, we are now more comfortable with Yaroslav Askarov as a draft prospect than we were with Knight.
- The forwards are strong this year. Mind you, they were pretty strong last year, too, although three blueliners were taken in the top ten and five more were selected from picks 11-20. Things will change for 2020, but at present we only see one defender worthy of a top 15 selection and have eight altogether in our top 31.
- After a few years of high-end players coming out of Junior A (Cale Makar, Dante Fabbro, Dennis Cholowski, Alex Newhook, etc) we do not currently see any Junior A players with first round possibilities. That extends to the USHL, which has only the two USNTDPers for now.
It is still incredibly early, so take the following list with a few shakers of salt. This will change tremendously as the weekends roll by, but it gives you a good indication of who has caught the eyes of our expanded scouting team so far. Without further ado:
|1||Alexis Lafreniere||LW||Rimouski (QMJHL)||6-1/195||11-Oct-01||14-11-24-35|
|2||Lucas Raymond||LW||Frolunda (SEL)||5-11/170||28-Mar-02||12-1-2-3|
|3||Quinton Byfield||C||Sudbury (OHL)||6-4/215||19-Aug-02||13-11-16-27|
|4||Alexander Holtz||RW||Djurgardens (SEL)||6-0/190||23-Jan-02||11-4-2-6|
|5||Jamie Drysdale||D||Erie (OHL)||5-11/175||8-Apr-02||13-5-13-18|
|6||Cole Perfetti||C||Saginaw (OHL)||5-10/180||1-Jan-02||13-5-19-24|
|7||Tim Stutzle||LW||Adler Mannheim (DEL)||6-1/185||15-Jan-02||12-3-10-13|
|8||Connor Zary||C||Kamloops (WHL)||6-0/175||25-Sep-01||12-5-15-20|
|9||Anton Lundell||C||HIFK Helsinki (Fin)||6-1/185||3-Oct-01||12-3-2-5|
|10||Yaroslav Askarov||G||SKA-Neva SP. (Rus 2)||6-3/175||16-Jun-02||9GP, .907|
|11||Marco Rossi||C||Ottawa (OHL)||5-9/185||23-Sep-01||6-4-11-15|
|12||Noel Gunler||RW||Lulea (SEL)||6-1/175||7-Oct-01||13-1-2-3|
|13||Dylan Holloway||C||Wisconsin (B1G)||6-0/190||23-Sep-01||4-1-2-3|
|14||Ty Smilanic||C||NTDP (USA)||6-1/175||20-Jan-02||8-3-5-8|
|15||Hendrix Lapierre||C||Chicoutimi (QMJHL)||5-11/180||9-Feb-02||13-1-12-13|
|16||Justin Barron||D||Halifax (QMJHL)||6-1/195||15-Nov-01||13-1-5-6|
|17||Justin Sourdif||RW||Vancouver (WHL)||5-11/175||24-Mar-02||12-6-6-12|
|18||Kaiden Guhle||D||Prince Albert (WHL)||6-2/190||18-Jan-02||12-2-7-9|
|19||Rodion Amirov||LW||Salavat Ufa (KHL)||6-0/170||2-Oct-01||11-0-1-1|
|20||Emil Andrae||D||HV 71 (Swe Jr)||5-9/185||23-Feb-02||14-3-13-16|
|21||Seth Jarvis||C||Portland (WHL)||5-9/180||1-Feb-02||11-5-9-14|
|22||Zion Nybeck||RW||HV 71 (Swe Jr)||5-7/185||12-May-02||14-9-14-23|
|23||Jacob Perreault||RW||Sarnia (OHL)||5-11/200||15-Apr-02||10-4-10-14|
|24||Jake Sanderson||D||NTDP (USA)||6-1/185||8-Jul-02||11-1-3-4|
|25||Mavrik Bourque||C||Shawinigan (QMJHL)||5-10/170||8-Jan-02||12-8-7-15|
|26||Jeremie Poirier||D||Saint John (QMJHL)||6-0/200||2-Jun-02||14-6-9-15|
|27||Braden Schneider||D||Brandon (WHL)||6-2/200||20-Sep-01||13-1-6-7|
|28||Roni Hirvonen||C||Assat Pori (Fin)||5-9/165||10-Jan-02||13-2-1-3|
|29||Antonio Stranges||LW||London (OHL)||5-10/175||5-Feb-02||9-5-4-9|
|30||Ryan O'Rourke||D||Sault Ste Marie (OHL)||6-0/175||16-May-02||13-5-6-11|
|31||Dawson Mercer||C||Drummondville (QMJHL)||6-0/180||27-Oct-01||13-12-10-22|
Some others who received consideration: Jaromir Pytlik, Jean-Luc Foudy, Jake Neighbours, Vasily Ponomarev, Sean Farrell, Carson Bantle, Thomas Bordeleau, Alexander Nikishin, Roni Hirvonen, Jan Mysyk, Kasper Simontaival
Finally, not only will the names on our subsequent lists vary from month to month as player development is not linear and every player listed above and many not listed above will see their respective games grow at varying rates over the course of the next few months, but more than all that, we will be bringing back our scouting reports of notable draft eligible players starting in November. Those reports, and the scouting grades contained within, will help us better structure our draft lists and provide us with greater confidence in our convictions. As with last year, each subsequent list will be not only more accurate, but longer, until bring the draft preparation to a climax with the final, 150 player or more final list.
Happy hockey everyone!