Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Starting today, and for the next 40 or so days I will be bringing you features on the next wave of NHL players. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical draft profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Prospects”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2019 Draft Articles Click here. We will be sure to bring similar coverage of the 2020 NHL Draft.
2020 NHL Draft Early Look
The 2019 NHL Draft has come and gone, and most teams have already held their post-draft development camp, getting an up close and personal look at the players they have selected in their new jerseys. However, scouting new talent never stops and with this, in mind we turn our attention towards the talent that will be available in the 2020 NHL Draft. It may be early and there is still a full year of hockey to be played, likely leading to a lot of movement between these rankings and where players end up at the end of next season, but still, let’s take a look and preview the 2020 NHL Draft.
The 2019 class was overloaded with members of the US NTDP as well as a strong class in the WHL. The 2020 NHL Draft class may not be quite as strong in these areas. Instead, it sees the QMJHL and OHL bringing a number of top prospects to the table. It should also be a banner year for Swedish prospects. Similar to 2019, forwards should dominate the early picks, and there is also a top goaltending prospect who could be selected in the top 15. The 2020 NHL Draft will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
1.) Alexis Lafreniere, Left Wing, Rimouski Oceanic, 6’1″ 192 lbs
A prodigious talent, Lafreniere put up 37 goals and 105 points in 61 games last season. He was even better in the playoffs with nine goals and 23 points in 13 games. His performance earned him the QMJHL MVP and CHL Player Of the Year Awards. Lafreniere was also a huge part of the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky gold medal win for Team Canada with five goals and 11 points in six games. He even made the World Junior team, although in a depth role.
Lafreniere is an outstanding skater. He is extremely fast, and pairs that with a stride that provides excellent acceleration and power. He also has great hands, allowing him to make plays at top speed. Lafreniere can be a playmaker with his great vision and passing skills. He anticipates plays extremely well and makes his linemates better.
Lafreniere is also natural goal scorer. He can put the puck in the net in a variety of ways. He drives hard to the net and uses quick hands to beat goalies. His wrist shot is strong and accurate and he can score from further out. He can also play the power game, getting to rebounds and creating havoc out front. Lafreniere is a prodigious talent with everything NHL teams are looking for. He’s been the leading prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft for some time now. However, there are a number of prospects breathing down his neck.
2.) Lucas Raymond, Right Wing, Frolunda, 5’10” 165 lbs
Despite being an underage player in the tournament, Raymond shined in helping Sweden to the IIHF Under-18 World Championship with four goals and four assists in seven games. His hattrick, including the overtime winner, in the gold medal game was immense. Raymond also helped Sweden to Bronze at the Under 17 Hockey Challenge (seven points in six games) and Silver at last year’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup (five goals, seven points in five games).
Domestically, he scored two goals in 10 games in the SHL. He also dominated at the U20 level, with 48 points in 37 games, and nine points in six playoff games. It was the most points for a U17 player in the league and he won the award for best forward in the league. Once his U20 season was over, he joined the U18 team for their playoff run with five goals and nine points in five games, helping Frolunda to the U18 title.
Raymond is a fantastic skater. He combines outstanding speed, acceleration, and edgework with very good stickhandling ability. Raymond can make plays at top speed. He has the passing skill and vision to set up teammates on the rush as well as the poise to quarterback the play on the power play. Raymond also has an excellent shot and a quick release. Raymond can create offensive opportunities in a variety of ways. He is also extremely smart. His hockey IQ allows him to make the right play with the puck. He will need to put on muscle before he is NHL ready but his offensive skills make him a dynamic threat.
3.) Alexander Holtz, Right Wing/Left Wing, Djurgardens, 6’0″ 183 lbs
Holtz joined Raymond on the Swedish teams at the Hlinka-Gretzky (two goals, seven points in five games); the U17 World Hockey Challenge (four goals, eight points in six games); and IIHF Under 18s (four goals, seven points in seven games). He has also been strong in the Djurgardens system. With 30 goals in 38 games, Holtz led the entire J20 league. He added four points in five playoff games, with Djurgardens finishing in third place. He also was able to play three games in the SHL, getting his feet wet in playing against men.
Holtz is a pure sniper, with an outstanding wrist shot and lightning quick release. He also has an excellent slap shot and one-timer. Holtz even has a good backhand. He can also get to the front of the net, scoring goals with his quick hands and excellent hand-eye coordination to get tips and bang in rebounds. Holtz makes smart plays with and without the puck. He has the vision and passing skills to find open teammates. Holtz’s skating is good but not quite in the elite level of fellow top prospects, he makes up for it by almost always being in the right position.
4) Quinton Byfield, Centre, Sudbury Wolves, 6’4″ 214 lbs
The first overall pick in the 2018 OHL Draft, Byfield won the OHL and CHL Rookie of the Year Awards, helping the Wolves return to the OHL playoffs. He put up 29 goals and 61 points in 64 games last season. Byfield also added three goals and eight points in eight playoff games. Byfield has everything that teams want in a prospect. The big centre (already 6-foot-4 and still growing) is a tremendous skater. He moves extremely well, not just for a big man, but compared to all players. He also has the hands to make moves with the puck while travelling at that speed. Byfield can be a goal scorer, with an excellent wrist shot, quick release and a very good one-timer. He also has the soft hands to finish in close to the net.
Byfield is also an excellent playmaker. He has the vision and hockey IQ to anticipate where his linemates will be and to set them up for scoring chances. Byfield uses his size to protect the puck and extend plays. He can also play a physical game, getting in quickly on the forecheck and forcing turnovers which he quickly turns into scoring chances. Byfield is not afraid to battle in front of the net and to fight for loose pucks in the corners. His size and strength were impressive in his first season in the OHL, even when facing opponents who were four years older. He is also already well-developed in his own end of the ice, playing a strong defensive game.
5.) Anton Lundell, Centre, HIFK, 6’1″ 183 lbs
Finnish hockey has exploded in recent years as their program continues to crank out elite prospects. In this draft class, it continues with Lundell, a centre who helped the team to the World Junior gold medal in January when he put up four points in seven games. He also added four points in five games at the IIHF Under 18s, where he was named a top-three player on the team. Lundell won a gold medal at the 2018 U18, putting up six points in seven games. He has also played ahead of the rest of his age group in domestic leagues. Lundell put up nine goals and 19 points in 38 games in the SM Liiga, impressive production considering his age and that he is playing in Finland’s top men’s league.
Lundell has very good speed and acceleration. However, he can improve his agility and changes of direction. His speed is dangerous though, it forces defenders to back off him or get burned wide. He uses this speed and very good stickhandling to create space and make plays. Lundell is strong on his skates and protects the puck extremely well, extending plays and allowing linemates to get open. He creates scoring chances thanks to his outstanding vision and playmaking skill. He is another smart player who always seems to be in the right spot. This also applies in the defensive end as he’s a strong two-way player.
6.) Justin Barron, Right Defence, Halifax Mooseheads, 6’2″ 192 lbs
A late-2001 birthday, Barron had an impressive sophomore campaign with the Halifax Mooseheads. He put up nine goals and 41 points in 68 games. Barron also added two goals and 13 points in 23 playoff games as the Mooseheads advanced to the QMJHL final and one point in four games as they went to the final of the Memorial Cup. He has also impressed internationally, with five points in five games at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, winning a gold medal. He also won a silver medal at the 2017 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Barron is an outstanding skater, and this helps him to play a strong two-way game. He gets around the ice quickly and can join the rush or pinch in at the blue line and still get back defensively. Barron can make a smart first pass to start the transition or he can use his strong skating and stickhandling to lead the rush himself. He sees the ice well and makes good decisions with the puck. Barron also has a good point shot. He can also sneak down to the faceoff circles and let go his wrist shot. Barron plays a disciplined defensive game and his skating helps him defend one-on-one situations. His excellent agility and edgework allow him to maintain good gap control.
7.) Cole Perfetti, Centre, Saginaw Spirit, 5’10” 185 lbs
The fifth overall pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Draft, Perfetti led all OHL rookies in goals and points last season. He was named to the OHL All-Rookie Team. Overall he had 37 goals and 74 points in 63 games. Perfetti also added eight goals and 14 points in 16 playoff games. He was part of Team Canada White at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, scoring two goals and nine points in five games.
Perfetti has outstanding hands. He can make moves in a phone booth. Perfetti also has very good edgework and combines his hands with the ability to make quick cuts and changes of direction. This makes him extremely dangerous in one-on-one situations whether it be working out of the cycle or coming in off the rush. He uses his quick moves to create shooting and passing lanes. Perfetti sees the ice extremely well and only needs to create a small amount of space to be able to set up a linemate. He also has a very good wrist shot, featuring a quick release.
8.) Noel Gunler, Left Wing/Right Wing, Lulea HF, 6’1″ 185 lbs
Gunler got in 15 games at the SHL level, putting up two goals and three assists for five points while playing in the men’s league as a 17-year-old. He got his chance after ripping up the J20 league. Gunler scored 27 goals and 19 assists for 46 points in just 31 games. He also added three points in three playoff games. Gunler is another pure sniper. He can score in a variety of ways. He has a heavy wrist shot with a good release; an excellent slap shot and one-timer; a quick and accurate snapshot; a strong backhand; the hands to deke a goaltender as well as to put the puck through tight spaces; and the hand-eye coordination to get tip-ins and rebounds.
Gunler is also a good playmaker. His quick hands change angles and create passing lanes. He is strong on the puck and protects it on the cycle, with the patience to slow down the play and allow his teammates to get open. Once they do he has the vision to find them and the skills to get them the puck. Gunler needs to work harder in the defensive end of the ice though. He could also work on his first few steps, however, his skating is very good once he gets going. Improving that start would move him up the 2020 NHL Draft rankings.
9.) Jamie Drysdale, Right Defence, Erie Otters, 5’11” 165 lbs
The fourth overall pick in the 2018 OHL Draft, Drysdale had a strong rookie season and was named to the OHL All-Rookie Team. He put up seven goals and 33 assists for 40 points in 63 games. Drysdale was also named the captain of Team Canada Black for the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, putting up four points in five tournament games. He also played for Canada at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. He put up two points in seven tournament games.
Drysdale is another strong two-way defender. He has very good speed in both directions, as well as the agility and edgework to make quick pivots and transition from offence to defence and vice-versa. Drysdale can rush the puck up the ice, making plays and setting up teammates. He can also get back in his own end and his agility, smarts, and quick stick make him very difficult to beat off the rush. Drysdale is also good at walking the line in the offensive zone and creating shooting and passing lanes for himself. He can play the role of power-play quarterback. He is a bit undersized and will need to add muscle to his frame over the next several years.
10.) Tim Stutzle, Centre, Adler Manheim, 5’11” 165 lbs
Germany is emerging as a top hockey nation and the 2020 NHL Draft class features another high-end prospect from the country. Stutzle put up 23 goals and 55 points in just 21 games in the German Under-20 league last year. He added another four goals and 11 points in five playoff games. However, it is at the international level that he has really stood out. An underage forward, he led Germany to gold (and promotion) in the 1A Division at the IIHF Under-18s. He put up two goals and nine points in five games, winning best forward at the tournament. In 2018, as a double-underage player, he put up four points in five games.
Stutzle is amongst the best skaters in the entire draft class. He can absolutely fly. He also has very good acceleration. His ability to change speeds can be used as a weapon to fool defenders. Stutzle has outstanding agility and edgework. He can change directions on a dime. Add in the soft hands and quick stickhandling to handle the puck while making all these moves and he is a dynamic forward. Stutzle also has a very good shot and his ability to release the puck from multiple angles fools goaltenders. He needs to be more consistent in his passing though, as he can sometimes struggle to get the puck to a teammate when he is under pressure.
11.) Hendrix Lapierre, Centre/Left Wing, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, 6’0″ 165 lbs
The first overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Draft, Lapierre had a strong rookie season and was named QMJHL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He scored 13 goals and 45 points in 48 games for Chicoutimi. Lapierre also added three goals and five points in four playoff games. Lapierre is an excellent skater. He has outstanding top-end speed and very good acceleration. His ability to make quick cuts and changes in direction helps him to avoid defenders and create space.
Lapierre is very difficult to defend as he can handle the puck while moving at close to his top speed. He has very good hockey IQ and sees the ice extremely well. Lapierre is a creative playmaker who creates scoring chances for his linemates. He can pass the puck through tight openings and hits teammates on the tape. Lapierre’s ability to speed up the play or to slow it down allows him to control the pace of the game. He sets up on the half boards on the power play and acts as a quarterback. He could stand to increase his strength in order to battle along the boards as well as add some power to his shot.
12.) Yaroslav Askarov, Goaltender, SKA St. Petersburg, 6’3″ 163 lbs
Askarov has been outstanding at the international level. He was the top goalie at the recent IIHF U-20, putting up a .916 save percentage in six games and winning a silver medal. In four games at the World Junior A Championships he put up a .954 save percentage. He led Russia to gold at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, winning top goalie in the tournament and putting up a .948 save percentage. Askarov also played at the Hlinka-Gretzky, helping Russia to bronze with a .913 save percentage. In 31 MHL games, he put up a .921 save percentage. Askarov is the clear top goalie in the 2020 NHL Draft. He is one of the best goaltending prospects in several years.
Askarov is incredibly advanced for a young goaltender. He uses his size effectively, coming out to cut down angles and gives shooters very little net to look at. His strong legs take away the bottom of the net. They also give him a strong push and good side-to-side movement. Askarov’s rebound control is very good for a young goalie, far ahead of other prospects his age. He is also good at handling the puck and making a pass to set up the breakout. He remains calm and cool in the net and is always ready to make the next stop.
13.) Dylan Holloway, Centre/Left Wing, Wisconsin Badgers, 6’0″ 192 lbs
A late 2001 birthday, Holloway will be a freshman at the University of Wisconsin this fall. He spent last season with the Okotoks Oilers in the AJHL where he was named the league’s most valuable player. Holloway scored 40 goals and 88 points in 53 games. He also added nine goals and 13 points in 11 playoff games. Holloway has also represented Canada internationally, putting up three points in five games and winning gold at last year’s Ivan Hlinka. He has also played at the last two World Junior A Hockey Championships, winning gold in the December 2017 tourney. Holloway also played at the last IIHF Under-20 and at the 2017 Under-17 WHC.
Holloway is another excellent skater. His stickhandling ability is also top notch allowing him to make plays at top speed. This makes him extremely dangerous off the rush. Holloway’s speed forces defenders to back off, as he can get by them on the outside and cut to the net. This opens up both passing and shooting lanes. He can fire a quick wrist shot on goal using the defender as a screen. His shot is heavy and accurate. He also can find a pass to an open teammate to set up a scoring chance. A smart two-way player, Holloway positions himself well and creates turnovers with his active stick and hard work in all three zones.
14.) Marco Rossi, Centre, Ottawa 67s, 5’9″ 179 lbs
After being drafted 18th overall in the CHL Import Draft, Rossi put up 29 goals and 65 points in 59 games. He was even better in the OHL playoffs putting up six goals and 22 points in 17 games. Rossi was named to the OHL All-Rookie Second Team. The Austrian forward is the best hockey prospect that his country has produced since Thomas Vanek. Rossi is just 5-foot-9, however, he is solidly built. His low centre of gravity makes him hard to knock off the puck and allows him to control it down low and create out of the cycle game.
Rossi is an excellent skater, with very good speed and edgework. He can take defenders wide and cut to the net. Rossi has excellent hands. He creates space by combining his quick fakes and with his quick cuts and changes in speed. Rossi is talented as both a playmaker and a shooter. He has a quick wrist shot with an excellent release as well as the passing skills to set up his linemates and make them better. His ability to extend plays through his work down low really lets him take advantage of these playmaking abilities. He gives his teammates additional time to get open for a tape-to-tape pass. Rossi is also good defensively. He is able to kill penalties and is particularly effective on faceoffs.
15.) Jean-Luc Foudy, Centre, Windsor Spitfires, 5’11” 168 lbs
The younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Liam Foudy, Jean-Luc Foudy was the 10th overall pick in the 2018 OHL Draft. Last season, he put up eight goals and 41 assists for 49 points in 63 games. He led all OHL Rookies in assists. Foudy added one assist in four playoff games. He represented Team Canada Black at the U-17 WHC putting up a goal and three assists for four points in five tournament games.
Foudy is amongst the fastest players in the OHL, with quick acceleration and outstanding edgework. Foudy can generate breakaways by getting behind the defence. He will need to work on improving his hands and his shooting to pair with that skating ability and become a truly dynamic offensive threat. Foudy is an effective playmaker with good vision and passing skills. His ability to make quick cuts and change speeds can be used to open up passing lanes and change angles. With good vision and passing skills, he is able to set up teammates for high quality chances. He is also well-advanced defensively for a 16-year-old.
Main Photo 2020 NHL Draft Prospect:
QUEBEC CITY, QC – OCTOBER 25: 2020 NHL Draft Prospect, Alexis Lafreniere #11 of the Rimouski Oceanic skates prior to his game against the Quebec Remparts at the Centre Videotron on October 25, 2017, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images)