Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey 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 2019-20 Articles Click here. We will be sure to bring you our comprehensive coverage of the 2020 NHL Draft. Today, our 2020 NHL Draft Scouting Reports and Rankings, December Edition continues.
December Edition: 2020 NHL Draft Scouting Reports And Rankings Part 5
With the CHL season nearly three months old, over two months of NCAA hockey, plenty of games for the US National Team Development Program, the Gretzky-Hlinka Tournament, an international break in Europe, and the Canada-Russia Series all being played since we last updated our draft rankings, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the 2020 NHL draft are doing this year.
That said, as a staff, we haven’t seen every player yet—it’s quite simply not possible this early in the season. If there is an obvious name left out, we’ll do our best to get a look at him before the February rankings; as well as before our final rankings that go from April through June.
The group we haven’t seen a lot of our European prospects who, for whatever reason, haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, Five Nations, and the Under-18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most of those players.
21.) Jake Sanderson, Left Defence, US NTDP, 6’1″ 185 lbs
Sanderson, the son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson, is our top prospect from this year’s US National Team Development Program. The University of North Dakota commit has put up four goals and 15 points in 28 games this season. Last year he put up 24 points in 44 games for the U-17 team, while serving as team captain.
Sanderson plays a strong two-way game that is based upon his excellent skating ability. He moves well in both directions and has very good edgework, agility, and pivots. This allows him to cover a lot of ice. Sanderson can join the rush or pinch at the blue line and still get back defensively. He shows good passing skills and has a decent point shot and a good release on his wrist shot. Good gap control and strong defensive instincts allow him to play against the other team’s top line.
22.) Mavrik Bourque, Centre, Shawinigan Cataractes, 5’10” 165 lbs
The third overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL Draft, Bourque is an undersized forward who plays an excellent puck protection game. Last seaon, he scored 25 goals and 54 points in 64 games as a QMJHL rookie. He has been even better in his second season in the league, putting up 19 goals and 46 points in just 32 games so far this season. He was also part of Canada’s entry at this summer’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, winning a silver medal.
Bourque controls the puck down low with shifty skating ability and good puckhandling skills. He can avoid defenders with his feet and also uses his quick hands to open up passing and shooting lanes in order to create scoring opportunities. He shows high hockey IQ for his age and makes smart plays both with and without the puck. Bourque is very good at running a give-and-go type play, getting to open space after he dishes the puck to a teammate. His game is extremely well-developed for his age, including his play in his own end of the rink. He is a willing and effective back-checker and provides support to the defence down low.
23.) Ty Smilanic, Left Wing/Centre, US NTDP, 6’1″ 170 lbs
Another member of this year’s US NTDP, Smilanic has put up four goals and 13 points in 18 games this season. Last year, with the Under-17 team, Smilanic scored 20 goals and 38 points in 54 games. He even got a one-game call-up with the Under-18 squad. Smilanic is committed to attend Quinnipiac University next season.
Smilanic is a strong skater and this helps him to create offence. His acceleration is very good as is his agility. This makes him very dangerous off the rush. He can challenge defenders and take them wide and get to the net. When they back off to respect his speed, he can use the space created to shoot the puck on net or make a quick pass through an open lane to set up a teammate. He has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. His snapshot, slap shot, and one-timer are also effective. He is willing to work hard in his own end but still needs to continue to work on his instincts without the puck.
24.) Emil Andrae, Left Defence, HV71 J20, 5’9″ 183 lbs
An undersized Swedish defenceman, Andrae has put up seven goals and 23 points in 25 games in the J20 league this season. He has also gotten his feet wet, playing three games in the SHL, but has yet to record a point in the men’s league. Andrae has shown his skills on the international stage, scoring four points in five games at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup and picking up a bronze medal. He also picked up a bronze medal at last year’s Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, scoring three points in six games.
Andrae makes up for his lack of size with excellent mobility. He is an extremely fast skater in both directions. However, it is his edgework and agility that is even better. He is able to manoeuvre though traffic both with and without the puck. Andrae is willing to rush the puck up the ice and create plays. He is also willing to join the rush without the puck. He has the passing skills to quarterback the powerplay from the point and a strong wrist shot. Despite his size, Andrae is willing to throw hits and play a physical game in the defensive end, though there are questions how this will translate against men.
25.) William Wallinder, Left Defence, Modo J20, 6’4″ 192 lbs
Another Swedish defenceman, Wallinder has put up five goals and 21 points in 25 J20 games this year. He has also played six games in the Allsvenskan but has yet to put up his first point in Sweden’s second-tier men’s league. Wallinder was also a member of Sweden’s entry at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup but didn’t put up any points. He scored four points in four games for Modo at the Junior Club World Championship.
Wallinder has excellent size as he is already 6-foot-4 and may still be growing. He is a very good skater, especially for his size. While he is not a burner, his speed in both directions is good and his stride is powerful. Strong on his skates and with good balance he wins battles on the boards and in front of the net. He is also extremely agile and has good pivots and edgework. Wallinder prefers to use his wrist shot instead of his slap shot. It is powerful and has a good release. He sneaks down from the point to the top of the circles to get his shot off. He is also a good passer. Wallinder needs to work on his defensive zone coverage though. He can sometimes puck watch when he is away from the play, leaving his man open for a pass from a teammate.
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