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2020 NHL Entry Draft: Mid-Season Top 101 Rankings

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Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield are the two biggest names in this year’s draft, but they aren’t the only future NHL stars in the making.

2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

It’s never too early for draft rankings, right?

Sure, the 2020 NHL Entry Draft isn’t until June, but January is roughly halfway to the draft starting from the beginning of season and a lot of hockey has already been played, which gives scouts a pretty good idea of who the top prospects are for this year.

And like I did last year, I’m throwing my hat into the ring.

After months of research, dedicated thought and some last-minute fine-tuning, I have compiled my own mid-season draft list, ranking the top 101 prospects. This is still an early version of the rankings, with the final list coming in June. Beyond my work here with Defending Big D, I’m also a member of an international scouting service called Future Considerations.

This list has been compiled and refined through a dedicated collection of in-person scouting (I live in Calgary, Alberta and am credentialed with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen and through the AJHL), watching live games and highlight packages online, statistical analysis, reading scouting reports, discussions with others scouts, and other methods.

I have attempted to order the prospects by “draftability,” which I weigh by a combination of hockey-specific skills, natural athleticism, mental composition, development opportunities and numerous other factors. In terms of their long-term potential, some players on this list I consider to be high-ceiling and low-floor, while others are low-ceiling and high-floor — I believe there is draftability in both.

To help illustrate my projected upside of these prospects, I have separated my list into various “tiers.” (Separated by the asterisk lines) I consider players in the same tier to be better draft options than those in the tier below, although all the members of the same tier are very, very close in terms of their draftability. I won’t be surprised if the prospect I have at the bottom of a tier turns out to be a better draft choice in the long-run than the prospect I have at the top of the same tier, and vice versa.

Without further ado, let’s dig in.

1) Alexis Lafreniere — Left Wing — Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

Sometimes hockey pundits and scouts talk about the “it factor.” Lafrenière has that “it factor” in spades. His hockey sense is generational, and he backs it up with elite skill with the puck.

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2) Quinton Byfield — Center — Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

With his huge frame, explosive skating ability and quick hands, Byfield is going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses for a long time. In other draft years he’d be a slam-dunk to go first overall.

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3) Jamie Drysdale — Defense — Erie Otters (OHL)

The undisputed top defender in this draft, Drysdale glides across the ice in a way others can only dream of. Always makes a positive difference in his shifts, regardless of his role or the situation.

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4) Lucas Raymond — Left Wing — Frolunda (SHL)

It’s been a tough season for Raymond, but his long-term potential remains sky-high. Has been punching up weight classes for years because of his consistency and well-rounded skills.

5) Tim Stutzle — Left Wing — Adler Mannheim (DEL)

A magician with the puck, Stutzle is a tantalizing player to watch. His development is moving rapidly, likely because he plays on a professional club alongside many former NHLers.

6) Yaroslav Askarov — Goaltender — SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)

Arguably the best goaltending prospect to come along since Carey Price, Askarov has every tool that you’d want a goaltender to have. His track record in international events is the stuff of legend.

7) Alexander Holtz — Right Wing — Djurgardens IF (SHL)

One of the best snipers in the draft, if not the best, Holtz is going to become a big-time goal-scorer. Like longtime international linemate Raymond, Holtz has always been too good for his age group.

8) Marco Rossi — Center — Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Rossi’s point totals this season are eye-popping, averaging well over two points per game. An elite stickhandler and playmaker, he makes his teammates better and is lethal on the power play.

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9) Anton Lundell — Center — HIKF (Liiga)

Lundell is a workhorse who has been plying his trade in Finland’s top league over the past two seasons. Will easily become a coach’s favorite because of his versatility and advanced sense.

10) Cole Perfetti — Center/Wing — Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

Everywhere Perfetti goes, the points follow. But with his small stature and iffy skating, how much of that scoring success will translate to the NHL? Projects better as a wing than a center.

11) Dawson Mercer — Center/Wing — Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)

When it comes to dazzling dekes, Mercer’s proficiency is near the top of the class. He’s not a one-trick pony, however, as he also moves well, can set up and finish plays, and even kills penalties.

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12) Dylan Holloway — Center — University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

Holloway isn’t a flashy prospect, but he’s fast and plays with an edge. A center who can be utilized on a scoring line or on a shutdown line that goes head-to-head against another team’s best.

13) Noel Gunler — Right Wing — Lulea (SHL)

In terms of physical tools, Gunler has a lot to offer — he’s strong, mobile, and possesses an exceptional shooting ability. He’s a bigger scoring threat than his numbers this year would indicate.

14) Kaiden Guhle — Defense — Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

A rangy, athletic blueliner with powerful skating strides, Guhle has all the physical tools needed to be a shutdown defenseman in the NHL. Needs to improve puck control and decision-making.

15) Jeremie Poirier — Defense — Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

When it comes to pure offensive skill, Poirier is the top defenseman in this class. However, his ability to defend his zone is a major work in progress. Has a bad habit of quitting on plays.

16) Jan Mysak — Center — Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

With a sharp hockey mind and a motor that never quits, Mysak is a dangerous player when it comes to forcing turnovers and creating offense in transition. Should thrive in the OHL.

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17) Helge Grans — Defense — Malmo (SHL)

Grans made the jump from junior to the SHL and fit right in, which is never easy for a 17-year-old defender. Has some pretty good hands for a big guy. Still a raw prospect, but he has high upside.

18) Braden Schneider — Defense — Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

What Schneider lacks in flashiness, he more than makes up for in reliability and versatility. A true jack-of-all-trades defenseman, he does a little bit of everything, but nothing especially well.

19) Jean-Luc Foudy — Center — Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

One of the best skaters in the draft, Foudy can absolutely fly out there, maybe even faster than big brother Liam can, and he backs it up with some slick puck skill. Can get stuck on the perimeter.

20 Vasili Ponomaryov — Center — Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

His stats don’t jump off the page, but Ponomaryov has enough tools to become a useful support scorer. He’s an accomplished 200-foot player who can match up against an opponent’s best.

21) William Villeneuve — Defense — Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Playing on a young team has allowed Villeneuve to log a ton of minutes, and so his development is skyrocketing. Can control the pace of play, speeding it up or calming it down as needed.

22) Connor Zary — Center — Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

Zary has taken big strides in his progression as a complete center. His understanding of the game is incredibly advanced and mature. You’d like to see his feet be quicker, but he can overcome it.

23) Ridly Greig — Center — Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Despite problems with consistency, there’s a lot to like about Greig. He’s a fast, smooth pivot who can shoot, make plays and bring a physical element. Really stood out at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

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24) Justin Barron — Defense — Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Barron’s stock has dropped a lot after a slow start to the season and then getting significantly sidelined with a blood clot. Still, he’s a blueliner with a ton of tools at his disposal.

25) Emil Andrae — Defense — HV71 (SuperElit)

Another name in a long list of Swedish puck-moving defenders, Andrae has many countrymen to model his game after. Overcomes his small stature with smarts and slippery elusiveness.

26) William Wallinder — Defense — MODO (SuperElit)

Big defenders who can skate are invaluable in the modern NHL, and Wallinder fits that bill. His play in all three zones is still unpolished, but there’s a great foundation here to be developed.

27) Tyson Foerster — Center/Wing — Barrie Colts (OHL)

One of this draft’s fastest risers, Foerster came out of nowhere to emerge as a potential first-round talent. A big, strong kid who has a rocket of a shot that he gets off in a hurry.

28) Lukas Cormier — Defense — Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)

Undersized defenders need quick feet, hands, and decision-making in order to succeed. Luckily for Cormier, he has all three. An assertive blueliner who isn’t afraid to take things into his own hands.

29) John-Jason Peterka — Right Wing — EHC Munchen (DEL)

Not only is Peterka a wonderful skater, he also has a great motor and can make plays at speed. He’s at his best flying through the neutral zone. Like Stutzle, he’s learning a lot from his mates.

30) Rodion Amirov — Left Wing — Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

Amirov made a name for himself at last year’s U18s. His puck control is excellent, allowing him to score goals in tight or set up his teammates. Hopefully his development in Russia finds stability.

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31) Thomas Bordeleau — Center — USNTDP (USHL)

Bordeleau is one of the best pure playmakers in this draft class. He’s lethal at quarterbacking a power play from the wall. Needs to get quicker, and his work ethic leaves a lot to be desired.

32) Jake Sanderson — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)

Like his father Geoff was, Jake is a magnificent skater and an adept puck-handler. He doesn’t really excel on either side of special teams, something that hurts his projected upside.

33) Jacob Perreault — Right Wing — Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Perreault is a winger who is always a major scoring threat whenever he’s in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. His game is a little one-dimensional, but it’s strong in that dimension.

34) Jack Quinn — Right Wing — Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Quinn can pull fans out of their seats with his incredible top gear and his ease at handling the puck at high speeds. The 67’s are stacked, so how much heavy lifting can he handle?

35) Veeti Miettinen — Right Wing — Kiekko-Espoo (Jr. A SM-liiga)

Miettinen is an electrifying offensive talent who slices through defenses and can pick holes with his shot. A late birthday who still plays in Finland’s top junior league, how high does his ceiling go?

36) Daniil Gushchin — Right Wing — Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

An undersized quick-strike winger who senses scoring chances like a shark senses blood. He explodes from his first few steps and can slide through traffic in the neutral zone.

37) Ty Smilanic — Center/Wing — USNTDP (USHL)

There’s no doubting Smilanic has talent, but injuries have made it hard to find stability and consistency this year, making it hard to project his upside. One of the draft’s biggest wild cards.

38) Seth Jarvis — Right Wing — Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Jarvis is an easy prospect to like because his motor never quits, constantly buzzing around the ice and making good things happen. He’s fearless and physical despite his small stature.

39) Dylan Peterson — Center/Wing — USNTDP (USHL)

Behind only Byfield, Peterson might have the second-best physical tools in this draft class. When he’s flying he’s almost impossible to contain. A long-term project with enormous upside.

40) Roni Hirvonen — Center/Wing — Assat (Liiga)

A short forward with exceptional hockey sense, Hirvonen has been playing a key role on his professional club all season long. Has quite an advanced 200-foot game for a prospect his age.

41) Mavrik Bourque — Center — Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

Bourque is a well-rounded center without any glaring weaknesses. He’s putting up a lot of points right now, but his future success will likely depend on how far his two-way game develops.

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42) Ryan O’Rourke — Defense — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

43) Marat Khusnutdinov — Center — SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

44) Ozzy Wiesblatt — Center/Wing — Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

45) Tyler Kleven — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)

46) Kasper Simontaival — Right Wing — Tappara (Jr. A SM-liiga)

47) Lukas Reichel — Center/Wing — Eisbaren Berlin (DEL)

48) Topi Niemela — Defense — Karpat (Liiga)

49) Justin Sourdif — Right Wing — Vancouver Giants (WHL)

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50) Carson Bantle — Left Wing — Madison Capitals (USHL)

51) Zion Nybeck — Left Wing — HV71 (SuperElit)

52) Shakir Mukhamadullin — Defense — Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

53) Luke Tuch — Left Wing — USNTDP (USHL)

54) Theo Rochette — Center — Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

55) Will Cuylle — Left Wing — Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

56) Roby Jarventie — Left Wing — KOOVEE (Mestis)

57) Jake Neighbours — Left Wing — Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

58) Brandon Coe — Right Wing — North Bay Battalion (OHL)

59) Eemil Viro — Defense — TPS (Liiga)

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60) Joel Blomqvist — Goaltender — Karpat (Jr. A SM-liiga)

61) Antonio Stranges — Left Wing — London Knights (OHL)

62) Carter Savoie — Left Wing — Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)

63) Tyler Tullio — Center/Wing — Oshawa Generals (OHL)

64) Bogdan Trineyev — Right Wing — MHK Dynamo Moskva (MHL)

65) Oliver Suni — Right Wing — Oshawa Generals (OHL)

66) Jack Finley — Center — Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

67) Joni Jurmo — Defense — Jokerit (Jr. A SM-liiga)

68) Nick Malik — Goaltender — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

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69) Donovan Sebrango — Defense — Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

70) Martin Chromiak — Left Wing — Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

71) Jan Bednar — Goaltender — HC Banik Sokolov (Czech2)

72) Michael Benning — Defense — Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)

73) Daemon Hunt — Defense — Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

74) Colby Ambrosio — Center/Wing — Tri City Storm (USHL)

75) Brendan Brisson — Center/Wing — Chicago Steel (USHL)

76) Luke Evangelista — Right Wing — London Knights (OHL)

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77) Brett Berard — Right Wing — USNTDP (USHL)

78) Nico Daws — Goaltender — Guelph Storm (OHL)

79) Alexander Pashin — Left Wing — Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

80) Jack Thompson — Defense — Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

81) Yan Kuznetsov — Defense — University of Connecticut (NCAA)

82) Connor McClennon — Right Wing — Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

83) Jaromir Pytlik — Center — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

84) Pavel Novak — Right Wing — Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

85) Ruben Rafkin — Defense — Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

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86) Ville Ottavainen — Defense — Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

87) Daniel Torgersson — Right Wing — Frolunda (SuperElit)

88) Kasper Puutio — Defense — Everett Silvertips (WHL)

89) Samuel Knazko — Defense — TPS (Jr. A SM-liiga)

90) Theodor Niederbach — Center — Frolunda (SuperElit)

91) Simon Kubicek — Defense — Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

92) Sean Farell — Center/Wing — Chicago Steel (USHL)

93) Drew Commesso — Goaltender — USNTDP (USHL)

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94) Luke Prokop — Defense — Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

95) Trevor Kuntar — Center/Wing — Youngstown Phantom (USHL)

96) Tristen Robins — Right Wing — Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

97) Charlie Desroches — Defense — Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

98) Benjamin Baumgartner — Left Wing — Davos (NLA)

99) Zayde Wisdom — Right Wing — Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

100) Ben Schoen — Right Wing — Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

101) Jeremie Biakabutuka — Defense — Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

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Honorable mentions, in alphabetical order:

Cam Butler, Sam Colangelo, Elliot Ekmark, Ryan Francis, Maxim Groshev, Patrick Guay, Emil Heinemann, Anton Johannesson, Juuso Maenpaa, Oskar Magnusson, Logan Morrison, Thimo Nickl, Alexander Nikishin, Dmitri Ovchinnikov, Ryder Rolston, Ronan Seeley, Lukas Svejkovsky