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2020 NHL Entry Draft: Final Top 101 Rankings

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Alexis Lafrenière is the top prize, followed closely by Quinton Byfield and Tim Stützle. How does the rest of the class shake out?

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

The year 2020 so far has been — by pretty much much all accounts, no matter how you try to slice it — utterly awful. And with the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong in many parts of the world, and possibly even gearing up for a second wave in some of those places, this hellish year isn’t done with us quite yet.

However, in spite of all the difficult things that we could not change, there were some small things that we could. If I was going to be cooped up inside and away from work for long periods of time, my thinking went, then I was going to make the most of that time. How did I achieve that? By pouring even more of my time than usual, a ridiculous amount more, into scouting — more specifically, scouting the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

I’ve been preparing and publishing my personal Top 101 draft rankings here on Defending Big D for a few years now (here is my list from last year), but I can safely that this year’s list is my best work yet. By far and away. I was incredibly disappointed when I lost the ability to attend and work my third NHL draft in a row, to have Montreal in June follow Dallas first in 2018 and then Vancouver in 2019, but when I learned that the big day was pushed back all the way to October I saw a tiny silver lining: much, much more time than usual to watch games and compile reports.

To say that I made the most of that time would be an understatement — I video scouted all throughout the summer and watched my final game about two weeks ago, and was tweaking the order of my final list up until last week.

Now, finally, I can share the finished product.

Beyond my work here with Defending Big D, I’m also the Head Crossover Scout with 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 written by others, discussions with other scouts, and other methods.

For my list I 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 and value 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. When it is all said and done, 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.

(For the sake of consistency, all the teams listed next to the players are their 2019-20 clubs.)

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

No surprises here: Lafrenière started this season as the consensus first-overall pick in the industry, and only cemented himself in that spot as the year went along. An incredibly hard player to defend because he’s always thinking one step ahead of the play and can beat you in every way.

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

Right now, Lafrenière is the best player in this draft. But in five years? That could easily be Byfield. He’s simply bursting at the seams with raw potential. Centers like him, with magnificent size, skating and puck skill, are like unicorns. Consistency and 200-foot game should come eventually.

3) Tim Stützle — Center/Wing — Adler Mannheim (DEL)

Stützle is electrifying to watch in a way nobody else is in this class. He can easily dissect opposing defense with his stick work, as well as find seams to thread dangerous passes through at an elite level. His nonstop motor is the icing on the cake. Has what it takes to play center in the NHL.

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

Raymond has been so good for so long, and has the track record to prove it, that his potential to become an essential roster player and difference-maker is undeniable. His ability to understand and process the sport at such a high-end level will more than make up for his lack of size.

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

There’s a little bit of Sidney Crosby in how Rossi plays the game, using his low center of gravity and ridiculous hands to maintain possession and make plays. Arguably the most competitive prospect in the draft, he never stops working. Should be able to stick at center at the NHL level.

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

A truly gorgeous skater, Drysdale can create space for himself in any direction in the blink of an eye. Instead of trying to force the glitzy end-to-end rushes, he controls and manages the flow of play at a professional level. Might never be a true specialist on either side of special teams.

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

Everyone knows that Holtz can score goals with a vengeance, but his ability to also make plays for his teammates is quite underrated. His 200-foot game and shift-to-shift consistency have come a long way as well. But make no mistake, that shot is going to be his calling card in the NHL.

8) Jake Sanderson — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)

One of the biggest risers of the draft, Sanderson just keeps improving different elements of his game. Could be the type of defenseman who logs huge minutes and plays in all situations for an NHL team. Probably won’t turn pro for a while, but that would be best for his development.

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

Even though there is extra risk when it comes to drafting goalies, Askarov is simply so talented that teams will regret it if they let him slip too far. Combines a large frame with elite quickness, reflexes, rebound control and understanding of the position. Already stealing games in the KHL.

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10) Anton Lundell — Center — HIKF (Liiga)

Few forwards in this draft have a 200-foot game like Lundell’s. Doesn’t play a power game, per se, but still uses his size and strength to win battles and drive possession. Is at his most effective cycling the puck. Could probably jump into the NHL tomorrow and look right at home.

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

There’s no denying that Perfetti is a magician with the puck and can find offensive opportunities that the majority of others can’t, but I just can’t help but wonder how much of his scoring will translate. Without high-end size or mobility, creating space in the NHL could prove to be a challenge.

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

Another enormous draft-riser all season, Quinn’s goal-scoring grabbed the attention of scouts and never let it go. Learned how to stand out and take over games on a good, deep team. Not only can he play fast and score difficult goals, he’s also an effective defensive player and penalty killer.

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

Jarvis is this draft class’s Energizer Bunny — he just keeps going and going when he’s on the ice. Totally fearless for a small winger. Not quite as skilled as most others near him on this list, but he has a big bag of tricks that he can dip into now and again to pull out a highlight-reel play.

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

Some defensemen thrive with the puck, others thrive without it. Despite weaknesses in his game in the former category, Guhle has enormous potential in the latter. Being able to separate opposing players from the puck is his bread and butter, and that kind of skill is often undervalued.

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

Schneider is the type of prospect who you appreciate the more you watch him and the closer you watch him. He’s a wet blanket who smothers enemy scoring chances, both at even-strength and on the penalty kill. Could be a top-pair defender alongside an offensive-minded puck-mover.

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

Is Mercer a center or a winger? How different teams answer that question will play a large role in where he gets drafted. What is known is that he possesses an excellent pair of mitts, can pick corners with his wrist and slap shots, and continues being a scoring threat while shorthanded.

17) Rodion Amirov — Right Wing — Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

Amirov is a prospect that I go back and forth on at times, but I can never get too down on a player with such tantalizing puck skills. He can effortlessly carve through defenses to create chances. A bit of a risky project who might need time and the right team to unlock his true potential.

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

Holloway is as sure of a bet as any to become an NHLer, however, there are concerns about what his ceiling might be. He’s a natural-born athlete and approaches the sport with responsibility and professionalism, which helps him be an effective 200-foot player. How much will his offense grow?

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

While his scoring totals might not jump off the page, Gunler has some impressive offensive tools, most notably his snappy wrist shot. Ice time has been hard to come by for him within the past calendar year, but he adapted to the SHL last season and showed he could play with pros.

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

Perreault is an incredibly one-dimensional player, but that one dimension — offense — is strong enough to get him drafted high. When he’s in the offensive zone he’s always a threat to do damage. A dual shooter and playmaker whose skating is making nice and essential progress.

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

Big-time goal-scorers are highly coveted, and Foerster’s shot is in the running with Holtz’s for best in the draft. His skating is his major weakness right now, but it is improvable and the stoppage in play has given him plenty of time to hone in on fixing it. He’s worth taking a big swing on.

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

One of the safest picks in the draft, Zary is a center who can do a little bit of everything and can be trusted in all situations. If the offensive side of his game doesn’t fully pan out he should still be able to become a bottom-six guy thanks to his persistent work ethic and advanced hockey sense.

23) Helge Grans — Defense — Malmo (SHL)

Grans is a toolsy defenseman with a lot of upside, though there is still much work to be done in development. His long reach and all-direction mobility give him a lot of range to impact the play, and he has shown promise as a power play option. Decision-making needs improvement.

24) William Wallinder — Defense — MODO (SuperElit)

The appeal of Wallinder as a prospect is pretty obvious: he’s huge and he’s able to cover a ton of ice in no time at all. His hands are pretty good for a big guy, too. He’s a wild horse right now, but don’t be surprised to see a team reach for him to land him as a long-term development project.

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

The Robin to Stützle’s Batman internationally for Germany, Peterka is a pretty darn good player in his own right. Can really open up the ice for his team with his high-end acceleration and intensity. Offensive abilities are a little underrated, as they were hidden on a deep pro team last season.

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

Khusnutdinov is the type of player you love to watch because whenever the puck is on his stick there’s a pretty good chance that he’s going to do something amazing with it. He is an absolute machine when it comes to zone exits and entries. Drives possession, but finishing needs work.

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

Like Wallinder, Jurmo is a giant defender who skates like the wind and makes fancy plays with the puck, but his style is more about raw power than fluidity. Was absolutely dynamite for Finland at a U19 tournament, showing off an ability to dominate games in a way that most can’t replicate.

28) Jan Myšák — Center/Wing — Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)

Myšák moved from the top Czech league to the OHL in early 2020 and took no time at all to get up to speed there, and fast adaptability is always a good sign for European prospects. A quick-strike forward who is at his best on the rush. Some question marks about whether he can stay a center.

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

At his very best, Peterson is a “high-event player” — someone who can make a positive impact for his team in a number of different ways on any given shift. His combination of size and skating give him a nice floor, but there could be a lot more if he continues to learn how to use his tools.

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

When he’s on his game, Greig is a force to be reckoned with, whether that’s thanks to his speed, his physicality, his shot or his playmaking. Unfortunately, he’s off his game almost as much as he’s on it on a shift-by-shift basis. Could be a special player if he can find enough consistency.

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

Barron’s season was significantly derailed by a blood clot, but he returned to action right before the season ground to a halt. Made a big name for himself playing for Canada internationally. Struggled before his health scare after coming into the year viewed as a potential top-15 pick.

32) Jean-Luc Foudy — Center/Wing — Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Foudy is arguably the best skater in this draft class, able to blow past defenders in a flash. Loves to circle the offensive zone and look for chances — to a fault sometimes, as he gets kept outside too easily. Didn’t really mesh with a slow Spitfires roster, which hurt his play and production.

33) Lukas Reichel — Left Wing — Eisbaren Berlin (DEL)

Playing alongside former NHLers must be one heck of a boon for your development, because Reichel came out of nowhere to establishment himself as a prospect to watch. Plays a very structured and responsible game, albeit not an overly skilled one. Hockey sense is a standout.

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

Yet another huge blueliner with excellent mobility and capable hands, but one who also struggles with his puck management and decision-making. Has a bomb from the point as a weapon and plays with composure and confidence. Already logging ice time in the KHL and holding his own.

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

The Prince of Darkness had the Crazy Train going off the rails a lot in Prince Albert last season, with highlight-reel stick-handling and playmaking. Early on, I doubted whether he could be a center or a top-six player, but he won me over and now I really like his odds in both categories.

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

Every season there’s a new star prospect coming out of the storied Knights organization, and this year that prospect is Evangelista. A well-rounded, heady and steady winger who has a knack for finding ways to contribute despite not having any true standout skills or characteristics.

37) Hendrix Lapierre — Center — Chicoutimi Saguenéens (OHL)

Lapierre started the season riding high after a stellar Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but came out of the gate slow and then suffered a serious neck injury. While his hands are among the draft’s best, he relies on them a little too much and needs to get quicker to help his ability to create space.

38) Vasili Ponomaryov — Center — Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

A standout every time he played internationally with Russia, Ponomaryov’s debut in the QMJHL was surprisingly a disappointment. Was it a year of growing pains, or a sign of something more concerning? Despite his size, he’s a strong workhorse center and has sneaky offensive upside.

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

Gushchin has an incredible knack for scoring goals, and can bury those pucks after using bursts of acceleration and incisive stick-handling to get himself into dangerous areas. Also thinks the game well and can make his linemates better. He’s tiny, but pure goal-scorers are hard to find.

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

Bourque has an exquisite pair of hands and is quite skilled as a playmaker, which helped him rack up big scoring totals this season, especially with the man-advantage. However, with his slight and weak frame, he badly needs to improve his skating and motor to succeed in the NHL.

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

Injuries and a relatively weak year for the USNTDP slowed down what could have been a breakout season for Smilanic. Nevertheless, he can really fly and is adept at making plays in flight. Also defensively responsible, helpings his odds of being a pivot. We haven’t seen the best of him yet.

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

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

44) Thomas Bordeleau — Center — USNTDP (USHL)

45) Emil Andrae — Defense — HV71 (SuperElit)

46) Jérémie Poirier — Defense — Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

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

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

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

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

51) Ethan Edwards — Defense — Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)

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

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

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

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

56) Topi Niemelä — Defense — Karpat (Liiga)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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64) Sam Colangelo — Right Wing — Chicago Steel (USHL)

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

66) Landon Slaggert — Center — USNTDP (USHL)

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

68) Tyler Kleven — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)

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

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

71) Roby Järventie — Left Wing — KOOVEE (Mestis)

72) Emil Heineman — Left Wing— Leksands (SuperElit)

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

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

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

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

77) Evan Vierling — Center — Barrie Colts (OHL)

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

79) William Dufour — Right Wing — Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

80) Sean Farell — Left Wing — Chicago Steel (USHL)

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

82) Yevgeni Oksentyuk — Left Wing — Flint Firebirds (OHL)

83) Maxim Beryozkin — Left Wing — Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

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

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

86) Dmitri Ovchinnikov — Center/Wing — Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk (MHL)

87) Drew Commesso — Goaltender — USNTDP (USHL)

88) Tristen Robins — Center/Wing — Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

89) Theodor Niederbach — Center — Frolunda (SuperElit)

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

91) Thimo Nickl — Defense — Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)

92) Kirill Steklov — Defense — London Knights (OHL)

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

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

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95) Jaromir Pytlik — Center/Wing — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

96) Eemil Viro — Defense — TPS (Liiga)

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

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

99) Alexander Nikishin — Defense — Spartak Moskva (KHL)

100) Ronan Seeley — Defense — Everett Silvertips (WHL)

101) Brock Faber — Defense — USNTDP (USHL)

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Honorable mentions who fit into the tier above, in alphabetical order:

Calle Clang, James Hardie, Samuel Knazko, Simon Kubicek, Oskar Magnusson, Connor McClennon, Christopher Merisier-Ortiz, Ian Moore, Kasper Puutio, Matias Rajaniemi, Carter Savoie, Oliver Suni, Jack Thompson