The Hockey Prospecting Top 32 (2020)

We introduce the final Hockey Prospecting rankings of the top 32 for the 2020 draft!

The rankings factor in the probabilities from the model, but also age, runway left to improve, league-specific patterns/anomalies and reputation/rank with reliable resources.

The 2020 draft is exceptionally deep for star-caliber talent. The pool is not rich in defensemen but is extremely rich in forwards. Generally, a given draft will have 40 to 50 NHLers emerge (forward and defense). The 2020 draft projects to have 55 to 65 NHLers.

*Askarov is not included in the Top 32. Hockey Prospecting doesn’t look at goalies (yet) and has no insights into them. However, we can assume he’ll go somewhere in the top 15 . The Hockey Prospecting Top 32 are not predicting where the players will go but rather providing a glimpse of who the top players appear to be, based on the model.

1. Alexis Lafrenière – Lafrenière doesn’t have the highest star or NHLer probability of the 2020 draftees. But he has a very elite score in both categories and is likely ready to jump right into the NHL. In the model, he compares with players like Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall and Matthew Tkachuk. Additionally, he is ranked 1st by every notable resource. The chances Lafrenière is an impact star in the NHL are very high. He’s not a generational talent like Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid but he’s in the next rung down. His future is an elite winger that regularly scores 70 to 90 points in the NHL. I see no red flags ranking Lafrenière first overall.

2. Quinton Byfield – Byfield is the type of rare player teams spend decades trying to find. A gigantic center with immense skill and soft hands. These types of players, especially centers, rarely come around. You’ll see players similar but not with this kind of size as well. Byfield is also almost young enough to be in next year’s draft. This all points to an amazing player down the road. The last two centers to have this same profile in the model while also being a similar size and age were Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza.

3. Marco Rossi – Rossi isn’t talked about much in a top 3 position which is likely because he’s 5’9”. Rossi will be one of the highest drafted small players in modern NHL history (expected to go inside the top 10). But Rossi should be drafted higher than its suggested he will go (6 to 10). Rossi has a very rare developmental pattern in the Hockey Prospecting model. His probabilities of NHL and star success in the Hockey Prospecting model are the highest of the entire 2020 class, both over 80%. He compares to very few. The last player to look just like him was Daniel Briere before that it was Alexander Daigle and before that it was Eric Lindros. Rossi could very well be the best player to emerge from the 2020 draft but he might not make the NHL immediately, like I would expect Lafrenière and Byfield to. His impact could be felt in 2-3 years. That’s the only reason I rank him as low as three.

4. Cole Perfetti – Perfetti is a player who has been noted for having an exceptional hockey IQ to go along with very good playmaking ability. Like Rossi, he is also a touch underrated by most rankings. Perfetti, in the Hockey Prospecting model, has a very good profile with a high NHLer probability and a Star probability, both in the 90th percentile of all players drafted in the past 30 years. His developmental pattern is just behind the likes of Lafrenière and Stamkos. Tyler Seguin and Elias Lindholm are a few players he resembles in the model.

5. Jamie Drysdale – Drysdale is the defenseman with the highest offensive potential of the 2020 draft. In the model he resembles Dan Boyle and Sam Girard. He may not be NHL ready but will likely take a step forward next year in the OHL, which will only help his case. Not many defensemen have star potential and NHLer potential like this in their draft year already.

6. Lucas Raymond – Raymond is a unique case. He had a huge year in his pre-draft year in the SuperElit. Then he switched over to the SHL and, with very little ice-time, generated a similar equivalency. I would have expected a big step forward from him but he did generate with the little ice-time he was given. He is also born right at the very end of March. He’s on the line between what I consider older and younger in the draft. Raymond doesn’t show up overly high in the Hockey Prospecting model (i.e., not like a prototypical top 5 pick). He is ranked this high, but still not has high as other sources, based on what’s expected to come next. Raymond’s D+1 year could be and is expected to be very big. He has all the tools to be an elite offensive threat. Will he be given the opportunity in the SHL and excel with more ice-time?

7. Alexander Holtz – Holtz is another somewhat unique case. He has had good development and shows up well in the model but not as a certain star. Again, the SHL is a league that slowly brings along their players, even their very good ones. As well, the model works in a way that if a player plays in multiple leagues in a year, the numbers where they show best is taken into account in the model. Always their best foot forward is what we abide by and this is to remain consistent and be able to look at players on the same playing field. Holtz had a sample of only three games in the SuperElit which is not enough that I would consider it “playing in that league”. I generally look for at least 20 games. However, his production in that league was huge (9 points in 3 games). He was obviously much too good for that league. If he had played in that league all year, he would have a more positive look in the model. Some Europeans that Holtz profiles like in the model are Kaapo Kakko and Nick Backstrom. All that coupled with a very unique and elite shot is why Holtz is ranked 7th.

8. Jacob Perreault – Perreault is a player that is generally ranked in the early 20’s but by Hockey Prospecting, he projects a little better. Perreault had very good production this year and good production last year as well. He’s also relatively young, born in the Spring. Players that look like this tend to make the NHL and turn into stars about 50% of the time. Some examples of players that looked like Perreault are Tyler Toffoli, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jaden Schwartz and Mathew Barzal.

9. Seth Jarvis – Jarvis had a so-so pre-draft year and, for the first half of this year, he was having a year pretty typical of a late round 1st (an equivalency in the mid 20s). This is where he was ranked for a large part of the year. However, his second half of the year was absolutely mental. His production was out of control. He ended the year with an equivalency in the low 40’s. These players, when they emerge, are the ones that should jump up draft rankings. That production is rare and indicative of stars and NHLers. It’s a bit of a red flag that the production wasn’t similarly outstanding in his pre- draft year (like we saw from Lafrenière and Byfield). But these players still have substantial potential to be something special in the NHL. Some recent players that look like him include Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Drouin, Dylan Strome and Nic Petan.

10. Tim Stutzle – Stutzle has a lot to consider. He’s coming from the DEL. This league is a growing one and more NHLers are emerging from it (e.g., Seider last year; Stutzle, Peterka and Reichel this year) but there’s not a lot of history to it. Stutzle is also a bit older with an above average equivalency but not a groundbreaking one. On the other hand, Stutzle’s reputation is one in the top 10, often in the top 5. He’s also playing his first year in the DEL and putting up these numbers. This all plays in his favor. Players that look like Stutzle that are drafted early have a different projection from players that look similar that are drafted later. Some examples of early 1st rounders that looked just like Stutzle are Hischier, Landeskog, Duchene and Zadina. In a normal draft, I might be inclined to rank Stutzle higher but this draft is too good and there’s higher value options ahead of him.

11. Connor Zary – Zary has good profile in the model and it’s almost great. Simply put, I like Zary because in the past two years he’s really close to hitting a new level in the model. WHL-focused scouts, like Joel Henderson of Dobber Prospects, rave about Zary’s game and how good his hands are in tight. His production and outlook in the model could skyrocket over the next few years and he could turn into something pretty notable down the line.

12. Zion Nybeck – Nybeck is really small and years away from the NHL. You’re signing up for a long-term outlook here as he’s going to develop his craft in Sweden for the next few years (signed until 2023). He’s a younger potential draftee and was good last year and slightly better this year. All this combines to the type of player that takes big steps in the next 1 to 3 years, and increases their star likelihood dramatically. Players he compares with include Johnny Gaudreau, Patrice Bergeron and Jordan Eberle. Nybeck is also regarded as a late 1st round pick. He’s already being thought of as a 1st rounder, I just think he should go 10 to 15 spots higher than he will.

13. Alexander Pashin – Pashin, just like Nybeck, is a bite-size forward who’s not jumping to the NHL any time soon. But, also like Nybeck, he’s young with really good production. Pashin hails from the MHL which is a bit of a funny league, it’s hard to get a grasp on what’s really happening in it and there’s a substantial disparity between teams and divisions. But also, I believe its underscouted. It’s often thought of as a league on par with second-tier Canadian junior leagues like the AJHL and BCHL. However, it’s a better league than that. This is the main feeder league really young Russian players play in before making the KHL. I would rank it somewhere between the USHL and OHL. It’s an emerging league and there’s only been a few really good ‘Hockey Prospecting gems’ that have come out of it. To make the point, here’s the list of younger draftee Hockey Prospecting favorites that have emerged from it in the past 10 years: Nikita Kucherov, Pavel Buchnevich, Denis Gurianov, Grigori Denisenko, Ilya Mikheyev and Nikita Gusev. It’s not a very long list but it’s a very good one. We can add Alexander Pashin to that select list.

14. Jake Sanderson – Sanderson is the 2nd ranked defenseman and he’s ranked all the way at 14th. Again, the 2020 draft is not a rich one for defensemen. Why do I like Sanderson? Sanderson is very young (Summer-born) with an above average equivalency. He has lots of room to grow into something more monumental. But this is also a bit of a reputation pick as well. Sanderson is the 2nd or 3rd ranked defenseman in most any rankings. As well, Mitch Brown and Will Scouch track various transition and other microstat data on upcoming draft prospects and they both note Sanderson has some of the best transition data they’ve tracked in about 5 years. Sanderson’s runway is long and could be in for a massive jump in development and production when he joins the NCAA this year. He doesn’t look incredible by the Hockey Prospecting model yet but seems like the type of player that is going to grow in the model significantly over the coming years and has the reputation to back it up. Comparables include: Adam Boqvist, Henri Jokiharju, Roman Hamrlik, Erik Karlsson and Damon Severson.

15. Helge Grans – Grans and Sanderson are very close for me. Grans, splitting time between the SuperElit and SHL in his draft year, is also very young with above average production. He shows up well in the model but looks like a player poised to take a big step in the coming years. It helps that he’s already seen time in the SHL at this age as well. The production isn’t there in the SHL yet, if it was he would be ranked even higher as high production in Euro men’s leagues is favored. But I believe it will get there. He compares with such players as Thomas Harley, Mikhail Sergachev, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Cam Barker.

16. Rodion Amirov – Amirov, another product of the under valued MHL, is the type of player that doesn’t often turn into a star but could turn into a 40-60 point NHLer. He was good last year and better this year but not quite at that elite level and he’s on the older side of the ledger. Amirov is also seeing some early success in the KHL in the 2020-21 season. Normally we don’t have insights into a player’s D+1 season before they’re drafted but the 2020 pandemic season has allowed us to do so. Lots to like about Amirov. Some comparables include Logan Couture, Josh Bailey and Kaapo Kakko.

17. Dawson Mercer – Mercer has the same profile as Amirov, although he hails from the QMJHL of the CHL. What applies to Amirov mostly applies to Mercer. I like both around this spot.

18. Anton Lundell – Lundell has a profile like very few players. He has played in the top Finnish league (SM-Liiga) since his pre-draft year. He had good production in his pre-draft year. Having this type of production in a legit Euro men’s league at that age is very rare and something the model picks up on. Most players that do this take a huge step forward in their draft year and look like no-brainers – Alexander Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko are a few of examples. Lundell, partially because of how he was used, does not see a jump in his equivalency. It nets out almost the exact same as last year. This doesn’t happen often but, historically, the Euros with early success like this that tread water in their draft year, in terms of their equivalency, don’t have a big impact in the NHL. This is an extremely rare occurence, however. But this is what makes me hesitant to rank Lundell higher. Lundell’s age plays a factor here as well. If Lundell was a younger, maybe Summer-born, player I wouldn’t be as concerned. But he has less runway than the younger players.

19. to 23. Mavrik Bourque, Jack Quinn, Brendan Brisson, Tyson Foerster and Samuel Colangelo – All of the players in this grouping are relatively the same. The five players within this group are ranked against each other mostly based on their reputation (where they’re typically ranked) and position (center vs. winger). They’re older draftees with a very good, but not elite, equivalencies in their draft year. They have a better than 50% shot of making the NHL but a star probability of less than 25% . These players often make the NHL but don’t turn into stars. Some comparables for the forwards in the group include: Claude Giroux, Tomas Hertl, Robby Fabbri, Sven Baertschi, Jack Roslovic and Bobby Ryan.

Bourque, a player who often has Johnny Gaudreau-like ability to find open teammates through small seems, had very good production in his pre-draft year to go along with very good production in his draft year. Many people and outlets are very high on Bourque (most see him going in the late teens) so reputation plays a bit of a factor as he ranks highest in this grouping.

Quinn probably got a bit of a boost from the team he played on this past season (the Ottaw 67’s) but is still one of the best goal scorers in the draft class. What I also like about Quinn is he’s a bit of a late bloomer and has a bit of an uncommon development curve. He was playing AA up until a few years ago and seems to have only become serious about professional hockey in the past few years. This reminds me a bit of Michael Ferland, Mike Green and Mike Johnson, who all didn’t consider professional hockey a serious option until their mid to late teens but evolved very quickly and saw huge YoY growth once they did see it as a viable option.

Brisson sits in the same equivalency threshold tier as Bourque and Quinn but he’s also a center, a more coveted position. Reputation comes into play as well here. For instance, J.D. Burke from Elite Prospects sees 1C potential from Brisson.

I like both Foerster and Colangelo at this position, as they have good production (similar development curve to Bourque, Quinn and Brisson) and good size. I’ll take Foerster ahead as he is a center. But could really go either way.

24. Michael Benning– Benning has a profile pretty common of a number of defensemen who make the NHL and have long careers. Only ~10% of them turn into stars, however. Interestingly, Benning, coming from the same AJHL league, actually looks almost identical to how Cale Makar looked in his draft year. Makar, however, generated a lot more of his production at 5 v. 5 where as Benning is much more of a powerplay specialist. Comparables to Benning include: Makar, Charlie McAvoy, Vince Dunn, Adam Clendining and Noah Hanifin.

25. Anton Johannesson – Johannesson had very good production in his draft year in the SuperElit, coming a bit of out nowehere, after playing in uncommon (untracked by Hockey Prospecting) junior league in Sweden in his pre-draft year. He profiles similar to Benning, just a step behind. Both are small in stature but are fast puck-moving defenseman. The game is evolving to suit small, agile puck-moving defenseman like this more than ever. Some comparables from this profile include: Adam Fox, Derrick Pouliot, Erik Johnson, Dan Hamhuis and Karl Alzner.

26. to 32. Martin Chromiak, Dmitri Ovchinnikov, Jan Mysak, Marat Khusnutdinov, Jack Finley, Brett Berard and Jeremie Poirier – This grouping I call the ‘Future Potential Group. When you see a player like Johnny Gaudreau, Nick Robertson and Shea Theodore grow into high star-likelihood talent after being drafted, they often share many of these characteristics: 1) They’re nearly young enough to be in the next draft. 2) They have a nearly elite equivalency (often reaching elite heights by the following year). 3) They are one of the best players on their team in their draft year. 4) They also happen to often be under-sized. The players in the Future Potential Group share all or most of these characteristics.

Chromiak and Mysak’s immediate production in the OHL, both coming in half-way through the season from Europe, is pretty remarkable, rare and really jumps out. As well, a number of the online scouts/analyst were on Mysak early in the draft season (before coming over), noting he had really good underlying generation numbers before coming over. Chromiak is ranked slightly higher due to a higher equivalency in pre-draft year.

Ovchinnikov and Khusnutdinov put up really good production in the MHL, as two of the younger players on their team, and will likely assume a larger role this year, and grow their production. This is the year of the MHL, as many as 7-9 players from the MHL could be drafted this year, more than any year to date.

Finley is a 6’5” center, born in early September, who had good production and his decently mobile for a big man. He’s the type of size gamble that could actually pay off. I don’t see him having much star potential but could be a solid middle six center down the road. But Finley is so young and there’s so much runway there. He could really surprise and turn into a high star-probability player with some big seasons in the coming years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Finley drafted much higher than he’s expected to.

Berard, a USDP product, is days away from not being eligible in this draft. He is also really small but has good production and showing signs of really good underlying numbers as well. Perhaps he has similar growth to Nick Robertson in the 2020-21 season?

Poirier has his faults on defense but has significant offensive upside. He is a project but one that has the potential to evolve into a star piece. He compares to Ed Jovanovski, Shea Theodore, Brent Seabrook, Erik Karlsson and Olli Maatta.

Honourable Mentions – Players that were heavily debated being included in the Top 32 –

  • Connor McLennon
  • Maxim Beryozkin
  • Tyler Tullio
  • Ryan O’Rourke
  • Ridly Greig
  • Pavel Novak

The Overager Watch List – As a rule of thumb I wouldn’t draft overagers in the 1st round so they’re not included in the Top 32, but these high-likelihood overagers should be considered from rounds 2 to 7 –

  • Alex Cotton
  • Evgeniy Oksentyuk
  • Dmitri Sheshin
  • Xavier Simoneau
  • William Constantinou

If you’re looking for more information about the information driving our rankings or the star and NHLer probabilities for the 2020 draft class you can sign up here to be a Hockey Prospecting member here ($25 CAD/Year). You’ll get access to all ~360 2020 draft eligibles as well as every player drafted in the past 30 years as well.

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