2020 NHL Draft Rankings - Canada Edition
Updated: Apr 19
Welcome to Future Scope Hockey’s second regional breakdown of the 2020 NHL Draft, focusing on the top 30 first time draft eligible players playing in Canada. There’s a short paragraph on each player, breaking down both their game and overall season performance. Included above are each player’s stats and NHLe value. Following each player’s writeup, I placed a few of my favorite highlights of theirs. This is such a deep draft, as all 30 players can each make their own case as to why they should go in the first round. Enjoy!
1 | Alexis Lafreniere, LW | Canada | Rimouski Oceanic | 6’1 | 192 lbs
QMJHL - 52GP - 35G - 77A - 112P
Alexis Lafreniere is the NHL’s next superstar. He plays a highly skilled, highly aggressive game that should translate to the NHL seamlessly. Lafreniere has been torching the QMJHL for the past two years, and it’s no surprise why. There’s not another player in junior hockey who thinks the game at the level he does. Lafreniere has some of the best hands in the draft, and he’s without question the best passer in the draft. His ability to hit teammates in stride with saucer passes or backhand passes is exceptional, as is his offensive zone playmaking. Nobody in the QMJHL could touch him in the offensive zone, his ability to weave through cover is elite, and he makes entire defense schemes look silly by himself. One aspect of his game that I think gets glossed over a bit is his skating. He’s an incredibly powerful skater North/South, and is really hard to knock off the puck, or even disrupt. Lafreniere also plays with a noted edge to his game, and will make opponents pay if they have their heads down. He’s a top notch competitor in every sense, and will no doubt be selected first overall in this upcoming draft.
2 | Quinton Byfield, C | Canada | Sudbury Wolves | 6’4 | 214 lbs
OHL - 45GP - 32G - 50A - 82P
Quinton Byfield was dominant for the Sudbury Wolves this season, despite playing without what I believe should be a basic human right; good linemates. The Wolves certainly had some competent forwards in their lineup, but none that could truly keep up with Byfield. Byfield’s entire game is modeled around speed and power. He’s 6’4, 214 pounds, and an effortless, agile skater. On top of that, Byfield has a small playmaker’s set of hands, and a rocket of a shot. His reach with and without the puck is so long, and he’s always making his presence on the ice felt. I’d say that Byfield is equal parts playmaker and sniper, but has the potential to be a game breaking goal scorer. It wouldn’t be out of his range to develop a Laine-esque one-timer, and he can already take the puck coast to coast at NHL speeds. He’s incredibly hard to knock off the puck, mainly due to his size, and probably has the highest ceiling of any player in this draft. He’s got the perfect toolkit for a number one center, and as a late August birthday, could be primed for a massive D+1 season, likely in the NHL.
3 | Marco Rossi, C | Austria | Ottawa 67’s | 5’9 | 179 lbs
OHL - 56GP - 39G - 81A - 120P
Marco Rossi is probably the most complete hockey player in this draft. He’s an offensive genius, who can score in any way he wants. His 120 points this season led the entire CHL in scoring. To go along with that, Rossi played a top shutdown role on the best team in the CHL. He’s got a Datsyukian defensive presence and strength on his stick, as well as deceiving strength in general. Rossi is only 5’9, but he has a ridiculously low center of gravity, making him really hard to knock off the puck. He’s a nightmare along the boards, having the ability to shrug off checks and maintain possession at will. Rossi is primarily a playmaker, and will look to pass before shoot, but his wrist shot is very good. He can shelf the puck from in close, and has shown he has a scoring touch from distance as well. He generates a lot of flex in his stick when he shoots, sometimes it looks like he’s just scooping the puck, but it’ll rocket off of his stick due to all that pressure. Rossi is probably going to dethrone Thomas Vanek as the best Austrian hockey player ever, and I can’t wait to watch his game at the NHL level.
4 | Jamie Drysdale, RHD | Canada | Erie Otters | 5’11 | 170 lbs
OHL - 49GP - 9G - 38A - 47P
Jamie Drysdale is almost guaranteed to be a standout NHL defender. He has some of the most crisp and polished skating in the entire draft, with elite speed and agility. His lateral movement is near perfect, and he’s a master at walking the blue line. Drysdale also thinks the game at a very high level on both ends of the ice, making him a true all situations defender. He’s extremely hard to get past on the rush due to his skating ability and constantly active stick. He can struggle sometimes in his own zone when he’s playing the body against larger players, but he’ll improve as he bulks up. Once Drysdale has the puck, he’s gone. He accelerates through the neutral zone so fast, and so smoothly, that he nearly never has to deal with contact. He can also make long stretch passes, catching his teammates perfectly in stride. In the offensive zone, Drysdale is like a third winger. He’s always active and moving whether he has the puck or not, and isn’t afraid to step into the high slot area to shoot. There were times when he looked like Canada’s best defenseman at the WJC, and he just might have been. This is a forward heavy first round, and I could imagine Drysdale going as high as third overall.
5 | Cole Perfetti, C/W | Canada | Saginaw Spirit | 5’10 | 185 lbs
OHL - 61GP - 37G - 74A - 111P
Cole Perfetti is an offensive wizard. There’s not many players in the world that have the kind of skill and scoring touch that Perfetti has, and he obliterated the OHL this season with 111 points in 61 games. He was a true one man show for the Spirit, taking over game after game with his offensive prowess. Perfetti’s shot is absolutely wicked. His release is so quick, and he can get shots off with the puck in his feet. He can score with a wrister from distance, or he can undress a goalie with his hands en route to a backhand finish. Perfetti’s standout skills don’t stop with his shooting, his 74 assists ranked 3rd in the entire CHL behind only Lafreniere and Rossi. He’s an elite playmaker by all standards, and plays with a bit of an edge in the offensive zone. On the power play, Perfetti is just a weapon. He can play the bumper position with his elite one touch passing, or he can run the power play from the boards. He’s got some really strong edgework and quick twitch agility, but his overall speed isn’t anything too special. That shouldn’t deter any NHL team from drafting him though, as Perfetti has all the tools to be a huge scorer in the pros.
6 | Jan Mysak, C/W | Czech Republic | Hamilton Bulldogs | 6’0 | 176 lbs
Extraliga - 26GP - 5G - 4A - 9P
OHL - 22GP - 15G - 10A - 25P
Jan Mysak has been on the 2020 draft radar for a long, long time. He was merciless in his home country, once posting 41 goals in 12 Czech U16 league games. Mysak then played nearly the entirety of his 16 year old season in the Extraliga, one of Europe’s top professional hockey leagues. He had 7 points in 31 regular season games, then exploded for 5 goals and 9 points in just 6 relegation games. After a somewhat uneventful but solid 26 game performance this season, he brought his talents over to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Mysak’s game is a tantalizing combination of speed, skill, and strength. He’s incredibly difficult to take the puck off of, and has one of the most powerful strides of all draft eligible players. He has high end puck skills, a near elite top speed, and one of the most accurate shots in the draft. I was expecting Mysak to be primarily feeding Kaliyev when he came over to Hamilton, but he drove offense at a high level on his own. I think if he had played the entire season in the OHL, he would have had a pretty crazy statline. He’s a fantastic all around hockey player, and I think he has legit number one center potential in the NHL.
7 | Connor Zary, C | Canada | Kamloops Blazers | 6’0 | 181 lbs
WHL - 57GP - 38G - 48A - 86P
Connor Zary is one of the most gifted puck handlers and playmakers in this entire draft. He’s a smooth and agile skater with a decent top speed, but could certainly add another gear. Zary was one of the most consistent producers of all draft eligible players, having scored at least a point in 48 of his 57 games, and began the season with a 13 game point streak. Zary is at his best with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he sees the ice so well, and can complete a pass almost anywhere in the zone. He meticulously breaks down defense schemes like a surgeon, exposing weak spots for him or his teammates to take advantage of. Zary played a very good transition game this year too, his dynamic puck handling ability and high hockey IQ allowed him to create and weave through his own paths in the neutral zone, but I’m not sure it’ll translate to the NHL that well. Zary’s lack of high end speed will hold him back in that regard, but I still expect him to be a competent puck carrier in the pros. Whoever ends up drafting Zary can expect to add a potential future 2C, with some game breaking offensive skill.
8 | Jack Quinn, RW | Canada | Ottawa 67’s | 5’11 | 176 lbs
OHL - 62GP - 52G - 37A - 89P
Jack Quinn’s progression this season has been outstanding. He wasn’t an unknown, having posted 32 points in 61 games in his D-1 season, and coming into this season, Quinn was touted as a potential second or third round pick. Now, he’s established himself as a potential lottery pick. Quinn’s 52 goals this season were good for 2nd in the entire CHL, and it wasn’t a fluke. He’s a smooth skating, shoot first ask questions later type of player, with a top 5 shot/release combination in the draft. Quinn’s agility and edgework are noteworthy, and he’s one of the best transition players in the draft. He can knife through the neutral zone, and can be relied on to carry the puck over the blue line in nearly any situation. He’s not the most dynamic playmaker, but if he doesn’t have a shot, Quinn has no problem creating chances for his teammates. Some scouts will argue that Quinn’s production is largely based on his quality of teammates, but I don’t think the 67’s are anywhere close to as good without Quinn. He’s got legit top six upside, with the potential to score 30-40 goals in the NHL one day.
9 | Dawson Mercer, C/RW | Canada | Chicoutimi Sagueneens | 6’0 |
QMJHL - 42GP - 24G - 36A - 60P
Dawson Mercer is another shoot first ask questions later type of player. His season was limited by injury, but he was fantastic when he was playing. Mercer is an exceptionally strong skater, and he uses that ability in all three zones. He combines that skating ability with a high motor and a strong physical presence into a pretty tantalizing package. His shooting ability is fantastic, and his shot/release combination is top 10 in the draft class. He also has some of the best scoring range of any player in this draft, being able to score from well above the circles. Mercer is 6’0, but he plays like he’s 6’3. He’s a fairly punishing hitter and will use his body to gain position in the offensive zone. Mercer can be used in all situations, as he is a fantastic two-way player. He’s a relentless forechecker and backchecker, with a sneaky good pickpocketing ability. He can play center or wing, but I think he projects best as a winger in the NHL. I think it’s pretty notable that he was chosen to represent Canada at the WJC, which is a very exclusive club for draft eligibles. The coaching staff certainly appreciated his high motor and two-way game, and even though he didn’t have the most eventful tournament, I don’t think they made a mistake in bringing him. Mercer will probably spend another year or two in junior, but he’s about as polished as young players get when it comes to playing 200 feet. Add on his shooting ability and he’s a heck of a prospect.
10 | Lukas Cormier, LHD | Canada | Charlottetown Islanders | 5’10 |
QMJHL - 44GP - 6G - 30A - 36P
Lukas Cormier started this season legitimately looking like a lottery pick. He was dominating the QMJHL, playing big minutes in all situations for Charlottetown, and putting up some serious numbers. Unfortunately, his hot streak was cut short due to injury, and he had to miss a pretty significant amount of time. When Cormier returned, he wasn’t quite as lights-out as he was to start the year, but he was still fantastic. His skating ability is superb, Cormier can make his way up the ice as well as any defenseman in this draft not named Jamie Drysdale. He’s super light on his feet, and has some of the best agility in the draft class. It helps Cormier walk the blue line so well on offense, and maintain really tight gaps on defense. He’s got a really active stick, and would prefer to use it to break up plays rather than his body, but he doesn’t shy away from contact. Cormier has one of the better shots among defensemen in this draft, especially his wrister. He’s often looking to step into the high slot to use it, or fake it and make a play to a teammate. His passing ability is also top notch, as he possesses the ability to make long stretch passes consistently. Cormier is solidly my #3 defenseman in this draft, and shouldn’t last longer than pick 20 on draft day.
11 | Seth Jarvis, RW | Canada | Portland Winterhawks | 5’10 | 172 lbs
WHL - 58GP - 42G - 56A - 98P
Seth Jarvis has slowly but surely started to win me over. I wasn’t the biggest fan of his unconventional and overly flashy style of play to begin the season, but his skills have grown on me lately. Jarvis is a quick and agile skater, with a pretty decent top speed. He moves East/West better than most players, and can handle the puck as well as anyone. Jarvis’s hands are quick and twitchy, almost making him look indecisive on some plays. This adds an element of deception to his game, as defenders often have no idea what he’s going to do with the puck. When he has the puck on his stick, he’s a dangerous scorer. Jarvis’s wrist shot is super accurate, and he’s able to get it off with the puck in some less than ideal positions. He doesn’t have the hardest or quickest shot, but he picks his spots and hits them very consistently. He’s got a really slick pair of hands, and can pull off some of the more impressive dekes of all draft eligible players. Jarvis doesn’t have the most well rounded game, and has little defensive presence, so he’s more of a longer term project. He also needs to simplify his game, as there’s still plenty of times where he just tries to do a bit too much. The raw talent with Jarvis is undeniable though, and will likely have a team reaching for him in the top 15-20.
12 | Jacob Perreault, C/W | Canada | Sarnia Sting | 5’11 | 198 lbs
OHL - 57GP - 39G - 31A - 70P
Jacob Perreault was one of the few bright spots of the Sarnia Sting’s season. He’s a prolific scorer with another one of the top 10 shot/release combinations in this draft. His release is unbelievably quick, and he can pick corners from some of the toughest angles. Perreault’s backhand shot is fantastic as well, and about as powerful as they get. He’s a decent skater with some quick feet and solid agility, but he doesn’t have breakaway speed, and his stride can break down at times. I think Alex DeBrincat is a very good comparable for Perreault, as they play nearly the exact same style of hockey. Perreault doesn’t have the biggest defensive presence, but he’s a very strong kid and can hold his own along the boards. He likely won’t be relied on in a defensive role at the next level, due to his elite shooting ability. He can make plays at a pretty high level as well, and has legit top six upside with 30+ goal potential in the NHL.
13 | Mavrik Bourque, C/W | Canada | Shawinigan Cataractes | 5’10 |
QMJHL - 49GP - 29G - 42A - 71P
Mavrik Bourque is another player who’s game has really grown on me over the course of this season. Last year, I thought he was an exceptionally skilled player, but I didn’t like his pace, and thought he played a bit too slow. Bourque’s still not the fastest player on the ice, and he’s probably never going to be, but he’s picked up the pace of his game so much. He thinks the game at such a high level in almost every sense, and possesses some of the best puck skills in the draft. In addition to that, Bourque’s shooting ability is outstanding. He owns one of the premier one timers in the draft, and has a wrist shot that can find corners from 30+ feet out consistently. When I talk about the pace of Bourque’s game, it’s not how fast he’s moving on the ice, but how fast he’s moving the puck and progressing the play. In that regard, Bourque is one of the best and most efficient puck movers in this draft. He can make one touch passes across the ice, or quickly defer to a secondary option if a lane clogs up. He can run a power play from the boards, but he’s also got the ability to work in front of the net. He’s a dynamic player with the puck on his stick, and is yet another CHL stud with serious top six potential.
14 | Carter Savoie, LW | Canada | Sherwood Park Crusaders | 5’10 |
AJHL - 54GP - 53G - 46A - 99P
Carter Savoie spent the entirety of this season terrorizing the AJHL. The University of Denver commit scored at a goal per game pace, finishing with the highest PPG of any draft eligible player in the AJHL since 2000. Savoie was far too good for the league, but had to play out the season there in order to maintain his NCAA eligibility. He’s a highly skilled winger with some innate goal scoring ability, and the ability to take the puck coast to coast on his own. Carter isn’t an elite skater like his brother Matthew, but he’s got a nice top speed and some fantastic edgework to go along with that. On the defensive side of the puck, Savoie is always engaged with an active stick and a larger than expected physical presence. He’s not a prospect who’s going to be lauded for his defense though, as Savoie is the definition of a pure scorer. He can score in so many different ways, and thinks the game at an incredibly high level. His hands are elite, and he’s never quitting on plays. It doesn’t matter how many times he’s disrupted on offense, he always comes up with a new plan right away. He can run a power play from the boards, or he can set up as the triggerman below the circles. I’m expecting big things from Savoie at DU, and he’s ready for the challenge after spending his draft year beating up lesser competition.
15 | Vasily Ponomaryov, C/W | Russia | Shawinigan Cataractes | 6’0 | 176 lbs
QMJHL - 57GP - 18G - 31A - 49P
Vasily Ponomaryov is one of the most complete forwards in this draft class. He’s an elite athlete, having posted some of the most impressive off-ice results in the CHL top prospects combine. On the ice, Ponomaryov is a bulldog. He’s so strong on his skates, and has some of the best edgework in the draft. He’s got a really high motor, and a low center of gravity, making him really hard to knock off the puck. He’s also very strong on his stick, and has the ability to wheel around the offensive zone without being pickpocketed. He can make plays at a very high level, and has one of the most impressive deke arsenals in this draft. Ponomaryov’s stats aren’t exactly eye popping, but he was a standout player in every game I watched, on both sides of the puck. He’s responsible defensively, and will take you out of your seat when he has the puck. In addition to that, he’s got a very dangerous wrist shot, and some really impressive in-tight finishing ability. He’s got the tools and potential to be a really effective 2C in the NHL one day.
16 | Martin Chromiak, LW | Slovakia | Kingston Frontenacs | 6’0 |
Slovakia - 32GP - 5G - 1A - 6P
OHL - 28GP - 11G - 22A - 33P
Martin Chromiak was tough to get a good viewing on for the last two years, and then boom, he’s glued to Shane Wright’s wing. Chromiak is highly talented, and has some of the most impressive raw skills and shooting ability in this entire draft. He’s got incredible hand-eye coordination, and some of the most polished puck handling skills in the OHL. Having played professional hockey in Slovakia for the past two seasons, Chromiak’s game is much more mature than most players his age. He thrives on the rush, as he’s a smooth and agile skater with a long stride and a great top speed. He’s a pretty big kid, but he’s got deceiving strength and can hold his own along the boards or in front of the net. His shot is super accurate, and he’s shown that he’s got some really impressive range on it too. Chromiak can play triggerman on the power play, but he’s also got some superb playmaking skills. I expect he returns to Kingston next season, where him and Wright are going to be primetime television. It’s also noteworthy that he’s a late August birthday, making him one of the youngest players in my top 50.
17 | Tristen Robins, C/W | Canada | Saskatoon Blades | 5’10 | 174 lbs
WHL - 62GP - 33G - 40A - 73P
Tristen Robins has been one of my biggest risers this season. I absolutely love his game, and the way he can dominate with his skill. Robins is a high speed, highly skilled forward with some seriously game breaking offensive ability. He’s an absolute joy to watch, and thinks the game at an incredibly high level. Robins is so quick through the neutral zone, and plays one of the best transition games of anyone in this draft. He’s got the ability to pull off highlight reel dangles on a near nightly basis, and can get the puck into the zone with little issue. He’s such an agile four way skater, and he’s able to adapt to obstacles so quickly. Once he’s in the offensive zone, Robins can score in a multitude of different ways. He’s got a seriously threatening wrist shot, but he’s also a premier playmaker, with some near elite passing ability. His hands are extremely deceptive, and he picks his spots like a true sniper. Stylistically, he’s very, very similar to Brayden Point. I don’t mean to say that Robins is going to be the next Point, but if you watch him a lot, you’ll see what I mean. I’m not sure whether he projects best as a center or winger at the next level, but whoever drafts him is going to get a good one.
18 | William Villeneuve, RHD | Canada | St. John Sea Dogs | 6’1 | 163 lbs
QMJHL - 64GP - 9G - 49A - 58P
William Villeneuve is one of the most complete defensemen in this draft. He’s an effortless four way skater, and has one of the more dynamic offensive toolkits you’ll find amongst blue liners. Villeneuve’s entire game is so smooth, he’s not the fastest player on the ice but he can go coast to coast with his high end skating ability and evasiveness. He defends very well, and often breaks up plays before the puck crosses his own blue line. Villeneuve keeps an active stick at all times, and his skating ability can bail him out if he makes a mistake. Offensively, Villeneuve is dynamite. He outscored teammate Jeremie Poirier who, despite his warts, is an elite offensive defenseman. Villeneuve has the ability to connect on long stretch passes, and he finds seams in coverage exceptionally well. He can be relied on to carry the puck up the ice in almost any situation, and has the scoring potential to play on the power play at the next level. As he gets stronger and develops a larger physical presence in his own end, Villeneuve could become a legit top four defenseman some day.
19 | Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW | Canada | Prince Albert Raiders | 5’10 | 194 lbs
WHL - 64GP - 25G - 45A - 70P
Ozzy Wiesblatt is a truly elite skater. His speed, agility, edgework, and evasiveness are as good as it gets in this draft. It’s so fun to watch him take the puck up the ice, as you never really know what he’s going to do next. Wiesblatt is one of the best zone entry artists in this draft as well, with the ability to cut and weave his way through defense schemes, all while maintaining his top speed. He’s a fantastic puck handler as well, and his hands are more than able to keep up with his feet. Once in the offensive zone, Wiesblatt is a dangerous scorer, with a deadly wrist shot. He’s also got the ability to battle and find loose pucks in front of the net, or gain position for an easy tap in. He’s not just a scorer though, Wiesblatt creates opportunities for his teammates consistently with his elite vision and passing ability. At 194 pounds, he’s also one of the stronger wingers in this draft. Wiesblatt can hold on to the puck forever in the offensive zone with his speed and strength, and can tire out opposition really quickly. On the defensive side, he’s always engaged with an active stick, and he’s a pretty punishing player as well. He’s not afraid to lay a big hit, or even stick up for a teammate in a fight. He’s been a huge riser all year for me, and it wouldn’t be crazy for a team to pick him in the mid to late first round.
20 | Hendrix Lapierre, C | Canada | Chicoutimi Sagueneens | 6’0 | 181 lbs
QMJHL - 19GP - 2G - 15A - 17P
Hendrix Lapierre has dealt with a lot in the past year. I’m not sure what to say, other than that he’s a fantastic player, and one of the most dazzling playmakers in this draft when he’s healthy. He’s suffered three concussions in about eight months, and was only able to play 19 games this season. In those 19 games, Lapierre was a fine player, but not quite showing the abilities that he once has. He’s still a top 15 player in this draft skill wise, but there’s so many questions surrounding his long term health that it’s a complete unknown where he’ll be drafted. It doesn’t matter though, as the only important thing when it comes to Lapierre is his health, and what’s best for him.
21 | Tyson Foerster, C/W | Canada | Barrie Colts | 6’1 | 194 lbs
OHL - 62GP - 36G - 44A - 80P
Tyson Foerster’s last two seasons have played out pretty similarly to Jack Quinn’s. Foerster had just 23 points in 64 games last year, and exploded for 36 goals and 80 points in 62 games this year. He’s also had a big growth spurt, starting the season listed at 5’11 and 172 pounds, and ending at 6’1 and 194 pounds. Foerster is a high volume shooter, who can score from nearly anywhere in the offensive zone. He’s a smooth and powerful skater with a long stride and some solid edgework. He doesn’t move East/West that well, and overall isn’t the most agile of players, but is still a good skater nonetheless. Foerster’s shot is his premier asset. He plays a pro style game, and is always looking to shoot first. He can make plays too, but he’s a pure sniper from an offensive standpoint. From a defensive standpoint, he’s a hard forechecker and backchecker who can kill penalties and maintain a strong defensive presence. It wouldn’t surprise me if a team reached for Foerster somewhere in the top 25 come draft day. He’s a really enticing prospect.
22 | Ryan O’Rourke, LHD | Canada | Soo Greyhounds | 6’2 | 181 lbs
OHL - 54GP - 7G - 30A - 37P
Ryan O’Rourke plays an effective, complete game on the back end. He’s a strong and powerful skater, with a smooth stride and some excellent edgework. O’Rourke’s game is mostly simplistic, but every now and then he’ll pull off an evasive maneuver that’ll raise your eyebrows. He plays very similarly to fellow 2020 eligible Jake Sanderson, just with a bit less skill and assertiveness. O’Rourke also isn’t quite the caliber of defender that Sanderson is, but any team that’s high on Sanderson should be very high on O’Rourke as well. He’s got a physical presence in his own end, but at 6’2 and 181 pounds, I’d like to see him use his body to his advantage more. He usually maintains an active stick on the defensive side of the puck, and isn’t afraid to jump up into passing lanes. Once he has the puck, O’Rourke has no problem transitioning up the ice, whether by skating or making a stretch pass. He’s deceivingly skilled in the offensive zone, with an excellent fake slap shot then no look pass being his trademark. He can run a power play from the point with his mobility and passing ability, and can also rifle the puck. O’Rourke has a fantastic slap shot from the point, and a strong one timer as well. His wrist shot is pretty effective too when he steps in, and again, it’s very similar to Sanderson’s. O’Rourke’s done pretty much everything he can to convince NHL teams to draft him, and he should be primed for a dominant D+1 season in the OHL.
23 | Jake Neighbours, LW | Canada | Edmonton Oil Kings | 5’11 | 200 lbs
WHL - 63GP - 24G - 47A - 70P
Jake Neighbours is awesome. He plays a high speed, high energy game at both ends of the ice. Neighbours is a fantastic skater, with some really quick feet and the ability to go coast to coast. He’s a really strong kid as well, and makes his presence felt physically. He’s really reliable in his own zone, and rarely gets caught drifting. His coaches trust him enough to put him out there in nearly any situation, and he can find success in so many different ways. On offense, he isn’t the flashiest player, but he’s got a quick set of hands and a very accurate shot. He has the hands to score from in tight, but also the range and accuracy to score from above the circles. Neighbours is all about energy when he has the puck, and he’s always looking to move it up the ice as quickly as possible. He’s really strong on his stick too, which makes him tough to take the puck from. Neighbours can play a plethora of different roles on offense, but I think he might be best suited to post up in front of or around the net. He’ll battle night in and night out to make sure his team comes out on top, and he’s gonna be a fan favorite wherever he’s drafted.
24 | Braden Schneider, RHD | Canada | Brandon Wheat Kings | 6’2 |
WHL - 60GP - 7G - 35A - 42P
Braden Schneider could probably play on an NHL team’s bottom pair right now, and look like he belongs there. He’s such a smooth and powerful skater, with some serious shutdown ability. I’m not sure there’s a more punishing player in this draft than Schneider, as he’s always looking to lay the body in his own zone. When skating in on Schneider, opponents absolutely have to keep their heads up, or else he’ll make them pay. In addition to his physical presence, Schneider is also able to break up plays with his stick at a high level. It’s very tough to get past him, and he’s consistent with both his defensive play and physicality. When he gets the puck, Schneider is a fine transition player. He’s fast enough to take the puck up the ice in the WHL, but I doubt he’ll ever be that guy in the NHL. He projects more as a guy who can defend and make a good first outlet pass. He doesn’t have the greatest puck skills, and other than his big shot, there isn’t much standout skill on offense. Defensemen who can play big minutes in their own end are still a coveted asset by the entire NHL, so I don’t expect Schneider to last long on draft day. He’ll probably end up being taken 10-15 spots above where I have him ranked.
25 | Kaiden Guhle, LHD | Canada | Prince Albert Raiders | 6’3 | 187 lbs
WHL - 64GP - 11G - 29A - 40P
Kaiden Guhle is another player who probably wouldn’t look too out of place on an NHL bottom pair today. He’s an exceptional skater, with some of the best edgework among all defensemen in this draft. Guhle can absolutely fly for a guy his size, and he’s always able to keep up with opponents, no matter how fast they are. He’s also a very punishing hitter, not to the extent of Schneider, but still a threat. In his own end, he’s a smart, capable defender who’s always looking to break up plays with his stick. Offensively, Guhle rarely tries to do much, but he has the mobility and skill to at least contribute some at the NHL level. He could be primed for some huge strides in development as well, and could potentially become a real impact player. If there was a “safe” pick in this draft, it’s Guhle, but he’s got some unlocked potential as well. Like Schneider, I expect him to be picked well above where I have him ranked.
26 | Justin Sourdif, C/W | Canada | Vancouver Giants | 5’11 | 165 lbs
WHL - 57GP - 26G - 28A - 54P
Justin Sourdif is another gritty centerman with some excellent goal scoring ability. His shot is probably his premier asset, as it’s super accurate, and he can get it off from bad angles or with the puck in his feet. Sourdif’s wrist shot is his main weapon, but he also has an excellent one timer and some sweet finishing ability in tight. He’s certainly not a burner, but Sourdif plays with a decent amount of pace, and doesn’t have many technical flaws in his skating. On the defensive side of the game, Sourdif could gain from being a little more aggressive. He’s not the biggest kid, so he isn’t able to overpower his opponents like some of the other guys on this list. He relies more on having a strong and active stick at all times, and constantly being ready to jump into lanes. Even though he isn’t blessed with size, Sourdif loves to post up in front of the net on offense. He can almost always be found battling for loose pucks or rebounds out in front, and he doesn’t give up on plays. He can do a little bit of everything, while also being relied on to score goals. His overall game and compete level should have him selected somewhere in the first 3 rounds.
27 | Justin Barron, RHD | Canada | Halifax Mooseheads | 6’2 | 192 lbs
QMJHL - 34GP - 4G - 15A - 19P
Justin Barron is another elite skater on the back end. He’s a big kid, and can really fly up the ice, with and without the puck. He’s very good in his own zone, not quite on the tier of Schneider and Guhle, but close. He’s a ridiculously punishing hitter, and he’s able to maintain a strong defensive presence with his stick and mobility. In the offensive zone, he’s a fine puck mover, but probably won’t ever run a power play in the NHL. He’s got a big slap shot, and a fairly dangerous wrister as well, but that’s about it when it comes to his offensive abilities. Even though he’s not the most skilled or productive of players, I really think Barron has the potential to be an impactful top 4 defenseman in the NHL. His skating ability is going to take him far, and I don’t see any reason to think an NHL coach wouldn’t send him over the board for a regular shift.
28 | Jeremie Poirier, LHD | Canada | St. John Sea Dogs | 6’0 | 192 lbs
QMJHL - 64GP - 20G - 33A - 53P
Jeremie Poirier is somewhat of an enigma, but at the same time, it’s pretty clear cut what kind of player he is. Poirier is an 100% offense oriented defenseman, who can be relied on to drive play through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone. He’s a smooth and agile skater with some elite hands for a defenseman, and he’s one of the better shooters from the back end in this draft. However, Poirier’s game diverges from other offensive defensemen when it comes to his defense. He takes shifts off regularly, and can often be found drifting aimlessly around his own net. When defending on the rush, or faced with a 2 on 1 situation, Poirier will nearly always stay in the middle of the ice, with no real commitment to either player or the puck. Poirier’s defensive inefficiencies have sparked numerous conversations whether or not he’d be better suited to play forward, but so far there’s no inclination that it’s an option for him. It can be insanely frustrating to watch him, but I’d be lying if I said he didn’t have serious NHL scoring potential. Like I said in my February breakdown of Poirier’s game, if he puts up 60 points in the NHL while being the worst defender on his team (looking at you Erik Gustafsson), it wouldn’t shock me.
29 | Thimo Nickl, RHD | Austria | Drummondville Voltigeurs | 6’2 |
QMJHL - 58GP - 10G - 29A - 39P
Thimo Nickl has been a really pleasant surprise this season. He caught my eye last year after putting up 15 points in 24 AlpsHL games, which is a pro league in Austria/Italy/Slovenia. It’s not the greatest league, but that’s a very impressive statline for a D-1 defenseman. Nickl came over to the QMJHL this season, and he’s been fantastic. He’s an agile and effortless skater, with some of the best straight line speed of any defender in this draft. He can also move the puck at a pretty high level, with the ability to complete long stretch passes. On defense, Nickl is pretty solid, but could gain from using his body more. His gapwork is excellent though, and he maintains a calm presence in his own zone. Nickl’s premier weapon is his shot. He’s an excellent shooter from the point, and has one of the most accurate slap shots among defensemen available this year. Nickl can be used to run a power play from the point, or be a shooter from the circles. I’ve seen him set up for one timers from Ovi’s office multiple times this year, and he can really blast them. He’s still very underrated in my opinion, and will only improve as he plays more in North America.
30 | Michael Benning, RHD | Canada | Sherwood Park Crusaders | 5’10 | 174 lbs
AJHL - 54GP - 12G - 63A - 75P
Michael Benning’s draft year in the AJHL is statistically reminiscent of Cale Makar’s. However, Benning isn’t close to the tier of player that Makar is. Benning is a smooth skater, with some really high end passing ability, and solid mobility in the offensive zone. He’s really not the greatest defender in his own zone, and often struggled to break the puck out. He doesn’t play with much pace at all, and he can get stripped of the puck at his own blue line quite often. It’s a bit of a red flag that he’s struggling against AJHL forechecks, but when he’s in the offensive zone, he looks like a completely different player. He’s agile, and able to walk the blue line as well as anyone. He can identify small holes in the defense and send perfect passes across the ice. Benning’s shot isn’t anything special, but he’s got an accurate wrister from the point. He could be a difference maker offensively at the next level, but would need to improve his pace and overall consistency. He’s heading to Denver with Savoie, where he’ll very likely spend 3+ years developing.
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