• Alexander Taxman

2020 NHL Draft Rankings - United States Edition

Updated: Apr 19

Welcome to Future Scope Hockey’s first regional breakdown of the 2020 NHL Draft, focusing on the top 30 first time draft eligible players playing in the United States. It’s tempting to include some players from CHL teams located in the US, but I’m not going to count them. 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. The top of this list should be very familiar to most people who follow the draft, but there’s some interesting sleepers further towards the bottom. Enjoy!

1 | Jake Sanderson, LHD | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’1 | 185 lbs

USHL - 19GP - 2G - 12A - 14P

USDP - 47GP - 7G - 22A - 29P

NHLe: 14

Jake Sanderson is everything an NHL team wants in a modern top pairing defenseman. His skating technique is nearly flawless, allowing him to easily join the rush and push play through the neutral zone. Defensively, Sanderson keeps some really tight gaps and maintains a consistent physical presence. He could benefit from using his body on the back end a bit more, but there’s no real holes for him defensively. Offensively, Sanderson is a quick and effective puck mover with some deceptive skill. His effortless skating aids him in diving down below the hash marks to either make plays, or take a high danger shot. He’s so calm with the puck, whether in his own zone or on offense, and always seems to be able to find the right play. Sanderson has the skill and hockey IQ to be a power play quarterback at the next level, and at least above average in his own zone. His overall game reminds me a lot of Zach Werenski’s, as their unwavering calmness and inability to be fazed is a big similarity.

2 | Dylan Holloway, C/W | Canada | University of Wisconsin | 6’0 |

192 lbs

NCAA - 35GP - 8G - 9A - 17P

NHLe: 12

Dylan Holloway’s freshman season probably didn’t go the way he envisioned it would. His 17 points were far from the expectations, but points don’t tell the whole story. Going from torching the AJHL to competing against grown men in college is a big leap, and Holloway definitely had a bit of an adjustment period to start the season. However, in every post Thanksgiving Wisconsin game I watched, Holloway was one of the best players on the ice. His skating is extremely powerful, and he can absolutely blow past defenders. He’s got somewhat of a long stride, but is still very agile east/west. There’s not many players in this draft who can enter the zone better than Holloway, and he was a key part of his line’s transition game all season long. Holloway’s hands are soft and decisive, and he’s very strong on his stick. He’s also got a really strong and accurate shot, which completes an already enticing power forward toolkit. Think Blake Wheeler minus a couple inches.

3 | Brendan Brisson, C/W | USA | Chicago Steel | 5’11 | 179 lbs

USHL - 45GP - 24G - 35A - 59P

NHLe: 29

Brendan Brisson is an absolute joy to watch. He’s the most creative playmaker in this draft class, and just oozes with skill. Brisson’s skating seems effortless, he’s quick and light on his feet, with no technical flaws. He utilizes lots of crossovers through the neutral zone, often employing a 10-2 style of skating for an added element of deception. Playing for the USHL’s best team, on the USHL’s best line, he often finds himself in games where his team is up by 3+ goals. These types of situations allow Brisson to put his full creativity on display, and he’ll sometimes even be toying with teams in close games. He’s always looking to break down defensive schemes with a quick cross ice feed, or some kind of ridiculous spin-o-rama saucer pass. Everything about the way he handles the puck is so smooth, and he’s wise beyond his years when it comes to making plays. If I was to compare anyone in this draft class to Trevor Zegras, it’d be Brisson.

4 | Danil Gushchin, RW | Russia | Muskegon Lumberjacks | 5’8 | 161 lbs

USHL - 42GP - 22G - 25A - 47P

NHLe: 25

Danil Gushchin is absolutely dazzling with the puck on his stick. He’s a fast and dynamic skater with some of the best hands in the entire draft. He’s got a very quick-twitch style of offense, meaning that defensemen have to be on guard at all times when Gushchin is on the ice. He’s an elite playmaker and finisher, with the ability to break a game wide open with his skill. His shot is absolutely lethal, and he possesses one of the better backhands in this draft. The drawback with Gushchin’s game is that there isn’t much there defensively. He’ll forecheck hard to get the puck back on offense, but it’s smooth sailing once the puck enters his own zone. His offensive abilities make him a serious scoring threat at the next level, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll round out the rest of his game. If Gushchin reaches his full potential, he’ll be a star.

5 | Thomas Bordeleau, C/W | USA | USNTDP U18 | 5’9 | 179 lbs

USHL - 19 GP - 7G - 11A - 18P

USDP - 47 GP - 16G - 30A - 46P

NHLe: 21

Thomas Bordeleau is one of the NTDP’s top forwards this year. His quick and agile skating allows him to transition the puck up the ice as well as anyone, and he’s got some of the more polished puck handling skills amongst draft eligibles. Bordeleau isn’t the most electric or dynamic of players, but he’s making quick, effective plays to put his team in position to succeed. He can be used as a playmaker along the half wall or behind the net, but his real talent lies in his shooting ability. Bordeleau has one of the most accurate wrist shots in the draft, and has proven multiple times throughout this season that he can bury the puck against top NCAA competition. He might not have a huge “wow” factor to his game, but Bordeleau is a really good player nonetheless.

6 | Blake Biondi, C | USA | Hermantown High | 6’0 | 185 lbs

USHL - 10GP - 1G - 2A - 3P

USHS - 25GP - 37G - 39A - 76P

NHLe: 20

Blake Biondi is one of the USA’s premier forward prospects in this draft. Minnesota’s 2020 “Mr. Hockey” declined an invite to play with the USNTDP back in 2018. Biondi opted to stay in high school, and play sparingly in the USHL. He’s an imposing presence on the ice, combining high speed with high end scoring instincts and physicality. He’s one of the most agile North/South skaters in the draft, and has some really soft hands to go along with that. Biondi’s one of those players who always seems to be able to find the back of the net. Whether it’s from a snipe, a rebound, a wraparound, or a breakaway, Biondi just has a pure scorer’s touch. He scored at will in Minnesota’s high school circuit, with 37 goals in 25 games. He’s a natural center, but can succeed playing all three forward positions at the next level.

7 | Sam Colangelo, RW | USA | Chicago Steel | 6’2 | 205 lbs

USHL - 44GP - 28G - 30A - 58P

NHLe: 29

Sam Colangelo is an absolute beast. He’s one of the most powerful skaters in the draft, and an elite transition player. Colangelo doesn’t have the quickest feet, but his speed is deceptive and he can wheel the puck through nearly any situation. He’s also got a pair of really soft hands for a bigger guy, and a rocket of a shot. Colangelo doesn’t have any holes in his game, and can be used in all situations. He can run a power play from the point or half-wall, or he can contribute on the penalty kill. Colangelo plays a prototypical power forward game with an extra touch of speed and skill, similar to Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch. He could benefit in the future from using his body even more, but he already plays an aggressive, mature game.

8 | Tyler Kleven, LHD | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’4 | 201 lbs

USHL - 17GP - 0G - 2A - 2P

USDP - 45GP - 2G - 10A - 12P

NHLe: 6

Tyler Kleven is one of the top shutdown defenders available in this draft, and he’s also one of the biggest at 6’4 and 201lbs. He’s not an elite skater, but he’s got some quick feet for his size and more mobility than you would expect. Kleven is agile enough to walk the blue line on offense, or make a quick cut to intercept a pass on defense. He’s also one of the, if not the most punishing player in this draft class. Kleven is looking to make his opponents pay on every shift, and always finishes his checks. He’s an imposing presence to go up against in junior, and that should translate to the NHL quite well. Kleven also owns an absolute rocket of a slap shot, and a pair of sneaky good hands. He hasn’t shown them off at all this year, but from watching him in previous years, I know the skill is there. He probably won’t ever eclipse 30 points in the NHL, but he plays with enough strength and pace to round out a team’s top 4 some day.

9 | Alex Laferriere, RW | USA | Des Moines Buccaneers | 5’10 | 161 lbs

USHL - 42GP - 19G - 26A - 45P

NHLe: 24

Alex Laferriere is awesome. He’s an exceptionally smart winger with a pro style game and a shoot first mentality. Laferriere’s skating is near perfect. He’s got an unusually long stride, but it’s effective. He accelerates using tons of crossovers and is able to handle the puck very well at top speed. Laferriere’s shot is his premier asset, but he’s also a very skilled playmaker. His high hockey IQ allows him to adapt to almost any situation, and create a chance out of it. He’s committed to Harvard, so he’s not going to be a one and done. He’ll probably play four years with a rigorous academic schedule before he turns pro. I saw a sarcastic tweet the other day that said Laferriere was the best player in this draft class. As funny as the tweet was, he definitely could have picked someone worse.

10 | Grant Slukynsky, C | USA | Warroad High | 6’0 | 190 lbs

USHL - 7GP - 0G - 0A - 0P

USHS - 25GP - 30G - 45A - 75P

NHLe: 20

Grant Slukynsky is one of my favorite under the radar prospects in the draft. He’s hidden up in Warroad, Minnesota, one of the most isolated hockey towns in the entire United States. Slukynsky is the complete package as a center. He skates so well, and has an extremely high motor and compete level. He’s strong on his skates, and plays a highly physical game. To go along with that, he’s got a playmakers set of hands and brain. Slukynsky also owns a very powerful and accurate wrist shot, and he has a solid finishing ability around the net. He didn’t play against the greatest competition this year, but he’s going to Northern Michigan University, and I suspect he’ll be a Hobey Baker candidate by the time his college career is over.

11 | Sean Farrell, C/W | USA | Chicago Steel | 5’9 | 179 lbs

USHL - 44GP - 15G - 41A - 56P

NHLe: 28

Sean Farrell is another exceptionally smart American Harvard commit out of the USHL. He’s a swiss army knife type player, who can play anywhere up and down the lineup. Farrell combines high speed with top notch hockey IQ into an enticing all around package. His hands are quick and decisive, and he isn’t afraid to get into corner battles. Farrell can play in all situations, and all three forward positions. He’s a pretty shifty little player, and like Laferriere, will likely spend four years in college. Farrell’s versatility and overall knowledge of the game will translate very well to the NCAA, and one day to the pros.

12 | Tyler Smilanic, C | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’1 | 168 lbs

USHL - 12GP - 3G - 6A - 9P

USDP - 34GP - 7G - 15A - 22P

NHLe: 15

Tyler Smilanic probably hasn’t had the pre-draft season that he envisioned. Once touted as a surefire first round pick, Smilanic has dealt with a few injuries, somewhat derailing his season. When he’s played, he hasn’t been 100% healthy, so it’s been tough to fully assess his game. What I do know for sure is that Smilanic is fast. He’s an agile skater, and is near elite at moving East/West with the puck. He’s got some soft, quick hands, and a true sniper’s ability to pick corners from above the hash marks. His release is super quick, and he can score in so many different ways. If he played this whole season fully healthy, he could potentially be in the top 5 of this list. He’s committed to Quinnipiac, where he’ll have plenty of time to prove he’s still the dangerous scorer scouts once thought he was.

13 | Mitchell Miller, RHD | USA | Tri-City Storm | 5’11 | 194 lbs

USHL - 44GP - 8G - 25A - 33P

NHLe: 17

Mitchell Miller is another one of my favorite under the radar prospects in this draft. He’s an offensive defenseman with some of the most skill among defenders in this draft class. Miller is a fast and agile skater, with the tendency to jump up and join the rush on nearly every play. He was the #1 defenseman on Tri-City in the USHL, playing big minutes in all situations. Miller’s ability to walk the line on offense or circle the zone with the puck make him a very valuable asset on the power play, and he can sometimes look like a fourth forward. Miller plays with a physical edge in his own zone, and makes smart outlet passes when he recovers the puck. He could end up being a star for the University of North Dakota.

14 | Wyatt Schingoethe, C | USA | Waterloo Blackhawks | 5’11 | 190 lbs

USHL - 47GP - 17G - 21A - 38P

NHLe: 18

Wyatt Schingoethe plays one of the best complete games of anyone on this list. He’s an extremely reliable centerman with a high motor and some sneaky skill. Schingoethe is a smooth and agile skater, and uses a 10-2 style of skating often to create extra space for himself. He’s a relentless forechecker, and has some of the best overall hockey sense of all players in the USHL. Schingoethe’s hands are quick deceptive, and he always seems to be able to find the right play. He’s strong on his skates, and not afraid to initiate contact whatsoever. His shooting ability isn’t anything special, but he’s got a nose for the net and will find rebounds consistently. He’s the complete package as a center, and should be an easy top 100 selection on draft day.

15 | Landon Slaggert, C/W | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’0 | 183 lbs

USHL - 19GP - 6G - 4A - 10P

USDP - 47GP - 13G - 11A - 24P

NHLe: 11

Landon Slaggert is probably the most well rounded forward on this year’s NTDP. He’s a beast on the forecheck, on the penalty kill, and doing anything that players usually don’t like to do. He works extremely hard on every shift, and has some really solid finishing ability. Slaggert is very fast North/South, but he’s not super agile. He’s got a quick pair of hands, and he’s so good at lifting opponents’ sticks. Slaggert’s all around game will probably take him to the pros, but it remains to be seen whether he has serious scoring potential.

16 | Brett Berard, LW | USA | USNTDP U18 | 5’9 | 152 lbs

USHL - 13GP - 7G - 11A - 18P

USDP - 41GP - 16G - 18A -34P

NHLe: 21

Brett Berard is one of the shiftiest players available in this year’s draft, and he’s also one of the youngest. Born just a few days before the draft cutoff, Berard is still growing into his frame, currently at 5’9 and 152 pounds. Playing with the NTDP, Berard went up against NCAA competition multiple times this year, and looked fantastic. Size isn’t an issue with him, as he’s a quick and elusive skater, with an impressive set of hands. Berard evades contact so well, and is one of the better zone entry specialists in this draft. He’s got a really accurate shot, but it’s not very powerful as of now. He thinks the game at a high level and will no doubt be an impactful college scorer. Berard’s toolkit is similar to Farrell’s, albeit with a bit less versatility.

17 | Drew Commesso, G | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’2 | 181 lbs

USHL - 11GP - 2.05GAA - .920SV%

USDP - 27GP - 2.01GAA - .917SV%

Drew Commesso is the best draft eligible goaltender playing in the United States, I know that as a fact. However, I’m not great at evaluating goaltenders. Whenever I watch Commesso, he’s a calm presence in net, and he rarely has an off night. He’s not the biggest of goalies, but he’s extremely athletic and is able to move from post to post very quickly. His spot on this list is based purely on potential.

18 | Eamon Powell, RHD | USA | USNTDP U18 | 5’11 | 165 lbs

USHL - 19GP - 5G - 6A - 11P

USDP - 43GP - 6G - 8A - 14P

NHLe: 13

Eamon Powell is another very solid defenseman from this year’s NTDP. When watching Powell, the first thing that stands out is his mobility. He’s a fantastic four way skater, and can transition the puck up the ice as well as any other defensive prospect in this draft. He utilizes tons of crossovers through the neutral zone, making him a premier carry option on the power play. He’s also a top notch distributor, and can make some sweet stretch passes. While Powell has near elite skating ability, he lacks high end skill in virtually all other facets of his game. His hands are quick but not dynamic, and his shooting ability is just okay. He’s a very smart and capable defender though, and can play in all situations. Even though he doesn’t have the skill yet, the potential is there for Powell to develop into a true scoring defenseman.

19 | Brock Faber, RHD | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’0 | 194 lbs

USHL - 19GP - 1G - 8A - 9P

USDP - 46GP - 3G - 9A - 12P

NHLe: 10

Brock Faber is one of the better skaters on this list. He’s so mobile and agile, and has no problem joining the rush. He plays a skilled style of hockey for a defenseman, and can be relied on to produce offense from the back end. Faber is a pretty solid defender as of now, but there’s still a lot of warts in his defensive game, mainly in his decision making. If he can round those issues out, he can be a legit difference maker at the next level.

20 | Carson Bantle, LW | USA | Madison Capitols | 6’4 | 201 lbs

USHL - 49GP - 20G - 29A - 49P

NHLe: 22

Carson Bantle is a monster. The 6’4, 201 pound winger is quite a handful for USHL defensemen to deal with. For such a big guy, he’s really light on his feet and can dance through cover like a little guy. Although he’s a smooth and agile skater, Bantle’s top speed isn’t awesome. He’s not going to blow past you en route to a breakaway, but he will draw you in and make you look silly with a quick dangle or two. Bantle plays with tons of energy, and is a serious threat on the forecheck with his long reach and high mobility. Bantle can run a power play from the half-wall or play in front of the net, along with being a top penalty killer. He’s got some really great scoring instincts, and reminds me a lot of a poor man’s Ryan Getzlaf.

21 | Colby Ambrosio, C | Canada | Tri-City Storm | 5’9 | 165 lbs

USHL - 48GP - 26G - 24A - 50P

NHLe: 23

Colby Ambrosio is one of the more skilled players on this entire list, and in the entire USHL. He’s a true speedster, with some of the quickest feet in the entire draft. When he gets up to full speed, it looks like he’s hopping. Ambrosio thrives when making plays at high speed, but he’s a very effective scorer at all times. His hands are very good as well, and he’s able to make high skill plays at top speed. Ambrosio had an incredibly productive season, and his offensive abilities should translate quite well at Boston College.

22 | Alex Gaffney, C | USA | Muskegon Lumberjacks | 5’7 | 163 lbs

USHL - 47GP - 14G - 19A - 33P

NHLe: 16

Alex Gaffney is like one of those toys with the wind-up crank on the back, except somebody turned it all the way and then broke it. He’s so quick and agile, and it looks like he’s hopping around the ice. Gaffney plays with full effort on every single shift, and forechecks harder than anyone else in the draft. He’s so committed to his role at both ends of the ice, and has some sneaky skill to go along with it. He’s really elusive with the puck, and his speed makes him a constant breakaway threat. Gaffney understands the game and plays one of the best 200 foot games of any prospect in this draft. The only think working against him is his size, but he’s very willing to absorb contact and battle along the board with his body. He could be a really great 3rd line center one day.

23 | Ben Schoen, C/W | USA | Youngstown Phantoms | 5’8 | 146 lbs

USHL - 29GP - 6G - 14A - 20P

NHLe: 15

Ben Schoen’s season was somewhat derailed due to injury, but he looked fantastic when he was playing. Schoen is pretty much pure offense, and more parts sniper than playmaker. He’s a shifty little player, with a nose for the net and the ability to pick corners at a high level. Schoen’s shot is very impressive for him only being 146 pounds, and it will continue to improve as he grows. He’s a very good asset on the power play and in the offensive zone, but he’ll need to work on rounding out his game if he wants to succeed at the next level.

24 | Jacob Truscott, LHD | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’0 | 172 lbs

USHL - 19GP - 4G - 7A - 11P

USDP - 47GP - 5G - 16A - 21P

NHLe: 13

Jacob Truscott plays a simple and reliable game on the back end. He’s a pretty good skater, not the fastest, but he can join the rush and contribute. Truscott is mobile enough to walk the blue line in the offensive zone, and he makes good, sound decisions on defense. I don’t think he’ll ever be a power play guy at the next level, but it’s not as if he can’t make plays. Truscott is dependable, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. He’s not a very skilled player, but he doesn’t make many mistakes, and that’s something NHL teams put high value on.

25 | Dylan Peterson, C/W | USA | USNTDP U18 | 6’4 | 192 lbs

USHL - 19GP - 4G - 7A - 11P

USDP - 45GP - 8G - 17A - 25P

NHLe: 13

Dylan Peterson is one of the more interesting players on the NTDP. He’s 6’4 and skates like the wind, which already has NHL scouts drooling. Peterson plays a hard 200 foot game with the occasional flash of high end skill. He’s a workhorse two way center, and can be relied on to clear the front of the net, or occupy it on offense. Peterson could have some huge untapped scoring potential, but at worst he looks like a good fourth liner.

26 | Yan Kuznetsov, LHD | Russia | University of Connecticut | 6’3 |

201 lbs

NCAA - 34GP - 2G - 9A - 11P

NHLe: 11

Yan Kuznetsov had a fantastic freshman season, as one of the youngest players in college hockey. He’s a big kid, and uses his body extremely well. Kuznetsov plays a physical style of hockey in his own end, and is very effective at clearing the front of the net. He’s a smooth skater with some decent hands, and can make plays through the neutral zone. On offense, Kuznetsov has a big shot, but that’s about it. He won’t be a power play guy at the next level, but like Kleven, plays a hard, modern game.

27 | Ryan Kirwan, C/W | USA | Madison Capitols | 6’2 | 194 lbs

USHL - 50GP - 25G - 16A - 41P

NHLe: 18

Ryan Kirwan is a pure goal scorer. He’s got a big frame, and a huge shot. Kirwan can score from pretty much anywhere in the offensive zone, and he has one of the most ridiculous releases I’ve ever seen. There’s a clip below where he roofs the puck from above the hash marks, and his wrists barely even move. Kirwan has true goal scorers instincts, and will try to put the puck in the net however he can. He’s not the fastest skater, and he could work on his stride, but Kirwan plays with pace and he was one of the top goal scorers in the entire USHL. Kirwan could provide some pretty great value in a later round pick, and he’ll continue his development at Penn State.

28 | Ryder Rolston, RW | Waterloo Blackhawks | 6’0 | 165 lbs

USHL - 42GP - 16G - 17A - 33P

NHLe: 17

Ryder Rolston is all speed and energy. He plays so hard every single shift, and is one of the better forecheckers on this list. Rolston has a pretty unique stride, it looks like he’s jumping, but it works for him. He’s got breakaway level speed and some pretty nifty hands to go along with that. Rolston doesn’t really have any high-end skill, but he’s a capable role player and can be relied on to carry a bottom 6 line.

29 | Jack Smith, C | USA | St. Cloud Cathedral | 5’11 | 185 lbs

USHS - 11GP - 16G - 14A - 30P

NHLe: 18

Jack Smith is a player who’s been hard for me to get a good read on. Other than the Minnesota state tournament, and a few St. Cloud games here and there, I haven’t been able to watch Smith that much. From what I’ve seen, I’m really impressed with his game. He’s a dynamic player on offense, with some quick hands and shifty feet. Smith has great finishing ability close to the net, and can also make plays at a high level. He’s a fast player, but not quite a speedster. I’m really looking forward to watching him at University of Minnesota Duluth, where he’ll likely be a big scorer.

30 | Stephen Halliday, LW | Canada | Dubuque Fighting Saints | 6’3 | 220 lbs

USHL - 46GP - 13G - 25A - 38P

NHLe: 18

Stephen Halliday is an interesting player. He’s exceptionally smart and skilled, and at 6’3 and 220 pounds would be one of the bigger players in the NHL right now. Halliday thinks the game at such a high level, and it’s evident when you watch him. He’s always trying to set his teammates up with the best possible chances, and definitely looks to pass more than shoot. Halliday can take over games in the USHL, and look like the best player on the ice. The drawback to his game is his pace. Halliday is a fine skater, but he plays with almost no pace. He’s always looking to create plays for teammates, and not create them for himself. This makes him process everything a bit slower, as he isn’t really worried about blowing past a dman en route to the goal. He’s always analyzing his options and breaking down the game in his head. Halliday is a great player, and a team should definitely use a mid round pick on him. He’s headed to North Dakota, where he’ll only get better.

Thanks for reading!