2020 NHL Draft Rankings: Part 1 (31 – 21)

The collective jaws of the hockey world fell to the floor as the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery was won by…….…a team yet to be determined!

So, what happens now?

Barring the rest of the season being scrapped all together, the eight teams who lose their playoff play-in series matchup will enter a second lottery with equal odds to win the first overall pick. If the season ends up being cancelled all together before the play-in round can commence, the teams that finished from 8th to 15th in terms of point percentage when the regular season paused would each have an equal shot (12.5%) at the pick.

Sound convoluted and stupid? That’s because it is, but it’s hard to argue that intrigue around the draft couldn’t be higher given the circumstances – even if an actual date for the event has yet to be determined. Fans of contending teams now have a legitimate shot at the first overall pick while fans of the lottery teams must look to other prospects in order to salvage their hopes for a brighter future.

With this in mind, allow me to present my ranking of the top 31 prospects eligible for the NHL draft!

Before we begin, just two quick notes:

1.) THIS IS NOT A MOCK DRAFT! Teams have organizational needs and biases that will affect how they value players. Instead of trying to forecast what team will pick in each spot and who they will covet, this is simply a ranking of how I believe players should be ranked based on how I predict they will project talent wise with the benefit of hindsight.

2.) I am not a professional scout. I have never sipped on lukewarm coffee while scouting players from a frigid bleacher in Saskatchewan or laughed with Steve Yzerman while taking in games in Munich – so save your complaints for Pierre McGuire when he compares the defenseman your team just selected to Jack Johnson. I prefer to think of myself as am “prospect enthusiast” who watches as much footage as they can. Does this hurt my credibility? Possibly. Do I care? Not an iota.

So, without further ado……….

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31.) DANIEL TORGERSSON     LW/RW – Frolunda J20 (SuperElit)

6’3” 205 lbs                              Shoots: L

A big winger with excellent tools and a toolbox to match, Torgersson is a coach’s dream as he applies himself to the unsung details of the game. Putting up 44 points in 39 games this season in the SuperElit league, Torgersson impressed enough to earn a few games in the SHL with an incredibly deep Frolunda team. His awareness allows him to recognize the best way to use his large frame and apply himself accordingly. Whether posting up in front of the net or supporting teammates on the breakout, he makes sound decisions with the puck and is happy to use his scoring touch to capitalize on rebounds and broken plays. He is a powerful skater with a quick first step for his size which helps him win puck battles and quickly exploit gaps in coverage. Defensively, his strength and acceleration help him eliminate cycles and jump on loose pucks and transition out of the zone with speed. As enticing as his tools may be, he most likely lacks the creativity to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. None-the-less, his power and conservative smarts project strongly as a bottom-six two-way winger who can kill penalties and provide a dangerous net front presence on the powerplay.

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30.) VASILI PONOMARYOV       C – Shawinigan (QMJHL)

5’10” 180 lbs                              Shoots: L

         Ponomaryov is a well-rounded center who loves to flash his skill but doesn’t abdicate his defensive responsibilities. After breaking out in the MHL and impressing for Russia in the U18 Championships, he chose to come to Canada in preparation for the draft. Since arriving in Shawinigan, Ponomaryov has acclimated well to North American hockey with 49 points in 57 games. Between his dynamic skating abilities, solid puck handling skills and high velocity shot, he is adept at creating dangerous chances for himself or drawing enough attention before making a creative pass to a teammate. He owns an accurate and powerful shot which he uses to pick corners from tougher angles. Ponomaryov is prone to stretches of passivity where he is far too reactive and would be better served using his speed and quickness to attack the opposition and force them to make plays. Despite the good, but not attention-grabbing production, Ponomaryov’s well rounded game and raw skills make him an extremely intriguing prospect whose upside may be only limited by his consistency.

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29.) JACOB PERRAULT             C – Sarnia (OHL)

5’11” 192 lbs                      Shoots: R

A dangerous sniper who can score from extremely tight angles, Perrault is a player who you can’t take your eyes off for a second, as he is equally skilled at hiding his intentions from the opposition. Although he is a strong playmaker in his own right, his elite shot is his calling card as he absolutely terrorizes goaltenders with a lightning release and pin-point accuracy. It is common place to see him step out from below the goal line with the puck before placing it over the goalie’s shoulder in one quick motion. Perrault’s biggest red flag is his inconsistent engagement shift-to-shift. Despite improvements to his speed and acceleration from last season, he is often guilty of floating when his team is defending. It has been speculated that questions about his defensive game were among the reasons he was cut from Canada’s roster for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Nonetheless, his pure scoring ability is amongst the very top of the draft. If he can improve his defensive consistency and continue to work on his skating and engagement, Perrault could become an absolute weapon for his prospective club – especially on the powerplay.

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28.) EMIL ANDRAE                     D – HV71 J20 (SuperElit)

5’8” 181 lbs                              Shoots: L

Combining high level hockey sense with excellent skating and puck skills, Andrae is an offensive-minded defenseman who scored at nearly a point per game pace in Sweden’s J20 SuperElit league before earning himself a call-up to HV71’s big club towards the end of the season. A dynamic and elusive skater, it is common to see him evade forecheckers with quick pivots and hip swivels before rifling picture perfect passes up the ice to his teammates. Once in the offensive zone, Andrae can walk the blueline with ease or sneak down into the slot and score with an accurate wristshot. Despite his size, he defends surprisingly well against larger opponents and is smart enough to know when he can get away with physicality and when he needs to rely on his stick to break up plays. There are questions about how he will acquit himself playing against stronger competition as an undersized defenseman, but seeing players like Torey Krug, Quinn Hughes, Adam Fox and Tony Deangelo currently putting up large numbers in the NHL may give teams pause before dismissing the potential of a promising young defenseman like Andrae.

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27.) WILLIAM WALLINDER      D – MoDo (Allsvenskan)

6’4” 191 lbs                             Shoots: L

         William Wallinder possesses all the raw tools you would want in a modern-day defenseman: size, speed, agility, hands and the ability to transport the puck up the ice with fluid skating. After consistently logging heavy minutes and flourishing in Sweden’s J20 level, he has bounced up and down between the SuperElit and Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second highest pro-league) to mixed results. At his best, he uses his size to win battles and come up with pucks so he can quickly transition the other way, often leading the rush by himself  and eluding pressure with his excellent footwork and hands. He makes strong outlet passes and despite not being the biggest offensive threat owns a hard shot for a defenseman. Where Wallinder struggles is his decision making as he is prone to “tunnel vision” and can try to do too much himself. If he can add more structure to his game and mitigate forced-plays, Wallinder arguably possess the highest upside of any defensemen in the draft.

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26.) JOHN JASON PETERKA       C/RW – EHC München (DEL)

5’11” 192 lbs                                   Shoots: L

A powerful skater with explosive quickness, Peterka’s strength on his edges has allowed him to hold his own against older and stronger competition in Germany’s DEL. His line with fellow draft-eligible countrymen Tim Stützle and Lukas Reichel was dominant at the World Junior Championship and opened eyes to his potential as fleet-of-foot goal scorer. He is confident with the puck on his stick and uses his soft hands to dish the puck to teammates when stationary and in full flight. Peterka’s release is fairly quick – especially on his snapshot which he uses to surprise goaltenders while in motion. A strong-base allows him to shake off and muscle through larger opponents and create separation with his fluid footwork.  Despite his offensive skills and confidence, his game is still very raw and lacks structure overall. If he can round out his game and become more consistent shift-to-shift, Peterka’s skating ability and skills grant him top-six upside in the NHL.

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25.) HENDRIX LAPIERRE         C – Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

6’0” 179 lbs                            Shoots: L

         Perhaps the greatest risk/reward prospect in the draft, Lapierre is an exceptional playmaker with high-end vision and excellent hands who has been sidelined most of the season after suffering three head-injuries within the span of 8 months. Despite only playing 48 games his rookie season, he won QMJHL offensive rookie of the year before following it up with an eye opening 11-point performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He has excellent edgework and awareness that he uses to dance his way into the slot along with sublime stickhandling. His high-end vision makes him constantly aware of where his teammates are on the ice and he can find them through the smallest seams and over sticks. This awareness spans through all three zones as he utilizes his anticipation and smart stick positioning to make up for a lack of size when defending. A lack of overall pace and the lingering effects of past injuries have created debate as to the risk involved in drafting him. If a team is willing to take a chance on him, Lapierre could possibly be the steal of the draft as he possesses top six center upside and could potentially run an NHL team’s powerplay from the half-wall with his outstanding creativity and passing skills.

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24.) MAVRIK BOURQUE                C – Shawinigan (QMJHL)

5’10” 178 lbs                             Shoots: R

Possessing exceptional vision and creativity, Bourque can make difficult plays seem fairly pedestrian thanks to his otherworldly poise. With the puck on his stick, he uses silky hands and misdirection to slow down play and work his way into open ice where he can find teammates through difficult seams or put the puck on net with a heavy and accurate release. He is equally comfortable making plays on both his forehand and backhand and can connect over sticks and through traffic. On the power play he can run proceedings from the wall simply by using his body language and keeping the puck loaded on his stick to freeze penalty-killers. As talented as he is, Bourque’s game lacks pace and his overall speed requires improvement. If he can refine his skating explosivity and learn to push into the middle of the ice with more consistency, he has top-six upside at the NHL level and could rack up lofty point totals if paired with line mates who can capitalize on the chances he creates for them.

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23.) LUKAS REICHEL                 LW – Berlin (DEL)

6’0” 170 lbs                         Shoots: L

An intelligent winger who is adept at finding soft spots in coverage, Lukas Reichel utilizes dynamic speed and excellent hands to consistently work his way into scoring areas. Although he was overshadowed by fellow draft eligible countrymen Tim Stützle and John-Jason Peterka at the World Junior Championships, his respectable production as a teenager playing in the DEL has opened eyes to his potential. He is most dangerous around the net and uses slick hands and agility to shake coverage and stash pucks up high or thread quick passes to teammates for tap-in’s. Despite lacking in the velocity department, Reichel has a quick release and is particularly skilled at changing the angle of his shot to beat goaltenders. Although not overly physical, he doesn’t shy away from puck battles or contact despite giving up size to older and stronger competition. Despite his offensive IQ, Reichel’s defensive game is currently inconsistent and will require refinement if he wishes to stick on an NHL Roster. If he can continue to get stronger and work on his play without the puck, Reichel has middle-six upside in the NHL.

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22.) JAN MYSAK              C – Hamilton (OHL)

5’10” 175 lbs                Shoots: L

A dynamic winger who plays at a tempo that makes opponents uncomfortable, Mysak blends skill and pace to great effect in all three zones. Spending the better part of the last two seasons playing against men in the Czech Extraliga, he made the transition earlier this year to North America for his draft eligible season. He is one of the best players in the draft at turning defense into offense by using quick feet and a well-timed stick to create turnovers and quickly counter-attack the other way, which makes him especially deadly on the penalty kill. Mysak can flash soft hands at high speeds in order to beat defenders and freeze goaltenders. He is extremely opportunistic and has the ability to score off of broken plays with a quick release that he can elevate tight to the net. Although he has strong tools and awareness, he may lack the creativity and vision to be a consistent offensive threat at higher levels. However, if a team is looking for a high-commitment defensive forward who can slot almost throughout a lineup and has room to expand their game, they may look no further than Mysak.

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21.) BRENDAN BRISSON               C – Chicago (USHL)

5’11” 180 lbs                         Shoots: L

Centering one of the most dominant lines in the USHL this season, Brisson possesses a dangerous combination of nimble skating, deceptiveness and intelligence that forces the opposition to think twice about fully committing their full attention towards him. His vision is strong and he possesses a strong understanding of how to use his agility to evade pressure and speed up or slow down play in order to open up seams to his teammates. No matter the amount of pressure, his playmaking remains poised and he can continue cycles with deft one-touch and drop passes. In addition to his heady-playmaking skills, Brisson owns an absolute laser of a one timer which he uses to punish goaltenders from the right circle. Despite his offensive talents, his overall pace of play can be languid and will need to adopt another gear if he wishes to succeed at higher levels. If he can improve the explosiveness of his skating along with his overall pace of play, I believe he has top-six upside at the NHL level thanks to his excellent awareness.

CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO (20 – 11)

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