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2020 NHL draft rankings: the first edition

Sure, it's still summertime, but the next draft class is so enticing that we had to make an initial strike. Get ready for a season-long race at the top between several worthy candidates and a goaltender who might do something that hasn't been accomplished in 15 years.

Yes, it’s still summer, but it feels like a good time to dip into some initial draft rankings for 2020. After all, we’ve already got the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in the books, with Russia upsetting Canada in the final, plus the World Junior Summer Showcase – which also featured some of the most high-end players available this year.

Since the actual season hasn’t even begun yet, take this first crack at the 2020 draft class as a guidepost. A lot will change over the course of the season and given how many great high-end players are available this year, don’t be surprised if there is a lot of change in the top-five along the way.

Right now, 2020 is a bit of a unique year in that top-end centers are in short supply, but there is a ton of talent on the wings. We may also see a goaltender go in the top 10, something which hasn’t happened since Carey Price went fifth overall back in 2005. And after the best U.S. NTDP class ever, it looks like ‘The Program’ may take a step back. But it’s early – maybe all this changes by the time everyone gets to Montreal for the actual picks in June. Still, it’s fun to think about what may be, so let’s get to it.

  1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL): Nearly won the ‘Q’ scoring title as a 17-year-old, so the bar is pretty high. But Lafreniere was one of Canada’s best players at the WJSS and will be crucial to gold-medal hopes in December. He’s an offensive machine.
  2. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL): He’s got the size and the skill to be an Eric Lindros-type of dominating pivot and his first season with the Wolves was a smashing success. Byfield was great at the Hlinka for Canada and he’ll put up numbers.
  3. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgarden (Swe.): The first of Sweden’s Terror Twins, I’m putting Holtz ahead because his scoring prowess is uncanny and I thought he was more effective at the WJSS, even if it didn’t result in numbers.
  4. Lucas Raymond, RW, Frolunda (Swe.): The more well-rounded of the Terror Twins, Raymond is playing for a great program back home in Sweden and could very well be preferred over Holtz by some NHL teams.
  5. Cole Perfetti, LW, Saginaw (OHL): Canada’s breakout star at the Hlinka, Perfetti is a dazzling offensive talent with high-end skill and creativity. No flash in the pan, he tallied an impressive 37 goals as a rookie with Saginaw.
  6. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL): Canada’s captain at the Hlinka, Drysdale is my top defenseman right now and it comes down to his sublime skating ability. He’ll play a ton in Erie, where the Otters continue to rebuild from the McDavid/Strome/DeBrincat days.
  7. Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Fin.): Already had a gold medal from the world juniors, where he played a meaty role down the middle as an underager. Lundell has the size, hockey sense and battle level to be a very effective NHLer.
  8. Justin Barron, D, Halifax (QMJHL): Pretty close to Drysdale in the ‘D’ rankings, Barron is also an excellent skater and I thought he looked pretty confident as one of the youngest Canadian players at the WJSS. Has already played for a Memorial Cup, too.
  9. Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA-Maryagi (Rus.): I am dubbing him ‘The Dreamkiller.’ Askarov beat that legendary NTDP squad at the world under-18s, then the stacked Canadians at the Hlinka. The best goalie prospect in years, he’s got all the tools and size, but also that scrambling never-say-die component that Tim Thomas and Dominik Hasek had.
  10. Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL): Another highlight for Canada at the Hlinka, Lapierre is a masterful playmaker who put up nearly a point-per-game as a rookie with the Sags last year. He’s also got the pedigree, going first overall in the QMJHL draft.
  11. Dylan Holloway, C, Okotoks (AJHL)
  12. Will Cuylle, LW, Windsor (OHL)
  13. Jean-Luc Foudy, C, Windsor (OHL)
  14. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa (OHL)
  15. Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL)
  16. Vasily Ponomarev, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
  17. Ryan O’Rourke, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
  18. Antonio Stranges, LW, London (OHL)
  19. Zion Nybeck, RW, HV 71 (Swe.)
  20. Connor McClennon, RW, Winnipeg (WHL)
  21. Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (Swe.)
  22. Ty Smilanic, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
  23. Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
  24. Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL)
  25. Tim Stutzle, C, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
  26. Michael Benning, D, Sherwood Park (AJHL)
  27. Theo Rochette, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
  28. Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL)
  29. Stephen Halliday, RW, Dubuque (USHL)
  30. Tyler Kleven, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
  31. Jaromir Pytlik, RW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)



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