September 25, 2020

Which 2020 Draft prospects could see NHL action in 2020-21?

The 2020 NHL Draft is fast approaching and not far after that is the planned 2020-21 NHL season.

A common question surrounding the draft annually, which prospects could we see in the NHL in the upcoming season? We asked some of our scouts at FCHockey what they thought about the regions they cover.

Leading the pack, to no one’s surprise, is projected No. 1 pick, Alexis Lafreniere. The MVP of both the QMJHL and CHL, the left winger looks the readiest of any player in this class to make the jump.

“To no one’s surprise, Lafreniere is the most NHL ready prospect out of the Q, or in the entire world,” said Andy Lehoux, an Eastern Canada regional scout. “Thanks to his incredible decision-making, anticipation, offensive awareness, creativity, elusiveness and poise, the 18-year-old left winger possesses the hockey IQ to not only keep up with the best, but be impactful right away.

“Lafreniere also owns one of the most complete and dynamic offensive arsenal in recent years, as he displayed dual threat abilities and impressive puck skills. The consensus top prospect for 2020 is a surprisingly physical player who loves to get involved along the boards and get on the puck pursuit. Aside from lacking explosive first steps, he has all it takes to make the jump to the NHL level.”

Lafreniere is heading into the draft with one of the most impressive pre-draft resumes ever.

The two-time CHL Player of the Year has also added a 2020 World Juniors gold medal and MVP, two QMJHL MVPs, CHL and QMJHL Rookie of the Year, and so much more. It shouldn’t be long before he’s adding to his hardware.

But he’s not the only candidate to make the jump.

Eastern Canada regional scout Joseph Aleong believes that, while Marco Rossi may not be the first player from the OHL off the board, he should be the first to taste NHL action.

Quinton Byfield will be the first off the board, but Marco Rossi could very well end up making a larger impact at the NHL level next season. Not only did Rossi lead the OHL in scoring, he also played in all situations and showed the defensive chops to stick at center long-term.

“As a late birthday, Rossi shows advanced strength and could play an energy/secondary scoring role in 2021 for a pivot-needy team like Ottawa or Anaheim.”

Playing for the Ottawa 67’s, the Austrian center collected a CHL-leading 120 points (39 goals, 81 assists). On top of the CHL Top Scorer Award, he was awarded the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player.

Further west into the WHL, there may not be a player from this class ready to step into the big leagues.

However, there could be a pair of defenders that are very close.

“Realistically, no one is likely going to step in from the WHL,” started Western Canada regional scout Joel Henderson. “When NHL training camps open up, the size of both Kaiden Guhle and Braden Schneider might make fans optimistic for a quick impact but ultimately another year or so in junior hockey will be the better developmental path for both.”

Guhle, a defender from the Prince Albert Raiders, stands at 6-foot-3, 187 pounds. He put up 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists) in 64 games. The right-shot Schneider is 6-foot-2, 209 pounds. He had similar totals this season as an alternate captain for the Brandon Wheat Kings, putting up 42 points (seven goals, 35 assists) in 60 games.

United States regional scout Ray Napientek has high hopes for a center that many soured on through the season.

Dylan Holloway might be the cheating answer if the NCAA does not play this season,” Napientek said. “However, I don’t think our region has an easy answer to this question. All NCAA rules aside, Dylan has the skating and hockey sense to possibly make his mark as early as next season.

“Holloway may be the most physically advanced amongst the region players, too.”

Coming from the AJHL into the tough NCAA for the University of Wisconsin, Holloway had 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in his first 35 games. The majority of the team struggled this season, and Holloway could be a prime candidate for a bounce back season in 2020-21 – wherever he plays.

Overseas, you have to first stop in Germany with arguably one of the players that is most prepared for the NHL behind Lafreniere.

Tim Stutzle has been playing against men the past season and played a factor in this league,” said regional scout Dennis Schellenberg. “He has also been competing in the Champions Hockey League and already collected valuable experience at international level, also played World Juniors for Germany.

“On his play, he still needs to mature a bit, tries to do too much in certain plays, dangles too much and can be a bit frustrating to watch, especially at junior level where he tries to have an impact too much, which ends up in losing pucks. However, that is nothing unique to see among top prospects that spend a majority of their time playing against men.

“He plays a humbler game and less risky when he played at DEL-level, focused more on the simple things instead of dangling. Still, he was an exciting player to watch. He will need a few games to adjust to the NHL but has the skills to make an impact right away. I see him rather on the wing than at center, though.”

Sweden has a pair of top prospects, but according to Swedish regional scout Viktor Bergman, one of them has the edge.

Lucas Raymond,” started Bergman.

“He will have another year in the SHL, but I think he looked stronger during the pre-season, so Raymond seems to have developed well since the 2019-20 season was cancelled back in March.

“His skating, vision, wrist shot, puck-handling, passes etc. makes his game so well-rounded and he’s got so many tools in his box. Raymond has most of the qualities that a team want to have in a future offensive leading player. He is the one player from Sweden in my opinion that has the biggest potential to step right into the NHL.”

The Swedish winger played the majority of 2019-20 in the top league in Sweden, the SHL. In 33 games, he had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in a limited role. He also looked good at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, adding two goals, two assists, and four points and a bronze medal to his resume. He also contributed three points in six games in the Champions Hockey League, helping the team to a championship title.

In nearby Finland, there’s a center who could very well be one of the leading contenders to make the jump to the next level.

Anton Lundell is pretty much the only player from Finland who could theoretically jump straight to the NHL for the 2020-21 season,” said Finnish regional scout Mikka Arponen. “He has already played two seasons against men in Finland’s top pro league and will be centering HIFK’s top line this fall wearing an A on his jersey, as a 19-year-old.

“His defensive abilities are superb and he’s so smart player that NHL pace wouldn’t probably be a problem for him.”

One of the older players in the draft, Lundell put up 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 44 games this season. He would have had his second stint on Team Finland at the World Juniors but was held out due to injury. His resume against men speaks for itself though.

Last but not least over in Russia, it’s not likely that any prospects will make the jump, as Russian prospects tend to stick in the MHL and KHL for some time. However, if forced to decide and existing contracts aside, regional scout Dmitri Blokhin noted one player that looks to be the closest to being NHL-ready.

Iaroslav Askarov was high on most 2020 draft lists and this was even before he entered the game for SKA in the KHL this season where he plays the first games incomparably. He has already earned his first shutout and has a .974 save percentage in his first three games. Even now, at such a young age, Askarov can be called a diamond among Russian goalkeepers. Some call him the future Carey Price.

“If it was possible, I think he could get a spot on the NHL team towards the end of the 2020-21 season.”

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