The Oilers’ season has been successful and that meant most of my time devoted to the day-to-day. This week, I took some time and finally drilled down on the 2020 draft. A reminder: My list doesn’t resemble other lists because it relies on math over scouting. Ideally, an NHL team might go through its final list and tweak based on math. I believe there are teams who do in fact pay attention. Los Angeles Kings for sure. Here’s the top 31.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of The Athletic, less than two coffees a month offer here.
- New Pierre Lebrun: Q&A with GM Ken Holland on Oilers’ deadline plans and why the regular season is important, until it isn’t
- New Lowetide: Ken Holland’s trade deadline options for the Oilers
- New Jonathan Willis: ‘That’s the nicest goal I’ve ever seen’: Connor McDavid’s teammates amazed by his latest effort
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers notebook: James Neal’s resurgence, Matt Benning’s injury and the Tyler Benson recall temptation
- Lowetide: Oilers farmhands are pushing hard for NHL jobs
- Jonathan Willis: Zack Kassian’s breakout performance presents Oilers GM Ken Holland with a familiar dilemma
- Lowetide: Ken Holland, the Oilers amateur procurement department and the 2020 draft
- Jonathan Willis: It would be a mistake to write off the Oilers after their December slump
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: From Leon Draisaitl to the penalty kill, the things the Oilers need to improve to get back to the playoffs
- Lowetide: A shift-by-shift analysis of Kailer Yamamoto’s 2019-20 debut in the Oilers’ New Year’s Eve game.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: James Neal puts on New Year’s Eve show to remember in Oilers’ thriller
- Lowetide: Midseason review of ‘reasonable expectations’ shows Oilers are on track with preseason targets
- Jonathan Willis and Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How are our Oilers predictions holding up at the midseason mark? We decided to find out
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers midseason report card shows an unbalanced team with a lot of replaceable parts
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects list, winter 2019
THE 31 BEST PLAYERS FOR THE 2020 DRAFT
1 L Alexis Lafreniere, QMJHL. He’s a wizard passer with the puck and can score goals with equal aplomb. Speed, shot, passing, vision, he has it all. Only downside? He’s an October 2001, so has less development time than some others. Whoever wins the lottery, this will be their choice.
2 LC Quinton Byfield, OHL. He’s an August 2002 and a big man (6.04, 215) already. He skates well, can pass, take a pass and has a dynamic ability to him. He did not set the world on fire at the WJ’s, that could impact his final draft number. It’ll be important for him to finish strong.
3 LC Cole Perfetti, OHL. Intelligent center with a terrific release, Perfetti is a January 2002. His wrist shot is already a great weapon in the OHL and he’s not fully grown (5.10, 177). Once he adds strength, he should be a formidable player. Has some range.
4 RW Alexander Holtz, SHL. First-shot scorer with a range of skills, he’s an electric player. He went 3-2-5 in seven games at the WJ’s, and in the SHL he has five goals and eight points in 21 SHL games. That’s deceiving, because all eight points are at evens. He currently boasts a 1.98 points per 60 at evens this year. He’s quality. January 2002.
5 LC Tim Stuetzle, DEL. This is the first player I encountered who was mostly unfamiliar to me. Dynamic player, highlight reel offense and dangerous on every rush. His two-way game is good for his age, but everyone is focused on his offense. January 2002.
6 LC Marco Rossi, OHL. Posting jaw-dropping numbers, he’s a September 2001 so will get nicked a little on my list because of it. Good speed, exciting, range of skills. He starts here, that doesn’t mean he’ll stay outside the top five.
7 LW Lucas Raymond, SHL. Like Holtz, the offense in the SHL (3-2-5 in 16 games) is deceiving. Raymond’s five on five points per game at evens is 1.84/60 and that’s in very little time. Smart player who has ridiculous skill, his WJ’s might hurt him in the draft. March 2002.
8 RHD Jamie Drysdale, OHL. I’d like to say the Oilers won’t draft another defenceman, but if Drysdale is available Edmonton will take him. He won’t be anywhere near Edmonton’s number if the season rolls out as it is now. Great speed, passing and instincts, he’s instant offense from the blue. Part of Canada’s WJ Gold winner. April 2002
9 LC Anton Lundell, SHL. He’s in his second year of SHL play (October 2001) and is very capable at that level. That suggests he’s a good bet to have a career, but his average speed and offense give him a limited ceiling ala Lias Andersson. I think his offense and mature game make him worth the bet.
10 RC Mavrik Bourque, QMJHL. Creative center with great hands, he’s a puck wizard who can ‘wow’ the crowd. He’s also damned productive. Great passer, great shot. Oilers have to be looking at him in my opinion. January 2002.
11 RC-RW Dawson Mercer, QMJHL. Highly skilled forward who is a plus passer. He emerged a year ago and is taking another step this season (very good sign). I have him as an “Oilers option” due to skills and position. October 2001.
12 G Yaroslav Askarov, VHL. He plays an unusual style and that might scare some teams off, but the buzz on this fellow is strong. June 2002, has a .922SP and is likely to go in the top half of the first round. Ken Holland has drafted a goalie in the first round (Thomas McCollum) but it was at the end of the round (No. 30 in 2008). Struggled at WJ’s, but he’s rated highly.
13 LW Dylan Holloway, Big 10. Big power forward has a lot of buzz around him, could land inside the top-10 overall. He has a great shot and makes good passes, strong skater, nice range of skills. I’ve faded him a little in favor of more promising offensive options.
14 RW Noel Gunler, SHL Young winger has a great release and an impressive resume but is just 30, 1-7-8 in the SHL. However, those are even strength points and his five on five per 60 (1.71) suggests he is doing well with very little ice time. October 2001
15 LC Connor Zary, WHL. He’s in the mix for a mid-first pick, scouts will love his range of skills and passing ability. Two-way center who is likely to top out as a top-six forward is a good bet by this point in the first round. September 2001.
16 RC Jacob Perreault, OHL. Some disagreement about a few things among scouts but math loves him. Skates well, great shot, great numbers. Observers want more. I’m impressed with what he’s delivered. April 2002
17 RHD Justin Barron, QMJHL. Mobile defenseman who impresses scouts with his ability to transport the puck. He can defend. Lacks top-end offensive ability so is shy of the top-10 overall, but a team who likes him might jump up. November 2001.
18 LC Hendrix Lapierre, QMJHL. Skill center who projects as a playmaker. The buzz on him entering the season was far more pronounced than it is now, so the second half of his season will be vital. Feb 2002.
19 RC Jean-Luc Foudy, OHL. Speedy center with plus skill, he’s a May 2002 and has 61 assists in 99 junior games. His brother is a famous prospect, not certain how he compares but in this year’s draft looks like mid to late first round.
20 LD Jérémie Poirier, QMJHL. Smart two-way defender who may rise on my list. Solid from the Hlinka forward, he’s a gathering storm and could slide up several spots. June 2002
21 RD Braden Schneider, WHL. Fine skater who has a range of skills, owns a fairly complete game. Schneider’s offense is comparable to most of the defenseman I have in the first round. Sept 2001
22 RW Jack Quinn OHL He’s a solid offensive prospect and has improved this season in foot speed and overall game. We’ll have to observe him in the second half but there’s some promise. Sept 2001
23 LW Jake Neighbours WHL I was surprised math liked him so much compared to his draft rivals. I have spoken to scouts who have him as an early second round pick, but he’s here on math. He’s skilled, gritty and plays a strong two-way game. March 2002
24 LW Rodion Amirov, KHL. His offensive potential is high, although the KHL numbers (21, 0-2-2) are shy. Scouts love the tools and he’s a fast train in a draft season with slow boats. October 2001
25 LC Ty Smilanic, USHL. Lean two-way center with enough skill to project into the top six based on math. Scouting report talks about plus skating and finding another gear. Promising resume. January 2002
26 LC Antonio Stranges, OHL Terrific speed and skill, and delivers solid offense but the math doesn’t match the verbal. We wait. Feb 2002 21.34
27 LC Thomas Bordeleau, USHL. Owns a great shot and is highly skilled with the puck. First shot scorer, year over year improvement looks substantial. He could climb. Jan 2002
28 LD Jake Sanderson, USHL. This is Geoff Sanderson’s son and he can skate like the wind. Smart player, does not project as an offensive defenseman but he can defend and that has value. July 2002
29 LD Kaiden Guhle, WHL. Big defenseman has good foot speed and appears to have something resembling an ideal skill set. I’m nicking him because of math, he’ll go earlier. Jan 2002
30 LC Vasili Ponomaryov, QMJHL. Great hands and good speed, he’s a little under the radar but rates well with other skill forwards I have ranked in the bottom half of the first round. March 2002
31 RC Justin Sourdif, WHL. Two-way winger gained notice at the Hlinka and has scored well on an average offensive team (Vancouver Giants). First man on this list who doesn’t necessarily project as peaking out on a skill line. March 2002
No. 20 overall (first round) RHC Jacob Perreault, Sarnia Sting (OHL). I chose him because Perreault’s skill set has many dimensions, including one of the best shots in the draft. He’s 36gp, 24-23-47 this season and as an April 2002 he has plenty of room to grow while in junior. Good skater, shoots from everywhere and is one of those players who catches goalies with a quick release, shot from a bad angle. Has an effective backhand shot. This selection assumes that Mavrik Bourque and Dawson Mercer are off the board.
No. 51 overall (second round) RD Helge Grans, Malmo Redhawks (SHL). He has a lot of things Ken Holland has drafted in the past: Size and speed, plus a range of skills. The scouting reports I’ve read focus a lot of time on his mobility. He’s 10, 1-1-2 in the SHL and is averaging 7:59 a night.
No. 113 overall (fourth round) RW Connor McClennon, Winnipeg Ice (WHL). Not much buzz about him but this is a scoring winger who can shoot the puck and make a quality pass. He’s 39, 20-27-47 so far this year, undersized but not a shy player. Has some injuries in his history.
No. 144 overall (fifth round) RD Billy Constantino, Soo Greyhounds (OHL). Fast as lightning, high risk and reward defender. I had him as a second round player last year, he turns 19 in March. I like him.
No. 175 overall (sixth round) RW Ryder Rolston, Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL). This is Brian’s son, I picked him because he’s a fast winger and I do think the Oilers will be focused on this area later in the draft. He is posting good numbers in the USHL (25, 13-13-26) on his way to Notre Dame in the fall.