The 31 best players in the 2020 draft

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!

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

OILERS MOCK!

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.


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234 Responses to "The 31 best players in the 2020 draft"

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  1. OriginalPouzar says:

    After making 39 of 40 saves last game (and playing MUCH better over the last few weeks), Skinner again looks really good. Hasn’t been all that busy but has made two or three solid saves.

    A few shots at the end by Stockton and Skinner makes 14 saves in the first – a bigger workload that I thought

  2. Rich M says:

    leadfarmer,

    Streaky shooter. Good skater. Oilers could do worse.

  3. Rich M says:

    Me too!

  4. Farnsworth Paradox says:

    In a series with many great lines/moments, this one always stood out as a favorite of mine for some reason!

  5. OriginalPouzar says:

    A fantastic pass from Benson to send Malone in all alone and he puts the Condors up 2-0 on another PP goal.

    Just a great pass from Benson.

    Nice battle by Joe G. on the half boards in the neutral zone to get the puck down to Benson.

    Ryan Holt keeps saying Currie but that was 16, Benson.

  6. OriginalPouzar says:

    I missed this little nugget earlier today:

    “Another potential restricted free agent in New York, Ryan Strome, could likely be had at the right price.”

    https://theathletic.com/1517143/2020/01/08/nhl-trade-big-board-28-players-who-could-move-before-the-deadline/

    Acquisition price has likely increased vastly since last time he was traded – sigh

  7. OriginalPouzar says:

    Benson takes advantage of a Heat turnover and sets up Currie for a clear one-timer from the slot but Gillies makes the save.

    Benson is rolling.

  8. OriginalPouzar says:

    PK1:

    Granlund/Malone

    Lowe/Bouchard

  9. OriginalPouzar says:

    PK is a relatively new thing for Bouchard at the pro level.

  10. YKOil says:

    ArmchairGM: Joe Thornton for 3C?

    That would be a thing. That said, what would one want out of San Jose and what would Wilson actually give up? I think he’s too invested for a rebuild.

    Meier, Hertl, Lebanc… and… yeah, that’s it pretty much. I like all three.

    Meier and Hertl represent significant investments so Lebanc is the easiest to pick up (also fits the most obvious need). His ultra-team friendly $1m contract is rumored to come with unofficial promises from the Sharks for a proper contract next year so that would need to be calculated in – he’s also arb eligile so if San Jose is home-home then a premium may need to be paid to lock him in past his arb advantage years.

  11. Wilde says:

    Bakersfield Condors vs. Stockton Heat; January 8, 2020; after first Period:

    9CF-15CA
    6FF-13FA
    0GF-0GA

    Top F: Cave (2.56 Game Score)
    1 shot attempts, 1 shot assist
    5CF-2CA
    0GF-0GA

    Top D: Bouchard (deployment tiebreaker w/ Kulevich; -0.05 Game Score)
    0 shot attempts, 0 shot assist
    5CF-9CA
    0GF-0GA

  12. Jethro Tull says:

    I think LT did the thread thing to divert attention from the fact that he’s done a draft article:

    a) In January
    b) While the Oilers are playing meaningful games

  13. YKOil says:

    Jethro Tull,

    Makes sense.

  14. OriginalPouzar says:

    ArmchairGM: Joe Thornton for 3C?

    Of course, this was before the Logan C injury:

    18. Melker Karlsson, San Jose Sharks – It would be more exciting to have Joe Thornton in this slot. Maybe sell a few more subscriptions. But Thornton is only leaving San Jose on his request, and when asked if he’d even consider wanting a trade out of San Jose, he shot it down. “It hasn’t even entered my mind,” Thornton said. “I think this team is going to make the playoffs.” Karlsson, who would be a PK boost for a team looking to add forward depth, is a much more likely trade candidate.

    https://theathletic.com/1517143/2020/01/08/nhl-trade-big-board-28-players-who-could-move-before-the-deadline/

  15. OriginalPouzar says:

    Heat tie it up 25 seconds in to the second – deflected shot gets poked home, apparently (says Holt).

    It was on a delayed penalty and the camera man decided it was important to show the goalie skating towards the bench.

  16. OriginalPouzar says:

    Missed the Heat go-ahead goal but the Heat have essentially dominated the third

  17. Wilde says:

    Bakersfield Condors vs. Stockton Heat; January 8, 2020; after two Periods:

    19CF-33CA
    15FF-22FA
    0GF-0GA

    Top F: Esposito (0.16 GS)
    3 shot att, 0 shot asst
    7CF-7CA
    0GF-0GA

    Top D: Bouchard (-0.05 GS)
    1 shot att, 0 shot asst
    9CF-14CA
    0GF-0GA

  18. duct tape and foil says:

    Agree that Russell would be the better option if you just want nothing to happen while L3 is on the ice – but I kind of like the speedy Swede with Archie and Shea. He was a forechecking demon in Toronto and might add another dimension to that line. Can he handle the tougher competition???? Looks like they want some offense from the Haas/Chaser line so adding Gags makes sense from that perspective.

    We are agonizingly close to being a decent team. Add a young LW with speed and size like Woods and a real 3C like Bonino and the team looks damn good.

    OriginalPouzar: I don’t disagree at all and it looks like you might be right on the healthy scratch tomorrow.

    I do have concern about his deletion from the lineup and Gagner in (as oppossed to P. Russell) – don’t get me wrong, I actually like Gagner more than most and he often has a couple plus games when inserted back in to the lineup before falling off, however, I am concerned about the PK and Khaira has been a big part of that.Drai may be asked to pick up the slack. Yamamoto may be asked to PK – neither are ideal, in my opinion.

  19. Reja says:

    OriginalPouzar: In a similar vein, we saw ALOT of posts over the last 3 weeks about Zegras and Broberg and their performances – not only is this tournament often over-valued in this regard but we are talking about a forward vs. an 18 year old playing for the team with the deepest d-corp.

    Yeah stick to that story. I’m not a brain surgeon all I know is we should have drafted a forward to help out Leon and Connor the clock is ticking we have 5-6 years before they bail. If we win it’s a whole new ball of wax.Holland wake up and make a couple of smart trades. Give me the gun and I’ll pull the trigger on a 3C and a Josh Anderson.

  20. Wilde says:

    Bakersfield Condors vs. Stockton Heat; January 8, 2020; game totals:

    26CF-48CA
    16FF-33FA
    0GF-1GA

    Top F: Cave (0.11 Game Score)
    2 shot attempts, 1 shot assist
    10CF-11CA
    0GF-0GA

    Top D: Day (-0.10 Game Score)
    0 shot attempts, 1 shot assist
    7CF-10CA
    0GF-0GA

    Really dark energy haunted this game. 0/10.

  21. Reja says:

    As the great Mel Gibson once said Freedom ….. best Commie line ever Khalamov Petrov and Mikhailov. Holland wake the eff up bring up Benson who deserves a real pay cheque or make a trade.

  22. Professor Q says:

    Reja: Yeah stick to that story. I’m not a brain surgeon all I know is we should have drafted a forward to help outLeon and Connor the clock is ticking we have 5-6 years before they bail. If we win it’s a whole new ball of wax.Hollandwake up and make a couple of smart trades. Give me the gun and I’ll pull the trigger on a 3C and a Josh Anderson.

    Lavoie.

    However, we have other forwards in the system who can contribute. Whether it be this season (Yamamoto, Benson) or in the next few seasons (McLeod, Benson, Maksimov, Lavoie, those Czech kids, maybe even Safin and Denezhkin).

    McDrai aren’t going anywhere. People need to relax.

  23. v4ance says:

    OriginalPouzar: His contract would eat more RFA years than Andresson and, frankly, that seems high to me.

    Don’t get me wrong, he is reasonably likely to be value for that contract but he very well could be “just value” as opposed to it becoming a value contract.

    It seems a bit high and about $1.75M more than I was hoping.

    WIth Rasmus’ new deal, that hope I had is essentially gone.

    How in the world would will we be able to fit $5M plus in for Bear and, either keep Zack or replace his production in the top 6?Even with a clean disposition of Russell, which may not be do-able?I’m assuming Nurse is signed for apx $6.5M because, realistically, that’s what’s going to happen.

    We may need to move on from Adam Larsson this off-season and that’s not idea given it would essentially need to be for future.

    Come on Matt Benning, be able to be the same player you’ve been.

    I don’t think Bear will command $5 mil per year even on a long term contract. If we look at his performance history, the Oilers can say he’s only been NHL quality since the start of this season. There’s no multi-season “body of work” that justifies a large raise added to his status as a former 5th round pick.

    If we bridge deal him after this season, we could offer him ~$2.5-3.5 million on a 3 year deal. But that would expose us to the same situation that we’re seeing with Darnell Nurse at the end of this season requiring a drastic raise.

    I would offer Bear the “modified Klefbom deal” $3, $3.5, $4, $4.5, $4.5, $5, $5.5, $6 million which works out to $36 million over 8 years at an AAV of $4.5M. I think it’d be very tempting for Bear to lock in 8 years of stability while only giving up 3 years of UFA. I was hoping Holland would get a cheaper deal (Under $4M AAV) like this done earlier but every game Bear plays increases his negotiating leverage and contract value.

    As an aside, once Bear signs the 8 year deal, I ask the coach to rotate him onto PP1 more often now that his production won’t affect his contract negotiations …. I think his rocket point shot could open up more scoring opportunites on that first unit.

  24. ArmchairGM says:

    OriginalPouzar: Of course, this was before the Logan C injury:

    18. Melker Karlsson, San Jose Sharks – It would be more exciting to have Joe Thornton in this slot. Maybe sell a few more subscriptions. But Thornton is only leaving San Jose on his request, and when asked if he’d even consider wanting a trade out of San Jose, he shot it down. “It hasn’t even entered my mind,” Thornton said. “I think this team is going to make the playoffs.” Karlsson, who would be a PK boost for a team looking to add forward depth, is a much more likely trade candidate.

    https://theathletic.com/1517143/2020/01/08/nhl-trade-big-board-28-players-who-could-move-before-the-deadline/

    We’ll see what he thinks in a month.

  25. Bulging Twine says:

    Holland says he’s waiting to see where the team is near the trade deadline before he makes any moves.
    If a team is in the playoffs, anything can happen he recently stated. That’s his mindset. So I’m guessing that if they are in a playoff spot at the deadline he will add.

    17 games until the trade deadline

    Will they hold steady, drop out or climb the ladder.

  26. Bulging Twine says:

    March schedule is murderous.

    16 games in 30 days

  27. Coffeys_Messy_eh says:

    Islay the blame on you, too

  28. Lowetide says:

    New for The Athletic: Ken Holland’s targets for his first trade deadline with the Oilers

    https://theathletic.com/1517837/2020/01/09/lowetide-ken-hollands-first-trade-deadline-with-the-edmonton-oilers-the-targets/

  29. godot10 says:

    Bulging Twine:
    March schedule is murderous.

    16 games in 30 days

    Mostly at home.

  30. OriginalPouzar says:

    Reja: Yeah stick to that story. I’m not a brain surgeon all I know is we should have drafted a forward to help outLeon and Connor the clock is ticking we have 5-6 years before they bail. If we win it’s a whole new ball of wax.Hollandwake up and make a couple of smart trades. Give me the gun and I’ll pull the trigger on a 3C and a Josh Anderson.

    I’m going to nitpick here and posit that you meant to say: “What I think” as opposed to “all I know” due to that being opinion based. In your opinion they should have drafted a forward – it is not factual to say that was right and drafting a “further away d-man” was wrong. In fact, many think that its always best player available in the first round so if Holland determined that was Broberg then drafting a forward based on need would be “wrong”.

  31. OriginalPouzar says:

    ProfessorQ: Lavoie.

    However, we have other forwards in the system who can contribute. Whether it be this season (Yamamoto, Benson) or in the next few seasons (McLeod, Benson, Maksimov, Lavoie, those Czech kids, maybe even Safin and Denezhkin).

    McDrai aren’t going anywhere. People need to relax.

    I agree with the last sentence completely.

    I always here about “wasting McDavid years”, etc. – ya, I get it, however, at the same time, he is in the 2nd year of an 8 year contract and is 22 years old. He is nearing his offensive prime but his overall prime is still 3-4 years away – he’s got lots of developing to do in various areas (non-offensive areas).

    The window with him and Drai is not closing, in fact, its just starting to open.

    The fanbase hates to be asked to “be patient”, however, there is new management in town who want to “do it right” – it’ll take a bit of time – not years and years and years but a couple and, if its done right without high risk moves that could crater the plan, it is likely to be highly rewarding.

    Not saying don’t look to improve or even make major moves to improve – but they need to be done with reason and a view to the medium term, and not just the short term. Even a Nurse or a Bouchard could be moved in my opinion but not in a short term deal.

  32. OriginalPouzar says:

    godot: Mostly at home.

    Is that a good thing?

    Less travel is good but, at this point, more team success has been had on the road.

    That needs to change.

  33. OriginalPouzar says:

    Willis is also reporting that Tip said not to read too much in to Khaira not skating on one of the four lines yesterday.

    I would think the coach would be apt to keep the lines (and pairings) that beat two very good teams together even if there was an individual performance that was weak.

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