Welcome back to part two of our super early look at the top 20 prospects in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. If you missed part one yesterday you can find it here, where we profiled players #1-10. Today we look at #11-20.
This ranking is based on the consolidated rankings of over 20 public sources — the entire list can be found here. Let’s jump back in!
11: Dylan Holloway (LW)
The AJHL has long been a place where you were unlikely to see top prospects. Since Cale Makar played there in 2017, however, the league has been reinvigorated with a handful of top 2020 prospects playing there this past season. Dylan Holloway leads that group; he scored 88 points in 53 games last season for the Okotoks Oilers and was named the AJHL MVP and the CJHL Player of the Year (which comprises of 10 minor leagues).
Holloway is another older birthday, born eight days after the 2019 draft cutoff, which means he’ll be jumping all the way to the NCAA next season. He’ll be joining the University of Wisconsin, which should be a fun team to watch next season with Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte.
With the NHL getting faster, you may notice this series has already discussed a handful of incredible skaters. Holloway is no exception, as he uses his speed to create offence in numerous ways. He has the drive to power to the net, but he also has the quick hands to break through defencemen upon a zone entry. His puck control is excellent, and it’ll be interesting to see how it transitions playing against NCAA competition.
12: Justin Barron (RD)
The second defenceman to appear on the list, Justin Barron’s skillset isn’t quite as dynamic as that of Jamie Drysdale, but he’s still #12 on this list for good reason. Barron is a smart two-way player, who makes calculated breakout decisions and has strong gap control. He’s also a fantastic skater, and while he doesn’t use his speed often to make things happen in the offensive zone, he’s excellent in ensuring that his teammates have puck possession.
Playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, Barron’s 41 points in 68 games is one of the highest pre-draft totals of the last decade among QMJHL defencemen, joining the likes of Samuel Girard and Nicolas Beaudin. I’ll be watching to see how well he can round out his offensive game this year, as although he has the raw tools and the scoring to back it up, I ultimately place high-end goal generation above two-way play. He’s a later birthday too, which has me slightly more skeptical of his potential growth than some of the following players. Although with the lack of high-end defenceman available in this draft, he’ll certainly be a hot topic on draft day.
13: Yaroslav Askarov (G)
If I haven’t made it clear yet — the 2020 draft is wild. With this incredible depth of high-end talent, Yaroslav Askarov, a goalie, somehow makes it this high on the list. Some scouts who’ve watched him more frequently have even placed him inside the top ten. As someone who squirms anytime I see a goalie ranked inside the first round, let alone the top 15, I find the hype hard to believe. But this is where things currently stand, as Askarov is projected to be an elite NHL goaltender. Expect to see non-stop comparisons to fellow Russian Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Plain and simple: Askarov’s form is incredible. Near-perfect. He has a size advantage standing at 6’3”, although he also does a fantastic job tracking the puck and staying square to it at all times. His athleticism is incredible, which allows him to stop shots that most goalies wouldn’t stand a chance against. He’s tactical with his lateral movement too, so he isn’t sacrificing space above him to try and make a flashy save. He’s a rare breed as a right-hand catcher... did I mention his glove work is amazing too?
In action, Askarov shone everywhere he played. He stepped up in last year’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup as a 16-year-old and posted a save percentage of 91.3%, then dominated the World Junior A Challenge, stealing games with a save percentage of 95.4%. The under-17 championships were a breeze for him stopping 94.8% of shots. At the World U18s, he famously gave last year’s stacked USA roster their first loss in international play with a 40-save shutout. His regular season play was excellent as well, stopping 92.1% of shots in the MHL (Russia’s U20 league). He’s expected to play there again next season.
The Senators are not in the market for another goalie prospect... is what we thought before the 2019 draft, where they select Mads Søgaard in the second round. Taking a chance on a goalie this high is always a massive risk, but every now and then there’s an exception that just can’t be passed up. Askarov may be one of those rare exceptions.
14: Jan Mysak (C/LW)
Jan Mysak is already playing above his age, as he made clear last season. As a 16-year-old forward, he played against professional competition in the Czech Extraliga, scoring seven points in 31 games. That’s the highest per-game rate in a pre-draft year since Milan Michalek and Jiri Hudler were top prospects in the early 2000s. It’s also ahead of many of his younger contemporaries, including Filip Zadina, Martin Kaut and Filip Chytil.
Sticking to his point totals for a second, some adjustments need to be made, as always, but in Mysak’s case they’re all positive. He’s on the younger side of the draft class (born June 24th), a mere 7% of his shots on goal turned into goals, and his team this year was not good at all, especially compared to the contenders of the previously named players. In the relegation stage, Mysak put up a historic performance for HC Litvinov, scoring five goals and nine points in six games. He was playing nearly 19 minutes a night, up from 11 minutes in the regular season, as he saved his team from falling into the second division.
Mysak, a natural centre, thrives best on his strong skating and his excellent shot. His offensive instincts allow him to carry his own line, which really elevates his ceiling as an NHLer. He wasn’t given much of a chance at international tournaments so we’ll see how he fares this year.
15: Hendrix Lapierre (C)
The other top QMJHL forward in this draft, Hendrix Lapierre is no slouch. He’s as local as it’ll get for Ottawa when it comes to first round talents, born and raised in Gatineau. Playing for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens along with Théo Rochette (currently ranked #27), they’ll be an interesting duo to follow this year.
The #1 overall pick in the 2018 QMJHL draft, Lapierre is the first pure playmaker to appear on this list. With great top-end speed, he dishes the puck far more than he shoots, and is excellent at controlling the pace of play. He has confidence with the puck on his stick, even though it’ll eventually end up on someone else’s for the shooting chance. It’s worked well for him, posting 45 points in 48 games. He’ll need to work on his shot if he plans on rounding out his game, although he has a very solid foundation to build upon in his draft season.
16: Antonio Stranges (C/LW)
Antonio Stranges: the viral prospect. That’s what you’ll probably learn to know him as over the next year, as his skillset produces highlight-reel play after highlight-reel play after highlight-reel play. His silky smooth hands may be the best in the entire draft class — even above Lafrenière. He oozes skill.
I really can’t go on enough about how much I love Stranges’ game. He’s a quick player with incredible acceleration, and he has the hands to match. He can confidently skip through numerous defenders with success, and can cycle the zone on his own for what seems like forever, just searching for as great a chance as he can get. It helps him defensively too, just in the sense that the opposing team rarely has the puck since it’s always on his stick. NHL teams will inevitably dock “selfishness” points (he’s also a small player at 5’10”). But if you’re a firm believer in skill, this is the player to follow.
What knocks Stranges back in these rankings for now is that he didn’t put up the incredible raw production like everyone ahead of him did. 34 points in 66 games is nothing to scoff at for a pre-draft player, but because he played for the very deep London Knights, he only received limited minutes in the bottom six. All his underlying numbers were fantastic, as according to tracking data from Mitch Brown, he was in the CHL’s 91st percentile for both shots taken per 60 minutes, and one-timer passes per 60 minutes. There’s really no offensive aspect where he doesn’t excel.
With plenty of graduates on the Knights next season, including the Sens’ Alex Formenton, Stranges should get a much larger opportunity to show what he can do. Prepare to see clips of his goals and assists scattered across the internet.
17: Dylan Peterson (C)
Imagine taking everything the Sens have shown to favour or (maybe even ?) overvalue in the past few drafts, and wrapping them up into one amazing player. That’s Dylan Peterson.
He’s six-foot-four. He plays centre. He’s taking the college route. He even played a lot of his youth hockey in Ottawa, gearing up for the Ottawa Jr. Senators in as recently as 2018. He’s an American despite the local connection, which is also something the Sens have heavily favoured recently! And if the Sens end up choosing him, he could even leave college early to play for the Ottawa 67s, who own his CHL rights. He was born in California and later moved to Ottawa, although he still opts to play for the American national teams.
Aside from being Dorion’s sweetheart by default, Peterson boasts an interesting skillset. For a big player, he’s an excellent skater. He’s not afraid to dangle the opposition off the rush, but he’s also a very powerful player, who likes to occasionally throw around his big body.
Now playing for the U.S. National Development Program, it took him a little while to adjust playing against tougher competition, and it reflects in his middle-of-the-road 40 points in 84 games across the USHL and USDP. He improved as the season went on, though, now making him the top projected prospect out of the program following last year’s treasure trove. He’s committed to play for Boston University in 2020-21.
18: Kasper Simontaival (RW)
Despite struggling with injuries last season, Kasper Simontaival demonstrated why Finnish hockey is on the rise. He spent roughly equal time playing in junior and pro leagues. In Mestis, Finland’s second tier pro league, he posted 14 points in 21 games, which is incredible for a 16/17-year-old. He was the only draft-minus-one player to even play in the league last season — his 0.67 P/GP doubled Patrik Laine’s 0.33 P/GP from four years earlier.
In the Finnish U20 league, he scored 27 points in 27 games, which is actually less impressive given that he finished below a handful of other 2020 draft eligible players (Anton Lundell, Veeti Miettinen, Roni Hirvonen).
Simontaival is a playmaker. A strong skater, he has quick hands and excellent vision. He’s a small player at 5’9”, but that didn’t stop him against pro players to set up his linemates. If he can stay healthy for the duration of next season, he could potentially work his way further up this list.
19: Zion Nybeck (RW)
Rounding out the group of phenomenal Swedes is Zion Nybeck. On top of having a fantastic name, on the surface, Nybeck’s production would warrant him a spot in the top ten. Playing in the SuperElit league, he put up an incredible 43 points in 35 games, a rate just below the trio of Raymond (#3), Holtz (#5), and Gunler (#7). He’s also been playing against professional competition longer than the rest, scoring 18 points in 25 games in Sweden’s second pro division as a 14-year-old.
Nybeck brings a lot of energy to the ice. He’s fast, plays very hard-nosed hockey, and compliments that with fantastic playmaking. He’s an even smaller player than Simontaival at 5’8”, which as always will bump him down some scouting lists. But he’s a skilled player who has worked his way into being classified with Sweden’s Big Four.
20: Rodion Amirov (LW)
Rodion Amirov blasted his way into first round rankings in April, after having an incredible tournament at the World Under 18s. Named to the All-Star team and winning a silver medal with Team Russia, Amirov led all 2020 draft-eligible players in scoring.
He’s an older birthday (born October 2nd), but he has a complete offensive skillset. His shot has a deceptively quick release, while he also has the vision to find the tightest passing lanes. There are question marks surrounding his defensive game, but the same can be said for pretty much every prospect on this list. He had an impressive season in MHL last year, and if he continues his trajectory, he may even see some bits of KHL action.
Honourable Mentions: Jean-Luc Foudy (C), Jérémie Poirier (LD), Connor Zary (C), Jacob Perreault (C), Vasily Ponomaryov (LW), Ty Smilanic (LW), Théo Rochette (C), Tyler Kleven (LD)
Lastly, if you’d like to keep up with the 2020 draft as the 2019-20 season rolls along, below is a list of websites and people to follow that are providing excellent coverage. Given the way the Sens’ season is expected to go, they will be your friends. I consulted most of these sources in preparation for these articles, so I highly recommend them all.
People: Brandon Holmes, Caitlin Berry, Cam Robinson, Chris Peters, Christoffer Hedlund, Corey Pronman, J.D. Burke, Jokke Nevalainen, Josh Tessler, Mitch Brown, Sam Happi, Sam Stern, Steve Kournianos, Tony Ferrari, TPEHockey, Will Scouch