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NHL Draft: Top 5 Forwards/Defensemen & Goaltending Prospects

Sep. 11, 2020 - Michael Stewart

NHL Draft: Top 5 Forwards/Defensemen & Goaltending Prospects

Introduction: The 2020 NHL draft has been deemed the best overall talent pool over the past decade and with good reason. The depth at the forward position is plentiful and the defensemen in this draft have plenty of young talented prospects throughout all 7 rounds. In this article, we will focus on the top 5 forwards, top 5 defensemen and top 5 goalies projected to hear their names called on draft day. Teams with multiple picks in the 1st round will benefit the most; especially if they select well and also teams that have accumulated the most picks have the luxury of trading back up if the situation presents itself. So let’s take a look at the top 5 prospects in each category in the 2020 NHL draft:

Top 5 Forwards

  1. Alexis Lafreniere (LW): Lafreniere led all players in the Canadian Hockey League (QMJHL, Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League) with 2.15 points per game, what sets Lafreniere apart from the rest of the forwards in this draft is his relentlessness, willingness and commitment to play defense and to finish checks. Lafreniere excels when he’s in control and the puck is on his stick. Lafreniere is not your traditional LW as he can create and score anywhere on the ice.
  2. Quinton Byfield (C): Byfield will turn 18 years old on August 19th and will most likely be the youngest prospect taken in the 1st round. When you watch him play, you forget he’s so young as his size (6’4/215) and skating ability are unmatched and his overall skill set can be limitless. Byfield finished with 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 OHL games, however; it’s not what he has done now that has many GM’s and Scouts trolling, it’s what they all believe he’ll become once he matures and grows into his frame. One scout said “in Byfield, you’re looking at a player with Mark Messier speed and skating ability in an Eric Lindros frame. Another scout said “Lafreniere is better than Byfield right now and should be the 1st overall pick, but down road in a few years, Byfield could wind up a beast and the better of the two.
  3. Tim Stutzle (C): Stutzle plays exceptional well in all 3 zones and is a tireless hard-working player. Stutzle had 34 points (7 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games on the top professional league in Germany. Although Lafreniere and Byfield are the top 2 forwards in this draft by a wide margin, any team drafting Stutzle will not be disappointed as he is a team player and makes everyone around him better on the ice.
  4. Marco Rossi (C): In any other draft, Rossi (minus Lafreniere, Byfield and Stutzle) would be the best forward coming out and arguably the number one pick in the draft, that’s how deep this draft is at the forward position. However; make no mistake of his overall ability in the ice. Rossi had 120 points (39 goals, 81 assists) in 56 games, and his average of 2.14 points per game was second in all of junior hockey . Rossi stands only 5’9 and weighs in at 183 pounds, but don’t let his size fool you as Rossi is very strong on his feet and is capable of winning 50/50 puck battles. Not only is Rossi a lethal scorer, but he is also good on face-offs (58.5 winning percentage) and generates offense with his high hockey IQ, good hands and playmaking ability.
  5. Cole Perfetti (C): Perfetti can do it all and is arguably the smartest forward among my top 5 picks coming out of this draft. Perfetti was second in the OHL with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 61 games. He ended the regular season with 26 points during a 12-game point streak (8 goals, 18 assists). Like Rossi, Perfetti is smaller in size, but not in ability.

Top 5 Defensemen

  1. Jamie Drysdale (RD): Drysdale is an extremely gifted offensive defenseman with his high level skating ability and supreme hockey sense. Drysdale excels on the power play and despite his size (5’11/175) handles his defensive responsibilities well. Drysdale scored 47 points (9 goals, 38 assists), including 22 power-play points, in 49 games. Drysdale is likely the 1st defensemen off the board in this year’s draft.
  2. Jake Sanderson (LD): Sanderson is the son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson and is a solid two-way defensemen. Sanderson skating and hockey sense sets him apart as the best two-way defensemen in this draft and has a body frame (6’2/185) that should add additional size once he matures. Sanderson packs a punch on opposing players who enter his space with his physical prowess; while maintaining his position. Sanderson has a high ceiling to develop into a formidable two-way defenseman; which will only make more menacing on the blue-line.
  3. Kaiden Guhle (LD): Guhle is a very close second to Sanderson as the best two-way defensemen in this draft. Sanderson gets the nod as he has performed longer at a higher level than Guhle. Guhle has the frame to add more size (6’2/186) and expect him to mature into a top NHL Blue-liner over the next few years. Guhle’s attributes include high-end skating ability, a hard shot and a high hockey IQ. Guhle has family roots in the NHL as his brother is the Anaheim Ducks defenseman prospect Brendan Guhle.
  4. Braden Schneider (RD): Schneider is another solid two-way defenseman capable of playing the power play and killing penalties with great hockey awareness and with physical play. Schneider already has good size (6’2/202) and should fill out nicely once he matures. One scout believes Schneider has the makeup to be comparable to Shea Webber once he reaches his potential.
  5. Justin Barron (RD): Barron fills out my top 5 defensemen prospects in the upcoming NHL draft and could have possibly made the top 3 had he stayed healthy and not encounter the injury bug (blood clot); which led to missing 3 months of play. Regardless, being labeled at #5 is not too bad and if Barron can stay injury free at least early on in his career, many believe his ceiling could be the highest. Barron has good size (6-2, 195) and is an exceptional skater and capable of making a smooth transition out of the defensive zone. Barron's brother is center Morgan Barron who is currently property of the New York Rangers. Could we see a brother reunion on day 1 of the draft as the Rangers do have two 1st round picks (1st & 23rd)?  

Goalies

  1. Iaroslav Askarov: Askarow is probably the only goalie that will be selected in the 1st round as he is an intimidating presence with great poise, athleticism and a quick glove. Askarov, has good size (6-foot-3, 176 pounds) and has the makeup to become an elite NHL goalie someday. Askarow finished at 12-3-3 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Askarow is expected to play in the NHL as a rookie in 2020.
  2. Drew Commesso: Commesso finished with the second-lowest GAA (2.05) and sixth-highest save percentage (.920) in one season with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team. Commesso has good size (6-2, 180) and is expected to attend Boston University in 2020-21. Commesso had an 18-7-1 record with three shutouts. Commesso’s attributes include excellent instincts, quickness and a calming presence in tense situations. Commesso is projected to go in the 2nd round in the NHL draft.
  3. Joel Blomqvist: Blomqvist has good size (6-1, 182) and finished with a 1.66 GAA, .931 save percentage and five shutouts in 34 games. Bloomqvist is an aggressive competitor and will challenges shooters and possesses good rebound control with quick reflexes. Blomqvist is committed to play for Karpat until 2022-23 season; which is one reason why he is projected to go in the 3rd round of the NHL draft.
  4. Nicolas Daws: Daws size (6-4, 199) is impressive along with his competitiveness. In 2019, Daws went undrafted, despite finishing with a 23-8-6 with a 2.48 GAA, five shutouts and .924 save percentage in 38 games. Daws plays under control in any situation and possesses great instincts in his overall game. Daws is projected to be selected somewhere in the 3rd round in the NHL draft.
  5. Dylan Garand: Garand rounds out our top 5 goalies for the 2020 NHL draft, but that doesn’t dismiss his accomplishments in 2019. Garand played in 42 games and recorded a .921 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA. Garand has an extremely quick glove hand and moves well laterally and covers his angles well. Garand is an extreme competitor and does a great job minimizing rebound chances. Garand is projected to go in round 4 in the NHL draft.

Final Thoughts:  Four of the top five forwards are centers as the 2020 class has an extremely deep prospect pool at center. I left off a lot of talented young prospects on the list and if it was any other year, forwards like Anton Lundell, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz would have been included. Defensemen like Ryan O’Rourke, William Wallinder or Jeremie Poirier would have joined the list. Other Goalies like Calle Clang, Fabio Iacobo and Artur Akhtyamov just fell short. This year’s draft is projecting a higher number of trades throughout the two day event; which could include some possibly high end all-stars and/or solid NHL contributors as teams all want to add talent to not only the NHL team, but also throughout their respected farms systems. Among all the possible trade rumors, the #1 on that list is “will the New York Rangers entertain any offers for the 1st overall pick in the draft. There’s no doubt they will receive calls from other teams, but based on the value chart, it would take an extremely big package to pry away the 1st overall pick from the Rangers; so stay tune as the draft is still about a month away (October 6th and 7th) and the rumor mill has already been in full speed with many possible trades scenarios being mentioned.