The 2019 NHL Entry draft to some is already settled at the top of the draft board when it comes to the talent and prospects available. Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are two names that have been widely talked about in all hockey circles. You can never fully know what each teams needs will be when it comes time for the NHL franchises to select their future stars, but with all the watching eyes and accessibility to stats, you can get a pretty good idea of what exactly each team is looking for.
For years, it has been said that Jack Hughes will be the most wanted name at the 2019 NHL Entry draft and the “lose for Hughes” saying is making its rounds among the NHL teams currently out of a playoff spot. So we begin to look ahead another year and we have begun to see the talent surfacing right in front of our eyes. Each player striving to make a name for themselves among the world’s best.
Jack Hughes solidifies his name while representing USA at the 2019 World Junior Championships U20 and Canadian born player Alexis Lafrenière emerges as the next age group of talent breaks through the hockey ranks.
Just like the 2019 NHL Entry Draft has learned, its number one pick well before the draft is even set to commence. The 2020 NHL Entry draft, on the other side of the dice, may have already learned which eligible player will have his name called first when the draft floor opens up for NHL teams to begin selecting players for the future.
Alexis Lafrenière is a name well known to many people who pay attention to hockey regularly. A name in which many have already locked in as the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL entry draft. Alexis Lafreniere was selected first overall by the Rimouski Oceanic in the 2017 QMJHL entry draft.
He has not disappointed his fans and critics since. The seventeen-year-old accumulated 80 points in 60 games in his rookie season. He was selected to play for Team Canada Red at the World Hockey Championships U17, finishing with 6 points in 6 games in 2017-2018.
From there, Lafrenière was then selected to play for Canada at the World Juniors Championship U18, finishing with 6 points in 5 games played. His accolades piled up in his rookie season as he was awarded CHL rookie of the year, QMJHL rookie of the year, Michel Bergeron Trophy for QMJHL offensive player of the year and made the QMJHL’s First All-Star Team. A rookie season to remember and the bright and talented star arrived as we know him today, currently on pace to surpass his rookie season totals.
To top it all off, Lafrenière joined some star names from Wayne Gretzky to Connor McDavid when he was selected to play for Canada at this year’s World Junior Championships in Vancouver at the age of seventeen. Few players are selected before they turn 18 years of age and Lafreniere has become one of those few to accomplish this amazing achievement.
This, however, brings me to my question, who can challenge Lafrenière for that coveted first overall selection at the 2020 NHL draft? Is there anyone? Of course there is still plenty of time for players to work and grow which may produce a diamond in the rough, but as it stands right now, the battle is for number two.
None the less, I am going to dig up a few possibilities that may contend with the Canadian born Lafrenière at number one. And with the terrific play of Alexis Lafrenière, the list of people that might challenge for that first overall spot will be a rather short one.
Dylan Holloway is a six-foot, seventeen-year-old forward playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He is the only Canadian player awaiting the 2020 draft that has similar point totals to Alexis Lafreniere. However, Dylan is playing in Junior A which is not quite major junior hockey such as the CHL.
The Alberta native plays with the Okotoks Oilers in the AJHL and has already committed to the University of Wisconsin for 2019-2020. Last year, the young Badger committed to playing in 28 games for the Okotoks, tallying a total of 27 points registered. Dylan this season has already surpassed 50 points in just four more games than he played all of last year.
Holloway has 53 points in 32 games this season and was selected to represent his country at the World Junior A Challenge for the second year in a row. He also took part in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The World Junior A Challenge is a tournament that showcases the entered countries top U19 players not playing major junior hockey.
Holloway has already represented his country with Hockey Canada twice. His first year playing for Canada West, he totalled 3 points in 5 games en route to winning the championship in 2017-2018. In this year’s tournament, he tallied 6 points in 5 games with Canada West.
A talented young hockey star, Dylan Holloway has great vision, speed and can make plays with very little space to move. Dylan has his eyes set on rising his draft stock prior to June, 2020. Holloway continues to grow and mature in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for now.
A player having a breakout season in a crucial year before his draft eligible year is German Tim Stutzle playing in the DNL U20 for Jungadler Mannheim U20. Tim Stutzle, born in January, 2001, has already accumulated over 50 points in only twenty games this season. The sixteen-year-old German forward has 55 points in 20 games played with 23 goals and 32 assists and the season is not done yet for Stutzle.
Tim played for team Germany in the 2017-2018 WJC U18, finishing with 4 points registered in a total of 5 games played. To put that into perspective, he is only just turning 17 years of age. This season’s success helped get Tim Stutzle drafted in the fourth round (52nd overall) by the Sioux City Musketeers in the 2018 USHL futures draft.
Furthermore, Stutzle has also committed to the University of New Hampshire for the 2020-21 season. Another player not in Major Junior hockey in Canada having an outstanding year in his respective league. Once again, it is hard to compare due to the difference in talent among the European leagues where there are plenty of great hockey players, just not as dominant a league such as the play in CHL hockey.
It will be interesting to see how Tim Stutzle can adjust to the style of play that most NCAA Div 1 schools tend to adapt to. The physicality will test the young rising German hockey star who has showed his ability to score goals, and with a little less ice to move, the speed picks up. He still has plenty of time to mature and grow before his freshman season at the University of New Hampshire and I am positive that he will find ways to produce at any level.
Now there are a couple players in the Ontario Hockey League, a division in the Canadian Hockey League, who are producing the same or similar goal totals in the same league in which Lafrenière has been dominating for the past two seasons.
The first player is currently a member of the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League. His name is Cole Perfetti from Whitby, Ontario. The young forward is having a great start to his rookie season. A year ago, Cole was a leader of the Vaughn Kings AAA Midget team, putting up 125 points in 64 games in 2017-2018.
Cole was also called up and played in 5 games for the Whitby Fury of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. During this time, he posted 6 points in 5 games played in Junior A hockey. He was drafted 5th overall in the 2018 OHL Priority Draft and then he was drafted 46th overall by the Chicago Steel in the USHL Futures Draft.
Now, ultimately Perfetti decided to stay close to home and to play with the Saginaw Spirit for the 2018-’19 season. Cole has the elite talent as he has great vision and speed to go alongside his skill. He put up big numbers and in a league that can be tough for sixteen-year-old players to find success.
Cole Perfetti has showed no signs of struggle to this point in his young career. A tremendous talent who has committed to the University of Michigan and now in the OHL, he is hovering around a point per game average with 29 points in 30 games played this season. Cole will challenge for a top 1st round spot and with another year left to grow with the Saginaw Spirit, there is a good chance you see Cole Perfetti taken off the draft board early.
The second player in the OHL having a great season and trending to go early in the first round is Newmarket, Ontario native Quinton Byfield. The 6’4 forward is currently a member of the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League after he was drafted 1st overall in the 2018 OHL Priority draft. Playing his AAA midget hockey with the York Simcoe Express, Quinton Byfield amassed 92 points in 32 games that year and then added 12 points in 6 playoff games in the ETAMMHL.
Quinton has averaged a point per game average at every level he has played in from minor hockey to international level. At the WSI U15, Byfield averaged over two points per game for while representing Hockey Canada. Now, in 2018 and in the Ontario Hockey League, not much has slowed Quinton down as he is averaging a point per game with 30 points in his first 30 games in the OHL.
A big body forward with skill and known for his vision and passing skills, Byfield has been compared in sorts to Hall of Famer Eric Lindros. Quinton is not as physical as Lindros was in his prime, but Byfield plays the same heavy game with speed and skill to make the right plays. Already possessing the size you want for a future NHL player, he still has plenty of time left to grow and challenge for one of the top spots in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
A Sweden born hockey player has emerged in the names of possible top first round prospects available for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Noel Gunler currently plays for Lulea HF J20 in the Sweden SuperElit hockey league. Having had a dominating start to his 2018-19 season, Gunler has tottaled 34 points in 24 games in the Sweden U20 league.
At 6’1, the winger has good size for a seventeen-year-old player and is having his best season in terms of points as well. Noel is already well passed his point totals from his rookie season with Lulea J20. Noel joined the Lulea men’s hockey team in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for 8 games this season.
He finished tallying one goal and two assists for three points registered, having no issues scoring among men as well as players much older than him. Gunler has produced at the international level as well for his native country of Sweden. Playing in 4 games in U18 International competition, he tallied a total of 4 points during those four games that he participated in.
Noel Gunler does not look to be bringing his talents to North America anytime soon, however, he is a name that has emerged and one that scouts will definitely have their eye on as the 2020 NHL draft approaches.
To wrap this all up, I will start with this. It’s still anyone’s guess who actually ends up being selected first overall in June, 2020 at the yearly annual NHL Entry Draft. All consensus insist Alexis Lafrenière is the clear cut favourite. In my opinion as of right now, I find it hard to disagree with that pick and with time still remaining for one of the players I mentioned, or one that I have not mentioned, we will have to wait and see on that day if anyone challenges Lafrenière.
Until then, the speculation rages on and the scouts continue to watch the talent grow into the future superstars we will watch for many years to come ahead. All these players are top draft picks either way at this point in their young careers with nothing but the world laid out on the paths in front of them. I continue to watch the talent level rise each year at the junior hockey level.
These athletes master their craft and perfect those attributes that make them so successful on skates and with a hockey stick. 2019 has already taken shape and myself, peers and scouts around the world look to the 2020 draft. With what may seem like an abundance of time ahead, there is still a lot of work left to be done before June, 2020 comes around.