Even more so this season, there will be lots of talent available in the later rounds of the draft. These players didn’t have the benefit of a postseason to make a lasting impression. These hidden gems are just that, hidden.
This season, I will share 20 prospects that in my opinion are underrated and if you have a chance to draft them at some point, don’t pass them up. We are not going to share the obvious names at the top. So for the purposes of this exercise, we will be utilizing the final Central Scouting Rankings. All prospects who make this list are outside the top-20 NA, top-15 EU and top-5 goalie rankings.
On this year’s list, we have 13 North-American skaters, five European skaters and two goalies. Let’s get started.
2020 NHL Draft Must Haves
Tyson Foerster (Ranked 21st NA)
While the hockey world watched the CHL Top Prospect’s Game for the usual suspects, it was Foerster who won MVP of the game. His lethal shot and underrated playmaking will make him one of the most attractive prospects outside of the top-20.
Roby Jarventie (Ranked 18th EU)
Some in the industry believe Jarventie has first-round tools. His offense is top-notch but needs work on the other side of the puck. That said, you won’t find many with the skill he brings outside of the first round.
Ryan O’Rourke (Ranked 27th NA)
See our Steal of the Draft linked at the top of this piece. In my mind O’Rourke is a future NHL captain. Don’t be surprised if he turns out to be like Duncan Keith.
Egor Sokolov (Ranked 73rd NA)
Sokolov finished the season third in the QMJHL scoring race only behind Alexis Lafreniere and Alexander Khovanov. At 6-foot-4 and over 230 pounds, he is one of the most intriguing re-entry prospects available.
Jan Mysak (Ranked 28th NA)
Mysak made our Do Not Draft list due to the top heaviness of the draft. But he is also a Must Have because he will be one of the best players available outside of the lottery. He can drive his team’s offense and that will get the attention of a lot of NHL teams.
Brandon Coe (Ranked 35th NA)
The third overall pick in the 2017 OHL Draft got a little lost in the tough season by North Bay. But he has some intriguing tools that should get him some day-two attention. Coe’s coach Ryan Oulahen is on record as saying he has some elite ability.
Vasily Ponomaryov (Ranked 48th NA)
Ponomaryov made the transition to North America after being selected ninth overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. He is one of the better two-way centers available. Some even mention him as a late first-round candidate.
Zayde Wisdom (Ranked 54th NA)
While Shane Wright got all of the attention in Kingston putting up a Monster rookie season, his linemate Zayde Wisdom turned his game on and started shooting up the rankings. If he can find consistency in his game, Wisdom could become a late-round steal.
Joni Jurmo (Ranked 20th EU)
Jurmo might be the most underrated defenseman in this entire draft. When he’s on his game, he has top-pair potential. But his decision-making has been suspect at times. When he got his chance at the U-20’s, he shined. The later the draft goes, the bigger the steal he becomes.
Jacob Flynn (Ranked 122nd NA)
There is always room for mobile puck moving defensemen especially later in the draft. Flynn was able to crack the UConn lineup as a freshman and got into 30 games despite coming in with no junior hockey experience. It didn’t take him long to adjust either. If you want to take a chance late in the draft, these are the kind of players you look at.
Jake Uberti (Ranked 147th NA)
You should start to see a theme by now for me when considering deeper draft prospects. If you can skate, you have my attention. Uberti’s team the Niagara Icedogs had a tough season but he had some shining moments including this dazzling end-to-end goal which shows off the speed and skill he has. For a late-round pick, I am very interested.
Alex Cotton (Ranked 79th NA)
You normally don’t see many players, defensemen especially, that jump from 11 points during their draft year all the way up to 67 including 20 goals (!) in their draft + 1 season. Cotton did just that though. He led the entire WHL in defensemen scoring. He ran the power play that had both Calen Addison and Dylan Cozens on it so that’s obviously a big help. But these kinds of jumps don’t happen often and Cotton showed he deserves a chance.
James Hardie (Ranked 163rd NA)
If I’ve learned anything about the OHL in the six seasons I’ve covered it, it’s to take note of the skill players on the Mississauga Steelheads. They’ve quietly produced some great players over the years that don’t always get the attention they deserve. Hardie is no exception. When he’s on, he’s dynamic. As the season went on, he started getting more consistent too. That’s enough for me to take my chances.
Alexander Pashin (Ranked 22nd EU)
Pashin introduced himself to the world at the last Hlinka/Gretzky tournament when he exploded for seven goals including the game-winning goal in the gold medal game to defeat Canada. He has a ton of skill for someone listed at just 5-foot-7. Later in the draft, you won’t have as many skilled guys available like you will in Pashin. Plus his name will make for many great puns over the years!
Luke Evangelista (Ranked 39th NA)
While many went to London this season excited about Antonio Stranges, it was Evangelista who got most of the rave reviews. When coach Dale Hunter needed someone to play top-six minutes, it was Evangelista who got the call and he didn’t disappoint. He does need to get stronger, but he’s got everything else you look for in a prospect.
William Dufour (Ranked 69th NA)
You get noticed if you can score. You get noticed if your two-way game is strong. You especially get noticed if you can score and play a strong, two-way game. That’s what Dufour brings to the table. One moment, he’s in your face playing a physical game. The next he’s posting a 14-game point streak against you. He has the size at 6-foot-2 and approaching 200 pounds. After a trade to Drummondville, he finished the season at nearly a point per game. He will make someone very happy in the middle rounds.
Emil Heineman (Ranked 26th EU)
There is not enough talk about how offensively gifted this player is. He is an explosive skater who has both the skills and physical tools to dominate. This is evidenced by being the leading scorer of the North Division in J20’s Superelit league. On tape, he made many defensemen look like statues. Overall he will be one of the better picks later in the draft given everything he brings to the table.
Kasper Simontaival (Ranked 21st EU)
A history of injuries have slowed Simontaival’s development but he remains one of the most intriguing prospects in this entire draft class. If you’re willing to wait for a couple of years and can look past the injury history, you might land one of the best offensive players in this class.
Aidan Campbell (Ranked 28th NA Goalies)
Campbell has the potential to be one of the true surprises at this draft. After a good start record wise in his rookie OHL season, things didn’t go as planned for the 6-foot-5 netminder. But his size and athleticism make him one of the most attractive options late in the draft. A re-tooled Otters team will likely have Campbell as their number-one starter when the 2020-21 season starts. We could start to see why there was so much promise around him. And keep this in mind too. He will have Shane Clifford helping him along as goalie coach, the same one who helped Carter Hart along.
Brock Gould (Ranked 9th NA Goalies)
The numbers won’t tell the story here with Gould. He struggled stats wise between Victoria and Moose Jaw this past season. But he still has a lot of attributes teams like to see. He’s 6-foot-4 and is quick for someone his size. He has the technical elements of his game down but he needs to put a nice season together in 2020-21 to get momentum back on his side. Again late in the draft, I’m willing to take a shot here.
What do you think of our list of 20 must-have prospects? Which prospects in your mind are must-haves? As usual, let me know. We are far from done with our draft coverage. Stay tuned for our writer’s mock draft and player profiles that will continue to come out. And stay with the Hockey Writers for all things 2020 NHL Draft.