Centers are crucial to a team’s success. They lead the offence and create scoring chances but are also required to get back and help their defensemen and goalie when needed. Every team hopes to find a number one center who can lead them to greatness.
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The 2020 NHL Draft is one of the deepest in recent memory, so there is no better time to draft their center of the future. When the day of the draft rolls around, these players will likely hear their names called very early on. Here are the top 10 centermen available in the 2020 NHL Draft.
1. Quinton Byfield
A star in the making, Quinton Byfield has all the makings of a future number one center. Playing with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL this season, he managed 32 goals and 50 assists in 45 games. Although he was injured, he still showed a lot of maturity in how he handled it and came back down the stretch.
At 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds, Byfield could become a star power forward. One of his best skills is how he thinks the game. He can spot his teammates in the slot and make a swift pass across the seam in a split second. He creates chances out of thin air and often makes his opponents pay. Another positive to his game is his imposing figure. He uses his size in the corners, and more often than not, comes away with the puck. He battles hard in front of the net and can physically dominate defenders.
Byfield is also a great skater. For a player his size, he has good speed and uses his edges to gain space on his opponents. He is capable of driving the net and always keeps his feet moving. A responsible defender as well, Byfield makes sure to backcheck when the play goes the other way and has a good awareness of where the puck is at all times.
The Draft Lottery already determined seven of the eight top picks, and it looks as though the Los Angeles Kings or the Ottawa Senators will be getting a great player who can slot into their lineup very soon. Although some people think he may not be in the NHL next season, if he has a strong training camp, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to make the jump to the pros come next season. He is that good.
2. Tim Stutzle
Another dynamic player, Tim Stutzle, has scouts and teams drooling over him. Although he is not listed as a center by everyone, he has played as both a winger and at center, so I decided to include him on this list.
A two-way player, Stutzle makes everything he does look easy. Playing for Adler Mannheim in the DEL this season, he managed to score seven goals and added 27 assists in 41 games. As an 18-year-old, his numbers are even more impressive due to the fact that he is playing against men.
Stutzle thinks the game at an age well beyond his years. He is able to make quick decisions under pressure and always seems to make the correct ones. When defenders try to close him out and limit his space, he always seems to find a way out and sets up a scoring chance in the process. Like Byfield, he is also a responsible defender. When the puck is transitioned the other way, he makes sure to get back and is good at intercepting passes in the defensive zone.
Most scouts expect Stutzle to be selected second or third overall, so whoever the Kings don’t pick will likely be going to the Senators. Stutzle needs one more season of development in Germany before coming overseas but when he is ready, watch out. Drawing comparisons to Leon Draisaitl is no small feat and Stutzle certainly looks the part. The future of hockey in Germany is bright and no one will be surprised to see him leading the pack for years to come.
3. Marco Rossi
Another future stud, Rossi made an impact this season. Playing for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL, he scored 39 goals and 120 points in 56 games, winning the Red Tilson Award (OHL MVP) in the process.
What stands out most for me is Rossi’s creativity with the puck. Whenever it is on his stick, he is a marvel to watch. He can bank it off the boards and skate circles around others like it’s nothing and then make an incredible pass in the slot while everyone else just watches helplessly. He has incredible hands in tight, and his shot is amazing as well. Given the opportunity, he can place the puck where he wants and often makes opponents pay.
The team that selects him will be getting an all-around great guy. Rossi is a high-energy player and is loved by everyone around him. He is a born leader and I would not be surprised to see him in a leadership position on the 67’s in the near future. He will need more time to develop, but I expect to see him in the NHL in the next few seasons.
4. Cole Perfetti
I really like what Cole Perfetti brings to the table. Playing for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL this season, he scored 37 goals and 111 points in 61 games. He projects as a top player at the NHL level and it’s easy to see why.
Perfetti thinks the game at a really high level. Whether he is making a simple play on an odd-man rush or cutting back and reassessing the situation, he is always aware of his surroundings, and that, in turn, helps him make plays. Although some scouts would like to see him improve on his skating, he has great vision and a powerful shot. Given time and space, he is not afraid to walk into the slot and unleash a powerful wrister over the goalie’s shoulder. He can pick and choose where he wants to put the puck, and that is what makes him so valued.
Perfetti is also not afraid to go into the trenches. He battles hard in the corners and in front of the net and does not let opponents push him around. He is also a great person who works hard off the ice as he won the CHL Scholastic Player of the Year Award. While he will need to develop his overall game, I would not be surprised to see Perfetti in the NHL in two seasons. He is a great player and will serve the team that drafts him well.
5. Anton Lundell
While Anton Lundell may have fallen on some draft lists since the start of last season, he is still a top-tier prospect. Playing for HIFK in the Liiga this season, he managed to score 10 goals and 18 assists in 44 games.
What I like most about Lundell’s game is that he never stops working. Whether he has the puck on his stick or not, he is always putting himself in a position to succeed and make sure he is an available option. He thinks the game at a high level, and he has a great shot. Lundell does not need a lot of time to release his shot, which is why opponents always need to know where he is on the ice.
Lundell will likely remain in Finland for the next few seasons to develop before coming over to play pro. Although he will have to get used to the smaller ice rinks in North America, he should be fine. All in all, he is a character guy on and off the ice, and at the end of the day, that is what every NHL team is looking for.
6. Seth Jarvis
Some people may not agree with this ranking but the longer I’ve watched Seth Jarvis, the more I love his game. Playing for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL this season, he scored 42 goals and 98 points in 58 games.
He has the ability to change a game in many ways. He can use his skating ability to create plays for himself and his teammates, but he can also sit back and wait for the right moment to pounce on a scoring opportunity. Jarvis is not afraid to drive the net and battle for loose pucks and is often found in and around the goal when there is a rebound. He has a great shot and can release it in a split second.
What spoke to me more than his game is his character. Jarvis is a true professional on and off the ice, which was solidified when he was named Western Conference WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year. He is a class act and will fit in seamlessly on whatever team calls his name on draft day.
7. Dylan Holloway
Calgary native, Dylan Holloway impressed in his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. In 35 games, he scored eight goals and nine assists to go along with 49 minutes in penalties.
Playing alongside big names like Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte, Holloway may not have been the center of attention, but he made an impact in more ways than one. A gritty two-way player, Holloway is a beast in the corners and uses every inch of his size to his advantage. He plays a physical game down low and can pounce on rebounds near the net even with defenders draped over his back. He has great instincts with the puck on his stick and can make high-end scoring chances appear out of nowhere.
Holloway will need to develop his game more before making the jump to the pros. He has the chance to play some big minutes for the Badgers and could benefit from playing against some really good competition. He will make a great pro one day, but he is not ready for the NHL just yet.
8. Connor Zary
One of the oldest players eligible to be drafted, Connor Zary took another step in his development this season. Playing for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, he scored 38 goals and added 48 assists in 57 games.
Zary established himself as one of the premier players in the WHL by relying on his physicality and high hockey IQ this season. He is not afraid to drop the gloves if needed and is always willing to stick up for his teammates when there is a scrum. He has great lower-body strength and is hard to knock off the puck. He is good at receiving the puck along the half-boards and making a quick pass out of the zone or into the slot for an offensive chance.
Zary makes his voice heard in the dressing room and has earned the respect of his peers as a player who gives it his all every time he steps on the ice. He needs to iron out his game like most of the players on this list, but he has a good base on which to build. It is up to Zary to determine how good he can become.
9. Hendrix Lapierre
In a season rattled by injuries, Hendrix Lapierre’s stock took a bit of a hit. A key piece at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer, Lapierre thrust himself into a top 10 ranking by collecting 11 points in five games.
What happened next is every draft-eligible prospect’s worst nightmare. After suffering his third concussion in 10 months, not only was Lapierre’s season likely done but there was a chance his career was over before it started. Lapierre managed to collect 17 points in 19 games before the season was cancelled, but the damage was already done.
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Many teams are scared to take a chance on him because of his injury history, but Lapierre is a legitimate first-round pick. His skating is not the best, but that is something he can work on. He has great vision and has a knack for making plays every time the puck touches his stick. He knows his teammates’ tendencies and adapts when they are on the ice. He plays a sound defensive game and can be relied on to get back when needed.
Before making the jump to the pros, Lapierre will have to work on his skating. It limits him in some areas of the game, and if he can improve, his potential will be through the roof. I can only see great things in Lapierre’s future.
10. Mavrik Bourque
A name that is not as well known as the prospects at the top of the list, Mavrik Bourque has an opportunity to be something special down the line. He spent the season with the Shawinigan Cataractes and scored 29 goals and 42 assists in 49 games.
A 200-foot player, Bourque has a great defensive game. He uses his skating ability to get back to help out his teammates and is great at intercepting passes in the neutral and defensive zone. He plays with an active stick and never stops skating. He also goes hard on the forecheck and is great at putting pressure on the opposition. Paired with his amazing vision, and you have the complete package.
As I’ve stated before, every prospect develops at a different pace. No one can predict if a prospect will make it and if they will become a star or not. That is why scouting and drafting are so difficult, but with Bourque, I don’t think anyone can go wrong. He is a safe pick because we already know what he brings to the table. He will skyrocket to the top of a lot of prospect lists, and will likely be a valuable NHL player down the road.
At the end of the day, all of these players have the potential to be something special. They are the best of the best in the draft, at center, and they all play the game at a high level. They have the chance to be game-changers and could be the answer to some bottom-dwelling team’s prayers.
My name is Mathieu Sheridan. I am a writer here at THW who covers the OHL and prospects in general.