In recent years, the number of left wingers to be drafted that have gone on to have successful NHL careers is remarkable. Alex Ovechkin, Taylor Hall, Brad Marchand and Jonathan Huberdeau, have established themselves as elite-level wingers in the league. Matthew Tkachuk, Andrei Svechnikov, Kyle Connor and many more are up-and-coming stars that continue to wow the fans with heir skillset and impact.
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You could say the same with this year’s crop of left wingers who could provide excellent value to the team that ends up drafting them. From hidden gems in the later rounds to elite-level talent in the first, this year’s group of wingers is a reason to be excited for when they arrive at the pro level.
While the majority of the players listed could play other positions, I’m going to be using NHL Central Scouting’s positional rankings to determine this list of left wingers. Without further ado, here is the top-10 at the 2020 NHL Draft.
10. Luke Tuch, USA U18, NTDP
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 40th (among NA skaters)
Much like his older brother, Alex Tuch of the Vegas Golden Knights, Luke emulates a similar style of a power forward who is in constant pursuit of the puck. He’ll do everything to gain possession and has great body positioning to protect the puck with his size.
Tuch has a knack of always being engaged and battling for the puck. Benn Kerr of Last Word On Sports describes that he plays a more physical game than Alex, who has more of an offensive upside, but he always finds a way to attack and drive to get a shot on net. He provides an excellent front net presence as well the ability to be there and support his teammates either during puck battles or getting to the open areas on the ice for a short pass and quick shot.
Tuch has a strong defensive game as well. He has great positioning, the ability to break up plays and pressure his opponents constantly, whether he’s on the attack or in his own zone. This forces them to make a mistake and allows him to get the inside edge with his body.
9. Will Cuylle, Windsor Spitfires, OHL
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 34th (among NA skaters)
Cuylle had a strong rookie season with the Spitfires, recording 26 goals and 41 points in 63 games. He was poised to take a major step with his development in his draft year. But that didn’t happen, as he barely surpassed his rookie point total, with 42 in 62 games.
Related: Revisiting the Islanders’ 2009 Draft
When he is on his game, Cuylle has the size to excel in the offensive zone. At 6-foot-3, 204 pounds, he has the ability to play a heavy and physical game. This allows him to be an intimidating player in the offensive end and provide a strong net front presence. He has the ability to handle and protect the puck very well. He has good strength behind his shot and is able to be in great position for an easy tap in goal.
To say that Cuylle struggled in his draft season is an understatement. Despite the lack of production, there’s still a lot to like about Cuylle’s game, as he’s becoming more refined in all aspects as a forward.
8. Jake Neighbours, Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 26th (among NA skaters)
A strong and sturdy power forward in the making, Neighbours brings an excellent blend of skill and physicality.
His offensive game has grown substantially. In his first full season, he recorded 24 points in 47 games with the Oil Kings. His production jumped up to 70 points in 64 games in his draft year, showing that he’s able to produce. He has a great shot and has the ability to change his angle and deceive goaltenders.
Neighbours has average NHL size, at 6-foot, 195 pounds, but he has no problem laying the body and being a fierce player on the ice. He likes to size up his competition, bringing the physical play along boards and down low. He is persistent on the forecheck, which also allows him to fend off opponents, gain possession, and protect the puck extremely well.
7. Roby Järventie, KOOVEE, Mestis
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 18th (among EU skaters)
Järventie’s size and offensive instincts make him an intriguing player in this years’ draft.
He tends to shy away from the physical aspect despite his size 6-foot-2, 184-pound frame. But when he does have the puck, he’s able to protect and shield the puck effectively. This allows him to be a threat when driving the net. His shot and goal-scoring abilities are his greatest asset, scoring 23 times for KOOVEE last season.
While he does well in the offensive zone, his defensive game needs some work. Dobber Prospects Head of European Scouting, Jokke Nevalainen says he “doesn’t play a well-rounded game, so if he’s not producing offensively, he’s not contributing much else either.” He can be sluggish on the other side of the puck, leading to bad positioning and more zonetime for his opponents.
Despite only being an offensive minded player, developing his defensive game can be taught to him.
6. Daniel Torgersson, Frolunda, J20 SuperElit
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 13th (among EU skaters)
Torgersson tore up the Swedish junior level with his high-end goal scoring abilities. He recorded 17 goals and 35 points in 2018-19 with Frolunda U18 and recorded 26 goals and 44 points with Frolunda’s J20 team. According to Pick 224, in his draft year, 67.57% of his primary points were goals (Goals/P1). At even strength, the team’s Goals for percentage (EV GF%) was at 75.32% when Torgersson was on the ice.
Togersson possesses great size (6-foot-3, 199 pounds), strength, mobility, and speed, making him a future power forward in the NHL. His feet are always moving, and he has a great first step and edges for a player with his size. He has no problem to cut in and use his size to advantage in order to protect the puck.
Togersson can shoot the puck very well. He has a strong and quick release and good accuracy. He can be elusive in the offensive zone, as he’s able to sneak in behind defenders and catch them off guard. Not to mention he can be difficult to handle in front of the net with his size.
He’s a goal-scoring threat, but his compete level and ability to battle allow him to be successful. He could be a great selection in the second or even third round of the draft.
5. Lukas Reichel, Eisbaren, DEL
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 11th (among EU skaters)
The nephew of former NHLer Robert Reichel, Lukas is a quick and agile offensive player. He recorded 12 goals and 12 assists in 42 games with Eisbaren in 2019-20, moving up and down the lineup playing at the pro level. Before moving up, he was above a point per game with the Eisbaren junior team, recording 42 points in 32 games.
Reichel is always involved on the ice and is quick with his skating, allowing him to always be in the open areas on the ice. He possesses a great shot along with quick hands, which allows him to be a threat in the offensive zone. In addition, Reichel is able to help create plays and help set up his teammates.
Reichel also has great work ethic, as he is always engaged with the play and doing everything he can to do battle for pucks and possession. His compete level also allows him to be reliable in his own end. Teams love players that constantly battle, and Reichel fits what teams are looking for.
4. Rodion Amirov, Ufa, MHL
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 5th (among EU skaters)
Not the flashiest left winger on this list, but Amirov is definitely one of the smartest at his position and among the draft. He has risen through many draft rankings, making him a potential top 10 pick or just outside of that range.
Amirov is an excellent two-way player capable of making an impact in all three zones on the ice. His patience and vision are among his best qualities, as he’s able to find and connect with his teammates. And he always seems to know where they’re going to be. When he has the puck, he’s immediately looking at his options throughout the ice. He thinks the game very well, as he’s able to be one step ahead of the competition and is able to find open space very easily. He’s a safe player, but it always results in a positive result for his team.
Amirov has great speed, which allows him to separate himself quickly from his opponents, especially if he’s able to provide excellent pressure in the offensive or even on the penalty kill. He’s able to step up and attack in order to gain great body position and separate them from the puck in order to gain possession, especially in the dirty areas on the ice.
Amirov says his game is a blend of Nikita Kucherov and Auston Matthews. After his strong performance at the 2019 U-18 Championships, you can see the similarities in his game.
3. Lucas Raymond, Frolunda, SEL
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 4th (among EU skaters)
An elite playmaker, excellent speed, and a tremendous shooter, Raymond is certainly a full offensive package prospect in this draft.
He thinks the game and moves around the ice at a quick pace, making it difficult for defenders to try and contain him. Raymond seems to know where the play is going and is always in pursuit of the puck. When he has possession, he is an absolute treat to watch.
Raymond has tremendous passing abilities. He has great hands, and his speed allows him to get around defenders and into the open areas on the ice. He is also able to draw them in and then make a quick pass to his teammates as they trail in, connecting them with ease and precision. His speed allows him to get out of trouble and open the game up. He’s able to put the puck in a great spot for others to receive a pass.
While his passing is his bread and butter, don’t underestimate his shot and ability to finish. Raymond is an excellent shooter with great power and accuracy whenever he releases the puck. He instantly made himself a top prospect after recording a hat trick, including the game-winner against Team Russia at the U18 tournament.
His ability to play a 200-foot game and be responsible in the defensive zone solidifies himself as a top-five pick in the draft. His overall play has even drawn a comparable to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner. While you can see the similarities in how they move, think, and pass, Raymond is definitely a better goal scorer than Marner.
2. Tim Stützle, Mannheim, DEL
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 1st (among EU skaters)
While he was a potential top 10 pick in the draft from the beginning, the dynamic winger from Germany made a name for himself and quickly became a potential top-three pick and top European skater in the 2020 Draft.
As an 18-year-old, Stützle didn’t look out of place playing with men for Mannheim, recording 34 points in 41 games. It was at the World Junior Championships where many started to take notice of Stützle’s play, in particular his play-making abilities, recording five assists in five games for Germany at the tournament.
Stützle brings a very well-rounded game to the table. He has great size to battle along the boards, and he has great speed to either get in on the forecheck or carry the puck up with great control. Will Scouch says he plays with a ton of “determination and does not take no for answer”. Those factors allow him to succeed in engaging puck battles and breaking plays up to get control and maintain possession.
Combined with his speed, he’s able to be very deceptive when the puck is on his stick, as he has quick hands that allow him to stick handle in the tight areas on the ice. This is the aspect of his game that stands out the most. In Scouch’s analysis video (7:38 mark), Stützle has a dangerous pass rate per 60 of 13.33 as well as an excellent pass completion rate. His ability to read the ice and locate open teammates with precision makes him a real threat in all three zones.
There’s a really great chance that Stützle can become the third German-born player to be taken in the first round of the NHL draft, after Leon Draisaitl (third in 2014) and Moritz Seider (sixth in 2019). Draisaitl has established himself as an elite player in the league. Steve Yzerman surprised everyone by selecting Seider, but he has now become their top prospect for the Detroit Red Wings. And with Stützle’s ability to be an excellent playmaker, he’ll follow in their footsteps and make a team really happy.
1. Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL
Central Scouting Final Rankings: 1st (among NA skaters)
Well, this should come as no surprise to anyone. Alexis Lafreniere, the first pick overall in the draft, happens to be the top left winger as well.
All eyes have been on Lafreniere for the last few seasons. There are so many reasons why he has cemented his status as the first overall pick. He has elite hockey sense, a high-end compete level, and is a major offensive threat. While it may not look like it, Lafreniere does bring a physical element to his game, getting in on the forecheck and constantly battling for possession of the puck.
Whenever he is on the ice, every play either starts or ends with him. Unfortunately for the opposition, it won’t end well. He protects the puck extremely well and is able to block his opponents form attacking or is able to leave them in the dust. He reads the ice extremely well, as he knows how to get into the dirty areas with ease as well as finding the open ice. He’s got an elite shot and quick release. In addition, he has great vision knowing where his teammates are to make excellent, clean and accurate passes.
His stats support why he’s the best of 2020. He’s first in even-strength primary points per game (1.13), first in primary points per game (1.67), and total points per game (2.15). Lafreniere’s offensive vision is tops in the draft. This isn’t anything new as we saw what he can do with the Oceanic, the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup and the World Juniors Championships, despite missing some games earning all the top accolades.
There isn’t any doubt that Lafreniere has the skillset to become an elite level and impact player at the NHL level. His focus isn’t on going back to the QMJHL, it’s making the NHL. Knowing his mentality and drive, it’s very likely that he will, which is why he’s the top left winger in the 2020 NHL draft.