NHL Central Scouting has released its final rankings ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft and as there are with anyone’s rankings, there are a few surprises.
Before we dive into some of the biggest takeaways from the rankings, I should point out that in no way am I bashing or calling out the NHL Central Scouting Service. They put in countless hours and work extremely hard at what they do. It’s a role that at this point I can only dream of.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Releasing draft rankings is an exercise that always sparks public debate. And there’s nothing wrong with that. When you’re discussing 400 different players and how they rank in comparison to the rest, everyone will have a different opinion.
The following is a list of seven of the biggest takeaways that either I have noticed, or that have been discussed in the prospect and draft sphere.
Why Did They Release So Early?
My biggest question around the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings has nothing to do with the actual rankings, but why did they release the rankings so early? The 2020 NHL Draft has been postponed, with no new date set. The NHL Combine may not even happen now, yet the final rankings were released on schedule – even slightly earlier than last season. They were released on April 15 in 2019 versus April 8 this year.
With the uncertainty around the draft, why not hold the rankings longer, taking the time to ensure you have the best information possible in your evaluation. While players aren’t playing, there is still video review – and lots of it. In my opinion, taking the extra time that is available would be beneficial in these rankings.
That being said, I’m sure the NHL wants to continue as normal as much as possible and this is a place that they could do that. They also need to keep their news rolling out somehow, as much as possible. Again, this helps with that. But personally, I think taking that extra time to get more video work in would have been beneficial.
Sanderson Ranked Over Perfetti & Rossi
Right off the bat, taking a look at the North American skaters, one name jumps out. Jake Sanderson. After Alexis Lafrenière, Quinton Byfield, and Jamie Drysdale, Sanderson jumped from the 11th spot into the top four. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that Sanderson is the second-best defender in this class. I even think that there’s a possibility the gap between him and Drysdale could be smaller than many think.
However, where the surprise comes in this is who Sanderson is ranked over – Cole Perfetti and Marco Rossi. The two OHL stars are coming off over 100-point seasons in the league, and have been heavily thought of as potential top five picks in this draft (especially Rossi), where Sanderson is likely a top-10.
Both Perfetti and Rossi are looking like elite picks, but there have been “questions” about their size. Perfetti is 5-foot-10, 177 pounds and Rossi is 5-foot-9, 183 pounds. Will their draft stock take a hit because of that? It really shouldn’t. Again, this is nothing against Sanderson. But Perfetti and Rossi have the potential to be very special players and in my opinion, should be above Sanderson and even challenge Drysdale for the third spot on the North American rankings.
Alexander Holtz & Anton Lundell Over Lucas Raymond?
In my personal rankings, Lucas Raymond holds strong at third overall behind Lafrenière and Byfield. That is likely where he’ll stay. Around the prospect world, Raymond has slipped slightly this season due to a lack of production (due to a lack of significant ice time). But he remains one of the best prospects in this draft class.
Alexander Holtz was ranked second among European skaters, with Anton Lundell third and Raymond fourth. Raymond is one of the most complete players in this draft class. He’s in a tier below Lafrenière and Byfield, but he’s right there with Tim Stützle (ranked number one among Europen skaters).
Holtz is a very good player, an elite goal scorer. Lundell is a high-end two-way centreman. If my team took one of these two players, I’d be extremely happy. Unless they left Raymond on the board. Raymond has the potential to not only be a solid, two-way player, but I think he will be an offensive machine when he’s given the opportunity.
CHL Imports Take Significant Dive
This was an interesting one pointed out by Steve Kournianos, or “The Draft Analyst.” Among the players that moved down in the Central Scouting Final Rankings, the CHL imports fell significantly. Here’s Kournianos’ list:
The most surprising to me is Jan Myšák, who came over to the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in mid-January. In his 22 games with the Bulldogs, he collected 15 goals, 10 assists, and 25 points. Yet he dropped 19 spots in the rankings. Ponomaryov is surprising as well, putting up 49 points in 57 games in his first season in North America.
If these final rankings are anywhere close to how the draft will look, there are going to be a great number of steals throughout the draft.
Where is Ovchinnikov?
In the midterm rankings, Dmitri Ovchinnikov was ranked at 74 among European skaters. In the final rankings, he was left off. That puts him below the top-140 and he’s among 10 players who found themselves left off the latest ranking.
There are very mixed thoughts about the Russian forward. Some think he could be as high as a second-round pick and others think he isn’t much of a player. Personally, I had him at 97 in my February rankings. He just wrapped up an MHL season that saw him collect 55 points in 54 games, after putting up seven points in 40 games in 2018-19. The 2019-20 numbers are a 1.04 point-per-game rate – the seventh most productive season in the MHL ever.
A team needs to take a chance on this young player, as they won’t be disappointed. He’s a speedy forward with a nose for the net and appears to hold his own in both ends. He’ll be a long-term project, but it’s a project worth investing in. You want your team to draft Ovchinnikov.
Jurmo, Khusnutdinov Are No Longer Sleepers
Among risers in the rankings, two stood out to me who were largely pegged as sleepers through the season. Those players are Marat Khusnutdinov and Joni Jurmo. They are very much on everyone’s radar now – as they should be.
I’ll admit that Jurmo wasn’t on my radar enough through the season. He’s a mobile defender who is already 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. He’s been compared to Philip Broberg for his puck-carrying and his skating ability. He’s not going to be on many highlight reels, but there’s a lot to like about the big defender.
Khusnutdinov came in February rankings at 34. Some even have him as a first-round prospect, which he very well could be. He’s a creative player who continues to produce at a high level no matter where he is in the lineup. He has great skating ability and surprising strength for a 5-foot-11 player. He’s going to be exciting to watch.
Zion Nybeck May Be the Steal of the Draft
If Zion Nybeck was at least three inches taller (he’s 5-foot-8) and 10 pounds heavier (he’s 176 pounds now). Looking at just skill, I think Nybeck is a top-20 prospect in this draft. He has great skating, puck handling, and offensive awareness. He’s also good in his own end and his motor is always running on full tilt.
Still, Nybeck finds himself at 29th in the final rankings after coming in at 16th in the midterm rankings (also too low). This comes after the Swedish forward set the U18 record for scoring in the SuperElit, leading the league with 66 points in 42 games. He did this despite missing a great deal of time while he played in the SHL for 15 games. He was just five points away from the all-time record.
Yes, he’s a small forward. That is increasingly becoming less of a factor at the NHL. He needs to continue to improve his skating, and he needs to put on some size and strength, but the tools are there for Nybeck to be a dynamic player.
Additional Takeaways from the 2020 NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings
- Helge Grans shot up the ranks, going from 21 to 6 among European skaters. This puts him over fellow Swedish defenders Emil Andrae and William Wallinder as well as Finnish defensemen Topi Niemala and Eemil Viro. The defenders that will be selected after Drysdale and Sanderson look like they could go in any order at this point.
- Emil Heineman is getting some love, shooting up from 86 to 26. He plays a very mature game and just had a breakout season for Leksands IF J20, putting up 41 points in 29 games.
- The final rankings saw numerous new players make the cut. Among the standouts in my eyes are Grant Slukynsky, Matej Kaslik, Evan Vierling, Ben Shoen, Lleyton Moore, and Jacob Dion. Brett Brochu is an interesting goaltender who cracked the list.
- While there were numerous players to make the list, there were still some left off. On top of Ovchinnikov, goaltender Artur Akhtyamov and overager Xavier Simoneau are two that stand out to me to being left off.
- While I will put Ridley Greig higher on my final rankings, I’m surprised to see him at 14th, let alone above players like Connor Zary, Tyson Foerster, and Jacob Perrault.
- Zayne Wisdom soars from 90 to 54. It’s time to jump on the Wisdom train if you haven’t already.
- My final point is about QMJHL defenseman of the year finalist William Villeneuve. Down at 99th, that’s way too low, even with a rise from 108th. I’d expect to see him much higher come draft day. At least he should be.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.