The 2020 NHL Draft is now a distant memory and the 2020-21 NHL season is finally upon us. Normally, this edition of the top-100 list is a mid-season update, but with the pandemic throwing a wrench in things, it is being released at the beginning of the season. The 2020 draft picks have now been added, which will surely create debates on who was included and who was excluded from the rankings. But that’s what’s great about prospects, everyone has their own opinions. So without further ado, let’s get to the list!
As the definition of what constitutes a prospect varies from source to source, I stick with the same explanation as I have in my other prospect posts. A skater is a prospect if he’s played less than 25 NHL games in a campaign (regular season and playoffs combined), less than 50 games total, or reaches 25 by Sept. 15
This list will be updated regularly, so be sure to check back often and see who takes the crown as the current top prospect and where the others fall.
Also, note that this list does not include goaltenders. To see the ranking of the top goalie prospects in the league, you can view that here.
I want to also thank former THW prospects guru Josh Bell (now with FC Hockey) for providing some of the scouting reports for this list.
As always, feel free to reach out with questions, comments, or thoughts. This can either be done in the comment section at the bottom or send me a message on Twitter – @MatthewZatorSC.
100: Veeti Miettinen, Toronto Maple Leafs
The first big riser from the 2020 draft is Finnish forward Veeti Miettinen, who was selected in the sixth round by the Toronto Maple Leafs. After coming over from Finland to join St Cloud University, he has hit the ground running racking up 7 goals and 14 points in 12 games. He is currently on a six-game point streak and looks like a legitimate NHL prospect. He’s fast, creative, has a wicked wrist shot and a personality that will make him a fan favourite. On top of all that, he has leadership qualities too. If he continues to dominate the NCAA, he should be rising up these rankings in no time.
99: Carter Savoie, Edmonton Oilers
In my humble opinion, Carter Savoie should have been drafted a whole lot higher than the fourth round. His defensive game may still need some work, but his offensive skill set and innate ability to rack up the points should get him to the show one day. After obliterating the AJHL with 99 points in 54 games, he has moved onto the NCAA and just continued to dominate. As of this writing, he leads the University of Denver in scoring with 13 points in 12 games and doesn’t look like he’s slowing down anytime soon. The Oilers may actually have a legitimate winger for Connor McDavid finally in the wings (pun intended).
98: Conor Timmins, Colorado Avalanche
After missing over a year of competitive hockey, Connor Timmins came back for the 2019-20 season, making the Colorado Avalanche opening night roster. He was ultimately sent down, but his ability to miss that much time and come into the NHL for the first time is incredible. He’s an excellent two-way defender who has been known to provide some offense. He’s great on his feet and is incredibly smart with the puck. The Avalanche’s defensive group is looking terrifying for the future.
97: Samuel Poulin, Pittsburgh Penguins
The one first-round pick that the Pittsburgh Penguins have had since 2014, Samuel Poulin is the system’s top prospect by a wide margin. Poulin might not be too far away from the NHL. He was invited to the Penguins Return to Play training camp in July 2020, and he’s had back-to-back impressive seasons in the QMJHL. The power forward holds a lot of promise and could be debuting in the NHL in 2020-21.
96: Jamieson Rees, Carolina Hurricanes
Jamieson Rees just keeps getting better. He uses his elite speed and very high hockey IQ to stun his opponents offensively and then doesn’t give anything back by killing penalties and defending very well. He never gives up, no matter where he is on the ice making him always dangerous. You could say he’s a two-way forward, but he might actually be a playmaking two-way forward. At 44th overall in 2019, I think he’ll end up being a steal.
95: Brayden Tracey, Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks’ second first-round pick in 2019, Brayden Tracey is all offence. And yet, he can play in his own end too. Tracey has a knack for goal-scoring and he seems to continue to get better. He has great hands to match as well. On top of these, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a player who battles as hard as he does. He’s going to be a fan favourite for sure.
94: John Beecher, Boston Bruins
Is it possible that the Bruins have the next Patrice Bergeron in their ranks? Alright, John Beecher might not be at that level, but that’s the game he plays. He’s effective in all three zones of the rink, can chip in offensively, and knows how to throw his body around. On top of this, he’s a great skater. As I said, he’s not Bergeron, but he could be Bergeron-esque.
93: Akil Thomas, Los Angeles Kings
Akil Thomas is now Canadian royalty thanks to the gold-medal clinching goal against the Russians at the 2020 World Juniors. He has tons of skill, he’s great on his feet, and it seems like he has the puck on a string. The Kings have a very deep prospect pool and Thomas should be near the top of that.
92: Jan Jeník, Arizona Coyotes
There’s a very good chance that Jan Jeník could be a superstar in the NHL. He’s shown what he’s capable of in the OHL, including a 26-game point streak in 2019-20. He can score, he can pass, and he can skate. He’s extremely creative and looks to be one of the best players in the OHL right now. The Coyotes may have gotten a steal in drafting him 65th overall in 2018.
91: J.J. Peterka, Buffalo Sabres
J.J. Peterka’s stock has risen to new heights since he was selected in the second round by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2020 draft. His 2021 World Juniors performance for Team Germany got everyone’s attention, and now he is known worldwide. Next to Tim Stutezel, he was his country’s best player putting up 4 goals and 10 points in just five games. Known for his tenacious forechecking, never-ending motor, and annoying quality to never give up on a puck, he will be a shift-disturber in the NHL for years to come.
90: Raphael Lavoie, Edmonton Oilers
Despite not being the most consistent player, Raphael Lavoie shows a ton of promise. He’s solid in his own end for a player of his age, he has a great shot and he’s not afraid to get physical. He does occasionally disappear in games, but if he can work on making an impact every time he hits the ice, the Oilers may have drafted a stud in Lavoie.
89: Ty Dellandrea, Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars’ Ty Dellandrea is a two-way forward who brings just about everything to his game. For his age, he’s excellent defensively and he can produce as well. Maybe not as much as some scouts would like, but there’s no questioning his talent. He’s a great skater, is a solid playmaker, and never seems to stop competing.
88: Patrik Puistola, Carolina Hurricanes
Patrik Puistola can score, that’s proven in his stats. But what stands out most for the young player is how he makes it happen. Many scouts and hockey experts said that the Finnish prospect had the best hands in the 2019 NHL Draft. His puckhandling is off the charts, making it seem at times that the puck is tied to his stick. He’s a very creative player, who can very easily make defenders look bad.
87: Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ottawa Senators
Don’t sleep on Jacob Bernard-Docker. Arguably the best defender for Team Canada at the 2020 World Juniors, “JBD” really brings it all to the table. He keeps getting better and better offensively, is solid in his own end, and is a great skater. He can run any special team group and does so regularly. At this point, I would say that his floor is a top-four NHL defenseman. His impressive start to the 2020-21 season keeps solidifying that fact.
86: Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars
The top-scoring player in the CHL for 2018-19 is an absolutely lethal threat on offense. Combine that with his excellent debut in the AHL with the Texas Stars, and it appears the Dallas Stars have an NHL player. He’s an excellent passer with a great shot that can surprise the opposition with a quick goal or a perfect pass. His skating has brought up some concern from scouts, as he lacks acceleration. Keeping up with the pace of the NHL might be an issue, but if he can improve or find a way to cope, he should become a top-six player.
85: Anttoni Honka, Carolina Hurricanes
Anttoni Honka is an excellent skater with high puck skills. This leads to a great start to the rush and once in the offensive end, the young defender knows what to do. He’s extremely offensively-gifted and very underrated at this point. Selected 83rd overall in 2019, it won’t be long before Honka proves that selection wrong.
84: Jack Studnicka, Boston Bruins
This will likely be Jack Studnicka’s only time on this list since he’s already shown what he can do with the Bruins. He’s solid at both ends of the ice and he contributes offensively, leading the Providence Bruins in goals, assists, and points in 2019-20. Get used to seeing him in Boston, as he’s all but locked down a spot on their top-line to begin the 2020-21 season. We will all see what he can accomplish in the NHL as soon as Jan 14.
83: Olli Juolevi, Vancouver Canucks
Olli Juolevi will finally make his regular-season debut with the Canucks this season. After a strong training camp, he will start on the third pairing with veteran Tyler Myers and attempt to bring his calm game to the NHL full time. He is great in transition, moves the puck efficiently out of his own zone, and makes the right play most of the time. He probably won’t ever live up to his draft selection, but I anticipate a long and fruitful career as a bottom-pairing defenceman who can jump up to the top-four when needed.
82: Tyler Madden, Los Angeles Kings
Another King on this list could shoot up if he continues the success he’s had in the NCAA. As a rookie, Tyler Madden took the league by storm, impressing many scouts along the way. He’s one of the most creative prospects in the entire league, with speed for days, and great playmaking ability. With the Canucks trading him to the stacked Kings organization, you can expect some fans to be thinking “what if” very soon.
81: Helge Grans, Los Angeles Kings
Another King on this list is defenceman Helge Grans. Recently selected 35th overall in 2020, his strength lies in the offensive zone and in transition. He skates well for a man of his size, has great hands, and can move the puck efficiently out of his own zone with a well-placed pass or by simply skating it out himself. He still needs to work on his defensive game, but that shouldn’t stop him from becoming a solid top-four defenceman in the NHL.
80: Samuel Fagemo, Los Angeles Kings
After going undrafted in 2018, Samuel Fagemo was selected 50th overall in 2019. He was passed over due to injuries and inconsistency, but he had a solid bounce-back season in 2018-19 and a breakout performance at the 2020 WJC where he posted 13 points. He’s good all over, but not great in any one area. Still, he’s shown flashes of being a very skilled player. His ceiling seems to be all over the place so far, but he should end up as a contributing NHLer. He will likely make his professional debut in North America with the AHL’s Ontario Reign in 2020-21.
79: Bobby Brink, Philadelphia Flyers
Bobby Brink is an elite playmaker and knows how to rack up the points. His vision is among the best of all NHL prospects and there’s a lot to like about his potential. There’s a big knock against him though and that’s his skating. His stride is off, making for a low top-speed and not great acceleration. He ends up being very choppy in his movement. If he can clean this up, there’s potential to shoot up this list.
78: Alex Barre-Boulet, Tampa Bay Lightning
An undrafted player that is looking more and more like an absolute steal every day, Alex Barre-Boulet has the skill to match his sense of the game. He’s creative enough to find his way through defenders and patient enough to wait for the perfect time to make a pass. He’s continuously improving on his skating, which was once a weak spot. It still needs work but he’s much better now.
77: Jack Rathbone, Vancouver Canucks
Jack Rathbone has seen his stock rise over the past few seasons since he was drafted 95th overall back in 2017 by the Vancouver Canucks. His skating, vision, and ability to move the puck up the ice are at an elite level and he’s looked comfortable so far in training camp. Look for him to challenge for a lineup spot in 2020-21 as they continue to build a contender on the West Coast.
76: Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs
A fluid skater of tremendous speed and mobility, Timothy Liljegren is an excellent all-around defender who can score and defend consistently. Although his defensive game is in need of fine-tuning, the Swede has the ability to stifle opposing scoring chances before transitioning the puck up ice with a crisp pass. Boasting a powerful shot, Liljegren can fire the puck on the net too, although he is much more successful when it comes to creating plays.
75: Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators
Josh Norris is a pass-first player who loves to dish the puck to his teammates but can also shoot the puck with authority – a trait which is certainly one of the most easily overlooked aspects of his game. In all, a sizeable centre with skills and smarts, Norris should develop into a sturdy and reliable player for the Senators. As he keeps growing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a top-six player.
74: Josh Brook, Montreal Canadiens
While there isn’t really one aspect of Josh Brook’s game that stands out, he’s a very well-rounded prospect. He’s a good skater who exits the zone well or can dish out a pass to get the puck up ice. He’s patient and precise on the offensive blue line, waiting for the opportune moment to shoot or pass. He defends well, and his jam-packed toolkit should lead to him being a solid NHL defender.
73: Cal Foote, Tampa Bay Lightning
Cal Foote is a tremendous two-way defender whose game flourishes at both ends of the ice. Reliable in the defensive end due to his immense size and ability to physically dominate his opponents, he’s also a threat in the offensive zone, where his incredible hockey sense and underrated shot make him a focal point. Foote is immensely versatile, as he can play in seemingly any situation – whether it be the power play or penalty kill – and find great success in doing so.
72: Tobias Björnfot, Los Angeles Kings
Tobias Björnfot’s hockey sense is very high, and he’s already an elite skater. Those two qualities combined allow him to lead the rush out of the defensive end, transitioning the play quickly and effectively. He’s able to drive the play, make crisp passes, and also adds a quick, hard shot to his game. He also knows how to handle the puck. He surprised many by cracking the Kings lineup for opening night in 2019-20, and it won’t be long before he’s back.
71: Nolan Foote, New Jersey Devils
The younger brother to Cal, Nolan Foote seems to have already surpassed his brother in potential. Foote still needs to work on his skating, but his shot is out of this world. It seems to be getting harder and faster. He’s great with the puck, and there’s really not much he can’t do with it. The Lightning drafted him because they love their goal-scorers to have a hard, heavy shot, and Foote has that all over, but then they moved him to the Devils. You can expect him to use that shot against Tampa soon.
70. Scott Perunovich, St. Louis Blues
Scott Perunovich made anyone who wasn’t paying attention notice this season, winning the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA. He’s an excellent skater that can drive the rush and make a stellar play in transition. The top prospect for the St. Louis Blues could very much be headed to the NHL in 2020-21.
69: Tyler Benson, Edmonton Oilers
Tyler Benson is an incredibly mature and poised prospect of the Oilers. He has great size and intelligence, incredible hockey sense, and the ability to make the right play with stunning regularity. Capable of improving the play of his teammates, Benson is an excellent talent who, if able to stay healthy, could become a tremendous depth option for the Oilers in the immediate future.
68: Oliver Wahlstrom, New York Islanders
The New York Islanders have an offensive weapon waiting to be unleashed in Oliver Wahlstrom. The forward is extremely skilled and has one of the best shots not in the NHL. He’s also a good setup man but has a shoot-first mentality. Wahlstrom needs to work on his skating, his consistency, and there are times where he doesn’t seem to compete as hard as he could, but he’s still a very good prospect.
67: Eeli Tolvanen, Nashville Predators
Eeli Tolvanen is an incredibly skilled winger of immense potential. A natural goal scorer whose shot is both accurate and heavy, he can snap a quick wrister on the net or set up for a booming one-timer while on the power play. He’s a very strong offensive talent that is absolutely lethal in the offensive zone. It’s taken him a long time, but the skill is still there.
66: Jakob Pelletier, Calgary Flames
The 26th overall pick in 2019, Jakob Pelletier is an all-around stud prospect. He’s good in his own end and can set up plays in the opposing zone. He’s put up solid points in the QMJHL and will look to build on that this season. His agility is what sets him apart and combined with his creativity, he’s a difficult player to defend. He’s likely a top-six player with the potential for the top-line. He is also an incredible leader, having captained his QMJHL team and showing immense character after a gut-wrenching loss to the Americans in the 2021 WJC gold medal game (from ‘Flames prospect Jakob Pelletier displays leadership skills after world junior heartbreaker’ Calgary Sun, 1/7/21).
65: Dominik Bokk, Carolina Hurricanes
When you watch Dominik Bokk play, it’s impossible not to notice the skill he has with his hands. He keeps the puck on a string and can undress defenders. He makes highlight-reel passes on a regular basis and his skating is improving, which is a good sign. He’ll need to keep working on skating, and his overall consistency, but all signs point to Bokk being a solid NHL player.
64: Alex Formenton, Ottawa Senators
When you think of Alex Formenton, you think of speed. He’s one of the fastest prospects in the league, already putting NHL defenders on their heels in his short stints with the team. He has some more developing to do before he hits the NHL full time, but he’s getting close. You’ll often find him battling hard for the puck – and winning.
63: Mavrik Bourque, Dallas Stars
Mavrik Bourque is going to turn out to be a steal of a pick for the Dallas Stars. Projected by many to go in the upper part of the 2020 draft, they snagged him at 30th overall. He’s slippery as they come with an elite set of hands, insane playmaking abilities, and the potential for a highlight-reel play every time he’s on the ice. Teams are going to quickly regret sleeping on Bourque.
62: Logan Brown, Ottawa Senators
Senators prospect Logan Brown is a big (6-foot-6) centreman who is coming off a big season in the AHL in 2018-19. He’s a very talented playmaker, with the ability to surprise a goalie with a good shot. But he’ll check for any available passes first. He’s continuing to improve as time goes on, and while he’s taken longer than others from his 2016 draft class, he still looks like he could be a top-six player in the NHL. He’ll likely graduate this season.
61: Ryan Merkley, San Jose Sharks
Young defender Ryan Merkley is lethal in the offensive zone, is a high-end playmaker, and has a great shot. He needs to work on his play in his own end and his attitude, but there’s no question that there’s a solid player in Merkley. He was traded before the 2019-20 season from the Peterborough Petes to the London Knights, which will hopefully be his last stop before San Jose.
60: Jacob Perreault, Anaheim Ducks
Jacob Perreault has an elite shot, there’s no doubt about it. Whenever he has the puck with a clear shot at the net, he can score. That type of skill will get him to the NHL but if he does not develop his defensive game, he won’t last for long.
Perreault’s hockey IQ in the offensive end is excellent, it’s his decision making in his own zone that needs work. However, with the right mentors, he should be able to shore that up rather quickly. An elite shot like his does not come around every day, that’s why he’s closing in on the top-50 already.
59: Cam York, Philadelphia Flyers
One of the best defensemen coming out of the 2019 NHL Draft, Cam York should develop into a top-two defenseman when he hits the NHL. He has excellent vision and makes great decisions with and without the puck. He’s patient and has a great stride. All of this combines into a solid defensive prospect for the Flyers.
58: Pavel Dorofeyev, Vegas Golden Knights
Pavel Dorofeyev will very soon prove his third-round, 79th pick wrong. He’s an all-around offensive threat who can just as easily set up a goal as he can finish it himself. He holds his own defensively, and his creativity adds to his arsenal. He’s just going to get better, and the Golden Knights are counting on that.
57: Dylan Holloway, Edmonton Oilers
Dylan Holloway is a well-rounded forward with all the tools to become an elite power forward in the NHL. His defensive awareness and hockey IQ are already at a pro-level and he’s only 19-years-old. He is a menace on the forecheck and backcheck, and rarely makes a mistake in the defensive zone. He is also a capable net-front presence on the power play and can kill penalties. He will soon become a favourite of whatever head coach is awaiting him in Edmonton one day.
56: Ryan Suzuki, Carolina Hurricanes
The younger brother of Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki, Ryan Suzuki makes plays like few others. He’s an elite passer, is a great puck handler, and he’s a great skater. His shot is in need of improvement, but he’s still young. He’s a great prospect that should develop into a top-six NHLer in a few seasons. I’m not sure that he’ll reach his brother’s level, but he should come close.
55: Lukas Reichel, Chicago Blackhawks
Team Germany really missed the talent and tenacity of Lukas Reichel in the 2021 World Juniors. Beyond the top line of Tim Stutezel, Florian Elias, and Peterka, they really didn’t have any other significant offensive threat. He is an annoying package of skill and an unrelenting work ethic, which makes him very hard to play against night in and night out.
54: Noel Gunler, Carolina Hurricanes
Noel Gunler has everything you want in a top-six forward, except for the defensive awareness. He has an NHL-ready shot and hockey IQ to match, so it was surprising to see him fall into the second round. Throughout the season he was projected to go somewhere in the top-15, so he could be a steal if all goes right in his development. His struggles defensively could be why he dropped, but that can be easily remedied with the right coach and player development. His innate offensive skills cannot be taught, that’s why he’s so high in these rankings.
53: Adam Beckman, Minnesota Wild
Adam Beckman is one of the most well-rounded prospects out there. He can fill the back of the net, makes a great pass, but can hold his own in the defensive end. He regularly forces turnovers in both ends with some solid defending and aggressive forechecking. He makes quick, smart decisions and is proving his low selection wrong early.
52: Jan Mysak, Montreal Canadiens
Like Gunler, Jan Mysak fell to the second round after being ranked in the top-15 by many pundits. He’s a dynamic player with high-end skating skills, a bullet of a wrist shot, and is a capable defender as well. He also has been recognized as a leader and strong presence in the dressing room as he captained the plucky Czech Republic team during the 2021 WJC. He could be one of the steals of the 2020 draft.
51: Aleksi Heponiemi, Florida Panthers
Aleksi Heponiemi is a high-end prospect with elite playmaking ability. Offence tends to run through him when he’s on the ice. His hockey IQ is through the roof, he’s creative, and that’s a dangerous combination in the offensive end. He’s not the fastest skater, so he might not be able to win a race to the puck all the time, but if the Panthers can get it to him, he’ll do the rest.
50: Victor Söderström, Arizona Coyotes
Victor Söderström a two-way defender that excels at moving the puck up the ice. Many scouts say that he won’t be a game-breaker, but he should be a dependable defenseman in all scenarios which is a great asset to have. He creates offence, he’s hard to beat one-on-one and he loves to throw his body around. He had a strong tournament for Team Sweden at the 2021 WJC and should be ready for the NHL very soon.
49: Matthew Boldy, Minnesota Wild
Anywhere you look, Matthew Boldy is described as “silky” and “smooth.” His ability with the puck is one of the best in the draft and mixed with his vision on the ice, he’s always a threat to punish defences. One of his biggest assets, though, is the adaptability to shift his game for the good of the team. Whether that means switching wings, or even from a sniper to a playmaker, he is able to sense what the team needs from him and excel in that role. After a tough start to his NCAA career, he broke out in the second half of 2019-20 and is off to the races early in 2020-21 with nine points in five games already, proving he’s still a promising prospect in the NHL.
48. Gabe Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings
Gabe Vilardi proved doubters wrong last season. After playing just four games in 2018-19, Vilardi came back in 2019-20 and put up 25 points in 32 games in the AHL and an impressive seven points in his first 10 NHL games. A dynamic centre that excels at both ends of the rink, Vilardi will be a household name very soon. He could break out as soon as this season, as he’s built a lot of muscle onto his frame during the offseason. According to Kings’ coach Todd McLellan, “Gabe looks like a different man right now physically…looks stronger. I think his engine’s much better.”
47: Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers
Vitali Kravtsov will need to be double-teamed by defences because there are not many defenders in the NHL that will be able to stop him single-handed. He’s an incredibly creative player that has a pass-first mentality. He’s a high-end playmaker and has the ability to change the course of a game. He’ll be a core piece of the Rangers moving forward.
46: Philip Tomasino, Nashville Predators
Philip Tomasino is going to be a fan favourite for Predators fans. He’s an excellent skater, with arguably elite puck-skills. He’s a very good playmaker, often making extremely creative passes through traffic. He’ll need to bulk up a bit, as he’s sometimes pushed around a bit, but Tomasino has a very full toolkit that will lead to him being a threat in the NHL very soon.
45: Dawson Mercer, New Jersey Devils
Dawson Mercer will be more important to the New Jersey Devils in the future than fellow first-rounder Alexander Holtz. There, I said it. He just has that x-factor which makes a difference in big games. He can play all the positions, both special teams, set up teammates, and score goals too. He’s the ultimate utility man that will lead the Devils to a Stanley Cup one day. As you can probably tell, he’s quickly become one of my favourite prospects.
44: Rasmus Kupari, Los Angeles Kings
Rasmus Kupari is an incredibly skilled player. He’s a strong skater, has great puck-handling ability, and loves making plays. He can be a game-breaker, but there are still some kinks to work out of his game. He’s not great defensively, but that’s something that will be constantly taught and should come with further development.
43: Jake Bean, Carolina Hurricanes
A poised defender of immense intelligence, Jake Bean is a tremendous two-way player who thrives at both ends of the ice. Strong in his defensive zone through the use of his stick and the ability to read plays before they develop, he can transition the puck to his forwards with ease and is capable of joining the rush as it progresses. A hard-worker and relentless talent, Bean drives offence in the opposing zone through his ability to create plays and willingness to unleash his crisp shot when the appropriate moment arises.
42: Nils Lundkvist, New York Rangers
Nils Lundkvist has become one of the top defensive prospects in the league. He’s fast and always working hard, and his ability to move the puck is practically elite. He’s incredibly smart and can get the puck up the ice himself or with a strong pass. His offensive production is extremely impressive in the SHL, and despite being left off the Rangers’ training camp roster for 2020-21, he should be seeing time in the NHL very soon.
41: Nils Höglander, Vancouver Canucks
Nils Höglander has some of the best hands in the 2019 draft and combines it with great skating and speed that makes it difficult to defend against him. That set of skills also affords him many opportunities on the breakaway, where he can pull off a highlight-reel play. He’s able to play the game at a very fast pace and make the right plays while doing so. He even holds his own in the defensive zone and brings an exciting level of grit to his game. Now that he’s brought his immense skill to the Canucks, the sky’s the limit as it looks like he will start the 2020-21 season on the team’s second line with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson.
40: Thomas Harley, Dallas Stars
Thomas Harley looks like he could be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. He plays big minutes and sets up plays very well. The best part of his game though is his elite skating. There’s a lot of upside to his game, and we could see that as early as 2020-21 after his NHL debut in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s one of the best prospects in the transition, which we’ll be seeing in Dallas very soon.
39: Owen Tippett, Florida Panthers
Owen Tippett’s incredible goal-scoring ability should immediately address an issue that has plagued the Panthers for quite some time now. The one facet of his game that stands high above the rest is his insane shot. With a lightning-quick release and speed, his shot is consistently overwhelming and, on top of its weight, is surprisingly accurate.
38: K’Andre Miller, New York Rangers
Among the many strong prospects that the Rangers have, K’Andre Miller is one of the best defenders of the group. He’s a very good skater and his size gives him a big reach with his stick. Combine that with his ability to lay down hits, and you get a strong defender. He should be a top-four player at the very least when he makes the jump. He has offensive skill too – completing the package.
37: Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers
One of the best defensive prospects in the league, Evan Bouchard projects to be a top-two defender in the NHL. He’s a power-play quarterback with a wicked shot and a great offensive mind. He has seven games under his belt already and should see that number increase in a big way in 2020-21.
36: Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Romanov is a defenseman with speed and a good shot, but some scouts are skeptical whether or not he can make an impact in the NHL. He has great instincts as a defender in his own zone, but his offensive game is still a work in progress. He has been partnered with Brett Kulak on the third pairing in training camp, so it appears that his first game in the NHL should be just around the corner.
35: Morgan Frost, Philadelphia Flyers
Morgan Frost is an exciting player to watch. In his last two seasons with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he put up 221 points in just 125 games. He looks like a sure-fire top-line centreman with superstar potential. His creativity is through the roof – you don’t want to face him one on one. He needs to improve his skating, and if he does, the NHL should watch out. He’s already been playing with the Flyers, and shouldn’t be on this list much longer. In fact, he’s only five games away from graduating.
34: Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers
Philip Broberg seemed to be a polarizing prospect ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft. Some scouts had him high, some very low. The Oilers decided high was the right option, taking him eighth overall. He’s an elite skater who can blow by entire teams when his wheels get going. He’s solid offensively as well, as a set-up man from the point. He was a workhorse for Team Sweden in the 2021 WJC and it’s only a matter of time before he makes it to the NHL as a top-four defender.
33: Barrett Hayton, Arizona Coyotes
The fifth-overall pick in 2018, Barrett Hayton is an absolutely dominant player. He can play in either end and there really isn’t any flaw in his game. He can shoot, pass, defend, deke, and do just about anything else you ask of him. He’s a very likely candidate to be a full-time NHLer in 2020-21 as a part of a very young and exciting Coyotes squad.
32: Rodion Amirov, Toronto Maple Leafs
Rodion Amirov’s game doesn’t have many flaws, as he’s a great skater which in turn makes him a great forechecker. Even though he’s not the biggest of forwards, he plays with an aggressive mindset and is unafraid of physicality along the boards. Though, his biggest asset is his hockey IQ and ability to influence the game from all three zones and both special teams. The work ethic and attitude he possesses is also second-to-none. Basically, he’s a complete player who is only going to get better.
31: Drake Batherson, Ottawa Senators
Drake Batherson dominated the AHL in his rookie campaign, earning a brief stint in the NHL where he came in like a wrecking ball before tapering off. He’s always a threat when he’s on the ice, whether it’s through a shot or a pass. He’s a core piece of the Senators rebuild, and likely won’t be on this list for very long.
30: Joe Veleno, Detroit Red Wings
A very strong skater, Joe Veleno is another player that could move off of this list in the 2020-21 season. While his skating is his most attractive quality, there is lots to like about this prospect. He’s a possession beast, with high zone entry totals annually. He can score and he can dish them out, combining to make him an offensive threat whenever he hits the ice. If it’s not this year, Veleno will be an NHLer by next season.
29: Seth Jarvis, Carolina Hurricanes
Seth Jarvis is a speedy, creative forward built for the new NHL. He plays the game with the physicality and size of a 6-foot-4 forward while being only 5-foot-10. He isn’t afraid of the crease, as you will see him venture into the dirty areas multiple times during a game. In essence, he’s a power forward in a finesse player’s body.
28: Nicholas Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nicholas Robertson has impressed early on, but there’s still work to be done for the young forward. He can put up the points, he’s creative, and has great offensive instincts. His skating has been a knock against him, and he needs to improve in his own end, but there is a lot to like about this player who was just four days away from being eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft instead of 2019. I think he’s going to be a steal – if he’s not already.
27: Ville Heinola, Winnipeg Jets
One of my favourite defensemen in the 2019 NHL Draft, Ville Heinola is the definition of hockey sense. He’s patient with the puck, has a calming presence on the ice and makes zone-exits with ease. He’s great positionally, especially in his own end, but he does need to work on his skating in order to thrive at the next level. After seeing him at the 2021 WJC with Team Finland, it looks like he’s already made strides in this, as he appeared faster and more dynamic than last season.
26: Jack Quinn, Buffalo Sabres
Once thought of as a weak skater before his draft year, Jack Quinn turned heads in 2019-20 when he exploded onto the scene with 52 goals and 89 points in only 62 games. It was a massive jump from the 12 goals in 61 games he put up just a season prior. The improvement in his skating was a big reason why. He is also a proficient two-way player with an elite shot and underrated playmaking abilities. He should fit in nicely with Dylan Cozens when he makes it to the NHL.
25: Peyton Krebs, Vegas Golden Knights
Peyton Krebs is a well-rounded prospect that brings an offensive flair to his game and is known as a leader. He’s a great playmaker and skater. A big selling point in Krebs’ game is his defensive skill. There aren’t many players that age that is as sound in his own zone as he is. A potential first-line centreman.
24: Arthur Kaliyev, Los Angeles Kings
Many in the hockey world were shocked when Arthur Kaliyev slipped to the 33rd selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Some scouts had him going in the top-10 or the teens at the least. Either way, this pick is going to look like highway robbery down the road. Kaliyev is a pure sniper, finishing 2019-20 with 44 goals and 98 points in only 57 games. Yeah, he can set-up goals, too. Imagining Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte one day playing together for the Kings should get fans very excited.
23: Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals
Connor McMichael came to play last season. His play all-around is incredible. He’s an offensive weapon, with excellent vision, and a shot to be envious of. He seems to have gained confidence since being drafted, creating a dangerous player for all of his opponents. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take another big step forward in 2020-21.
22: Grigori Denisenko, Florida Panthers
Grigori Denisenko might just be one of the most underrated prospects in the league. He doesn’t get discussed a whole lot, but there’s no question that he’s one of the best prospects out there. He’s a great skater, with some of the best puckhandling skills not in the NHL. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some refs stop play to see if he has the puck on a string. He sets the pace when he’s on the ice and should be an elite, top-line player in the NHL.
21: Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils
Watching Devils prospect Ty Smith play, you can see that he knows everything that’s happening on the ice. He can see where everyone is but what makes him a great prospect is his ability to see where players are going to be. He can make a big stretch pass or carry it up himself, making a play in the offensive end. He should be a top-two defender very soon.
20: Liam Foudy, Columbus Blue Jackets
Foudy’s bread and butter is his skating, which is a thing of beauty. He has an enormous amount of skill and is incredible with the puck. Once he fine-tunes his play in his own end, he will be a top-six player for the Blue Jackets. He showed what he can do in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and it looks like he’s already secured a spot on the 2020-21 opening night roster. He’s also set to kill penalties for John Tortorella, so it’s safe to say that Foudy has arrived in the NHL in a big way.
19: Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks
Vasili Podkolzin’s final season in the KHL has been less than ideal for him and the Canucks. He has seen a reduced role on the fourth line, multiple trips to the VHL (the KHL’s version of the AHL), and even visits to the press box. He got a reprieve at the 2021 WJC, where he showcased his speed, power, and leadership qualities on the top line, but now he’s back in the KHL enduring the same treatment. April can’t come soon enough, as he’s more than ready for a top-six spot in the NHL.
18: Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings
Moritz Seider already has NHL size, he’s a great passer, a good skater, and can win battles along the boards. What might be most impressive is his defensive game. He seems to remain calm in all situations and make the right decision to get the puck out of his own end. Many defenders at this stage in their careers need to focus on their defending ability, and while there’s room to improve, the German prospect is starting at a very advanced stage. He is currently on loan with Rogle BK of the SHL and has looked every bit of the high-end defender he was projected to be with 17 points in 24 games so far.
17. Jake Sanderson, Ottawa Senators
Another budding top-pairing defenceman, Jake Sanderson has a toolbox to be envied. He can shut you down in the defensive zone with his size and stick work and at the same time burn you in the offensive zone with a calculated wrist shot or precise pass to a teammate. He is the perfect two-way defenceman and will be a staple on the Senators blueline for years to come.
16. Alexander Holtz, New Jersey Devils
A pure goal scorer if you’ve ever seen one. That is basically how you would describe Alexander Holtz. He can score in multiple ways with a precise wrist shot, cannon of a one-timer, or simply a quick deke. His hands are soft, and his hockey IQ is sublime. Look for him to become fast friends with the goal light and a horror movie for opposing goaltenders very soon.
15: Alex Newhook, Colorado Avalanche
Alex Newhook is known for his speed. He can leave defenders in a cloud of snow behind him, and that alone makes him a high-end prospect. He’s an offensive weapon, capable of making a great play or finding the back of the net himself. He’s strong in his own end as well and projects to be a top-six player in the NHL. He’s a potential star.
14. Anton Lundell, Florida Panthers
Anton Lundell was a force in the recent 2021 WJC, captaining Team Finland to a well-deserved bronze medal. His six goals and ten points led the plucky Finns, and there were multiple times where you saw why he will be a special player in the NHL one day. The way he thinks the game is what makes him stand out from his peers, as he seems to be able to anticipate the next play before it happens. The Florida Panthers got a good one when they drafted him at 12th overall, that’s for sure.
13. Jamie Drysdale, Anaheim Ducks
Even though Team Canada did not ultimately win the gold medal, Jamie Drysdale was excellent throughout the 2021 WJC. As usual, he dominated the ice with his mobility, silky-smooth skating, and seemingly never-ending fuel tank. He played upwards of 25 minutes a night and looked very comfortable while doing it. His rival Jake Sanderson may have won the championship, but he will have the last laugh in the end, as he has the higher ceiling of the two. Multiple Norris Trophies are sure to be in his future, and you can quote me on that.
12: Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield is an elite skater and a pure goal-scorer. He has a full arsenal of shots, all of which can result in the puck in the back of the net. The Canadiens have a future superstar in their system, even if he spends a couple of seasons developing before he gets to the NHL. He’s already considered a steal at 15th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.
11. Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets
Cole Perfetti may not have the size or speed to dominate the NHL, but he definitely has the smarts. Sometimes that’s all you need to become an elite player in this league. Just look at Nikita Kucherov, who he was compared to by Saginaw Spirits’ head coach Chris Lazary. Kucherov is a top-ten forward and is only an average skater with a 5-foot-11 frame. He also absolutely lit up the league a couple of seasons ago with 128 points in 82 games. In the end, hockey IQ can trump everything else, as long as it’s at an otherworldly level.
10: Alex Turcotte, Los Angeles Kings
Alex Turcotte was the best two-way centre in the 2019 draft, and just might be the team’s next Anze Kopitar. He’s an excellent skater, can pile up the points, and is an elite prospect in the league. He’s an absolute threat every time he hits the ice. There really isn’t any clear flaw in his game. I’d expect to see the star prospect see some NHL time in 2020-21.
9. Marco Rossi, Minnesota Wild
Marco Rossi could be Kaprizov’s partner in crime as soon as next season and become an assist-machine because of it. He plays a hard game for a 5-foot-9 forward and rarely gets physically outmatched in the offensive zone. Like Raymond, he has a polished defensive game that is rare to find in an 18-year-old. On a Minnesota Wild team that prides itself on a strong defensive game, he will be a quick favourite of the coaching staff when he eventually makes it to the big leagues.
8: Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
A strong skater who is difficult to knock off of the puck, Kirill Kaprizov is blessed with soft hands and a lethal shot. The Russian already excels at the professional level and will surely improve as he gains greater experience. He’s an elite offensive threat that should be able to transition straight into the Wild’s top-six. Last season, he became the youngest player to hit 100 points in the KHL, and he’s already impressing everyone in Wild training camp. He’s going to be a star in the NHL very soon.
7: Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres
Taken seventh overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Dylan Cozens is an all-around stud, capable of playing in any situation and excelling. He’s an elite talent with high-end skating and creativity with the puck. Even though it did not lead to a gold medal, he excelled at the 2021 WJC where he paced Team Canada with 8 goals and 16 points. He was dangerous almost every shift and should be a welcome addition to the Sabres’ lineup possibly as soon as 2020-21.
6: Bowen Byram, Colorado Avalanche
Bowen Byram is a great skater with an ability to surprise opposing players with his speed. His vision allows him to make big passing plays, and he isn’t afraid to play physically. He handles the puck very well and has a quick, hard shot that can fool goaltenders. His will very soon be quarterbacking the Avalanche’s power play and leading the breakouts from his own end.
5: Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras looks to be an elite, impact player in the league. A great, creative playmaker that should be the club’s next number-one centre. He adds a surprisingly quick shot and good speed to his list of attributes. As he continues to grow and improve, he could become one of the best centres in the game. He should see some NHL action this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick. The insane gold medal performance we saw at the 2021 WJC, where he posted 18 points in seven games, further solidified that fact.
4. Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings
Quinton Byfield did not have the strongest of tournaments for the Canadians, save for a six-point outburst against a weak opponent in the Swiss. He went pointless in key matchups and did not dominate as a second-overall pick should. That being said, he still possesses an NHL ceiling that is in the upper stratosphere. His rare combination of size, speed, and skill will be a welcome addition to a team in Los Angeles that is building a prospect pool that is quickly bordering on ridiculous.
3. Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings should go and call themselves Little Sweden, as they have an enviable amount of promising Swedish prospects in their pipeline. Lucas Raymond leads them all with the most potential and is one of the most NHL-ready forwards of his draft class. Like most Swedes, he has exceptional hockey sense, strong forechecking abilities, and most of all, a pro-level work ethic. He has very few weaknesses to his game and could be a perennial Selke Award winner down the road like Pavel Datsyuk was before him.
2. Tim Stuetzle, Ottawa Senators
Arguably the biggest European prize out of the 2020 draft, Tim Stuetzle has all the tools to become an elite top-line winger in the NHL. As we saw in the 2021 World Junior Championship, he can take over a game at a moment’s notice and carry a team on his shoulders as well. He can burn you in multiple ways whether it be with his speed, hands, or even a slick power move to the net as we saw recently in the WJC. Basically, you need to keep your head on swivel when he’s on the ice. Watch out Leon Draisaitl, another German superstar is coming for your throne very soon.
1: Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere was the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft for a reason. He boasts a rare package of speed, size, playmaking, hockey IQ, and most of all, scoring ability. He can basically do it all. After signing his entry-level contract with the New York Rangers, he is ready to take the NHL by storm in 2020-21.
Who’s too low? Who’s too high? Who do you think should have made the list? Leave a comment below!
My name is Matthew and I cover the Vancouver Canucks, and Vancouver Giants here at the Hockey Writers. I am also the head of the prospects and NHL Draft coverage. I am passionate about the Canucks, prospects, and all things hockey.