The Detroit Red Wings’ 2019-20 season will begin on Oct. 5 at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators, puck drop is at 8 p.m. Eastern. It will be the first game of what is sure to be a long and grueling season for the Red Wings. With bright stars already pushing to make the team, we can take time to recognize other young players that hope to join them soon.
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft takes place June 26-27, 2020, at the Bell Centre in Montreal; a day the Red Wings front office has already marked on their calendar. If interviews and preseason predictions are any indication, Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Red Wings, will have a good chance at taking the number one pick. Having said that, if they don’t land the first-overall pick, which players stand out among the crowd? While this list is not a definitive top 10 ranking, these players can easily slot in the Red Wings roster based on their unique skill sets. From flashy forwards to determined defensemen, these players are bound to make names for themselves before the 2020 Entry Draft.
Alex Lafreniere LW, Rimouski Oceanic:
Playing left wing, Lafreniere has been an early pick by analysts as the player most likely to be selected first. He plays for the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), hoping to improve upon a dominant season last year, scoring 37 goals and an impressive 105 points in just 67 games. Last year, he played alongside Red Wings prospect Joe Veleno in the 2019 WJC tournament. Lafrienere’s incredible positioning, goal-scoring ability, and high hockey IQ make him a no-brainer first-overall pick.
Quinton Byfield C, Sudbury Wolves:
The 6-foot-4, 214-pound center is a big body that showed some impressive agility during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Byfield recorded five points over five games, during Team Canada’s run at gold. He plays center for the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL, and in 2018-19 he, playing in 64 games recorded, 29 goals and 61 points. It should also be noted that he is only 17, meaning he still has more time to grow and mature into an imposing force in the future.
Lucas Raymond RW/LW, Frolunda HC:
Detroit could expand their relationship with the country of Sweden by picking the highly skilled winger out of Frolunda HC in the Swedish SuperElit. Raymond had an integral part of Sweden’s victory at the under-18 World Championships last spring, scoring a hat trick that won them the gold medal game against Russia. With the Frolunda J20 team in the 2019-20 season, he will most likely end up playing against men in the SHL at some point. He has a deadly shot that will no doubt raise the eyebrows of the Red Wings front office.
Alexander Holtz RW/LW, Djurgardens IF:
Similar to Raymond, Alexander Holtz played a key role for the Swedish U18 team in their gold medal game back in the spring. He is an aggressive forechecker with a deadly shot, making for a nearly unstoppable combination. Last season, he played for Djurgardens IF J20, producing 47 points in only 38 games. It may be hard to separate the so-called twins, Raymond and Holtz, but each will blaze their own trail on their way to the NHL.
Cole Perfetti C, Saginaw Spirit:
Cole Perfetti made a big stride at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, leading the tournament with 7 goals and 12 points, breaking the tournament record. He is a smooth-skating center out of the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit. Last season, he led the team with 74 points over 64 games. This next year will show whether his Hlinka Gretzky numbers were a fluke or a sign of things to come.
Jamie Drysdale D, Erie Otters:
Jamie Drysdale, the top defenseman for Team Canada in the Hlinka Cup, will play the 2019-20 season with the Erie Otters of the OHL. In the previous tournament, he was the leading scorer amongst defensemen, ranking fourth overall in points among all players. He is a power play leader and is expected to be the top defender in this year’s class.
Yaroslav Askarov G, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg:
For the first time since Carey Price, we may see a goaltender picked within the top 10 in 2020. Yaroslav Askarov outperformed many at the World Juniors last year and was the essential piece that led Russia to victory over Canada at the Hlinka Cup. Yzerman has a tendency to pick big-bodied Russian goalies, and expectations are high for Askarov. In the Russian junior league last season, he posted a .921 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.31 goals against average (GAA). With goaltending as a key concern in the prospect pipeline, he may receive a few additional looks.
Anton Lundell: C/LW, HIFK:
Anton Lundell follows a long line of elite Finnish players to come out of the Liiga in recent years, joining Patrik Laine, Aleksander Barkov, and Kaapo Kaako as their respective draft classes’ top talent. Lundell has been scouted for his exceptional wrist shot that brought him nine goals at the age of 17 in the Finnish men’s league. He’ll look to improve his numbers this season as he’s poised to gain a larger role on his team, Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna i Helsingfors, HIFK.
Noel Gunler LW/RW, Lulea HF:
Another highly anticipated Swedish winger, Noel Gunler did not start this season with the junior team at the Hlinka Cup. Last season, after playing in 31 games and scoring 46 points with the J20 team, he was called up to the Swedish Hockey League to play with Lulea HF for 15 games. In that time, he tallied five points with the parent organization playing against grown men. He’s one of the most experienced players in the draft, having spent the longest amount of time against fully developed athletes.
Hendrix Lapierre C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens:
Hendrix Lapierre joined Team Canada in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, finishing second among all players in points alongside fellow draft class member Perfetti with 3 goals and 11 points. Lapierre was nearly a point-per-game player last season in the QMJHL, finishing the season with 45 points in 48 games. He is a 200-foot player and monitors both ends of the ice with a responsible, careful outlook on any situation.
Vasili Ponomaryov C, Shawinigan Cataractes:
Vasili Ponomaryov plays a fast-paced game. He shot up the preseason rankings at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, showing flashes of elite potential with high-speed plays and elite shooting. Last season he played in Russia’s MHL, but will transition to the QMJHL in the 2019-20 season with the Shawinigan Cataractes. If he can be an elite presence in the junior league, he will leap ahead of many other European players that have chosen to remain home this season. I really like his chances to rise above the competition due to his accurate stick and playmaking ability. Keep an eye out for him as he continues to take big strides this season in the QMJHL.
Overall, the Red Wings and Yzerman will follow their meticulous plan when the 2019-20 season concludes. If the team receives the first overall pick, the decision should be fairly easy, but if not, Yzerman will have a lot of options available within the top 10. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a dark horse candidate make their way to Detroit after the draft. Until then, keep your eyes peeled for any players with untapped potential before the 2020 Entry Draft.