Alexis Lafreniere, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, is expected to be the first of many high-caliber skaters and goalies chosen in the 2020 NHL Draft.
The left wing with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the favorite to go No. 1, but NHL scouts and general managers of teams with picks in the first round will have plenty of options even after the Canadian Hockey League David Branch Player of the Year is off the board.
"Alexis Lafreniere is the best prospect in the 2020 draft class, and after that there's a group of highly talented prospects who play various positions to which the NHL clubs picking in the top 10 will have to sort through to determine the best available prospect," said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. "This group all have the smarts, skating and skills which make them mostly interchangeable. It's an excellent year to have a lottery pick, yet challenging at the same time in determining the ranking order."
[RELATED: Top 10 right wings | Top 10 left wings | Top 10 defensemen | Top 10 centers | Top 10 goalies]
Lafreniere (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) won the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the leading scorer in the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games, the Paul Dumont Trophy as QMJHL personality of the year, the Michel Briere Trophy as the most valuable player in the QMJHL, the CHL Top Draft Prospect of the Year Award and was named CHL Player of the Year.
"I think the way I'm a leader and always want to win when the game's on the line, I think I can make a difference," Lafreniere said. "I think that's a strong asset that I have. For sure, there's some other really good players in the draft, so it's really special to be [ranked] No. 1."
Here is NHL.com's top 10 players eligible for the 2020 draft:
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 (North American skaters)
The 18-year-old had 30 multipoint games and scored 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists) in 20 games after returning from the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, where he was named the tournament's most valuable player after scoring 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the title. He could become the third player from the QMJHL chosen No. 1 in the draft in the past eight years, following Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (2013, Halifax) and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (2017, Halifax). The last Rimouski player selected No. 1 was Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby in 2005.
2. Tim Stuetzle, LW, Mannheim (GER)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 (International skaters)
Stuetzle (6-1, 187) is a left-handed shot who can play all situations with speed, great vision and swagger. He scored 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) and had 132 shots on goal in 41 games for Mannheim of Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top professional league in Germany. His 0.66 assists per game and 0.83 points per game were the highest averages by an under-18 player in the history of the DEL. The 18-year-old also had five assists and averaged 18:43 in ice time in five games for Germany at the 2020 WJC.
3. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (North American skaters)
Byfield (6-4, 215) is a left-handed shot who was a driving force for Sudbury this season. He tied for 14th in the Ontario Hockey League with 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) and was sixth with 1.82 points per game. The 17-year-old won 51.9 percent of his face-offs (304-for-586), and scored 22 power-play points (six goals, 16 assists) in 45 games. Byfield, who has scored 143 points (61 goals, 82 assists) in 109 OHL games, can become the highest-selected Black player in the NHL Draft, ahead of Evander Kane (2009, Atlanta Thrashers) and Seth Jones (2013, Nashville Predators), each chosen at No. 4.
4. Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 6 (North American skaters)
The left-handed shot led the Canadian Hockey League with 120 points (39 goals, 81 assists) in 56 games, including 34 multipoint games, and his average of 2.14 points per game was second behind Lafreniere (2.15). The 18-year-old (5-9, 183) can become the highest-selected Austria-born player in the NHL draft, ahead of Thomas Vanek, chosen by the Buffalo Sabres at No. 5 in the 2003 NHL Draft.
5. Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 3 (North American skaters)
Drysdale (5-11, 175) is capable of running the power play and driving offense with his skating and elite hockey sense. The 18-year-old right-handed shot scored 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) and 22 power-play points (three goals, 19 assists) in 49 games for Erie, and scored three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games while averaging 11:38 in ice time to help Canada win the 2020 WJC.
Video: Jamie Drysdale on NHL Tonight
6. Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SWE)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 4 (International skaters)
The right-handed shot plays a strong two-way game with intensity, excellent vision and a good wrist shot. He scored 10 points (four goals, six assists), had 32 shots on goal and averaged 9:48 in ice time in 33 Swedish Hockey League games. The 18-year-old (5-11, 170) is regarded as having a nose for the net and being strong on the power play and penalty kill.
7. Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgarden (SWE)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (International skaters)
Holtz (6-0, 183) is a pure goal-scorer capable of playing a tough, intelligent game. He scored 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) and had 55 shots on goal while averaging 12:53 of ice time in 35 games in the SHL. The 18-year-old has good on-ice vision and fine technical skills, gets to the tough areas of the ice, can set up his teammates and is an effective playmaker.
8. Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 5 (North American skaters)
Perfetti (5-10, 177) finished second in the OHL with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 61 games this season, won 51.2 percent of his face-offs (165-for-322) and averaged 1.82 points per game. The 18-year-old finished the regular season with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) during a 12-game point streak. He started his season in August by leading all scorers at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in five games to help Canada finish second.
9. Jake Sanderson, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 4 (North American skaters)
The 17-year-old son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson is a mobile puck-mover with a dominant defensive mindset and steadily improving offensive game. The left-handed shot (6-1, 186), who will attend the University of North Dakota next season, scored 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) and three power-play goals with a plus-13 rating in 47 games as the captain of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team.
Video: Jake Sanderson's top plays with USNTDP
10. Iaroslav Askarov, G, Neva St. Petersburg (RUS-2)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 (International goalies)
Askarov (6-3, 176) could become the third Russia-born goalie in NHL history to be chosen first at his position, joining Andrei Vasilevskiy (No. 19, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2012 NHL Draft) and Ilya Samsonov (No. 22, Washington Capitals, 2015 NHL Draft). The 18-year-old has a strong track record in the clutch; he has represented Russia in six international events and has six top-three finishes. The right-handed catching goalie was 12-3-3 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 18 games in Russia's minor league.
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