Central Scouting on Wednesday revealed its final list of the top North American skaters and goalies, and top International skaters and goalies. Left wing Tim Stuetzle of Mannheim in Germany's top professional league is No. 1 in the final list of International skaters.
NHL Central Scouting conducted its final meetings via video conferencing for the first time in its 44-year history due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
[RELATED: Stuetzle atop final ranking of International skaters | Central Scouting needed team effort for final rankings]
[RANKINGS: North American Skaters | North American Goalies | International Skaters | International Goalies]
[PDFs: North American Skaters | North American Goalies | International Skaters | International Goalies]
The date and location of the draft remains in question because of the coronavirus. It had been scheduled for Bell Centre in Montreal on June 26-27 but was postponed March 25.
"For sure, growing up [being in the NHL Draft] is a dream of every hockey player, and to see how close we are right now, it's pretty exciting and it's really fun," Lafreniere (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) said during an NHL videoconference Wednesday. "I think we're all excited for the Draft and the team that's going to draft me, I'm going to be really happy to join them and try to have as much success as I can."
He is the first Rimouski player to be ranked No. 1 on Central Scouting's final North American skater list since center Sidney Crosby in 2005. Crosby was chosen No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2005 NHL Draft.
"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 No. 1."
Lafreniere could become the third player from the QMJHL chosen No. 1 in the draft in the past eight years, following Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (2013; Halifax) and New Jersey Devils forward Nico Hischier (2017; Halifax).
The 18-year-old forward led the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games. He had 30 multipoint games, and 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists) in 20 games since returning from the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Czech Republic, where he was named the tournament's most outstanding player after he had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the championship.
"The natural competitive instincts and skills he displayed to take charge and lead Canada to victory put on display the determination, perseverance and passion that is part of his hockey DNA, which is truly exceptional and impressive," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said.
The top three North American skaters remained unchanged from the midterm release in January, with center Quinton Byfield of Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League at No. 2 and defenseman Jamie Drysdale of Erie of the OHL at No. 3.
Byfield (6-4, 215), a powerful skater with breakaway speed and an exceptional skill set, had 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 OHL games. He had one assist and averaged 8:41 in ice time in seven games for Canada at the 2020 WJC.
"It was definitely a big year for me," Byfield said during the videoconference. "I think I would describe myself as a big two-way forward that tries to play a 200-foot game, definitely more of an offensive upside there. I think the strongest part of my game is definitely my skating for a big guy. I try to use that to my advantage and find my teammates in the offensive zone and set them up."
Drysdale (5-11, 175), a right-shot defenseman capable of running a power play while driving offense with his skating and elite hockey sense, said during the videoconference he tries to model his game after a pair of successful rookies, Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche..
"I think the things that stand out with them are skating and just how they think the game, how they have confidence with the puck," Drysdale said. "So I think those are three things that I try and use as much as I can in my game, and I think three things that will lead to success at the next level."
He had 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) and 22 power-play points in 49 games. He had three points (one goal, two assists) and averaged 11:38 in ice time in seven games for Canada at the 2020 WJC.
"Lafreniere has consummate pro-elite player written all over him so he stayed ahead of the pack while Byfield and Drysdale did their thing," David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting said. "Those kids played a lot of hockey this season, and in every situation they were able to do it."
Defenseman Jake Sanderson (6-1, 185) of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team jumped to No. 4 in the final ranking after being No. 11 at the midterm. The NTDP U-18 captain had 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 47 games and is committed to play at the University of North Dakota next season. He's the son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson.
"Sanderson is an outstanding talent, capable of taking charge and controlling the play with his elite skating, sharp presence of mind and high-end puck skills every time he steps on the ice," Marr said. "He plays all aspects of the game with a competitive edge to execute plays with precision and authority."
Center Marco Rossi (5-9, 183) of Ottawa (OHL) is No. 6 after leading all players in the Canadian Hockey League (QMJHL, OHL, Western Hockey League) with 120 points (39 goals, 81 assists) in 56 games. His teammate, right wing Jack Quinn (6-0, 176), is No. 7 after finishing second in the OHL with 52 goals and tied for eighth with 89 points in 62 games.
Right wing Tyson Foerster (6-1, 194) of Barrie (OHL) made one of the most significant jumps in the rankings, to No. 21, after being No. 41 in the midterm ranking.
"You see the progression of a player, and sometimes when a player gets it his whole game changes and I think that happened with [Foerster]," Gregory said. "He also had a bit of a coming-out party at the [2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 16] in front of a lot of big, important eyes, and he just continued from there."
Foerster had two goals and an assist and was named player of the game for his team in the Top Prospects Game. He had 80 points (36 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games this season.
Center Dylan Holloway (6-foot, 203) of the University of Wisconsin in the Big 10 is No. 12 on the final ranking and projected to be the first NCAA player off the draft board. He had 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 35 games as a college freshman.
Nicolas Daws of Guelph (OHL) is No. 1 on Central Scouting's ranking of North American goalies.
"Daws has excellent positional play, is calm and cool in any situation and has great instincts," NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He's made a huge improvement from last season and already has some very good pro skills. He's very efficient in his lateral ability, handles and moves the puck out of his net extremely well."
The 6-3, 199-pound left-catching goalie was 23-8-6 with a 2.48 goals-against average, five shutouts and a .924 save percentage in 38 games. He also played two games for Canada at the 2020 WJC.
Iaroslav Askarov of Neva St. Petersburg in Russia's second division is No. 1 on Central Scouting's final ranking of International goalies.
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