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    Quick crib notes for the uninitiated: Style comparables are not be all end alls,they do not reflect a player's upside. Prospect grades are tied to Aggregate scores, with a max of 10 allocated to each skill. I reused my old categories for consistency. I would say the scaling goes roughly as such: 10: Generational level of ability, compared to the median draft-eligible player across all professional, collegiate, Jr. A and Major Junior leagues 9: Elite, compared to the median draft-eligible player across all professional, collegiate, Jr. A and Major Junior leagues 8: Good, compared to the median draft-eligible player across all professional, collegiate, Jr. A and Major Junior leagues 7: Average, compared to the median draft-eligible player across all professional, collegiate, Jr. A and Major Junior leagues 6: Below average, compared to the median draft-eligible player across all professional, collegiate, Jr. A and Major Junior leagues 5: Average Midget AAA/Jr. B level quality 4: Below average Midget AAA/Jr. B level quality 3: Average Bantam AAA quality (if you're draft eligible and still here, good luck) 2. Hobby player 1. You and me You will, obviously, not see anybody who has a rating below 6 ever. I haven't to my memory even had a player with a rating below 6.5 anywhere near the top 50 prospects (and I've never revealed the breakdowns for guys below that because I don't have that kind of time). I added draft ranges for a more detailed explanation, as I feel like a lot of times people want to know the why: why would teams draft certain players high, why did a guy fall, etc. I have added that in specifically for the high picks to give you guys some insight into the draft ranges of certain players, and how they can get bumps or docked from certain teams' evaluations to put them within specific areas of the draft. I will place a forewarning that my job requires me to focus on Bantam and Midget players as well as lower level junior players, so I don't feel as confident as far as my rankings this year and have had to rely on words from friends more than usual. But then again, I've never been the most accurate anyways. 😂 I'll update this section here with the future posts linked for easy access: Top 10 Rankings 11-31 Rankings 31-50, Overagers, Goalies Mock Draft(s)??? 1. LW Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) [11/10/2001] [6'1", 194 lbs][Shoots Left][PROSPECT GRADE: S] [52 GP, 35 G, 77 A, 112 Pts, 50 PIM, +41][Style Comparable: Jaromir Jagr] Potential Peak: Hockey Hall of Famer and franchise savior Projection: Elite top line forward, perennial 85+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: None; barring injuries, will spend at least a decade in the NHL Offense: 9.5 Defense: 8.0 Physicality: 8.5 Skating: 9.0 Intangibles: 9.0 NHL-Readiness: 9.0 Potential: 9.5 Aggregate Score: 62.5 Report: The clear cut number 1. The best Quebecois draft product since Vincent Lecavalier without hyperbole (and the cream of the 2001-borns, one of the best QMJHL draft crops in history), Lafreniere is as close to a sure bet as you can get. There’s a possibility that one or two prospects eventually surpass him in this draft class as he’s not insurmountable and his potential is “just” franchise-altering, and not generational like a Connor McDavid, but a player who can anchor your franchise for 15 years is well within expectations. He’s on the same level as a Matthews/Eichel/MacKinnon level draft prospect. If your equivalent talents are all franchise players at such young ages, that bodes well. Talent-wise, he can do it all. The guy will score, will dish, will hit, will dazzle and his biggest limitation to his overall potential, skating, is still strong enough to be considered elite. Whenever next season starts, he will be in someone’s lineup (and in a top 6 role) and should be considered a frontrunner for the Calder. Draft Range: Some guys might believe he needs more work on his skating, which takes his skating down a notch. Even with that, his ranking is so secure he will go 1st overall regardless without much fuss, but those scouts will believe he isn’t quite at the level of previous franchise-caliber prospects like Matthews or MacKinnon. Which is always a possibility, considering that they’re basically Hart-level players at 23-25, and that is hard to guarantee for anyone. Either way, it's almost a certainty that Lafreniere goes 1st so the only question is which lucky team gets that 1st pick. 2. C Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves (OHL) [19/08/2002] [6'4", 215 lbs][Shoots Left][PROSPECT GRADE: A+] [45 GP, 32 G, 50 A, 82 Pts, 44 PIM, +26][NHL Comparable: Evgeni Malkin] Potential Peak: Hockey Hall of Famer and franchise savior Projection: Top line scoring forward, 80+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Low; might need some developmental time and may underachieve compared to potential Offense: 9.0 Defense: 8.0 Physicality: 8.5 Skating: 9.0 Intangibles: 8.0 NHL-Readiness: 8.5 Potential: 9.5 Aggregate Score: 60.5 Report: Byfield is as big a question mark for a guaranteed top 3 draft pick as there’s been in the last decade. In terms of raw potential, there is no one in this draft who has more “unicorn” rarity, as a guy who could be a future Hart candidate while sitting 6’4” and being arguably the most talented/gifted center in the draft. Think Evgeni Malkin levels of pure potential. He’d be a solid number 1 pick in many other drafts, but his weak finish to the season and his overall inconsistency make it difficult to see his floor beyond being an NHL player in some capacity. Generally, he’s smart, uses his body really well, and has slick hands. Byfield can score, and he’s well-rounded overall. He's also generally an engaged defensive player and backchecks hard, using his stick well and being effective positionally. If there’s a criticism of his overall skillset in particular, he probably doesn’t have the same level of hockey sense and decision-making as some other top prospects, but it’s still very high-end so at this point we’re just nitpicking and he does have excellent vision when making plays offensively. He’s not as polished as we normally see at the top of this draft, but for that very reason I’m putting him 2nd overall because if he’s this good already, imagine what he can do with a good development team? He can probably play in the NHL next season, (kinda like Kirby Dach played in the NHL this season) but for his development he could really use a year absolutely destroying the OHL and WJCs. Draft Range: If certain teams think he’s more of an 8.0 in terms of NHL-readiness, or feel his skating isn’t quite among the top skaters in the draft, he has a chance to slip anywhere from 3 to as low as 5 or 6. I don’t feel that’s likely, because his position and skillset are at a huge premium in this league, but crazier things have happened. The betting odds are strongly that he falls no lower than 3. 3. LW/C Tim Stutzle, Adler Mannheim (DEL) [15/01/2002] [6'0", 179 lbs][Shoots Left][PROSPECT GRADE: A+] [41 GP, 7 G, 27 A, 34 Pts, 12 PIM, +4][NHL Comparable: Mitch Marner] Potential Peak: All-Star scoring forward, franchise face type Projection: Top line scoring forward, 80+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Moderate; lots of skill, will need to adapt to the NHL-style of play Offense: 9.5 Defense: 7.5 Physicality: 7.5 Skating: 9.5 Intangibles: 8.5 NHL-Readiness: 8.5 Potential: 9.5 Aggregate Score: 60.5 Report: The biggest riser among the elite prospects in this draft class, Stutzle is one of 3 prospects who have really put the DEL on the map as a real prospect development league. His bread and butter are his acceleration and pure playmaking instincts; nobody else in this draft is as electrifying offensively, with his ability to rush the puck, create chances either with his sniping and playmaking, and general control of the puck. He’s got the best acceleration/first steps in the draft, he’s got a ton of creativity and offensive awareness, and he will be a gamebreaker in the NHL very soon. He needs bulk first and foremost if he’s to continue playing against pros, and his defensive awareness is decent but not exceptional, but he brings so much else to the table that there’s nobody out there that wouldn’t take a chance on him. His balance is good but he gets bullied by bigger, older players sometimes, and more strength overall would help him stay on his feet and boost his skating speed to NHL-elite levels. The defense did improve over the year so as long as he continues to progress there he’s fine, and he already has a consistent motor and feel for the game. The biggest thing is he will need to utilize his shot more, and be more efficient with his game; he’s so dynamic as a playmaker that I think sometimes he passes up good chances looking for the perfect play. It is a thing to note, though we’ve seen plenty of players in that vein continue to succeed at the NHL level. Draft Range: I think most scouts have him rated pretty closely to what I have him at. A lot will depend on how scouts see Byfield and Drysdale, and whether they ding them or boost them more heavily for reasons, than anything with Stutzle. There’s a chance a team goes for the defenseman and Stutzle drops to 4, but there’s just as likely a chance that Byfield drops and Stutzle rises to fill the 2 spot. At this point he has basically an equal chance to go anywhere from 2 to 4, but no lower than 5. 4. D Jamie Drysdale, Erie Otters (OHL) [08/04/2002] [5'11", 170 lbs][Shoots Right][PROSPECT GRADE: A+] [49 GP, 9 G, 38 A, 47 Pts, 24 PIM, +9][NHL Comparable: Duncan Keith] Potential Peak: Elite two-way defenseman and franchise player Projection: Top pairing two-way defenseman, perennial 45+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Low; good puck moving defensemen will find homes in today’s NHL Offense: 9.0 Defense: 8.5 Physicality: 7.5 Skating: 9.5 Intangibles: 8.5 NHL-Readiness: 8.0 Potential: 9.0 Aggregate Score: 60.0 Report: The best defenseman in this draft in my mind, and it really isn’t that close. Drysdale is the prototypical modern NHL defenseman; not big, but smart, skilled and fast. His mobility and acceleration are elite and his passing and IQ make him an elite player on the breakout. He’s a strong positional defender with good gap control, and his performance at the WJCs has boosted his stock to the point that anywhere below top 5 would be a huge drop. Cale Makar recency bias also plays a little into this, as Makar and Quinn Hughes’ instant success has opened up doors for a lot of undersized, mobile defensemen who previously may have been undervalued in the draft. I would hazard a guess and say that the days of Erik Karlsson going 15th overall are going away, as those types of skill players are increasingly sought after. He needs to be stronger, obviously, as his limitations come from his stature (though he does get into the dirty areas). It also limits his offensive zone play, as his shot is not very threatening on its own (which is the biggest ding on his offense rating). But overall, he will be a top pairing RHD and those players are arguably the most valuable assets in the NHL. I don’t necessarily foresee him having the offensive upside of a guy like Quinn Hughes or Cale Makar (he’s not a phenomenal power play guy), but he’s got a lot of Scott Niedermayer in him and he’ll be a top pairing defenseman someday. Draft Range: A team that really likes Drysdale (and doesn’t love Byfield) might have him 2nd overall in their final rankings. He might lose marks if teams knock off points on his defense or NHL readiness (I wouldn’t but I can see some teams thinking he’s closer to an 8.0 on the D), which would put him in that 5-8 range with the likes of Perfetti and Rossi. That latter scenario isn’t super likely, however, but he’s the first elite prospect ranked to have a bit of a wider range in terms of draft possibilities. Expect him to go 4th or 5th, but keep in mind there’s always a small chance he might jump or slide a bit depending on individual team needs and opinions. 5. LW/RW Lucas Raymond, Frolunda HC (SHL) [28/03/2002] [5'11", 161 lbs][Shoots Right][PROSPECT GRADE: A+] [33 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 10 Pts, 4 PIM, +6][NHL Comparable: Artemi Panarin] Potential Peak: All-Star scoring winger, perennial PPG player Projection: Top Line playmaking winger, 80+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Moderate; needs to simplify and adapt to a smaller rink Offense: 9.5 Defense: 7.5 Physicality: 7.5 Skating: 9.0 Intangibles: 8.5 NHL-Readiness: 8.5 Potential: 9.5 Aggregate Score: 60.0 Report: Raymond started the year as a top-3 prospect, and he held pretty steady there in terms of his own personal development. An elite offensive talent, with good feet and a good motor, Raymond has a flair for the dramatic and has been a staple of Swedish national teams as a focal point of their offense. His hands are silky and while his numbers don’t stand out, a large part of that was due to the minutes he received on a strong team meant to win rather than develop younger kids. Like Stutzle, Raymond needs to be stronger. His actual defensive IQ is not bad, though I wouldn’t classify him as elite, but part of his struggles at the pro level in that end are due to his lack of strength. His balance is very good and he can fight through checks pretty well if needed, but he doesn’t initiate contact as well. If he were playing in the CHL he’d likely be considered a more well-rounded player with his speed and stick, and everything else is considered to be NHL ready right now. More importantly, he has shown a bit of a negative propensity for playing on the perimeter at times, especially against older competition, which could limit his actual effectiveness. Draft Range: Part of what hurts Raymond’s rankings are the fact that there’s another player playing in Europe who has a very similar skillset, is a little more explosive as a skater, has a better engine and consistent motor, and has already shown the ability to produce playing against men. For that reason, it’s hard to see Raymond rise above Stutzle as they fill the same archetype but Stutzle has shown more at this stage on a regular basis in a very underrated league (the DEL gets a weak rap for not producing prospects in the past, but that's because hockey isn't a big sport in Germany yet. It's arguably as good if not better than the Swiss and Czech leagues at this point thanks to the money and caliber of players). That being said, in any other draft Raymond is a near guaranteed top 3 caliber player so that just speaks to the quality at the very top of this particular draft (after the top 10 or so, it slides back into a regular draft in terms of quality). If teams don’t like Raymond's penchant for playing on the perimeter, he could also slide into the 6-8 range. He’s a bit of a wildcard in that regard, but at the very least he should go somewhere in the top 6, and no lower than 8 or 9. 6. LW Cole Perfetti, Saginaw Spirit (OHL) [01/01/2002] [5'10", 180 lbs][Shoots Left][PROSPECT GRADE: A] [61 GP, 37 G, 74 A, 111 Pts, 16 PIM, +49][NHL Comparable: Logan Couture/Sebastian Aho] Potential Peak: All-Star scoring forward, perennial PPG+ player Projection: Top Line scoring winger, 70+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Moderate; has a lot of good qualities but a few that need improvement Offense: 9.5 Defense: 8.0 Physicality: 8.0 Skating: 8.5 Intangibles: 8.0 NHL-Readiness: 8.0 Potential: 9.0 Aggregate Score: 59.0 Report: Whatever you feel about skillset and projections, there’s no denying that Perfetti can produce (at the junior level) like no one else in the draft besides the guy sitting number 1. People started the year thinking he was a pure goalscorer, and while he can definitely finish Perfetti has shown this year that he is more than just a shooter. His hands, IQ, and ability to make space and capitalize on opportunities are NHL-caliber. On offense alone, he could be a top-6 NHL forward immediately. Defensively, he’s fairly intelligent and has potential to get better with his smarts and effort level. He battles and while he isn’t big he’s pretty good at leveraging his balance and driving the net or playing in the tough areas of the zone. Basically, anything related to scoring he has pretty much down. His skating is good, overall, but he will need to work on his top speed and acceleration. Right now he uses good edgework to create opportunities, a la Jeff Skinner, but it bears watching as he lacks a real top gear. An elite talent who, like you’ll be reading a couple more times, in almost any other draft is likely a guaranteed top 4 or 5 pick. Draft Range: Depending on how you feel about Perfetti in terms of intangibles and NHL-readiness, he might be a 4 or 5 overall pick (although this also requires a bit of a down opinion on a number of players ahead of him in my rankings). His sheer offensive dominance should keep him in the top 8, but he’s fairly equal to a number of players in that particular tier and a lot will come down to team preference. I could see him slipping as low as 9 if teams feel that Perfetti is more likely to be a winger rather than a center. I think the most likely option is that he, Rossi and Raymond are fighting for that 5 spot and Perfetti is most likely to be drafted anywhere from 5 to 7. 7. D Jake Sanderson, USA-U18s (USNTDP) [08/07/2002] [6’1", 170 pds][Shoots Left][PROSPECT GRADE: A] [47 GP, 7 G, 22 A, 29 Pts, 12 PIM, +13][NHL Comparable: Ryan McDonagh] Potential Peak: All-Star two-way defenseman, in the mold of Ryan Suter Projection: Top pairing two-way defenseman, 35+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Moderate; hard to gauge where he is in development compared to peers Offense: 8.5 Defense: 8.5 Physicality: 8.0 Skating: 9.0 Intangibles: 8.5 NHL-Readiness: 7.5 Potential: 9.0 Aggregate Score: 59.0 Report: This might be your first big surprise, but Sanderson is a guy who has done everything he could to pressure Drysdale as the best defenseman available. A local kid, I actually remember watching Jake (and older brother Ben) play within the NWCAA organization before Jake headed to the Edge program and then the US National Development team. An excellent all-around player, Jake is not likely to be an elite scorer, but his skillset is very promising as a potential minute muncher top pairing defender and play driver in the vein of a Charlie McAvoy. Sanderson skates well in all 4 directions and has very good top speed and footwork; he plays a very good defensive game predicated on a mixture of physicality and smarts. He gaps well, and any mistakes he makes are covered by his skating. Offensively, he doesn’t have the game breaking ability of a Drysdale but he moves the puck well, has an accurate pass, jumps into the play and is intelligent in his decision-making. He doesn’t have a huge weakness overall, but there is a lot of rawness to his game that makes you feel like he has even more to give. His potential is skyhigh as a result and more than a few NHL teams feel that they can be the organization to really unlock that potential. Draft Range: If you value bloodlines, he gets an even bigger intangibles bump. If you like something about him in his offense, defense, or physicality, and he gets another bump there, he can easily push into a team’s top 5. On the flip side, if you feel he’s more of a project in terms of readiness or his potential isn’t quite as high as some people have him, he could also be a guy who slides down into that 14-15 range. I think that lack of consensus is what makes him a bit of a riskier selection at the top, as we don’t really know what he will be. There’s a lot of volatility in his draft position and a whole lot will come down to fit and need in addition to his potential. I feel like Sanderson is a good bet to be a top 10 pick, but anything could happen really. Regardless, he’s going to need some time before he hits that potential so expect a few years before he makes an NHL lineup. 8. C Marco Rossi, Ottawa 67s (OHL) [23/09/2002] [5'9", 187 pds][Shoots Left][PROSPECT GRADE: A] [56 GP, 39 G, 81 A, 120 Pts, 40 PIM, +69][NHL Comparable: Claude Giroux] Potential Peak: Elite scoring forward and perennial All-Star Projection: Top line forward, 70+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Moderate; likely to play in the NHL, but isn’t well suited to a lower line role Offense: 9.0 Defense: 8.0 Physicality: 8.0 Skating: 9.0 Intangibles: 8.0 NHL-Readiness: 8.0 Potential: 9.0 Aggregate Score: 59.0 Report: Ignore the size, because Rossi doesn’t need it. The kid is built like a wild boar, thick and low to the ground and that gives him all the power he needs. A top talent who had a huge breakout year, Rossi is a fantastic playmaker first and foremost. His hands, smarts and balance also allow him to break open defenses and make him a very well rounded offensive threat. Besides Lafreniere, Rossi might have the most overall polish to his offensive game, as he doesn’t rely on sheer athleticism or raw skill to the same degree as a Perfetti or Raymond. Rossi’s intelligence also translates to his defensive positioning and stickwork. His low center of gravity is effective at both ends of the ice and he usually wins puck battles through lower body and core strength. When you watch him play, you really appreciate the little things he does to push play or generate opportunities, he's got so much nuance to his game. I don’t know whether he has the same gifts and raw potential of some of the other players in the top 8, but he will be an NHL scorer to some capacity. A top 5 caliber player in most other drafts. Draft Range: Depending on where you/NHL teams view his offensive skillset (you could argue he gets a bump there) and his NHL readiness (he is an older prospect and with his polish could be in the show sooner rather than later), he could swing higher in a team’s rankings, maybe even into the top 4 or 5. If a team feels like they want to go for other positions or such, or that his potential is more of a 2nd line talent (there's an argument there among the scouts), Rossi has a small chance of falling lower in the draft, but that’s very unlikely and at worst he should be a top 10-12 selection. Expect Rossi to be in play anywhere from 5 to 9 whenever the draft occurs. 9. Alexander Holtz, Djurgardens IF (SHL) [23/01/2002] [6'0", 181 pds][Shoots Right][PROSPECT GRADE: A] [35 GP, 9 G, 7 A, 16 Pts, 12 PIM, -1][NHL Comparable: Patrik Laine] Potential Peak: All-Star scoring forward Projection: Top line scoring winger, 65+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Moderate; needs to continue to round out and polish his game Offense: 9.0 Defense: 7.5 Physicality: 8.0 Skating: 8.5 Intangibles: 8.0 NHL-Readiness: 8.0 Potential: 9.0 Aggregate Score: 58.0 Report: A natural sniper first and foremost. Holtz gets plus marks for having a scorer’s touch (maybe the best in the draft) and playing a hard-nosed, interior game. He also shows good use of misdirection and angles and overall has shown a highly developed knack for scoring in a variety of ways. He has good hands to boot, which keeps him unpredictable and allows him to be a good playmaker when needed. His board work is above average for his age, which puts him opposite compatriot Raymond in terms of style of play. Overall, I would classify Holtz as a smart player, with very good offensive IQ. Holtz will need to work on his skating, though he is good enough to play pro. While he is agile and elusive, his top speed and acceleration are just ok. He also will need to shore up his defense; the effort is consistently there, but he needs to iron out details in terms of positioning, aggressiveness (he tends to commit to the puck a little too far) and how to use his strength. Overall though, those limitations are normal and shouldn’t hold him back from being a top flight NHL scorer. He is one of those players with 40 goal potential, and you take that whenever you can get it. Draft Range: A lot depends on how scouts and teams view the other players in a top-heavy top 10. If teams think Holtz is NHL ready sooner than later, and/or give him bumps on other areas (physicality or offense the most likely) that gives him a slim shot at pushing as high as 4 or 5. If they ding his skating and like other players just a little more, he could theoretically slide into the 14-15 range. Neither of those two options seem very likely, and the betting odds are that he falls no lower than 9 or 10 due to his potential as a goal scorer. I think he’s pretty secure in that range and he should be in play as soon as the 6th pick is on the clock. 10. C Anton Lundell, HIFK (Liiga) [03/10/2001] [6'1", 188 pds][Shoots Left][PROSPECT GRADE: A] [44 GP, 10 G, 18 A, 28 Pts, 18 PIM, +11][NHL Comparable: Bo Horvat] Potential Peak: Elite two-way center, in the mold of a Bergeron/O’Reilly Projection: 2nd line two-way center, 55+ point player in his prime Bust Factor: Low; can play in a depth role if the offense never develops Offense: 8.5 Defense: 8.5 Physicality: 8.0 Skating: 8.0 Intangibles: 8.0 NHL-Readiness: 8.5 Potential: 8.5 Aggregate Score: 58.0 Report: There’s no other center in the first round of this draft with the two-way certainty of Lundell, and it’s honestly not that close either. I would go so far as to say he’s in the shortlist for best two-way player in the draft, period, across all positions. Lundell gets underrated a lot for not having the fancy offensive moves that some of the other top prospects possess, but his hockey sense and intelligence is right near the top of the draft. That makes him a very strong bet to be a top 6 forward on a championship team, and there’s still a decent possibility he surprises us given his skills. Across the board he makes good decisions at the right times, playing fast or slow depending on the needs of the situation, and his hands are very good and allow him to move the puck to the right spots. He has good accuracy on his shot, too, allowing him to just pick corners on goalies on his best days. His skating is solid, but he will need to work on his footspeed, acceleration and overall agility as he’s more of a north-south skater than an east-west player. That may be his biggest limitation; he’s strong and plays in the tough areas, and possesses a surprising amount of creativity that you might not expect seeing him at first. I think a lot of people think two-way centers mean they are lacking in that but Lundell really does have a strong sense of spacing and vision and that allows him to find open passing lanes or create space for his linemates. I don’t know if he’ll ever be the type of scorer that makes All-Star games, but he can be a coach’s dream and has the size and smarts to be an impact player in the NHL very soon. Draft Range: Very hard to say. On one hand, he does possess elite traits (hockey sense). On the other hand, with so many of his rivals in the top grouping playing at historically significant levels, he is in tough to break into that top 5. Depending on how teams view his NHL-readiness and potential, if they believe he can be a true 1st line center in the mold of a Toews and is ready to jump into the NHL in a year or even less, I can see a team having him ranked as high as 6 and right there with Perfetti, Rossi and Holtz. There’s a decent chance teams view his skating as closer to average, and feel that he is closer to a 14 or 15 prospect in this draft. Otherwise, I think 10th among skaters is fairly close to his true value in a star-studded top 10, and I would be surprised if he isn’t drafted somewhere in that 8 to 12 range.
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