As the NHL was idle from the middle of March to July and the New Jersey Devils were not a part of the Return to Play format, all involved has had a lot of time to prepare for the 2020 NHL Draft. Due to the global pandemic, the preparation was different than usual. There was no playoffs for any of the major junior leagues or colleges. European leagues were shut down early. The World Under-18 Championships were cancelled. There was no NHL combine. Teams have had to fill in the gap with additional video sessions, research of all kinds, and remote interviews with potential draft picks. If nothing else, all 31 teams should be well-prepared for the 2020 NHL Draft.
We tried to do the same on this site. We knew full well the New Jersey Devils were not going to miraculously take a playoff spot prior to the pandemic ending the 2019-20 season. Yet again, we were going to spend long stretches of the offseason focusing on prospects that could be picked this year. So from March through May, we did a lot of profiles. We moved away from them as to change up topics and to consider other areas, such as free agency. Now that the 2020 NHL Draft will begin in two days, now is a good time as provide an index of who we profiled as a refresher. Additionally, now is also a good time to highlight the many great resources and people that make all of this possible.
The 2020 All About the Jersey Prospect Profile Index
To make this a bit more interesting, I will tier the profiles. These are my reads on where players will go. Do not take them as anything more than guesses, especially since there may not be a lot separating the prospects that will go in the twenties, the thirties, and most of the forties. If you want some takes for the first round, our internal mock draft of the first round is here, our annual round up of mock drafts around the Devils’ picks is here, and our second and third selections for the SB Nation mock draft are going up today. Without further ado, the profiles:
Expected to be Picked #1: Alexis Lafreniere
The Wildcard #1: Yaroslav Askarov (Why: He is a goaltender.)
The Wildcard #2: Hendrix Lapierre (Why: Significant injury history and concerns.)
Could be First Rounders, Could be Second Rounders: Noel Gunler, Lukas Reichel, John-Jason Peterka, Thomas Bordeleau, Jan Mysak, Ryan O’Rourke, Jeremie Poirier, Justin Barron, Helge Grans, Topi Niemela, Tyson Foerster, Martin Chromiak, and Ty Smilanic
Likely to be Day Two Prospects: Theodor Neiderbach, Eemil Viro, Luke Evangelista, Roni Hirvonen, Antonio Stranges, Lukas Cormier, Jaromir Pytlik, Jean-Luc Foudy, Sean Farrell, Vasili Ponomaryov, Zion Nybeck, Kasper Simontaival, Ozzy Weisblatt, Jake Neighbors, Will Cuylle, Emil Andrae, Ruben Rafkin, William Villeneuve, Roby Jarventie, Tyler Tulio, Luke Tuch, and Ryder Rolston,
Likely to be Day Two Prospect Groups with Mini-Profiles: Zayde Wisdom, Daemon Hunt, and Ethan Cardwell; Alexander Pashin, Dmitri Ovechinnikov, and Yevgeni Oksentyuk; Alex Laferriere, Brett Berard, and Eamon Powell; Joel Blomqvist, Drew Commesso, and Nick Malik; Anton Johannesson, Shakir Mukhmadullin, and Joni Jurmo; and Donovan Sebrango, Tyler Kleven, and Yan Kuznetsov
Draft Resources and People to Follow for Hockey Prospects
The challenge with hockey prospects is that there is a lot of activity all over the hockey world and trying to bring awareness and knowledge of much of it to the masses is an incredible effort. Especially since the prospects are 17-20 years old and the goal is to assess how they would do in the best league in the world in an often distant future. As much as I appreciate the growth of statistics in hockey, it is not yet as advanced at the junior/youth levels. And stats do not always follow whether a player has good mechanics, skating, or even a professional mindset to the game. Scouting is still very much an art with science burgeoning in it. To that end, I have a lot of respect for the many people and groups that work to bring information about future pro players to fans like myself so we have an idea of what to hope for at the NHL Draft, what we think our favorite team should or should not do, and even have a general idea of what makes Prospect A better than Prospect B. We cite a lot of different people and sites in our prospect profiles and so I want to highlight them here in this post to further raise your awareness of them. In no particular order:
- EliteProspects remains the biggest and best resource to look up basic information about any player playing just about anywhere. Their EP Rinkside subscription section is loaded with even more specific analysis and opinion as the company behind EP has went hard at making it worth a look. Even if you do not, this is still the first place I and many others go to when looking up a prospect for the first time.
- Speaking of sites going harder into prospect coverage, look to the fine people at Dobber Prospects. Dobber Hockey initially built their empire on fantasy hockey. They have expanded to the realm of hockey prospects in recent years and its better than ever. The Dobber Prospects team has scouts for regions and leagues. The work from Cam Robinson, Jokke Nevalainen, Tony Ferrari, and Pat Quinn among them has been more and more prominent and the staff is growing. If you’re not familiar with them yet, you should be now.
- Speaking of growing, the always opiniated and hard-working Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst continues to thrive. He has done pieces for Sports Illustrated, his Youtube channel of prospect clips has plenty of clips, and Kournianos is building up a team of his own to expand the site’s work. His guide for 2020 - which I have bought and enjoyed - includes input from Ross Martin, who focuses on Russian prospects. It is a welcomed addition. As he continues to add more along with usual massive ranking lists and clear analysis of players, The Draft Analyst could become another powerhouse in the prospect game.
- For those who are more interested in just the Ontario Hockey League, then OHL Prospects by Brock Otten is a must-read. Otten has contributed to McKeen’s among other places and he has plenty of connections in the scouting world. Not only are his own opinions for OHL-based players worth reading (including re-entry eligible players!), but his media/scout polls are a must-read. (Insert annual plea for a QMJHL or WHL version of this sort of thing.)
- Related to this, Dominic Tiano’s OHL Writers is a good supplemental site for news in the OHL as well as profiles and other such pieces.
- If you want a focus on Finnish hockey prospects, then look to FinnProspects. The group, led by editor in chief Miika Arponen, takes a specific focus to players from the Nordic nation. The game reports are a very good touch.
- Additionally, Ben Kerr’s work at Last Word on Sports is prolific and easy to follow of his analysis of prospects. The site’s other staffers do chip in with other articles related to drafts such as team needs and opinion pieces. It is a good site and I recommend it.
- If it is a sport in North America, then The Athletic is likely there. Their prospect coverage has been frequent and consistently well done. I had a feeling it would have been since they brought in Corey Pronman from near the beginning. It was confirmed when they brought in Scott Wheeler too. Subscription-only or not, The Athletic ($) will continue to be a big voice in hockey media and that includes prospects.
- Mainstream coverage of prospects by Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet, Chris Peters at ESPN, TSN’s Draftcentre, and Ryan Kennedy at The Hockey News. Over at NHL.com, this is typically led by Mike Morreale, Guillamme LePage, and Adam Kimelman.
- Pick224 is the premier repository for hockey prospect stats. It has a basic design with loads of data and options to filter. Being able to filter out 2020 draft eligible forwards for 2019 data to see how they scored prior to their draft eligible year is excellent. Being able to see how many even strength and power play goals by defensemen is great. Heat maps for shooters and estimated ice time bring additional context to a player’s production. Being able to see how a junior A player with gaudy numbers stacks up with others in tougher leagues is wonderful. It is a fantastic site. Go there if you are into this sort of thing.
- Sport content on Youtube can be hit or miss, but the prospect world has two creators who have been putting in excellent work. The first is Will Scouch of Scouching. He tracks prospects, he makes detailed videos that are effectively a profile into a player, he explains where he is coming from, and he often livestreams during the draft “season” to take questions and takes from all viewers. The second is Yannick St-Pierre of Draft Dynasty. His videos detail what he sees in a prospect, what he likes and does not like, and uses video clips of the player performing for every part of the video. If you like watching videos of prospects and want analysis of those prospects, then you need to follow those two.
- Shout outs forever to everyone amateur or professional (like a team) that makes highlight clips of prospects or uploads shift-by-shift videos of players such as bigwhite06 to NHL Prospect Center.
- I also want to highlight how the league sites for prospects have improved over time. I appreciate the English options for the KHL, SHL, and Liiga. I appreciate the addition of shots on net amid other stats for the OHL and WHL as well as its return to the QMJHL sites.
- I also want to note that we are not the only site that does prospect profiles. Far from it. The staff at Habs Eyes on the Prize such as Jared Book and Patrik Bexall have always done a good job. Derek Neumeier has always done very good work at Defending Big D. I appreciate the group profiles Colin Cudmore and Ary R are doing this year at Silver Seven. Tom Hunter and Luke Hoking are holding it down prospect-wise at Mile High Hockey. There is a lot of excellent content across the network and so I encourage you to check them and the other sites out when you can.
I want to thank Brian for organizing the prospects we profiled this year and letting me move things around as needed. I want to thank CJ, Gerard, Mike, Alex, Chris, Jenna, and Devin for supporting the efforts throughout this offseason. Most of all, I thank you all for reading any of our profiles or other NHL Draft / prospect-related posts whether it is today, just in the past few days, or every day we started them back in March. You really are the People Who Matter. Thank you for reading. The 2020 (Actual) NHL Draft Preview will be up tomorrow morning.