The 2020 NHL Draft will be held virtually on Oct. 6-7. NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects and other features. Today, a look at four NHL-ready players, according to TSN director of scouting and former NHL general manager Craig Button. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.
Alexis Lafreniere, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is one of four players in this year’s draft class who are NHL-ready, according to Craig Button.
Button, TSN director of scouting, NHL analyst and former NHL general manager, said Lafreniere of Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Tim Stuetzle of Mannheim in Germany’s top professional league, Marco Rossi of Ottawa in the Ontario Hockey League and Anton Lundell of HIFK in Liiga, Finland’s top league, each have the skills and smarts to earn roles in the NHL next season.
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“When I talk about being NHL-ready, I’m talking about having an opportunity to contribute and not just playing four or five games,” Button said. “Lafreniere is obviously No. 1 on that list. I really think that he’s not just going to play in the NHL, but he’s capable of 60 points as a first-year player. He’s physically mature, he’s mentally mature, he’s got all the skills, and I think he has what it takes to handle the rigors of an NHL season.”
Lafreniere (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) led the QMJHL with 77 assists and 112 points, and for the second straight season was awarded the QMJHL Most Valuable Player, QMJHL Personality of the Year and Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year.
The 18-year-old left wing also was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship after he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the tournament. He could be the third QMJHL player to be chosen No. 1 in eight years, following Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (2013, Halifax) and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (2017, Halifax).
Stuetzle (6-1, 187), No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters, was named rookie of year in Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany’s top pro league. The 18-year-old forward scored 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) and took 132 shots on goal in 41 games for Mannheim.
“Stuetzle had so much success in the German league, which is a pro league, and he’s just so gifted,” Button said. “In my view he’s elite in every sense of the word. He’s pure excitement and plays the game in a similar fashion to Patrick Kane. He’s quick on his skates and has a fast mind, is extremely confident and manages to do things in the game offensively that are completely unexpected. He’s tough to defend.”
Rossi (5-9, 183) is No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters. The 18-year-old center led the OHL in assists (81), points (120) and plus/minus rating (plus-69) in 56 games. He won the Red Tilson Trophy as the most outstanding player in the OHL.
“Rossi is a little bit older (he turns 19 on Sept. 23), but so mature,” Button said. “Rossi is an excellent playmaker with the vision and creativity to make something out of nothing. He has a style of play similar to Nicklas Backstrom.”
Rossi is looking to become the highest-drafted Austria-born player selected in the NHL Draft; Thomas Vanek, chosen by the Buffalo Sabres at No. 5 in the 2003 NHL Draft, holds that distinction.
Lundell (6-1, 185) is No. 3 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters. The 18-year-old center scored 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists), had 162 shots on goal and averaged 15:49 of ice time in 44 games in Liiga.
“Lundell is a smart player,” Button said. “I’d say he’s a solid, industrious player. I think he plays the center ice position with excellent sense of the game with and without the puck, offensively and defensively. He’s a competitor. I think he understands where he has to get the puck to. If you put him with a good winger or wingers, he’ll get the puck to them and I think he’s a player who can be the link between defense and offense.
“I don’t think he’s going to be a high-end offensive producer but think that he’s going to be one of those real fundamentally strong players for your team.”
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