In the days leading up to the First Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, NBCSN, SN, TVAS), NHL.com will break down the top prospects by position. Note: With the NHL season paused since March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, a date for the 2020 NHL Draft has yet to be determined.
Today, the top centers available.
Quinton Byfield headlines a deep class at center that could see as many as six players at the position selected in the top 15 of the 2020 NHL Draft.
Byfield, who is No. 2 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, had 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games for Sudbury and could potentially be the first of three Ontario Hockey League centers selected among the top eight picks.
There were five centers selected in the top 15 in the 2019 NHL Draft: Jack Hughes (No. 1, New Jersey Devils), Kirby Dach (No. 3, Chicago Blackhawks), Alex Turcotte (No. 5, Los Angeles Kings), Dylan Cozens (No. 7, Buffalo Sabres) and Trevor Zegras (No. 9, Anaheim Ducks).
Jesperi Kotkaniemi (No. 3, Montreal Canadiens), Barrett Hayton (No. 5, Arizona Coyotes) and Ty Dellandrea (No. 13, Dallas Stars) were the only three centers chosen among the top 15 picks in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Here are NHL.com’s top 10 centers available for the 2020 draft:
1. Quinton Byfield, Sudbury (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (North American skaters)
Byfield has the chance to become the highest black player selected in the NHL Draft ahead of Evander Kane (2009, Atlanta Thrashers) and Seth Jones (2013, Nashville Predators), who were each selected with the No. 4 pick. A left-hand shot, Byfield (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) was tied for 14th in the OHL in points, but he was tied for fifth in points per game (1.82) and also won 51.9 percent of his face-offs (304-for-586).
2. Marco Rossi, Ottawa (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 6 (North American skaters)
Rossi led the Canadian Hockey League with 120 points (39 goals, 81 assists) in 56 games, including 34 multipoint games, and was second in points per game (2.14) behind left wing Alexis Lafreniere (2.15) of Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. Despite his size (5-9, 183), Rossi is capable of winning 50/50 puck battles, is strong on face-offs (58.5 percent, fifth among OHL players with at least 1,000 attempts) and generates offense with his high hockey IQ, hands and playmaking ability. Rossi was held without a point just four times this season and could become the highest-drafted Austria-born player in the NHL Draft ahead of Thomas Vanek, who was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 5 pick in the 2003 NHL Draft.
3. Cole Perfetti, Saginaw (OHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 5 (North American skaters)
After leading all scorers at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in five games for Canada, Perfetti finished second in the OHL with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 61 games, including 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in his final 12 games. A skilled left-hand shot, Perfetti (5-10, 177) finished first in the Western Conference in four categories in the 2019-20 OHL Coaches Poll: Smartest Player, Best Playmaker, Best Stickhandler, and Best Shootout Shooter.
4. Anton Lundell, HIFK (FIN)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 3 (International skaters)
A two-way, left-shot forward, Lundell is tough to knock off his skates on the cycle, can protect the puck extremely well and find his teammates in traffic. Lundell (6-1, 185) had 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) and 162 shots in 44 games this season while averaging 15:49 of ice time for HIFK in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league.
5. Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 10 (North American skaters)
A right-shot forward capable of playing in all situations, Mercer can bring a lot of offense but is also reliable in his own zone. He had 60 points (24 goals, 36 assists) in 42 games this season, including 18 (six goals, 12 assists) in 16 games with Chicoutimi after being acquired in a trade with Drummondville on Jan. 6. Mercer (6-0, 180) is a smart, heads-up skater who finishes checks and is strong on the power play and penalty kill.
6. Seth Jarvis, Portland (WHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 11 (North American skaters)
Jarvis is a smart, skilled player who executes with pace and excels on the power play as well as the penalty kill. He plays hard, goes to the net and does everything with purpose. Jarvis (5-10, 175) creates offense with his vision, quickness and playmaking ability, and was second in the WHL with 98 points (42 goals, 56 assists) and a plus-53 rating in 58 games this season.
7. Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin (Big Ten)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 12 (North American skaters)
Holloway (6-0, 203) is a complete two-way center with great hands, competitiveness and drive to create offense. He should be the first college player selected after he had 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 35 games as a freshman for the Badgers. Holloway, a left-hand shot, is capable of playing all three forward positions as well as on the power play.
8. Roni Hirvonen, Assat (FIN)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 10 (International skaters)
Despite his size (5-9, 164), Hirvonen is a versatile two-way forward capable of handling the puck well in traffic. He had 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) and 135 shots in 52 games this season while averaging 14:39 in ice time for Assat in Liiga. Hirvonen also won 53.3 percent of his face-offs (57-for-107), and he’s been described as a hard-working, all-around player with a good understanding of the game. He led Finland with five points (four goals, one assist) in three games at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
9. Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 13 (North American skaters)
Lapierre has great hockey sense, compete and playmaking qualities, and despite being limited to 19 games (17 points) because of an upper-body injury this season, he may have the highest ceiling of any player projected to be chosen in the first round. Lapierre (6-0, 179) had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup to help Canada finish second.
10. Connor Zary, Kamkoops (WHL)
NHL Central Scouting: No. 15 (North American skaters)
Zary plays a two-way game, exhibits patience with the puck and has a sound work ethic. Compared by some to Bo Horvat of the Vancouver Canucks, Zary (6-0, 178) contributes in all facets of the game, and he tied for fifth in the WHL with 86 points (38 goals, 48 assists), tied for third with 15 power-play goals and tied for fourth with three shorthanded goals in 57 games. He also had a game-high three assists at the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January and never went two straight games without a point this season.