Alexis Lafreniere, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, said he models his game after the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.
“What he can do on the ice, under pressure and in big moments, he can be the difference-maker,” Lafreniere said Wednesday in a videoconference arranged by the NHL. “Always watched him growing up and he’s still is my favorite player.”
Lafreniere, a 6-foot-1, 193-pound left wing, is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2020 draft. The 18-year-old led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games for Rimouski. He also was named 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.
“When you look at every aspect of his game, I think you could consider every aspect as elite,” Jean-Francois Damphousse of NHL Central Scouting said. “When you look at his skating, his puck skills, I think it’s obviously above average, and he’s been excellent for his three years with Rimouski. One of his best assets in general is vision, his playmaking skills. Every game that I saw him play, he makes plays that we don’t even think that those plays are possible, and he still makes them. But I think what separates him from the pack is his compete level. He’s willing to play physical, he battles every game, and anytime that the game is on the line you want him on the ice. He makes big plays in games and he responds under pressure.”
Tim Stuetzle (6-1, 187) is the No. 1 player in Central Scouting’s final ranking of International players. The 18-year-old left wing, who plays for Mannheim of Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top professional league in Germany, said he patterns his game after a high-scoring forward with the Edmonton Oilers, but it wasn’t fellow Germany native Leon Draisaitl.
“My favorite player is Connor McDavid for sure,” Stuetzle said. “He wants to win every game and he wants to make a difference, and it’s just awesome to see how he skates and how he has the puck skills.”
Stuetzle did mention that he looks up to Draisaitl, who leads the NHL with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games. Draisaitl became the highest-drafted Germany-born player when the Oilers selected him with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Stuetzle could be selected one spot higher after he had 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 41 games for Mannheim and was named the league’s rookie of the year. He had five assists in five games for Germany at the 2020 WJC.
“Stuetzle played a very mature game the whole season and impressed more and more playing regular shifts with a top team,” director of NHL European Scouting Goran Stubb said. “Tim had a big role on the team, used in all game situations. … An exceptional talent with a great set of tools, including speed and an excellent understanding of the game.”
Quinton Byfield (6-4, 215), a center who is No. 2 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, said he keeps a close eye on another big NHL center, Evgeni Malkin (6-3, 195) of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I definitely watch as many Pittsburgh games as possible to see what he does on the ice and how he plays,” Byfield said. “He’s a big, 200-foot center. Just amazing offensive ability he has and just how he plays is unbelievable. I definitely watch him quite a bit and try to model my game a little bit after him.”
Byfield led Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League with 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games. He had one assist and averaged 8:41 of ice time in seven games as Canada’s youngest player at the 2020 WJC. He turns 18 on Aug. 19.
“A player with his size and strength, and I think there’s more size and strength to come, but to be able to have soft hands and the vision and make plays,” Central Scouting senior manager David Gregory said. “And when players try to eliminate him, he can beat you with power or he can beat you with hands and hockey sense, so that makes him very tough to contain and a really attractive prospect.”
Jamie Drysdale, at No. 3 the top defenseman in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, said there are two in the NHL he watches closely: Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.
“I think the way [Rielly] can play both ends of the ice and make an impact, be trusted in all zones, definitely a player that I like to watch and just kind of take anything I can and add to my game,” Drysdale said. “Another guy, Cale Makar, he’s pretty hard not to like when you watch him, how he’s as young as he is and in his first full season and making the impact he is. That’s just a big confidence factor, alongside the skill he has, so I think definitely another guy I like to kind of model my game after.”
Drysdale (5-11, 175). a right-shot defenseman who turned 18 on April 8, scored 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) in 49 games for Erie of the OHL, and three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for Canada at the 2020 WJC. He was Canada’s second-youngest player, after Byfield.
“Jamie Drysdale is the type of player that every team is looking for,” Gregory said. “Very smart puck-moving defenseman who can beat you with his vision, beat you with his hockey sense. [He’s] able to use that great quickness and thinking to defend and strip a puck and turn it around, and before you know it, it’s going the other way and finding the open man on the attack. That makes him too tough to pass up if he’s available when you’re picking.”