It’s now been a few days since Jack Hughes was called at No. 1, and the dust of the 2019 NHL draft has started to settle. So there’s naturally only one thing left to do: It’s time to turn the page to the 2020 draft season.
And it looks like we’ve got another strong draft class on our hands. While we might not have a Hughes or even a Kaapo Kakko quite yet, the top end of this group is solid, and we should see a first round packed with talent, especially up front. It all starts with an exciting top four.
Here’s a way-too-early look at the 20 best prospects in the 2020 NHL draft class.
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
A dominant force in the QMJHL this year, Lafreniere has been on the 2020 draft radar for some time. He was the CHL Player of the Year in 2018-19 after putting up 105 points, tied for the most by a U18 player in the QMJHL since Sidney Crosby. Lafreniere isn’t at the Hughes level yet, but he’s trending up pretty aggressively. Having missed the draft cut-off by only a few weeks and since he’s coming off that incredible season, the expectations for Lafreniere are going to be through the roof next season. All the 17-year-old really has to do is meet them, but he still isn’t a Hughes-esque lock on the No. 1 spot. That’s not a knock on Lafreniere, who is every bit as good as you’ve heard. It’s more about the guys who are next in line.
2. Lucas Raymond, RW, Frolunda (Sweden)
Raymond is probably the biggest threat to Lafreniere at this point. The exceptionally skilled and smart forward has played beyond his years for a while now. His 48 points were the most ever by a U17 player in Sweden’s top U20 league. Only four players who appeared in 20 or more games in the SuperElit had more than Raymond’s 1.30 points per game, and two of them are the Sedin twins. Raymond (now 17) also appeared in 10 SHL games at 16 years old last season before putting up eight points in seven games at U18 worlds. In the final game of that tournament, Raymond completed a hat trick in overtime to hand Sweden its historic first-ever World U18 gold. He’s a special talent.