Another World Juniors has come and gone and boy was it a good one. The two-week tournament rarely ever disappoints and this year was no different. Some great games topped off by a Gold Medal final no one will soon forget, Canada is back in the winners’ circle. The tournament MVP was won by 2020 1st overall pick (Yes he is going to go 1st overall, no point in saying projected) Alexis Lafreniere. Lafreniere played just four full games, but he was clearly the best player in the tournament. But Lafreniere wasn’t the only youngster that performed exceptionally! In fact, there were more than a handful of 2020 draft eligibles who had fantastic tournaments, so let’s rank them!
There were a total of 26 players that have the potential to be drafted this June at the 2020 World Juniors, but I am just going to rank the top twelve. There is a real possibility you haven’t heard of at least half of these guys, so you are welcome in advance for broadening your knowledge about teenagers who play hockey. I should add, this is purely based on their performance in the World Juniors, I am not taking into account what they did before the tournament, solely on how they performed over the past two weeks.
1. Alexis Lafreniere
Of course, Lafreniere is going to be first, the guy won MVP for god’s sake. Everyone knew he was good, but wow. He exceeded every expectation anyone could’ve possibly had for him. He won team Canada the game against the U.S., was crucial in their 3rd-period comeback in the Gold Medal Game against Russia and dominated against the Fins and the Slovaks. His physicality surprised me, he was laying big hits every chance he got. His shot also surprised me too, he showed that he could pick his spot whenever he wanted. Lafreniere also showed he could overcome adversity with ease, coming back from a knee injury that looked very nasty on first look to score and assist in his first game back. Whoever gets this guy in June is getting an already elite first-line player who also has the rare ability to be able to drive a line as a winger.
Projected Draft Spot: 1st
2. Tim Stutzle
Stutzle was fantastic. He only put up 5 points in 5 games, all assists, but he also missed two games against Kazakstahn which were stat-padding opportunities. Forgetting the stats for a moment, Stutzle was a factor every time he touched the ice. Ray Ferraro pointed this out on the broadcast of one of the Germany games, watch Stutzle without the puck, he ALWAYS wants it. He taps his stick every time his teammates get the puck. Can it be annoying? Oh incredibly, trust me, I know from experience, but it is a good sign. This guy is so confident in his ability that he wants the puck no matter what situation he is in. Watching him, you can see why, he has high, high skill level and is a sublime passer. Those 5 assists weren’t just lucky secondary assists, they were threaded needles to wide-open teammates. Stutzle will be a top 7 pick next June and whoever gets him will have a special talent on their hands.
3. John-Jason Peterka
Now here is the player who finished off that wonderful passing play, JJ Peterka. Peterka was another one the three German draft eligibles that everyone was intrigued by and he showed why. Four goals and six points in seven games, Peterka’s shot was the thing that stood out the most, as was his overall knack for scoring. Most had the winger in the middle 3rd round range, but he definitely moved up ten to fifteen spots thanks to a solid tournament.
Projected Draft Spot: 45th-60th
4. Lucas Raymond
Raymond had a great tournament for the highlight reel (See below)
But he also played a solid overall game in a sheltered role. I am a huge fan of Raymond due to how dynamic he is and how dangerous he can be, but there were times when he tried to do a little too much. Overall, he finished the tournament with two goals and four points in seven games, a solid showing for an underager. He played on a line with fellow highly touted prospect Alexander Holtz and their chemistry was evident. He also got time on the second power-play unit where he showed his ability to fight for pucks and win battles to keep the play alive.
Projected Draft Spot: 3rd
5. Alexander Holtz
Now it’s Holtz turn. Holtz put up more points than Raymond (5 total), but his overall performance wasn’t as good, to me at least. Holtz has a lethal shot as evident by his goal against Slovakia.
He wasn’t as noticeable as Raymond when he had the puck and he struggled to find open space at times. Unlike Stutzle or Lafreniere even, niether Swede was relied upon to play big minutes as the Swedes used their 18 and 19-year-olds to get games over the line. Overall the tournament did nothing but improve Holtz draft stock and he is comfortably in the top ten at the moment.
Projected Draft Spot: 6th
6. Simon Kubicek
Kubicek was a machine at this tournament. The 18-year-old was the Czech’s most used defenceman and played over 25 minutes in multiple games. He wasn’t one of the more talked about prospects coming into the tournament, but he sure showed what he was capable of. He had three points, all on the power play, including one goal which was an absolute bomb (He also had one called off for goalie interference). He was picked as one of the Czech’s top three players of the tournament and impressed everyone with how reliable he was. He isn’t expected to go too high, but late second, early third-rounder is a possibility.
Projected Draft Spot: 55th-70th
7. Lukas Reichel
Points wise, Reichel had a great tournament, but the stats are a little deceiving. It was no doubt, a solid tournament for Reichel, however, he did play his best hockey against the worst team in the tournament (Sorry Kazakstan). He only played around 14 minutes a game in the tournament, so it wasn’t easy for him to really make an impact on the game, but he did the best he could. He made some really nice plays, specifically against the Americans and the Czech’s. Against the States, he had a very important secondary assist and he scored a big power-play goal against the Czech’s. He also had this snipe against the Kazaks.
A good, not great tournament for Reichel, but for people who didn’t know much about him before the tournament, they sure know now.
Projected draft spot: 2nd round
8. Jamie Drysdale
Drysdale got better and better as the tournament went on and had a fantastic semi-final against the Fins, where he scored this beauty.
It was less surprising than disappointing that Drysdale played just around ten minutes a game in the Round Robin, but when players started to get sick and injured on Canada’s backend, someone had to fill their shoes. Drysdale did exactly that and more. A right-handed D that can skate, pitch in offensively, has high hockey IQ and can run a power play???? Lottery teams GM’s are drooling. It is almost a certainty that Drysdale is the first defenceman selected next June and don’t be surprised to see him go as high as the top five. Kid’s special.
Projected draft spot: 8th
9. Simon Knak
Knak was someone that I hadn’t heard much about coming into the tournament and had never seen play, but I was very impressed by the 17-year-old. He only had two points in the tournament, both goals, but he was a livewire every time he was on the ice. He scored this very nice goal
to seal the Swiss win over the Fins and was voted player of the game for his efforts. Knak has great hands and can skate well, he isn’t going to blow you away with his talent level, but he is a solid player.
Projected draft spot: 2nd round
10. Jan Mysak
Mysak started the tournament very well, scoring in the Czech’s opening day upset over Russia and winning Player of the Game.
He struggled a little bit the rest of the way, only gathering one more point over the next four games, but he showed reason for excitement. Mysak has made the decision to play for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL after starting the season in Czechia and that should do him wonders. He has an excellent shot and can be a great producer on the power play when given the oppurtunity.
Projected draft spot: Late 1st round
11. Yaroslav Askarov
It was a very up and down tournament for Askarov. He was given the starting job by Russia and had a lot of eyes watching, expecting him to be the second coming of Carey Price. He was subsequently pulled after allowing four goals on seventeen shots in the opener against the Czechs and we didn’t know if he would get another chance. But after the other Russian goalie struggled against the U.S., Askarov got another shot. The young goalie performed pretty well, allowing just two goals in two games against Germany and Switzerland respectively. Those weren’t really tough tests, but the Semi’s against Sweden was and again, Askarov was disappointing. Pulled after allowing four goals for the second time in the tournament and that was that. When the lights shone brightest, you could tell Askarov was jittery and nervous. He was all over the place in his crease. However, I still am very confident in Askarov’s ability and still believe he will be a top ten pick in June. Highly touted goalies flame out more than any other position, this shouldn’t be a surprise. So maybe Askarov works out and maybe he doesn’t, but to base his ability off one tournament is silly (Yes I realize that kind of contradicts the rankings, just shut up). He is still an uber-talented goalie that we should hope ends up in the right situation.
Projected draft spot: Top Ten
12. Quinton Byfield
Yea this was a tough tournament for Byfield. I mean, the guy did literally nothing of note. One secondary assist was all he could muster. The lowest point was, of course, the Gold Medal Game where he didn’t play a single shift. This happens, 17-year-olds aren’t supposed to dominate the World Juniors. Byfield will still go second overall and rightfully so, he just had a tough couple of weeks. Any debate of him going first over Lafreniere is over and that is okay too, now he just has to keep his head down and finish off a tremendous last season in the OHL because, it will be his last season.
Projected draft spot: 2nd