The 2020 draft is absolutely stacked and it wouldn’t be surprising to see five, six or even seven first-round picks make the team right out of camp. But for this list, we are looking at players who have already been drafted and spent at least a year being developed by their NHL clubs. To be eligible for this list you cannot have made your NHL debut yet. So players like Rasmus Sandin and Evan Bouchard won’t be here. In a league where many teams are struggling to stay under the cap, having young players on entry-level deals produce at a high level is essential to staying competitive. The players on this list weren’t just chosen due to their ability, factors such as cap room, need and situation were also taken into account. Here are five prospects that will be playing regular minutes for their respective parent clubs next season.
Owen Tippett (FLA)
Tippett is an interesting case due to how the Panthers have gone about developing him. Tippett was picked tenth overall all the way back in 2017 by the Panthers and actually started his career with the Cats. He had one goal in seven games and was subsequently sent to the OHL where he dominated and then ended the season with the Panthers farm team in the AHL. Surprisingly Tippett didn’t see any pro-action in his second year in the organization and instead spent the year in Junior. This year, however, has been Tippett’s coming out party. He has had a fantastic year in the AHL and was just chosen to be an All-Star. Tippett’s best asset has always been his deadly shot and his eighteen goals this year prove that. He also has nineteen assists to make 37 points in just 44 games. Tippett is definitely big enough for the NHL as he is 6’1 and weighs 215 pounds and his combination of size and skill is becoming harder and harder to find in the NHL. There is also a spot there to be taken for Tippett. Florida’s first and second-line right-wingers (Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman) are both unrestricted free agents this summer and the Panthers don’t have much cap space to re-sign them. After making a huge splash last summer, Florida will need to rely on their youth to improve next year and Tippett fits that billing perfectly. They haven’t rushed him, he’s performed well and now they need to see if he can do it at the highest level.
Victor Soderstrom (ARI)
Soderstrom is everything you would expect from a highly-touted Swedish defenceman. The Swede is smart, skilled and smooth as hell.
Just casually weaving through the whole team. Soderstrom played 44 games in the Swedish Elite League last season and didn’t put up great numbers, but he gained valuable experience. This season, he has taken that experience he gained and has made some pretty impressive strides. At just 18, Soderstrom is fifth in P/PG among defensemen and is third in the same category among all U20 skaters in the SHL. He plays a ton every night and is counted on heavily to carry the load for his team. He is also really calm under pressure.
The eleventh overall pick last summer isn’t especially big and he does tend to lose out on some battles, but the compete level is definitely there. If he can clean up a little bit in his own end he will have a real shot at being a key member of the Coyotes next year. 2021-2022 might be a better year to integrate Soderstrom into the top four as the Coyotes have four UFA’s on the backend after 2021, but they are also lacking puck-moving defencemen and that is what Soderstrom brings in abundance. He would slide in perfectly as a third pairing D with second power-play unit duty. If the Yotes want to re-sign Taylor Hall, they may not have much choice of bringing up Soderstrom next year.
Dylan Cozens (BUF)
This one has a lot more to do with team needs than anything else. As of writing, the Sabres only have three forwards signed for next season, THREE! They also really need Cozens to work because Jack Eichel’s patience is running thin and so are Sabres fans. Now that isn’t to say that all the pressure is on Cozens, the Sabres need to do a better job of developing their prospects and Cozens is the perfect player to start with. Cozens is also a wonderful player who is definitely ready to take a step up from the WHL. At 6’3, 185 LBS, there is no doubt Cozens is big enough for the NHL and it is obvious the skill is there. Cozens has 53 points in 33 games for Lethbridge and just returned from the World Juniors where he put up nine points in seven games. He is a great skater due to his long legs and powerful stride and his hands in tight are Rick Nash-esque. What I like most about Cozens is his two-way game. The Yukon native is adept at stripping or intercepting the puck from his opponent and pushing it back the other way.
Here he picks off a loose pass, recognizes the space in front of him, drives at his defender and then pulls the puck back so he can get off his wicked wrister uncontested.
Cozens is a big asset on the power play due to his big frame and his ability to handle in front of the net. Cozens can play on the wing or through the middle, but I think he would be best suited to start on the wing and then hopefully transition to centre to form a one-two combo of him and Eichel which would be an absolute nightmare for opposing defences. It would be beneficial for Cozens to get some AHL time and maybe even his NHL debut before the season’s up just to get a feel for the pros.
Kirill Kaprizov (MIN)
Kaprizov is, in my opinion, the most NHL ready prospect in any organization, the question is, can the Wild get him to come to North America. Drafted by Minnesota in the fifth round back in 2015, Kaprizov went back to Russia to play out his KHL contract. He has since become the best player in the KHL and broken records for a player his age. Kaprizov had the best ever season by a nineteen-year-old tallying 42 points in 49 games and then had the best ever season by a 21-year-old last season with 51 points in 57 games. This year he has taken it to another level, the Russian is third in league scoring with 47 points in 46 games and first in goals with 23.
Kaprizov is extremely skilled with a high-end shot, he is a powerful skater who can stop and start on a dime and his edgework is elite already. He isn’t particularly tall but at 200 LBS and with his puck protection abilities, he will not feel overwhelmed one bit in the NHL.
Watch as he builds up speed, finds a gap, receives the pass in stride with a defender on his back, proceeds to shrug off the defender with ease and then uses his elite hands to finish in tight. Beautiful goal. There is no doubt that the Wild could use Kaprizov as they are lacking skilled, talented wingers and he would easily slide into their top six. I would love to see Kaprizov on a line with Luke Kunin or even Jordan Greenway. The Wild should be entering full rebuild mode and with Kaprizov’s KHL deal ending after this season, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be in their opening day lineup next season, he is ready.
More Kaprizov, he really reminds me of Panarin, look at the quick cutback and then reverse shot as the goalie is moving the other way, great goal.
Moritz Seider (DET)
The Red Wings raised a lot of eyebrows picking Seider sixth overall in last year’s draft, but Seider is showing everybody that the only surprise should’ve been that he wasn’t picked higher. I am in love with Seider, at 6’4, 210 LBS, he is one of the bigger defensemen in the NHL, but he doesn’t play how you would expect for a guy his size. He really is an excellent skater and is very cool under pressure.This is just a simple clip of him evading pressure at the point, but you can see how confident he is in his skating and puck handling ability. Seider has played the whole season with Grand Rapids in the AHL and is having a pretty solid season for someone his age. Seider has the second-best points per game ever by defencemen who are eighteen only behind Rasmus Sandin who is now with the Leafs. He was great at the World Juniors and was a major reason why Germany didn’t get relegated, he had six assists in seven games. Seider also has quite the shot
That celly too, jeez. Now if you’re expecting Seider to come in and be as offensively dynamic as Cale Makar, well I’m sorry to tell you that isn’t the player Seider is. The German isn’t as offensively gifted as a Makar or even Quinn Hughes, but his defensive game is much more refined.
Here are just two examples of how mature and strong Seider is defensively, he is rarely out of place and if he is, he has the skating ability to recover. Oh, and he can lay the body whenever he wants too. The Red Wings are a tire fire, there is no reason not to bring up Seider next season. He has shown that he is too good for the AHL and you need to see how good he can be at the highest level. It should be exciting to watch him develop.