Every year Bob Mckenzie’s rankings set the industry-standard across the scouting community. This past Thursday, he released his mid-season rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft, and multiple names were ranked in a position that took most people by surprise.
Normally I would never write an article debating another person’s rankings; I believe there is parity among every draft class, and nobody’s opinion is necessarily right or wrong.
However, Mckenzie’s rankings are compiled based on scouts he anonymously surveys league-wide; rather than on his personal views. Essentially his rankings represent the consensus view of the draft class. The results are concerning, to say the least, as some players are grossly overlooked. In contrast, other player’s value is being overcompensated due to weaknesses of this draft class along with other external factors.
Here is who I expect will be Risers/Fallers when Bob Mckenzie’s final draft rankings are released in June.
I mainly focused on Western Canadian prospects since I dedicate a significant amount of time to watching junior hockey in Western Canada and have a much stronger opinion on these prospects than other prospects.
Jake Neighbours – F – WHL – Bob’s Rank: 38
While Neighbours has been a consistent scorer all year long for the Oil Kings, there are other comparable forwards in his tier that have recently been riding impressive hot-streaks, resulting in them pushing ahead of Neighbours. Mid-season rankings are warranted on a player’s current stock more than any other rankings throughout the year, which allows some streaky players who are hot at the right time to be pushed up.
The final rankings have a more overall view on a player’s draft year, and hot-streaks can be dismissed as a permissible bias. The consistency Neighbours has shown will help him finish with a respectable draft season. He has a much more complete game than the majority of prospects in his tier, along with a few specific attributes that give him a considerable edge.
Neighbours is already a physically mature player who isn’t afraid to play the body, has a pro-level shot, and is a talented playmaker. Neighbours is the best junior player I’ve seen at entering the offensive zone; the guy is a zone-entry machine. He has the vision and patience to find open space while carrying the puck up ice, and his explosive acceleration gives him the ability to exploit defensive gaps and enter the zone with speed.
He may not be the biggest “x-factor” of the prospects available in the late-first round range in this year’s draft class, but the skillsets Neighbours possesses make him a safe bet to be an effective player at the NHL level.
Carter Savoie – F – AJHL – Bob’s rank: (N/R)
If you haven’t got the chance to watch an AJHL game this season, I suggest you do — because the season Carter Savoie is putting together with the Sherwood Park Crusaders is something special. Something that may never be done again in the modern era of the league. He currently has 46 goals in 44 games which puts him on pace to potentially score the most goals the AJHL has seen in a season in over 20 years.
Savoie is an elite offensive talent, who isn’t getting anywhere near the respect he deserves. If you’d like to read my full breakdown of his game click here
Michael Benning – D – AJHL – Bob’s ranking: (N/R)
Again, Michael Benning is another Sherwood Park Crusaders player who isn’t getting nearly enough respect for the season he is putting together in the AJHL. He’s currently outproducing the rate of offense that saw former AJHL defencemen Cale Makar go 4th overall to the Colorado Avalanche in 2017.
The reason Benning isn’t currently being looked at the same standard is that Makar’s main attribute that made him a top-prospect was his elite skating abilities, while Benning is more exclusively known for his abilities as an exceptional puck mover.
I tend to think Benning is a strong skater in his own right, but it’s not at the level that would have him ranked as an elite prospect.
However, his puck-moving abilities cannot be overlooked and should have him in conversations among late-first round prospects. To put it in perspective, Benning is on pace to become one of just six defencemen in AJHL history to break 80 points in a single season — a plateau that hasn’t been touched in over 30 years.
(AJHL Most Points by a Defencemen, One Season)
I know that ranking prospects comes down to much more than just producing points, but I strongly encourage just watching a Sherwood Park Crusaders game this season. Benning is truly one of the calmest puck-moving defencemen available in this draft.
I’m currently working on a full breakdown of his game that includes testaments from his Head Coach Adam Manah on Benning’s work ethic, character, and leadership attributes. So be on the lookout for that.
Anton Lundell – F – Liiga – Bob’s rank: 11 | Noel Gunler – F – SHL – Bob’s rank: 27
I put these players together because I believe both these players are experiencing a drop in their draft stock due to a similar reason. The 2020 World Junior Championship is a 19-year-old dominated tournament, but this year it featured more draft-eligible players than it has in a long time. It felt like all of the prospects ranked near the top-end of the first round were participating in the tournament, which is well outside the norm.
For European players, International tournaments are their best opportunity to showcase their talent and climb up the radars of scouts before the draft. Missing these tournaments can be detrimental to their draft stock and allow them to slide off the radar of being among the ‘mainstream’ prospects. This could definitely be the case for this pair of European forwards. Anton Lundell and Noel Gunler have both went from being among the most highly touted offensive prospects at the 2020 NHL Draft to both falling back an entire tier from where they have both been respectively ranked among scouts for the most of the season.
Other factors would attribute to them falling as far as they have, and it can’t be denied that there have been some players that have simply propelled past them due to exceptional play that can’t be ignored. However, it appears that missing the biggest U20 tournament of the year has hurt their draft stock significantly in the short-run. The worst part is — it’s a factor that was entirely out of either player’s control.
Jan Mysak – F – OHL – Bob’s rank: 53
Jan Mysak is one of the most interesting prospects in this draft class. He has now positioned himself in a rare opportunity where he can either exponentially raise his draft value or watch it fall drastically.
After putting together an impressive performance at the 2020 World Juniors for the Czech Republic — Mysak announced that he would be leaving the HC Litvinov of the Czech Extraliga and playing the remainder of the season in the OHL for the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Since coming over, Mysak has almost seamlessly transferred his game to the North American style of play and quickly erupted for 9 points and 7 goals in his first 7 games for the Bulldogs.
These past few months, there has been quite a bit of hype revolving around Mysak. I was actually expecting him to be a player that was going to be ranked too high in the mid-season rankings, but instead, the opposite occurred. If he keeps up this rate of production — he should be a surefire first-round pick.
Now I want to make one thing clear — these are all exceptional players. You may notice that all of these players in the WHL, which is a league I cover quite closely throughout the years. All three of these players have attributes that make them some of the top prospects in this draft class — However, there are missing pieces to their games that are needed to be ranked as high as they are in the most recent mid-season rankings.
Kaiden Guhle – D – WHL – Bob’s ranking: 12
Kaiden Guhle is one of the premier defencemen of the WHL playing for the Prince Albert Raiders. There isn’t much more you look for in a defensive prospect — he’s a smooth skater, uses his long reach to control gaps, and brings a calming presence to the blueline.
Whichever team ends up taking him at the draft is getting an excellent prospect — but to be selected in the top-15 — the value isn’t there. Guhle is a good puck-mover, but not elite. He can make calm passes while in transition but is far from a controller of the play in the offensive zone. His offensive production isn’t likely to transition to the pro-level. While Guhle is a very smooth skater, he lacks that high-end top speed. I’ve watched him lose puck races to forwards that aren’t known for their elite skating.
Guhle could bring significant value as a late-first to early-second round pick — but top-15 is a stretch considering the dynamic skillsets other players in that range possess. A team that’s drafting based on positional need could definitely jump up to select him in that range, as Guhle is one of the best left-handed defencemen available.
Seth Jarvis – F – WHL – Bob’s ranking: 24
This is a prime example of a player who has caught fire at the perfect time. In his past ten games, Seth Jarvis has put up a remarkable 29 points — raising his total to 64 points in 42 points this season. That’s almost half his production on the season over a 10 game span. Jarvis has some of the best innate offensive instincts in this draft class. However, a lot of his skillsets are pretty raw, and if he isn’t producing offense he can become invisible in the game, while there are plenty of other prospects near the back-end of the first round that offer a much more well-rounded game.
This is a guy who could really prove me wrong if he continues his current success into the last half of the season — and there is a lot to like about his game, so I hope he does just that.
Ridly Greig – F – WHL – Bob’s ranking: 31
One of the main things I look for in players is hockey sense — their ability to find open space, make plays, and utilize soft areas of the ice. As far as hockey sense goes, Ridly Greig is one of the smartest players I’ve watched all season.
Simply put, he doesn’t have the high-end speed or strength to be in conversations with the deep first-round class 2020 has to offer. In the second round, he would be a great bet, but some other players in the first-round have much more potential to transfer their game to the pro-level, where-as Greig’s lack of speed and strength make that more of a question if he would see success at the pro-level or not.
None-the-less, Greig is an excellent prospect, and you can read my full breakdown of his game here.
- The biggest issue of the 2020 NHL Draft class is the lack of high-end defencemen available at the top of the draft. This has resulted in several defencemen being vastly overvalued, and several dynamic forward prospects have paid the price with a significant drop in their rankings positioning.
- The AJHL is grossly under-valued. I understand that more goes into developing rankings than pure statistics, especially when considering prospects playing in the AJHL. However, it’s about time the hockey world takes notice of just how special of a season Carter Savoie and Michael Benning are having in Sherwood Park. If you haven’t had a chance to watch them play yet this year, I highly suggest you do.
- Missing International Tournaments has had a substantial impact on some of the top European prospects in this draft class, who missed the best opportunity to showcase their skills on the world stage. It’s a factor that’s completely out of their control, and they will have the opportunity to make up for it in the last half of the season.
- Well-timed hot-streaks have a significantly bigger impact on mid-season rankings than they do at the end of the year’s final rankings. Once everyone is able to take on overall view on the season top-prospects have put together, many will fall back into a range that better suits the skillsets they bring to the table.
For more on the 2020 NHL Draft be sure to follow me on Twitter (@AdamGirard7) as I’ll be providing insight on the upcoming draft class all season long — and let me know which prospects you think will Rise/Fall when Final-Rankings are released in June.