Each week I will be featuring the top three performers among first time eligible players for the 2020 NHL draft. Along with the occasional honourable mention for other noteworthy accomplishments. Here are my three stars for the period from Saturday, September 28th through Friday, October 4th.
1. Alexis Lafreniére
Rimouski Oceanic star Alexis Lafreniére earned first star honours for the past week showing why he will ultimately be the number one selection at the 2020 NHL draft. Lafreniére amassed back-to-back four-point efforts leading his team to victories.
The first of his four-point games came in a 6-3 win versus the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He had three primary assists, two of which were on the powerplay, before closing out the scoring with an empty-net goal. Lafreniére recorded eight shots on goal and was named the first star of the game for his brilliant display.
Lafreniére followed that effort with another spectacular performance, duplicating his output from the previous game. In the second period, he had three powerplay assists with passes like the one shown below.
In the final period, he added a goal and was named the third star of the game. Rimouski embarrassed the Cape Breton Eagles with a 9-2 drubbing. In his third and final game of the segment, Lafreniére added a goal and an assist for a total of ten points for the week.
2. Emil Heineman
For my second star of the week, we go to the opposite end of the spectrum. Emil Heineman has received very little hype despite leading the J20 SuperElit league in scoring. Thus far this season, Heineman has ten goals and six assists in just seven games played. Whereas last season he managed a mere five points in 27 games.
This past week Heineman scored three times and added four assists in leading Leksands to a pair of lopsided victories. If his strong play persists one would have to think he will find his way onto various rankings in the near future.
3. Juuso Maenpaa
Currently, Juuso Maenpaa leads the Jr. A SM-Liiga in scoring with 19 points in his first 12 games. Like Heineman, Maenpaa has had surprisingly little fanfare to date. However, that is likely to change if his solid play continues, in spite of his small stature.
The main strength of Maenpaa’s game is his playmaking ability, and that aspect was fully displayed this past week. In three victories, the Jokerit forward had one goal and seven assists. Jokerit sits in second place in the Finnish junior league, and Maenpaa has played a significant part.
Normally nine points in one week would make it into the top three stars but such was not the case for Mikael Pyyhtia. The Finnish forward is another skilled player who hasn’t received enough attention when it comes to 2020 NHL draft rankings. His junior club, TPS Turku had three wins and one loss in the four games they played this past week.
One prospect who is garnering a tremendous amount of hype is Quinton Byfield. The Sudbury Wolves star tallied seven points in two games this week and also added a goal in a 5-4 shootout win versus the Kitchener Rangers. Byfield leads the Ontario Hockey League in scoring at the time this article was written.
These are just a handful of the many great prospects available for the 2020 NHL draft. Be sure to check back next week to see which stars have exceptional weeks.
Rick Warman is a Vancouver Canucks and prospects contributor for Overtime Heroics. Follow him @statman1956 on Twitter
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