2020 NHL Draft: Small Players With Big-time Talent

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Photo courtesy of nhl.com

In today’s NHL, size doesn’t have the same significance as it did years ago. However, for a smaller player to enjoy success, they must be extremely talented. The 2020 NHL draft has several players that display those characteristics. Here are some of the most notable of those prospects that are 5’9″ or shorter with an abundance of skill.

Marco Rossi

2019-2020 Club: Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Position: C

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 179 lbs.

Austrian-born center Marco Rossi enjoyed an incredible season in the Ontario Hockey League, averaging over two points per game. His 120 points in just 56 games played led the league in scoring. The smooth playmaker also registered 81 assists, which likewise topped that category. Rossi is ranked in the top ten by all the primary draft sites.

The all-situations forward is a terrific skater with elite vision and an extremely high hockey IQ. His ability to make quick decisions and his shiftiness allows him to minimize the physical contact he might otherwise incur.

Marat Khusnutdinov

2019-2020 Club: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

Position: C

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 165 lbs.

One of the most exciting players available for the 2020 NHL draft is Marat Khusnutdinov. The tiny Russian center is a puck magnet that transitions the puck through the neutral zone and drives play in the offensive end. His puck possession skills are the result of tremendous agility and creativity.

His tireless work ethic and sound positioning make him a defensively responsible player that sees duty in all situations. Khusnutdinov managed 38 points in 44 games last season, most of which came in the second half of the campaign. Expect to hear his name called in the 25-40 range.

Zion Nybeck

2019-2020 Club: HV71 J20 (SuperElit)

Position: LW/RW

Height: 5’8″ Weight: 176 lbs.

Swedish forward Zion Nybeck enjoyed impressive numbers in the SuperElit last season with 66 points in 42 games. The speedy winger has a multitude of offensive weapons and plays larger than his size.

A low center of gravity makes him difficult to knock off the puck, and he is relentless on the forecheck. In comparison to Khusnutdinov, Nybeck has a higher offensive upside but doesn’t drive the play as effectively, nor is he as responsible without the puck. I expect him to be an early-to-mid second-round selection.

Alexander Pashin

2019-2020 Club: Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

Position: LW/RW

Height: 5’7″ Weight: 154 lbs.

A very impressive Hlinka Gretzky Cup made scouts take notice of Alexander Pashin. He recorded seven goals and one assist in five games for the Russian squad that took home gold at that event. In 37 MHL games this past season, Pashin managed 39 points. The undersized forward is an explosive skater with the ability to change gears and blow by defenders. This dimension of his game allows him space as defenders must respect his speed.

Pashin shows the ability to make plays at high speed, and he possesses a deceptively quick release and terrific vision. His very slight build could see him slip into the third round at the 2020 NHL draft.

Veeti Miettinen

2019-2020 Club: Kiekko-Espoo U20 (SM-sarja)

Position: RW

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 159 lbs.

St. Cloud University commit Veeti Miettinen destroyed the Finnish junior league in scoring this past season. His 73 points in 52 games were 12 points better than his nearest competitor, while his 42 goals were 14 goals more than the second-highest total. Miettinen, like most of the undersized featured prospects, is a dynamic skater. He is also adept at finding open ice in the offensive zone where he can utilize his deadly one-timer. Miettinen also has the vision and creativity to set up teammates. However, he is a shoot-first player.

Brett Berard

2019-2020 Club: USNTDP U18 (USHL)

Position: LW

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 152 lbs.

Another very small forward with explosive speed is Brett Berard of the United States National Team Development Program. Berard finished third on the team in scoring registering 34 points in 41 games. His excellent agility and edgework, combined with his fantastic stickhandling ability, make him a joy to watch. Berard also has terrific hands and the ability to finish in tight.

Kasper Simontaival

2019-2020 Club: Tappara U20 (SM-sarja)

Position: RW

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 172 lbs.

Finnish forward, Kasper Simontaival is yet another of the highly skilled diminutive prospects for the 2020 NHL draft. Simontaival excelled on the international stage for the Finland U18 squad with eight goals and six assists in eight games at various events. With his junior club, Tappara, he added 57 points in 48 games, tied for the team lead. Simontaival has excellent agility and edgework but doesn’t have the explosiveness of some of the other prospects listed. However, he possesses a deadly shot and is proficient at protecting the puck until a passing lane opens up. Simontaival is likely slated for selection early in the second round.

Thomas Bordeleau

2019-2020 Club: USNTDP U18 (USHL)

Position: C

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 179 lbs.

The leading scorer for the USNTDP U18 team this past season was Thomas Bordeleau. I remember when his grandfather Paulin Bordeleau was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the 1973 draft. He, too, was only 5’9″ and played during a far more difficult time for small players to survive. The younger Bordeleau is committed to the University of Michigan for the fall should the season take place. He has terrific top-end speed and a hard, accurate shot with a quick release.

Roni Hirvonen

2019-2020 Club: Assat (Liiga)

Position: C

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 163 lbs.

Center Roni Hirvonen spent the entire season playing in the Liiga, collecting five goals and adding 11 assists in 52 games. He also managed a combined 15 points in 12 games internationally for Finland at the U18 and U20 levels. Unsurprisingly, he relies on his exceptional skating ability, superb edgework, and excellent hands to be a constant threat in the offensive zone. Hirvonen is extremely intelligent and very creative.

Yevgeni Oksentyuk

2019-2020 Club: Flint Firebirds (OHL)

Position: LW/RW

Height: 5’8″ Weight: 163 lbs.

After being passed over in the 2019 NHL draft, Yevgeni Oksentyuk came over from Belarus to play in the OHL to gain added exposure. The move appears to have been the right decision. Oksentyuk enjoyed a terrific season and led the Firebirds in scoring with 78 points in 58 games. His ability to make plays at top-speed is exciting to watch unless you’re trying to defend against him. Oksentyuk should garner considerable interest this time around.

Emil Andrae

2019-2020 Club: HV71 J20 (SuperElit)

Position: LHD

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 183 lbs.

The thing that makes Emil Andrae stand out in this group of prospects is that he is the only defenseman featured. However, he does produce points at an astounding rate registering 38 points in 40 games in the Swedish junior ranks. Internationally he added 12 points in 13 games. Andrae skates well and offers an exceptional transition game. He is also adept at running a powerplay. His agility allows him to exercise tight gap control and to angle attacking forwards away from the dangerous areas.

Overview

All of the players on this list will need to get stronger to succeed in playing professionally. However, the skill level they display outweighs the risk, and most of these prospects should have lucrative careers.

Related Articles: 2020 NHL Draft: Exceptional German Prospects and 2020 NHL Draft: Top Russian Forwards

Rick Warman is a Vancouver Canucks and prospects contributor for Overtime Heroics. Follow him @statman1956 on Twitter

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