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2020 NHL Draft: WJC Preview

(Photo Credit: Chad Hipolito/CP) 2020 NHL draft top prospect

The 2020 NHL draft is considered by many as an exceptional draft. Many of the high-end talents available will be on display at this year’s World Junior Championship. The tournament will take place from December 26th through January 5th in the Czech Republic. Last year we got to see Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko showcase their tremendous skills. Here are some of the 2020 NHL draft-eligible players to watch at this year’s event.

Team Canada

Team Canada will feature the consensus number one and two prospects, Alexis Lafreniére and Quinton Byfield, as well as the likely number one defenceman, Jamie Drysdale. Dawson Mercer, also projected to be a first-round selection, is on the final roster.

Lafreniére has long been considered the top prospect available for next June’s NHL draft. He leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring at the time of his departure to join the Canadian squad, with an incredible 70 points in 32 games played. Lafreniére plays a complete game, and his play is critical if Canada is to contend for a medal.

Byfield is a dominant force in the Ontario Hockey League, and his play at the tournament will also go along way in determining the fate of Team Canada. The Sudbury Wolves star was third in OHL scoring before joining Team Canada. An event of this magnitude weighs heavily on the minds of scouts, and these two prospects will be center stage.

Drysdale is a right-handed shooting defenceman that exemplifies the modern-day defender. His skating is exceptional, as is his transition game. In 29 games this season, Drysdale has 31 points and is expected to be a top-ten pick at the draft.

Mercer was outstanding in the CIBC Canada/Russia series and may have earned his opportunity based on that performance. Mercer is second in scoring on the Drummondville Voltigeurs, although he leads the team in points-per-game having amassed 42 points in 26 games.

Team Sweden

Two players to watch for Sweden are Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. Both prospects are highly skilled and likely to be top-ten selections at the 2020 NHL draft.

The 17-year-old Raymond averaged more than a point per game playing internationally for Sweden at the U18 level last year and is the more complete player of the pair. He combines terrific skating, a tremendous work ethic and exceptional hockey sense that makes him a threat every time he steps on the ice.

Although Holtz isn’t as well-rounded a player as Raymond, he is equally as dangerous in the offensive zone. He possesses a deadly accurate shot with a quick release. He uses his keen vision and hockey sense to find open areas that contribute to his finishing ability.

Team Russia

Generally, the Russian entry in the World Junior Championships is made up extensively with 19-year-old players. However, this year they will have two first-time draft-eligible prospects, goaltender Yaroslav Askarov and forward Maxim Groshev.

Askarov is considered by many to be the top netminder available for the 2020 NHL draft. Canadian hockey fans will remember his gold-medal winning performance versus Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Askarov posted a sparkling 1.25 goals-against-average, and .960 save percentage at the event.

Groshev is a very underrated prospect, in my opinion. He recently turned 18 and is already playing in the Kontinental Hockey League. Groshev had an impressive showing at the recent CIBC Canada-Russia series and is currently ranked #84 by Future Considerations. Undoubtedly, he is a player that I will be watching closely in this tournament.

Czech Republic

The team from the host country will feature a few 2020 NHL draft-eligible prospects. Forwards Jan Mysak, Jaromir Pytlik and defenceman Simon Kubicek, along with goaltenders Jan Bednar and Nick Malik, could see action.

Mysak is the highest-ranked player of the bunch and likely a mid-first-round selection. The highly-skilled center plays for HC Litvinov in the Czech Extraliga and is considered one of the top talents to come out of that country in recent years.

Pytlik is enjoying a decent season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL averaging just over a point-per-game. It will be interesting to see if he can carry that success into international play.

Kubicek plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League and offers a solid all-around game. The right-handed shooting defender plays in all situations. However, his best work comes in the defensive zone.

How much time in net either Bednar or Malik will see is questionable as the team is still carrying four goaltenders at the time of this article. Albeit both are exceptionally talented and are capable of stealing the starting job.

Germany

I am incredibly excited to see the German team return to the World Junior Championships. They have several prospects that will be eligible for the 2020 NHL draft, but three, in particular, to focus on are Tim Stutzle, John-Jason Peterka and Lukas Reichel.

Stutzle may end up being a top-five selection. He is an elite skater that makes plays and thinks at top speed. He has averaged near a point-per-game pace in the German DEL thus far this season. It will be very intriguing to see how he does versus his peers.

I began to notice Peterka last season when tracking players for the 2019 draft. As a 16-year-old, he averaged nearly two points-per-game in the Czech U-19 league. This season he is playing in the German DEL and hasn’t looked out of place. He has terrific speed and is surely a player to watch at this tournament.

Reichel is having a surprising start to his season. Likewise, he plays in the German DEL, and although he may not have the same flash as his German teammates, he plays an efficient overall game. He, also, is a great skater, and the trio should make the German team a fun one to watch.

Others to watch

Three other players worthy of attention are Simon Knak ( Switzerland ), Martin Chromiak ( Slovakia ) and Artyom Korolyov ( Kazakhstan ). These are just some of the numerous prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL draft that make this a highly scouted event and certainly worth watching.

Related Articles: 2020 NHL draft week 12 and 2020 NHL draft week 11

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

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