All eyes are beginning to focus on the 2020 NHL Draft.
Less than six months away, NHL front offices and the scouting community continue to prepare for the big day in Montreal. Among the busiest of talent evaluators is undoubtedly NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr, who earlier this month released the Midterm Rankings which project where the top 217 players including 143 Canadian Hockey League talents slot amongst their draft class.
Marr recently sat down with Junior Hockey Magazine to discuss the top draft-eligible talents, including a handful of CHLers who earlier this month helped guide Canada to its 18th gold medal at the World Juniors:
Junior Hockey Magazine: A lot of the top guys in the Midterm Rankings were playing at the World Juniors. Can you remember a year where so many draft-eligible prospects actually played at the tournament?
Dan Marr: This year was an exceptional year. It caused me to change a number of my scouts’ schedules. They were going to go to league games to watch the players (but) I had them all come in and attend Canada’s World Junior camp. It ended up being a really good scouting tool because all the good, young players were there.
JHM: The top-3 ranked players – Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, and Jamie Drysdale – all won gold for Canada at the World Juniors. Let’s start with Lafreniere. He’s been the projected first-overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft for some time now. He was unbelievable at the World Juniors, winning the MVP of the tournament. How impressive was Lafreniere at the World Juniors?
DM: He has always been impressive when he gets put on that international stage. He just showed again, and he has done it for the last three years, that he is a natural at this game. He has the ability to understand a situation, read the play, execute plays with speed and quickness, but he is also a leader. He makes players around him better. He goes out there when the game is on the line and he wants to be out there in the big situations. He has shown time and again that he can deliver when he is put in that situation.
JHM: Quinton Byfield is the second-rated North American skater. He had one assist in seven games with Canada. How much separation would you say there is between Byfield and Lafreniere for the first-overall pick?
DM: Right now for our group, going back to a month into the season, Lafreniere has definitely established himself as being the No. 1 for this draft class. Quinton Byfield has done nothing but continue to impress and he continues to move up and solidify himself as one of the top prospects for the NHL. The fact that he was able to the make the (Canadian World Junior) team as a 17-year-old is remarkable. He and Drysdale made the team let alone played and earned some ice time there. Being part of that program, winning the gold, handling the adversity, this does a lot to advance the development of a young player like Byfield and Drysdale.
JHM: Saginaw Spirit sniper Cole Perfetti is at No. 4. He is second in OHL scoring with 77 points in just 44 games. For someone who hasn’t seen him play, how would you describe his game?
DM: Everything with Cole is quickness – quick wits, quick read and react, quick execution on the plays, and he has a quick release shot. But he is a really clever playmaker. Once he enters the zone and has the puck on his stick, the team is going to get a scoring chance. He has proven that time after time. He did it as a rookie last year in the OHL. Arguably he was Canada’s best player at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer where it is a best-on-best for 18 year olds. He is almost in a class of his own when it comes to being a skilled forward.
JHM: In net, the top-rated North American is Nico Daws. He played at the World Juniors as well. Could you see him going mid to late first-round in the NHL Draft this June?
DM: The Nico Daws this year is not the Nico Daws from last year. I think NHL clubs are realizing that. The World Juniors are not an exact scientific tool to use to have bearings on goaltenders who play in the NHL, and I don’t know the World Juniors went the way (he) had hoped. But the fact that (he) was there participating and got a gold medal, it’s all positive. If Daws continues his play and continues to help Guelph and have a good playoff run, then he is going to move higher and higher with the NHL teams. To take a goalie in the first round nowadays, it is a really heartfelt for the general managers, but Daws will be in that conversation.