Ah, the NHL Draft — one of the best days of the year, especially for prospect-watchers.
The 2020 Draft has been a long time coming, delayed by nearly four months due to the pandemic. But it’s finally here, and with the Capitals keeping their first-round pick (#24) in a very deep draft (particularly at forward), it feels like Christmas.
The common practice here would be to do a Top Five, looking at a handful of players the Caps would be smart to grab in the first round. This year’s draft is so deep and the pandemic has brought in so much mystery, however, that the pool can be expanded to at least seven players who could be home runs for Washington in the first round. And the good news is that at least one of them should be available if not a couple more.
As was the case last year, we’re banning the Capitals from picking a defensemen with their first round pick, mostly because of the depth of forward talent available early and the lack of a defenseman who really sticks out around this part of the draft (though some blueliner suggestions will be made later for the heck of it).
Note - This list was compiled with the assistance and scouting knowledge of the following sites: Scouching, Draft Dynasty, Prospect Film Room, Draft Look Hockey, NHL Draft Central, Pick224, Drafting Hockey, Andy And Rono, GTA Analystic, Dobber Prospects, Draft Prospect Hockey, Elite Prospect, and The Draft Analyst.
Let’s get rolling!
Rodion Amirov, LW
6’0” - 178lbs
Rodion is a fantastic two way player that’s mature and possesses a very high IQ. He’s a very good skater, not much with speed but with great agility and holds on to the puck well. His IQ is through the roof that let’s him know where to be both defensively and offensively. He’s not crazy physical but uses his body to win puck battles. He will need to put on more weight to make sure he’s winning those battles at the next level. He makes really good simple passes that help move the puck up the ice and through the offensive zone. They aren’t flashy playmaking skills but very accurate and thorough.
He reminds me a lot of Justin Williams, which is a player that doesn’t flash any elite skill like speed, shot, passing, etc. but his brain is so good that he just knows where the puck will be, which makes him an elite asset at both ends of the ice. If Capitals could snag him and put him with Connor McMichael, that could make a fantastic pair for the next generation of Capital players. It’s still doubtful he’s available at 25 but some mock drafts have him dropping that far occasionally.
Marat Khusnutdinov, C
5’9” - 165lbs
O, Marat. Forgive me people because I’m about to gush. This is a kid that started in my second round, but the more I watched him the more I just feel in love. He moved from my second round, then got moved up to my first round, then into my top five, then first in my top 5, and now second in my top seven after Amirov started to drop, which is surprising. Marat is a stud.
Khusnutdinov is one of the best two way centers in the draft, possibly right after Lundell. It’s hard to get the puck away from him because of his speed and strength. And if he losses the puck he hates it and always works his ass off to get it back. Speaking of his speed this kid can fly, one of the better ones in the draft. Adding his speed to his playmaking ability makes him a handful to deal with. His shot is good but could certainly be better. The best part of Marat is he is one of the youngest in the draft, which means his potential could be even better than what he’s showing. He reminds me of Bergeron in play style: plays great defensively but his offensive brain is so good he won’t just be a shut down guy but someone that can make things happen to get the puck in the back of the net.
He’s almost a complete player, doesn’t need long to be in the NHL. He is Russian so he could stay over the pound longer but if he wanted the NHL wouldn’t be that far off. What’s so enticing about him is both his floor and ceiling are so high. At worst you’ll get a very good two way middle six center, and as a team that has Lars Eller the Capitals know how important that is. And that’s at his worst. At best he could be a legit two way, top line center you can throw at any situation. He reminds me a ton of Sebastian Aho, who also fell in the draft and is now one of the best centers in the game.
Noel Gunler, RW/LW
6’2” - 174lbs
Gunler is a good sized winger with immense offensive abilities, especially his shot. But he can be inconsistent at defense and effort, which drives his coaches nuts. It’s why he’s predicted to go as low as low teens to a mid second round pick. He’s one of the best goal scorers in the draft, but that’s not all he can do, he’s also an underrated playmaker. He thinks the game well offensively and if he can continue to improve on it he can be an offensive force in the NHL.
He was not invited to the World Juniors and on his SHL team he continues to get fourth line time; that says his coaches don’t trust him and that’s obviously a concern (granted he’s on one of the best SHL teams so it’s hard to get time as it is). He’s much like last year’s Arthur Kaliyev: he has all the offensive ability in the world but it comes down wanting to improve his game at both ends of the ice. If he hits his ceiling there’s a 40 goal NHL player in him but if he doesn’t he may never make it North America. Very high risk high reward player, which, as stated earlier, the Caps need to be swinging on.
Mavrik Bourque, C
5’11” - 185lbs
Mavrik is a small forward that really built on his game from last season. I didn’t watch him D-1 season (season before the players draft) but from the reports he was just a goal scorer that didn’t bring much else to the table. This season he’s added playmaking ability, and not just a little, but he’s become one of the best playmakers in the draft, legitimately top five or eight. The biggest flaw in his game is speed. He isn’t slow by any means but for someone his size you would love to see another gear. The good thing is Bourque uses his lack of high end speed to really slow the play down, let his teammates get into position then can dish a slick pass onto the tape. As mentioned before he’s also a high end shooter that can really rip it; he’s a dual offensive threat.
His defense could also use some work. That mixed with his lack a true speed makes many scouts wonder if he’ll be a center at the next level, but he certainly has the brain for it. It happens all the time a player goes form a mediocre to a great skater in this day and age, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him turn it around. If he can fix his speed he’d be a lock top 10 pick in this draft. If the Caps can snag that at 25 it would be a steal.
Jacob Perreault, C
5’11” - 198lbs
Perreault is a very underrated center and reminds me a lot of our very own Connor McMichael. Jacob owns a great, heavy shot that few in the draft can match. He also has one of the best hands and above average vision. He was clocked as one of the line to line fastest skaters in the draft, he also protects the puck very well when he has it. Mixing his skating ability with his hands and shot makes him extremely deadly. He’s an elite offensive package.
If he’s so amazing why is he ranked this low by everyone? He rarely shows any interest in his own end. And that amazing speed I was mentioning, he doesn’t always use it as his effort can be lacking. The thing is he was on a horrifically bad team, one of the worst defensive teams in the league allowing 4.8 goals against a game. Now, he certainly could have aided in that, but if his mind processes was “only way we win is if we outscore the other team” then it could explain his lack of defensive interest and just wanted to score more to help his team win. If a team can get him to round out his defensive game while utilizing his elite offensive abilities, it would be a steal.
Jan Mysak, C/LW
6’0” - 181lbs
Jan came over to the OHL half way through the season after starting the year in the Czech league. It can take some players, even adults, time to adjust to a new league but Mysak did it easily, posting 25 points (15 goals) in 22 games. He does everything very well: great speed, hands, vision, shot, and over all very reliable. When it comes to the offensive zone, very few players in this draft think the game like he can. He just knows where to be, and mixing that with his high end release and shot, he becomes a very deadly offensive threat.
It’s going to be fascinating to see where Mysak ends up in this year’s draft. He came over and instantly made an impact but only played 22 games. Is there more to his game? Was he just really hot? What’s intriguing, like Marat, Myask is one of the youngest players in the draft so he could have a whole other level to his play. He reminds me a lot of Tomas Hertl, who is a legit top line player, but Jan has a lot more to prove before he gets to that point. He plays center as well but will need to work on his defensive game if he wants to stick there. He most likely he lands at wing.
Hendrix Lapierre, C
6’0” - 180lbs
Here’s another very interesting prospect. Last summer, Lapierre was pegged as a top five pick in this upcoming draft. But multiple concussions and a neck injury kept Lapierre to just 19 games this past season. Just as he was about to come back the league was cancelled due to the pandemic so no one could see how he recovered from injury. What made Lapierre a potential top five pick? He’s one of the best playmakers in the draft. This kid can dish the puck and his vision is top end. He also skates extremely well and just has the brain of a NHLr. It’s funny he wears 92, because his biggest flaw is he doesn’t shoot, much like our own Evgney Kuznetsov. There’s multiple examples of having the puck in the slot and trying to pass it off to a teammate. Lapierre will need to shoot more so opponents respect the shot leaving his teammates open back door.
The good news is he’s started the QMJHL preseason and has four goals and four assists in four games, leading the league in points per game. It is just pre-season but it’s a good showing none the less. It makes sense why a lot of teams would skip on him earlier in the first round, they’ll want something certain, but for the Capitals they should swing if they want an elite playmaker.
And there you have it. If the Capitals can grab one of those kids they’ll be in good shape for this draft. But knowing the Capitals they’ll draft a left handed CHL densemen that I didn’t look at once. Soon I’ll be dropping who else the Capitals could be looking at in the first round and second round (though they currently don’t have a second round pick).