This ranking has been finalized ahead of the U18 Five Nations in Sundsvall (Sweden), and even if we are already a couple of months into the draft season it is still heavily influenced by what we have seen over the previous couple of years (a less recent period of time that is however about ten times longer).
An example of that is the #1 prospect on the list, Lucas Raymond. He is one of only two players in this Top 20 that didn’t have a start to the season on par with our expectations, but after he forced his way up to the top throughout last season we are not ready to go back on that. It’s like he’s still warming up for the more important stages of his draft season and we will see what happens at the upcoming U20 Four Nations in Helsinki, an interesting test for the WJC where Sweden is going to face the other three top European hockey countries.
Coincidentally, the entire top 4 remains the same of the pre-season Top 30 we released inside the Summer Blue Dispatch
In fact, in the first part of their draft year Anton Lundell, Alexander Holtz and Rodion Amirov have all been able to show at the senior level the qualities we’ve been appreciating leading up to this season. The first two will also attend the aforementioned tourney in Helsinki and are expected to play big roles there, just like Raymond.
At #5 sits the first riser of our list. Tim Stutzle is a dynamic German forward that has started his DEL career with a bang, currently sitting at 15 points in his first 17 games played vs men.
Yaroslav Askarov (#6) has not been as good in domestic action, but was once again outstanding when put in the spotlight on the international stage, leading Russia to its first ever win at the Hlinka (unless you count the years when the early tourney was known as the Pacific Cup and hosted in Japan, more than 20 years ago).
One of the two things that distinguish this draft class so far is the unprecedented presence of Germans among 1st-round candidates. Lukas Reichel is the main riser on this list. We’ve been keeping a keen eye on him since we first recognized his talent at Zuchwil Five Nations two years ago and this season he has been rapidly shaping up into a legitimate first-tier prospect. Lukas in fact has been showing significant progress in different aspects of his game. He follows countryman J.J. Peterka in the ranking, completing a trio of German forwards that will be competing together at the U20 Four Nations in Piestany, in preparation for the WJC where newly-promoted Germany should feature a very interesting team to battle against relegation.
The other distinguishing thing of this 2020 draft class is that at this point we have nine forwards ranked ahead of the first defenseman, as Swedish winger Noel Gunler completes a top 10 where almost every other forward carries significant goal-scoring potential.
There are promising defensemen that should be able to push for a spot in the Euro-based top 10 moving forward though, with Swede Helge Grans, Russian Shakir Mukhamadullin and Finn Eemil Viro leading the way for us right now.
It might just be a case where the available defensemen are less polished than their forward counterparts at this stage.
That certainly applies to the main risers of this start of the season that still didn’t make our Top 20.
Along with Roni Hirvonen, a center who we felt last season was underwhelming in international competition but did much better at this year’s Hlinka and is already playing as a regular at the Liiga level, in that category we have two less developed defensemen in William Wallinder and Joni Jurmo. Both big and intriguing, we will keep a close eye on them at the U18 Five Nations, as well as on Hirvonen at the U20 Four Nations, as candidates to crack our Top 20 in the next release.
The list is a Top 20 ranking, although only the top 15 is public. Those who have the Summer Blue Dispatch can easily fill in the last five names of our current Top 20.