The players featured in this article are here for a reason. Firstly, they are tremendous hockey players who have worked very hard to achieve their goal of being drafted to the NHL. Many if not all of these players, have participated in events run by the founders of Prospects by Sports Illustrated in the past. After an intense waiting period, the 2020 NHL Draft class was finally announced. Players from around the world have trained their entire lives for this very moment. Today, we will review this year’s prospects that came out of Greater Toronto Area youth development programs and how they fit with the organizations that drafted them:
Grades are based upon the players selected given their round of selection and the team's needs and fit.
QUINTON BYFIELD – LOS ANGELES KINGS – PICK #2
6’4” – 220 lbs – C
Byfield is a young, powerful centreman. With the Sudbury Wolves he racked up an impressive 82 points in 45 games. His large frame allows him to play a physical game and effectively protect the puck. Though he sometimes misses defensive assignments due to the misreading of plays, add to that he has above average hockey sense, skating, and shot, making him a great offensive threat in the OHL. With his large size,, and offensive abilities, he can easily but put in as a 3rd line center. Already a powerful and fast forward, as he continues in his development, Byfield is projected to eventually be a top-line player at the NHL level.
For LA, this was the only pick that made sense as the team begins to rebuild. After competing for Team Canada at this year’s World Juniors, it is likely that Byfield will see some action with the Kings this season. By playing this year in the NHL he will be able to improve his game by providing him with the experience he needs. If he is sent back down to the OHL, where he dominates, there is little room for him to grow, however he can work on some of his shortcomings such as defensive play and getting other players involved during transition and in the offensive zone. In this year’s World Jr Tournament Byfield was very inconsistent and struggled greatly vs the better teams in the tournament. He will need to improve with his consistency before he can make an impact in the NHL. He has all the tools it will be exciting to see how it plays out.
Selection Ranking: B+
JAMIE DRYSDALE – ANAHEIM DUCKS – PICK #6
5’11 – 181 lbs – D
Drysdale is an adaptable two-way defender with exceptional skating skills that allow him to create space and make strategic passes or take the puck out himself. He extends possession by taking control of the puck and is able to make plays and transition the game, he is very responsible on both sides of the ice. His size and strength may be the factors that will hinder his ability to be a top defenseman in the NHL.
Anaheim’s main defensive pairings are getting older and their performance is declining, they need D prospects. Similar to Blues’ Torey Krug, in the sense that both players use their size offensively well, while remaining defensively responsible. For the Ducks, Drysdale is an amazing pick as they are in need of a right-shot defenseman. He played a big role in bringing home Team Canada’s gold medal at last year’s World Junior Championship. In this year’s World Jr Tournament, Drysdale showed even more growth, easily one of the best defensive players in the tournament.
Selection Ranking: A
COLE PERFETTI – WINNIPEG JETS – PICK #10
5’10” – 185 lbs – C/LW
Despite his smaller build, Perfetti is among the most creative OHL players with his impressive offensive abilities. He is an exceptional playmaker with an extremely high hockey IQ. He has good footwork and great edges but will need to improve his speed to compete at the next level like he has at every other level. He could engage more during defensive play but with his skilled shot, stickhandling, and hockey sense there’s no doubt Perfetti could be a top 6 forward in the future.
Perfetti was the best player available at this point in the draft with his lethal shot and eventually Winnipeg will be able to fit him into their roster, it is just a matter of time. Due to the team’s trade for centreman Paul Stastny, he will likely spend this season in the OHL. In this year's World Jr Tournament it was evident his lack of speed and acceleration was an issue. He was constantly beat to loose pucks and was caught from behind numerous times. Despite all of this his ability to slow the game down and read plays makes him an exceptional value pick at the 10 spot.
Selection Ranking: A
RYAN O’ROURKE – MINNESOTA WILD – PICK #39
6’2” – 181 lbs – D
O’Rourke is a solid adaptable defender. His defensive awareness allows him to consistently make good decisions to keep the puck moving. He is a strong and aggressive defender but could utilize his strong hockey sense to make more of an offensive impact. Overall, he is a well rounded player that has top 4 potential with the correct development. O’Rourke is a good skater but could improve his skating and foot speed.
Right now, Minnesota has a strong core defense that is old and expensive. O’Rourke’s place with the Wild is hard to predict due to their financial situation. He is a good pairing for an offensively capable defenseman like Matt Dumba, but first he needs to be more prominent in the OHL and smoothly transition into the AHL. Looking at other D prospects, Calen Addison is the better prospect in general, but O’Rourke fills a different, more defensive role.
Selection Ranking: B+
LUKE EVANGELISTA – NASHVILLE PREDATORS – PICK #42
5’11” – 165 lbs – RW
Underdog Evangelista showcased his skill during the 2019-20 OHL season. Under the Hunter brothers’ direction, he quickly found his position as a smart playmaker with strong defensive maturity. He is constantly moving and is always ready to make crisp passes or take a quick, precise shot. While his skating and strength could be improved, his tenacity is above average and can make up for his shortcomings.
Nashville currently has goal scoring players and prospects like Viktor Arvidsson and Philip Tomasino. The Predators could potentially use Evangelista and utilize his passing to make him a playmaker, where he would bring his offensive skill to the team. He has a long road of development ahead but with a nice upside.
Selection Ranking: B
WILLIAM CUYLLE – NEW YORK RANGERS – PICK #60
6’3” – 203 lbs – LW
As a powerful skater and shooter, Cuylle positions himself well during play. His large stature and strength allow him to remain sturdy through checks and hold onto the puck to drive to the front of the net. However, he needs to improve his vision so that he isn’t always making expected passes. Cuylle uses his size, power, and accuracy to his advantage, but he will need to maximize his offensive awareness to succeed playing pro. Averaging 24 goals a season in the OHL is good but for a pure scorer it is very average. Cuylle needs to work on his stride and edges which will help increase his numbers. Perhaps he can do this before he enters the NHL.
The left and right side for the Rangers is very strong. It is going to be extremely difficult for Cuylle to outplay the current roster. At best, he’s a bottom 6 player, which is unfortunate because he is well-built to play, but he likely won’t have a high ceiling with New York due to their deep prospect pool.
Selection Ranking: D
JEAN-LUC FOUDY – COLORADO AVALANCHE – PICK #75
6’0” – 176 lbs – C
Foudy can easily create breakaways as one of the OHL’s fastest skaters. He needs to work on his defensive side as do many players who possess skills similar to Foudy. He is a playmaker that reads and adapts to plays well, but he can easily be knocked out of his stride. He’s a hardworking player and if he’s able to gain some strength and improve his shooting, Foudy can become a very dynamic center.
Currently, Colorado has a strong center depth and center prospects. Foudy could fill a role in a few years, likely making a 3rd line spot if he can get stronger with an upside to becoming a top 6 player. He is very fast and defensively smart; he would be able to excel with a fast-paced team like the Avalanche, with the proper development.
Selection Ranking: B+
NICOLAS DAWS – NEW JERSEY DEVILS – PICK #84
6’4” – 203 lbs – G
German-born Daws used his off-season to become stronger and more agile. He has strong positioning and swift legs that allow him to quickly get across the crease, down into butterfly, and back up effortlessly. He finished with a .924 SV% in the OHL, but to compete at a professional level Daws will require further development on his blocker side and consistency in games.
New Jersey needs goalies in their system and Daws is a perfect fit. It is likely that Mackenzie Blackwood and Corey Crawford will cover the crease for the next couple seasons. However, if Daws continues to grow and play steadily, he will eventually work his way into the lineup, at least playing the backup role.
Selection Ranking: A-
ZAYDE WISDOM – PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – PICK #94
5’10 – 201 lbs – C
Dedicated and energetic player, Wisdom, is a small center who can hold onto the puck and fire a strong, steady shot. Although his acceleration needs to improver, he is an agile skater with good speed. He is a smart player who can pass, play position, and successfully shoot. He’s shown that he has the ability to play alongside highly skilled line mates, but can Wisdom keep up his impressive talent on his own?
It is clear that Wisdom will have a tough time making the Flyers as a center, unless he is able to outplay the 3rd or 4th liner that is in the role when he is ready. He has a lot of talent, but a lot of players have more. He could be a decent support role on the team, but he will need some help to succeed at this level.
Selection Ranking: C
BRANDON COE – SAN JOSE SHARKS – PICK #98
6’4” – 190 lbs – RW
Coming from a last place OHL team in the 2019-20 season, Coe is seen as an undervalued player. He is a fast skater with great balance for his large physique. He uses his size, skill, and skating to threaten the opposition. His playing is inconsistent, which is understandable due to his team’s performance, but in order to reach his untapped potential he will need to learn to steady his game.
San Jose has a ton of top right-wing prospects like Ozzy Wiesblatt, Joachim Blichfeld, Tristen Robins, and Daniil Gushchin, that will start to make the team around the same time. Coe possesses size, skill, and skating, but with inconsistencies. The Sharks are a rebuilding team and will be for a while so it is likely that Coe will get an opportunity to play in a few years’ time.
Selection Ranking: C+
EVAN VIERLING – NEW YORK RANGERS – PICK #127
6’0” – 168 lbs – C
Vierling’s a reliable two-way center with a strong pass. He is a fast skater that uses his agility to gain positioning. Although he is able to move the puck quickly, he can easily be pushed off the puck due to his lean frame. In Vierling’s development, he will need to get stronger and take advantage of shooting opportunities to become less of a predictable player. For a #2 Overall pick in the OHL draft it is unusual for a player to fall this far in only two years. Some would argue he was picked too early given he has only scored 14 goals in two seasons in the OHL. Is it possible he was selected so high in the OHL Priority Selection because he played on the same line as Byfield? Many would say yes.
The Rangers have a young team and strong center prospects like Brett Howden and Filip Chytil that are still developing. Though the team defense is not great and having a two-way center would benefit the team, Vierling will have to gain strength. He could be a player that is rotated in and out, but in order to make a lasting impression he will need to bulk up.
Selection Ranking: C-
CHAD YETMAN – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – PICK #172
5’11” – 179 lbs – RW
Voted the Most Underrated Player in the Western Conference of the OHL, Yetman continues to show significant improvement in each season he plays. After being passed over the last two drafts, he was hard to miss during the 2019-20 season. He is a versatile forward that can effectively play all three positions. Yetman has a rapid shot and release combined with quick feet, allowing for him to be an offensive threat on the penalty kill. In order to succeed at a higher level, continuation of his rapid development is imperative.
Chicago has Patrick Kane as their top winger for years to come, but other than that their right side is pretty weak. The Blackhawks could use Yetman as their current prospect pool consists mostly of wingers that are more dominant on the left side. As an older player in the draft with succeeding numbers in the OHL, he appears to be a late bloomer and he will need to continue his trend of growing offensive production once he turns pro if he hopes to succeed at the NHL level.
Selection Ranking: B+
RORY KERINS – CALGARY FLAMES – PICK #174
5’10” – 172 lbs – C/LW
Kerins is a solid two-way center with a strong foundation. He plays an effective physical game for his smaller stature and has natural defensive instincts. Though his skating speed needs to be improved, his ability to project and react to plays made him play a key role on the penalty kill in the OHL. Rory is a playmaking threat with a great shot who quickly progressed his game from the previous season, but he will need more seasoning before turning pro.
It seems that Kerins has developed quickly and has quite a few tools that Calgary could use. If he is able to succeed at the AHL level, he can easily fit in with the Flames as a bottom 6 option. He is defensively responsible and a penalty killer. It is surprising that he went so late in the draft, but at this point it is tough to determine players’ futures as it all comes down to development.
Selection Ranking: A -
NOAH BECK – ST. LOUIS BLUES – PICK #194
6’3” – 192 lbs – D
Richmond Hill, ON
While there’s little coverage and talk about Beck available online, he is viewed as a large, natural defender. He is a smart player positionally and was one of the top offensive defenders for his USHL team during his rookie season. Hopefully he will showcase more skill at the NCAA level to exhibit his seemingly consistent development.
St. Louis has a skill-packed defensive core with strong prospects like Niko Mikkola and Scott Perunovich. Right now, Tyler Tucker is proving to be a better prospect as he makes his way into the AHL. Beck likely will not crack the Blues’ roster anytime soon or at least until he is able to make an impact in college.
Selection Ranking: C
RYAN TVERBERG – TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS – PICK #213
5’11” – 180 lbs – C
Richmond Hill, ON
Tverberg’s numbers were very good for his rookie season in the OJHL. Tverberg is an elite skating center with a strong shot. He has an above-average hockey sense, combined with exceptionally fast skating, and skilled hands, makes it easy for him to deceive opposing defenders and goalies. Though a player of his size does not have the most success when trying to play physically, his persistence is admirable, and he has time to develop. It will be interesting to see how he will progress while quickly moving from the OJHL to the BCHL and on to the NCAA with U.Conn all in less than a year.
While there’s still a lot of time for development for Tverberg in the upcoming years, he will need to outplay Toronto’s strong center prospects like Nicholas Abruzzese and Semyon Der Arguchintsev, making it difficult to make the final roster. Not out of the realm of possibility, as he fits the mold as a Leaf's forward prospect, being slightly undersized and skillful, but he still has a long way to go before potentially playing in the NHL.
Selection Ranking: B
In preview, each player has showcased their strengths and weaknesses in their respective leagues during the 2019-20 season. Over the next couple years, players will further develop and hopefully progress with their teams, eventually being ready to take their game to the next level. In the end, who will have what it takes to compete in the NHL? Can't wait to see.