The best part about being an NHL draft and prospect analyst is watching players flourish and reach their full potential. Seeing them well before they reach the NHL and watching the step-by-step process of building their careers is fascinating.
Every single year, I come across new prospects that I end up taking a liking to more than most. You have to remain as objective as possible, but even NHL scouts will find players they go to bat for harder than others. They’re often described as “players you pound on the table for” in draft meetings. In many cases, those players might be undervalued by consensus, but you see something that is special or there’s something you know about the player that gives you cause to advocate for them.
Since I don’t have a scouting room to pound on the table, I’ll just do it here. Here are five of my favorite prospects for the 2020 NHL draft class and five already in an NHL system. An important clarity note: These aren’t the best prospects or guys I rank No. 1 on my board, but rather players I rank higher than most. Let’s start with some names set to be drafted in October.
DRAFT-ELIGIBLES FOR 2020
Lukas Reichel, LW, Eisbaren Berlin (Germany)
My current rank: No. 18
Players on the front end of what I think will be a rapidly progressing development curve fascinate me. Looking at the season Reichel put together in 2019-20 leads me to believe he’s on an NHL trajectory with some added time building strength and pace. The hand skills and hockey sense are sensational. His creativity is off the charts. There’s no fear or apprehension in his game. Sure, he looks every bit of his age (17) right now, but there’s still time for him to mature physically. Assuming his skill and speed maintain, he has a chance to be a pretty good NHL player.
Reichel is interesting because there’s a chance he could go in the top 15 or not until the second round, based on the opinions I’ve heard. I’m obviously on the higher side. He’s a skilled wing who produced at a high rate for his age in a league I think is far better than it’s given credit for. Reichel has a high-end, deceptive release on his shot, and he can shoot off the rush with accuracy. Those skills project very favorably to being able to score at the next level. Only Marco Sturm and Marcel Goc scored more goals than Reichel’s 12 in their under-18 seasons in the DEL.
And I actually think Reichel’s playmaking ability might be even better than his release. The quickness with which he makes his decisions, including smart passes in traffic or on the rush, stands out. Despite his relatively slight frame, he gets into the hard areas of the ice and isn’t afraid to get to the front of the net. After maybe another year in Europe and perhaps another season or two in the AHL, Reichel could be a really effective winger with a chance to grow into a top-six role down the line if everything breaks just right.