Ah yes, it's that time again. NHL Draft Rankings... Every year, I say I dislike rankings, yet every year, here I am. This year I have said that there will be no rankings until after the World Junior Championships in January, but considering just how much data I have access to, and how many players and games I've tracked, I feel relatively comfortable publicizing my preliminary Top 5 tiers before publishing a more complete version next year. On the whole, the preseason hype of this crop seems to be a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion. A number of talents are emerging worldwide, however, and I do believe this will still be a strong group of players with solid depth in the late 1st through 3rd rounds, but from my vantage point, the talent dropoff after the first two tiers could be relatively steep when all is said and done. At the same time, the weekly 20+ NHLeS report I release on Twitter is still much longer than last year's so I may be biased against myself, which is a little unsettling.
If you're a Patron of the project, you can view my rankings as they change over the year, with the full 111 unlocked at the $25 tier along with my full data sheet of >700 skaters and goaltenders' data.
If you're new here, I generally tend to think of my rankings in "Tiers", which attempts to group players into a pool from which I feel the order could be interchangeable, with the numbers ordering the players as how I might push for them in a draft discussion. I find that it creates much more balanced and nuanced discussion, especially considering these players are so young and may have wildly different potential trajectories that may differ reasonably depending on which NHL organization picks them up.
The data I am including includes NHLeS and INV%, values as of November 24, 2019, with P1/60 and Cat% data accurate to November 19, 2019 and is derived from pick224.com, operated by the great Dave MacPherson. Give him a follow, guy could be going places. If you're unfamiliar, here is a breakdown of the metrics included:
"Will, please stop yammering and show me the rankings."
- All of you
Alright without further delay, here are my 5 tiers of 2020 NHL Draft prospects.
Tier 1 - Lafrenière v. Byfield
Tier 2 - The Very Good Ones
Tier 3 - Could Be Great, or Nothing.
Tier 4 - The Real Question Marks
Tier 5 - "I Dunno, Maybe?"
So that's that. The first few tiers that are increasingly likely to change the further down you go. Lots of names I've laid eyes on but haven't tracked, lots of names I have data on but haven't laid eyes on, and there's still lots of hockey left to play. I'm only really confident in my Top-40 or so with room for more players in that group over time. This is an imperfect science, but all we're trying to do is cut through biases and isolate good players who carry value that is beyond that typically available at any team's given pick. I certainly over time have evolved my tastes to prefer a certain brand of play, and hopefully that's on display in these rankings and with the data I track that will be publicly released around draft time.
If you've made it this far, thank you all so much for your support through the last 15 months as we've seen this platform grow significantly. This work is a joy to put together. These kids are chasing their dreams, and all we can do is sit and watch, but boy is it ever fun to watch. In my dreams, I'm drafting some of these guys into my own program, but until then, I have you, the reader, so thank you.
The next rankings are likely out in January or Februrary, depending on how confident I'm feeling on a given week.