2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profiles: Centers
It’s been a strange season to say the least, and the long pause from mid-March that delayed the Stanley Cup Playoffs by four months pushed back some of the typical offseason activity.
Now, in a single week, the NHL will complete the seven-round entry draft and open free agency with just a few hours separating the two main events of the offseason.
The draft comes first, and the Flyers hold the 23rd overall pick in the draft. This weekend, we will look at some prospects that could be on the Flyers radar in the first round.
We start our NHL Draft preview with a look at some centers in the draft.
(All Players listed are in alphabetical order)
The Flyers have tapped into the USNTDP over the last few years and Thomas Bordeleau could be another prospect that goes through the program. Last season, he scored 16 goals and had 46 points in 47 games.
Right away, you’ll see Bordeleau’s speed and elusive nature. He has a lot of the offensive tools, a nose for the net and a great shot. For a lot of teams, finding a player with natural hockey smarts can be the ticket, and Bordeleau seems to have that going for him as well.
His team wasn’t one of offensive prowess, and there were many nights where if he wasn’t the offense, there wouldn’t be any offense. With that in mind, he needs to work on being more consistent and could struggle given his size.
Energy and smarts and the name of the game for Mavrik Bourque. He’s a solid two-way player already and has molded his all-around game with Shawinigan of the QMJHL. Last season, he scored 29 goals and had 71 points in 49 games.
He’s got good agility and can move in any direction quickly to jump into a play, help a teammate or help provide support defensively. He’s got good vision with the puck and is able to dish it around and find passing lanes.
Bourque has a lot of balance to his game already, and that certainly makes him an attractive option for teams looking to get a player that possesses the mind and has the potential with the skills.
Brendan Brisson is another strong skater who can really move when his feet are going. Perhaps the only knock on his skating is his edge work, as he can lose an edge and fall multiple times, but he has a smooth stride and tight turn radius that makes up for it.
He also has some good offensive skill. Brisson can make quick passes and has a solid shot and an excellent one-timer. He finishes a lot on the chances he gets where others do the creative work and could afford to reciprocate that on his own for his teammates.
That said, he scored 24 goals and had 59 points in 45 games with Chicago in the USHL, so he’s got scoring ability. He’s also a strong forechecker and isn’t afraid of working along the boards to create turnovers and gain possession.
If this name sounds familiar, you may remember Ridly Greig’s father Mark Greig from his days as a mainstay in the Flyers organization primarily with the Philadelphia Phantoms and currently as a scout with the team. The elder Greig has noted he didn’t want the Flyers scouting his son, but the prospects may be too good to ignore.
Greig has a lot of energy and has solid puck skills that can make him tough to defend. He has a good shot, a solid overall game with dedication to the defensive zone and always makes his presence known on the ice.
There are some concerns with his skating, but he has shown the ability to weave through traffic and make plays with the puck, so that could make him an attractive prospect, especially in the later stages of the first round.
Dylan Holloway is one of the most dynamic skaters in the draft and his experience at the college ranks could certainly go a long way. In his freshman year with Wisconsin, Holloway scored eight goals and had 17 points in 35 games.
He’s got a powerful and dynamic skating stride that only enhances his offensive ability when you add his creativity and deception. With a clear knack for offense, he’s also a strong defensive player, presenting a combination of two-way hockey that will be hard to find throughout the draft.
There is a chance that Holloway won’t even be in play in the latter half of the first round, his upside is that good, but if he starts to slip for any reason, it could turn into a bidding war to secure his rights.
European players can sometimes be projects, and Marat Khusnutdinov certainly presents a lack of size at 5’10” and 168 pounds. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in skill and offensive awareness.
Much like a lot of the smaller, skilled players in the NHL, Khusnutdinov has the speed and has the agility to make plays. He also likes the be active and wants the puck on his stick to become the creative player he is and set up scoring chances.
It’s going to take time with him because of his size, but the skills may be too good for a team to pass up. He’s got late first-round potential, but don’t be surprised if a team is able to find him in the second round.
Hendrix Lapierre has the potential to be one of the top players to come out of this draft, but he will last well into the night on draft night because of his injury history.
Lapierre has no problem showcasing his speed and skill and putting up points. In 2018-19 with Chicoutimi, he scored 13 goals and 45 points in 48 games and had two goals and 17 points in 19 games last season.
But there’s the risk with Lapierre. He’s had notable injuries keep him off the ice. He was limited to 48 games two seasons ago due to a shoulder injury and then a concussion. A second concussion shortened his 2019-20 season.
If he can stay healthy and continue to develop his skills, he could be a quality player for a team that regularly contends, but his health is also going to hurt his draft stock.
When you can find a prospect who is already showing he has the ability to produce in the Finnish pro leagues, he’s going to rank high on a lot of draft boards. That’s what Anton Lundell has been doing.
Lundell has a strong 200-foot game and has improved his skating over the years to become a difficult player to stop. He can flash some great playmaking ability, but he is mostly just a steady player at both ends of the ice, able to produce with a strong release on his shot and able to set up teammates while emphasizing the defensive part of his game.
With 10 goals and 28 points in 44 goals in the Finnish LIIGA last season, Lundell is a prospect that may not last very long on draft night.
It can be rare to find a power forward with strong skating ability, but Dawson Mercer seems to have it. He’s a competitive playmaker and a power forward that delivers a powerful stride and showcases impressive strength.
He’s been able to turn that into offense too, scoring 24 goals and 60 points in just 42 games last season with Chicoutimi after a 30-goal, 64-point performance in 68 games the season prior.
Mercer won’t throw huge hits, but isn’t afraid to get physical and work hard to gain control of the puck. He’s a smart player with good vision to help set up his teammates and a workhorse around the puck.
Speed, skill and good hands help make Jan Mysak a prospect worth watching. He’s a bit of a flex player that can play at both center and the wing, but regardless uses his speed and skating to create and has a tenacity around the puck.
He will go to the net to make plays, has a very quick release that gives him a dangerous shot and his fluid motion can help him find a lot of open space in the offensive zone. He showed it in a brief amount of time with Hamilton in the OHL after coming from the Czech leagues, scoring 15 goals and 25 points in 22 games.
There are times when he needs to be a smarter player, but he doesn’t lack the work ethic, and that will go a long way in helping him develop and rise through the ranks of an organization.
A centerman can be effective if he is always active, and Connor Zary always seems to have his feet moving. He’s not the fastest skater and will not wow you with his explosiveness, but he’s got good energy and is a fluid skater with and without the puck, which helps him create space.
The puck seems to follow Zary around the ice and he’s got a knack for producing goals and points. Following a season with 24 goals and 67 points in 63 games in 2018-19, he scored 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with Kamloops of the WHL last season.
For all of his offensive ability, Zary does need to add to his size and improve on his defensive consistency to become a more all-around player, but his offensive skills and potential will certainly draw a lot of attention.