NHL Draft 2020: Player Comparisons for Alexis Lafreniere and Top Prospects

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2020

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere controls the puck during the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds match between Canada and the United States in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/Associated Press

The 2019-20 NHL season has been one to forget for teams such as the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators, but they may have the opportunity to change their long-term fortunes during the draft.

According to Tankathon, the Red Wings are projected to land the No. 1 overall pick, while the Senators are projected to land the Nos. 2 and 3 selections with the latter coming from the San Jose Sharks.

That will mean a chance to draft top prospects such as Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and Jamie Drysdale.

Here is a look at what fans can expect from each of them in the form of player comparisons.

            

Alexis Lafreniere

Petr David Josek/Associated Press
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If the Red Wings are looking for scoring atop the draft, they won't have to look further than Alexis Lafreniere.

Lafreniere finished with a head-turning 112 points (35 goals and 77 assists) in just 52 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and notched 10 points (four goals and six assists) in a mere five games for Canada as the MVP of the World Junior Championship. 

He generates the offense with the puck on his stick as a willing passer who can read defenses and set up his teammates for clean looks. He is also dangerous as a goal scorer, and Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com noted NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the best North American skater available in the 2020 draft. 

Morreale also noted Central Scouting deemed Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau as a player comparison for the youngster, which makes sense given his ability to generate offense as a goal scorer and facilitator as well.

While Huberdeau may not be Connor McDavid for a No. 1 pick comparison, he was an All-Star this season and the 2012-13 Calder Memorial Trophy winner as the Rookie of the Year.

He scored a career-best 92 points in 2018-19 and was threatening to pass that mark this season with 78 points before play was suspended. 

Huberdeau may not be a top-three player in the entire NHL when it comes to comparisons for Lafreniere, but he is enjoying a solid career and provides a blueprint for the rookie-to-be to follow to NHL success.

            

Quinton Byfield

OSHAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 7: Quinton Byfield #55 of the Sudbury Wolves skates during an OHL game against the Oshawa Generals at the Tribute Communities Centre on February 7, 2020 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

Central Scouting ranked Quinton Byfield of the Ontario Hockey League as the No. 2 North American skater, and he uses that combination of power and speed to rack up the point totals as well.

He notched 82 points (32 goals and 50 assists) in 45 games in the OHL for Sudbury as someone who can get out on the break and cycle the puck on set plays and as a part of special teams. He is quite the consolation prize in this draft, especially if his player comparison from Central Scouting is any indication.

That scouting deemed Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin as the player comparison, pointing to a "tall, lanky frame combined with great hands and hockey IQ" in addition to leadership potential.

Living up to someone like Malkin would be an incredible feat for Byfield.

The future Hall of Famer has a resume that includes three Stanley Cup trophies, the Calder Memorial Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league MVP, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoff, the Ted Lindsay Award as the Most Outstanding Player as Selected by the NHLPA, two Art Ross Trophies as the top point scorer and four All-Star Game nods.

Malkin comparisons will put plenty of pressure on Byfield as he starts his NHL career, but he has proven capable of taking over games as an offensive force.

            

Jamie Drysdale

HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16:  Jamie Drysdale #4 of Team Red skates during the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team White at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Two-way defensemen who can anchor a power play and push the puck up the ice are often in high demand, and Jamie Drysdale, who was No. 3 on the Central Scouting list of top North American skaters, fits the bill.

He tallied 47 points (nine goals and 38 assists) in 49 games for Erie of the OHL, and 22 of those points came on the power play. 

Drysdale also pointed to Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche as players he models his game after on the ice.

"I think the things that stand out with them are skating and just how they think the game, how they have confidence with the puck," Drysdale said, per Morreale. "So I think those are three things that I try and use as much as I can in my game, and I think three things that will lead to success at the next level."

Central Scouting agreed with the Makar evaluation, highlighting his playmaking ability in transition and positioning on the offensive blue line to keep the puck in the zone and prevent scoring opportunities on the other end.

Makar wasted little time impressing in his NHL career with 50 points (12 goals and 38 assists) as a rookie in 57 games before the season was suspended.

He and Drysdale could mirror each other for years to come as talented defensive playmakers with bright futures.