The junior hockey season is well underway. Most junior teams in Canada have played 16-17 games. The QMJHL/Russia series finished up on Tuesday, the OHL/Russia series kicks off on Thursday. With the season a quarter of the way done, draft analysts have been hard at work identifying who could be some draft day steals. I have done my homework as well and have come up with a list of draft day steals.
Ryan Francis, RW, Cape Brenton (QMJHL)
Prior to this season, Ryan Francis was an unknown. He was not on draft rankings and was perceived as a mid to late round draft selection. Not anymore. The right wing prospect from Beaver Bank, N.S., is having an outstanding season with the Cape Breton Eagles. So far, in 18 games played, Francis has amassed 32 points (11 goals and 21 assists). That matches his point totals from last season, doing so in 46 less games.
When you watch Francis, you will notice quickly how pivotal he is to Cape Breton’s success. In the offensive zone, Francis always seems to find open space for himself. When he creates open space for himself, he is able to buy himself time to complete the perfect route. He gives himself the time to decide whether to pass the puck, take the shot or continue to pounce on the net. Given Francis’ conservative approach, his knack for finding open space is a positive.
Francis’ skating is one of his strongest qualities. There is no area of his skating that needs a ton of development, Francis’ edges, backward/forward transitions and lateral movements are in great shape. Given his superb skating, Francis will utilize his edges efficiently when maneuvering the puck up and down the ice.
At this moment, I project Francis to be a late second round pick, but if he continues to have a strong season in Cape Breton that could change.
Tyler Tullio, C, Oshawa (OHL)
The Lakeshore, ON., native has quickly become an integral component to the Oshawa Generals’ offensive unit. The 17-year-old center has registered 19 points (10 goals and 9 assists) in 16 games. In the season prior, he mustered up 42 points in 60 games. With several of the overagers (such as Jack Studnicka and Anthony Salinitri) gone this season, Tullio has earned more playing time and is showing that he is worth every additional second of ice time.
In all three zones, Tullio has managed to impress draft analysts. With his eagerness to grab ahold of the puck, he loves to battle along the boards and will keep a look out for the optimal poke check. When Tullio has control of the puck, you can expect him to deliver quality crisp passes. He also loves to storm the net, constantly pouncing on loose pucks in front of the net, which will often lead to rebound goals. In addition, he has an exceptional stride and is equipped with excellent footwork.
Seth Jarvis, RW, Portland (WHL)
This past summer, Seth Jarvis put on a display at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The Portland Winterhawks right winger was a force to be reckoned with. In five games, he tallied two goals and two assists and was a pivotal component to Canada’s U18 offensive production. After his showing at the Hlinka, many fans and draft analysts caught wind of how special and talented Jarvis is. With his electrifying speed, he managed to climb up draft boards at quite a rapid rate.
Given how outstanding this draft class is, Jarvis’ draft stock has tanked slightly after 15 games. Many draft analysts who were quite high on Jarvis after his Hlinka showing have moved him lower and lower. With Jarvis’ draft value not as high as before, he is looking more and more like a potential steal.
His biggest drawback is his size (5’9″, 165 lbs), but keep in mind that size should not matter. In the previous draft, we saw many players who were a bit smaller in size put up ridiculous numbers and gain a lot of praise. Jarvis is in a similar boat. He is a talented plamaker with a great stride and electric speed. In 15 games this season, he has put up up 9 goals and 21 assists.
Lukas Reichel, F, Eisbären (DEL)
The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming! Paul Revere did not say that, but Josh Tessler is saying that now.
Tim Stützle, John-Jason Peterka and Lukas Reichel are climbing up the draft boards. While Deutschland has had some challenges in developing hockey studs, times are changing. Over the last few years, we have seen Leon Draisaitl, Moritz Seider and Philipp Grubauer coming over to North America and turning heads.
This year, the amount of German talent is outstanding. It might be the best draft class for Germany that we have ever seen. While many draft analysts are in love with Tim Stützle and John-Jason Peterka, Lukas Reichel is another stud enjoying a solid season.
Reichel is playing for Eisbären Berlin (DEL) and is tearing it up in his first season in the DEL. In 16 games played, Reichel has produced six goals and five assists. He has less points that Stützle, but has five more points than Peterka.
The German winger consistently finds open lanes, has a strong skating foundation and a nose for the net.
Who Is On The Brink?
There are many other draft prospects that are on the brink of becoming “draft steals”. Alex Laferriere of the Des Moines Buccaneers, Xavier Simoneau of the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Ozzy Wiesblatt of the Prince Albert Raiders are some of the prospects who are climbing up the board and are looking more and more like low hanging fruit ready for the picking.
At the end of the day, this draft is stocked like a trout pond. There is a lot of talent in this class and the Detroit Red Wings will have the ability to snag a few highly gifted prospects come draft night. For more on the 2020 draft, make sure to check out Tony Ferrari’s ranking of the top-31 prospects.