2020 NHL Draft Sleepers Roundtable

In this roundtable, Lassi Alanen (Elite Prospects/EP Rinkside), Dylan Griffing (Dobber Prospects), Sammy Tirpak (Dobber Prospects), Josh Bell (Future Considerations Hockey and The Hockey Writers), J.D. Burke (Elite Prospects/EP Rinkside, TSN 1040) Alexander Appleyard (Smaht Scouting, The Athletic Philadelphia), Steven Ellis (Smaht Scouting) and Josh Tessler (Smaht Scouting) discussed which 2020 NHL Draft Eligible prospects are sleepers.


ProspectTeam & LeagueSelected By
Rami MäättäÄssät, U20-SM sarjaLassi Alanen
Stanislav RangayevLadia Togliatti, MHLDylan Griffing
Kasper SimontaivalTappara, U20-SM sarjaJosh Bell
Benjamin BaumgartnerHC Davos, NLASteven Ellis
Oliver TärnströmAIK J20, SuperElitSammy Tirpak
Artyom GalimovAK Bars Kazan, KHLSammy Tirpak
Emil HeinemanLeksands IF, SHLJosh Tessler
Oscar TellströmLuleå HF J20, SuperElitAlexander Appleyard
Albert LyckåsenLinköping HC J20, SuperElitJ.D. Burke
Blake BiondiHermantown, USHS-MNJosh Bell
Zachary UensMerrimack, NCAASteven Ellis
Carson BantleMadison, USHLDylan Griffing
Logan MorrisonHamilton, OHLSammy Tirpak
Jack ThompsonSudbury, OHLSammy Tirpak
Senna PeetersHalifax, QMJHLJosh Tessler
Pavel NovákKelowna, WHLAlexander Appleyard
Hunter McKownUSNTDP, USHLJ.D. Burke
Rami Määttä, Left Handed Defenseman

Lassi Alanen of Elite Prospects/EP Rinkside: “An interesting Finnish player who should be available late in the draft based on the lack of attention on him is Rami Määttä. He had a very good first season in the Finnish U20 league, often playing on Ässät’s top defensive pairing together with Detroit Red Wings prospect Antti Tuomisto, logging over 20 minutes on most nights. Määttä was also a stable feature on Finland’s U18 team at international events. While I’d say he’s not the flashiest player and is likely not going to wow you with end-to-end rushes, Määttä is without a doubt one of the smartest players in this crop of draft-eligible Finns. What stands out to me about Määttä’s game is that he’s excellent at making his defence partner succeed, and I think that he played a major role in Tuomisto winning the league MVP award this season. Määttä’s poise with the puck is very noticeable and you almost never see him make catastrophic mistakes when his team has the possession. His zone exit success percentage was the highest among all players I’ve tracked in the U20 league last season, which speaks volumes about how reliable he is on the breakout. Määttä is also very effective defensively and I often found myself admiring his work ethic off the puck. He plays a tight gap in transition and does a good job at funneling opponents away from the middle of the ice towards the boards. Määttä is not the fastest skater for a 5-foot-10 defenceman but his first steps are fine and he closes gaps quickly. He’s not very proactive offensively and doesn’t possess high-end vision or shot. Määttä’s floor seems to be high – I have a hard time seeing a scenario where he doesn’t become at least a top defenceman in Liiga. His offensive upside is a major question mark, but there’s a lot to like defensively and in transition.”

Stanislav Rangayev, Left Wing/Right Wing

Dylan Griffing of Dobber Prospects: “Stanislav Rangayev picked up 32 points in 48 MHL games for Ladia Togliatti last season, which isn’t a very eye-catching number, but there’s a lot to his game to unravel. He has the pure-strength that many Russian forwards lack and he certainly knows how to use it to his advantage. Along with his strength, Rangayev also is very good at passing the puck. He’s very patient while waiting for options and can accurately throw passes all around the offensive zone. The final major positive to his game is his all around offensive IQ. He finished the 2019-20 season with 22 goals, but that isn’t a testament to a high level shooting ability, but rather the ability to get into the high danger areas of the ice to get easy shots on goal. In fact, his raw shooting talent may be one of the places he needs to work on the most. On defense, he really needs to work on being more active rather than floating around the zone and allowing lanes to be open left, right, and center. He’s not exactly a player who will go in any of the early rounds, but he’s definitely worth a shot in the 7th round.”

Kasper Simontaival, Right Wing

Josh Bell of The Hockey Writers and Future Considerations Hockey: “I’m fairly convinced that Kasper Simontaival has one of the best offensive toolkits in this draft class. It’s why I’ve kept him in my first round all season long. I think he could be a top-six player in the NHL, but his development has been impacted from some injuries. His creativity, hockey sense, and elite playmaking ability make him a dominant threat every time he steps onto the ice. He reads the gaps extremely well and knows when to take advantage of that or hang back and wait for a better opportunity. He led all U18 players in the league this season with a 1.19 point-per-game pace. No one else was over a point-per-game in that age group. One of the things I love about him is his compete, he just fights for the puck in the offensive zone. Despite his smaller size (5-foot-9), he battles for possession and jumps on loose pucks. If he didn’t suffer a number of injuries over his development years, I think he’d be in conversation for a top-15 pick. Instead, I think we’ll see him in the second or third round – but I think there’s a first-round talent there.”

Benjamin Baumgartner, Center

Steven Ellis of Smaht Scouting: “As a third-time entry to the NHL draft, it’s understandable if you haven’t paid much attention to Benjamin Baumgartner. And fair play: he’s farther along in the development cycle, so of course he’s going to be better than the 18-year-olds up for their first draft. But it’s when you dig a bit deeper that you realize just how good Baumgartner’s 2019-20 campaign was. At all strengths, only Garrett Roe (1.71) had a better primary assists-per-60 than Baumgartner (1.49), with his primary points-per-60 (2.23) placed him eighth – for perspective, the second highest U-21 player, Dominik Egli, topped out at 1.69 in 18th. His mix of speed and skill is noticeable, but he doesn’t have the ideal size teams are looking for. Still worth a late-round pick based on his transition to pro.”

Oliver Tärnström, Center

Sammy Tirpak of Dobber Prospects: “One of my favourite players to watch this season, Tärnström is blend of everything you want in middle-6 two-way forward. His skating is great and his offensive as well as defensive awareness is great. He is always in right spot whether it is offensively or defensively and makes the right, smart plays all over the ice. He is highly technical and effective player as well.”

Artyom Galimov, Center

Sammy Tirpak of Dobber Prospects: “He likely won’t get drafted since he is third year overager, but Artyom Galimov grew so much on me this season. His offensive upside is tremendous and despite him being very late boomer in draft conversation, he stormed the conversation in amazing fashion. Winning rookie of the year in KHL this season was just a cherry on top of his performances. He is a dynamic offensive presence and can score and also be a playmaker whenever what situation requires. I think a team who has history with Russian players can benefit from having his rights and bringing him over in very productive age of 24 years old when his contract in Kazan is over in three years.”

Emil Heineman, Left Wing

Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting: “Heineman is coming off a strong season. The young Swede was featured in 29 games for Leksands in the SuperElit and he absolutely dominated. In those 29 games, he owned a 1.41 P/GP, which is higher than P/GP totals of Oskar Magnusson, Theodor Niederbach and Daniel Torgersson. In addition, he was featured in 11 games in the SHL for Leksands and recorded two points. The Leksand native possesses strong speed and has excellent range on his shot. Heineman excels in all three zones and has proven to be efficient at challenging his opponents for the puck. Yet, we should temper our expectations. As Jokke Nevalainen from Dobber Prospects pointed out in his profile of Heineman, he is a ‘complimentary winger’. Jokke is right on the money. I doubt that Heineman will be able to carry a line in the NHL, but if he is paired with the right centerman, he could pay dividends.”

Oscar Tellström, Right Wing

Alexander Appleyard of Smaht Scouting and The Athletic: “In a lot of places the young Swedish winger is not even ranked. It is easy to realise why. Before this season rolled around he was not even on the radar of teams based in his homeland, despite his father being an ex-SHL player. Unable to procure a deal with a professional team in the top two tiers of Swedish hockey, Tellström started the year with lowly HockeyEttan club Vännäs HC. He started the season with their u-18 team, but quickly made his way to their men’s team, where the fun really began. 24 points in just 19 games versus men, at 1.26 P/GP, was one of the best five seasons in that league’s history for a player his age. This made perennial SHL challengers Luleå step up and sign him mid-season.

But it is not just his production that marks him out. He has a skill-set that makes you think he could easily make the NHL down the line. Tellström skates very well, with speed and agility. He also has good hockey IQ that results in him getting to danger areas regularly. The wingers quick, accurate, wrist-shot compliments these abilities and means he can score from anywhere. He is a feisty forechecker, and is strong for his size.

Tellström may well be available in the later rounds of this NHL draft, but in terms of ability his skillset would suggest that he could be a middle six winger down the line.”

Albert Lyckåsen, Right Handed Defenseman

J.D. Burke of Elite Prospects/EP Rinkside and TSN 1040: “You want to talk about a defenceman that plays the modern game; it’s Albert Lyckåsen. He’s such a creative puck-mover, a riverboat gambler with more bravery than discretion. Lyckåsen has such a good sense of timing, pressure, and off the puck skating patterns that maintain his involvement in play at all times. There is no doubt that this makes him a volatile defender, but he’s going to more than make up for that through the neutral and offensive zones.”

Blake Biondi, Forward

Josh Bell: “By playing in a high school league, it’s fairly easy to cast players aside. Blake Biondi has made that hard to do this season. Starting 2019-20 on Team USA for the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he fit right in, not looking out of place at all with two points in four games. In his regular season with Hermantown, he was named the Best Minnesota hockey player of the year after collecting 37 goals, 39 assists and 76 points in 25 games. All season, you could tell he was the best player on the ice. There are times when he shows that he knows it, buzzing around the ice doing whatever is needed of him. Whether that is forechecking, backchecking, leading the rush, or creating space, Biondi is the guy on the team. He’s a great passer and has an even better shot, although he’ll need to improve his shot selection. He excels in his creativity, able to make room for himself and his team even when starting with very little space. He’ll be a bit of a project, but there’s talent there for sure. Playing in a high school league has left him as a very underrated prospect, and a great sleeper pick for a team.”

Zachary Uens, Left Handed Defenseman

Steven Ellis: “I was surprised he was passed over as a first-year eligible prospect last year but I can’t see that happening again after a tremendous rookie season with Merrimack. He’s a strong puck-mover that showcased his power-play expertise this year. I think the biggest issue was he just didn’t always get quality minutes in Wellington and was on a team carried by older talent. This year, he proved he’s more than the players around him.”

Carson Bantle, Left Wing

Dylan Griffing: “It’s not super common to come across a big, power forward with his offensive skill set. He was nearly impossible to stop this year because of how dynamic he is in the offensive zone. Defensemen have to try to stop and think of what he’s going to do next, and by the time they do, he’s already either stickhandled past them or completely barreled through them. Besides his strength and quick lateral movement, his most dangerous weapon has to be his shot. This kid is strong, so it’s pretty clear that his shot is also really powerful. To accompany how hard he rips the puck, he’s also quick to release it off of his stick with pinpoint accuracy. That menacing shooting ability led to Bantle scoring 20 goals in 49 USHL games, which was the fifth best total of all first time draft eligibles in the league. Defensively, he still needs to iron out a lot of things, but with a player of his size, it shouldn’t be too difficult to simply play a physical game in the zone and then move on to the breakout and show off his offense. Carson Bantle is a lock for the third round in my eyes.”

Logan Morrison, Center

Sammy Tirpak: “Logan Morrison is a fantastic offensive presence with high hockey IQ and ability to take his game to next level when his team needs it. He also got better defensively as year went by and is taking steps to make sure, he is one of those mid/late round steals everybody talks about. He is very dynamic offensively and can either score with his very good shot or be that prototypical playmaker on powerplay or on 5v5. His game would translate very well.”

Jack Thompson, Right Handed Defenseman

Sammy Tirpak: “Jack Thompson is one of my favourite defensemen from this draft class. In my eyes, he is one of the most efficient two-way skaters from this year’s crop. Thompson has ability to shut down offensive chances against effectively enough, that he or his teammates can immediately set up a dangerous scoring chance or establish possession on offensive side of things from their own zone. He also has a great shot and strong offensive game on top of his excellent defensive abilities. I think he would become more of a defensive defenseman later in his career, but his well-rounded game is something I absolutely love and I see it being one of the main attributes for his success.”

Senna Peeters, Center

Josh Tessler: “While the Halifax Mooseheads had a rough season and struggled without marquis offensive talent like they have had in years past like Nico Hischier and Nathan MacKinnon, they had to rely heavily on secondary scoring. Senna Peeters provided the Mooseheads with strong secondary scoring and once Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Raphaël Lavoie were dealt prior to the QMJHL Trade Deadline, Peeters had to take on a bigger role.

Peeters is an Austrian power forward, who loves to challenge and forecheck. Unfortunately, he does not often exert that same level of aggression in the defensive zone, but that is addressable.

In the offensive zone, he dominates in the slot with his shot and can use his frame to be a nuisance for his opposing goaltender.

Pavel Novák, Right Wing/Left Wing

Alexander Appleyard: “It is strange to call someone who was over point-per-game in their draft year a sleeper. But when it comes to the Czech winger it seems warranted due to his projected draft position. Ranked just 85th amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting, and given a fourth-round grade by most other outlets, Novák could easily go outside the top 100 picks despite having high-end talent.

On an offensively challenged Kelowna team the young Bohemian was directly involved in over 36% of his teams’ goals. The nine CHL forwards with a greater percentage of involvement this year might all be gone by the end of the first round. Historically, CHL players with a statistical profile like his (1.05 P/GP, 0.71 non-PP P/GP) have great odds to go on to become productive NHL players. Novák also scored seven goals in seven games for the u-18 national team, and impressed in the Hlinka.

While he does, at times, play on the perimeter more than you would like to see, and is physically underdeveloped, there is nothing else missing from his game. He has quick hands, is a high-end passer with great vision, and has a quick release. Novák is also a good skater, who always looks to get on his horse, and is extremely effective in transition.

If Novák is available in the fourth round or later he could be a steal. Talent wise he is second round level, and could be a dangerous middle six winger who runs a second power-play at the NHL level.”

Hunter McKown, Right Wing

J.D. Burke: “Since I’m so late to the process, it would appear that I’m drawing from the deep end of the sleeper segment of the draft. So, why not have a little fun? Let’s go with USNTDP U18 centre Hunter McKown. I saw some real flashes of skill from McKown through the first half of the year, and someone who developed their two-way game in the back half. This seems like a typical case of a player who would be a top of the lineup talent anywhere in the USHL suffering the immense depth of the program and playing fairly low in their lineup as a result. He’s committed to Colorado College for next season, where I imagine we’ll see numbers more commensurate with his ability.”

stats from InStat Hockey and EliteProspects

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