The 2020 NHL draft is just days away. Held virtually this year, the first round of the draft will take place on October 6th at 5:00 PM MDT, and the second round on October 7th starting at 9:30 AM MDT.
TWC will be breaking down which players the Flames could select with their first round pick at number 19 by position.
Our draft rankings were created by consolidating lists from Dobber, MyNHL, Future Considerations, Sportsnet, DraftSite, EliteProspects, The Hockey Writers, and McKeen. The top and bottom ranks for each player were removed, and then a simple average was taken. There is no right way to rank these players so take them with a grain of salt; we know GMs will probably draft in a very different order than any of us think come draft day.
The Flames have a strong group of left wingers, and especially left handed shots, but they have not really been a team to draft for position. The strategy for the team, especially in the first round has been to take the best possible player, and it is likely that most if not all of these players will be available at 19. Let’s dive into the top five draft eligible left wingers the Flames could select in the first round:
|17||Rodion Amirov||LW||Salavat Yulaev Ufa||KHL||10/2/2001||6’0″||168||L||21||0||2||2||4|
|23||John-Jason Peterka||LW||EHC München||DEL||1/14/2002||5’11”||192||L||42||7||4||11||14|
|31||Lukas Reichel||LW||Eisbären Berlin||DEL||5/17/2002||6’0″||172||L||42||12||12||24||0|
|34||Ridly Greig||LW||Brandon Wheat Kings||WHL||8/8/2002||5’11”||159||L||56||26||34||60||83|
|42||Jake Neighbours||LW||Edmonton Oil Kings||WHL||3/29/2002||5’11”||201||L||64||23||47||70||39|
Why is a player who put up a measly two assists in 21 games projected to go in the middle of the first round? Well, Amirov’s game is much more impressive than his stat line suggests.
Those two assists, but more importantly those 21 games, were in the KHL, a professional men’s league regarded as the second best in the world. Amirov was simply too good for the league that most other Russian draft eligibles play in, the MHL, where he was promoted after scoring 10 goals and 22 points in 17 games.
From what scouts say about Amirov, he sounds like the full package. He is praised for his strong offensive play, possessing a great shot on both his strong and weak wings. He’s an aggressive, physical forward who is great on the forecheck. However, he’s also praised for his defensive play. Amirov projects as a strong two-way forward who can impact play on both sides of special teams, despite topping out as a middle-sixer.
The best part of Amirov’s game though, is a trio of highly coveted attributes: high hockey IQ, strong work ethic, and a clutch performer. These are the things teams look for in players, and these are the things that teams will reach to get. Work ethic and hockey IQ can mask a lot of flaws. It doesn’t look like Amirov has many to begin with, so he boasts a package that very few prospects have. If he’s still available when the Flames pick, it’s very hard to find reasons that Amirov wouldn’t be a slam dunk pick.
The one area that he does need to work on is his top end speed. Scouts have noticed that he can struggle to gain separation on defenders, but that’s against players in the KHL. If that’s his only real weakness, it’s something he can probably figure out. He’s also one of the older players in the draft; his birthday falls a mere two weeks after the cutoff. Still, he’s a solid prospect and with a growing number of Russians in the organization, he could be a great fit with the Flames.
Projected as high as 17 and as low as 29, Peterka’s numbers do not jump off the page at quick glance. But for avid viewers of European hockey, he’s known to be very good. After putting up 94 points in 48 games as a 17 year old for RB Hockey Akademie’s U19 team and leading the league in points, he played last season in the DEL, the German men’s league.
At 17, he made the team for ECH Munchen (home of former Flames’ prospect Yasin Ehliz), which had won three straight championships from 2016-2018, and just lost in the finals in 2019. Because he played in a men’s league at age 17, combined with playing as a depth forward, his stats do not jump off the page, but the fact that he was on the team goes to show his skill.
Peterka is a sniper. He has an impressive wrist shot and snap shot, both powerful and deadly accurate. He is able to find space in the offensive zone, and can fire the puck hard at the net. Scouts have also raved about his hands, which he can use to his advantage at high speed and in tight to get in scoring positions.
While he has a good nose for net, he is also an impressive playmaker. He has a high hockey IQ and keeps his head up to find teammates making moves towards the net. Peterka seems to like the give-and-go with teammates, which has been very successful for him in the DEL.
The one area he has to work on is his 200-foot game. While he is just shy of 6’0″, scouts note that he needs to build both muscle and confidence to better knock players off the puck. He seems uncomfortable getting to the boards and grinding away in the defensive zone. He also needs to work on his defensive positioning, as he has been known to misread plays.
Peterka projects to be a top six winger, but will need to work on his defensive game in order to reach that projection. He likely has a year or two left to develop before he will be ready, but his skill level is quite high, and could be a great fit in Calgary if the Flames pick him.
Just like Peterka, Reichel has made the jump to the DEL quite young. Playing just about 13 minutes per game for Eisbaren Berlin, he finished last season with 24 points, overall a very efficient result.
Like Sean Monahan, Riechel gets most of his goals from right in front of the net. He is a strong finisher with the strength and hands to finish in tight. On top of that, scouts rave about his skating. He is strong on his feet with a quick first step that makes him hard to stop heading to the net.
However, he much more than just a finisher. He is also an experienced playmaker, with great vision for where his teammates will be. He can beat defenders by making a quick pass or the right pass to a streaking teammate. His hockey IQ is quite high, and has a lot of tools in his arsenal to be a top six winger in the NHL.
Just like his German compatriot Peterka, Reichel needs to work on his defending. He has been guilty of puck watching on defense and for leaving the defensive zone early in order to take a stretch pass. However scouts believe that he has the intelligence to work that out in his game. While he has a couple years conditioning still to go, he could be a game breaker for a team in a few years.
Standing 5’11”, Grieg is an all around strong player. Putting up 60 points in 56 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings, scouts rave about his stickhandling ability, which allows him to get into high danger zones and score. While he does not have the hardest shot, he hits the target often and can beat goalies with his wicked wrister.
Greig is not as much of a sniper as he is a playmaker, who is great on the cycle, and can set up his teammates effectively. He keeps his head up and has sees the game very well.
One thing that really sets him apart is that he is always willing to get into the corners and fight for pucks. While he still has some room to grow into his frame, he plays bigger than his size and comes away with the puck often. He can take a hit, and also will throw hits as needed at all ends of the ice.
Defensively, he is also strong and often in position. He has shown willingness to play along the boards and work to get the puck out of the zone. He rarely cheats on zone exits, but rather plays a nice controlled game to get the puck out of the zone. The only issue scouts note with his defensive game is his size means that he gets pushed around sometimes, but with a few years of conditioning, he should be able to grow into his frame.
He is a feisty player, and one who would be a fan favorite in any city he goes to. He has drawn comparisons to Nazim Kadri for being a skilled guy who plays a very in your face style of hockey. He would fit in well with Matthew Tkachuk if the Flames opt to draft him.
Neighbours is a local Alberta kid who has played up the Queen Elizabeth II in Edmonton. The Flames have no doubt had an eye on him for longer than many of the others in this draft. He seems to be a strong 200-foot player, who is competent at both ends of the ice.
The factor that scouts rave about with him is not his ability with the puck but his play without it. He seems to always be in the right place at the right time. He has good vision, which has translated into him being a point-per-game player in the WHL.
Although he measures at just shy of six feet, he is not afraid to go right through defensemen on the rush. He is not the fastest guy on the ice, but he has a good first stride, which allows him to beat players to the puck from a standing position.
Some scouts project him to be a middle six winger, who can play up and down the lineup. He is ranked as low as 74, but as high as 23, so it may be a reach for the Flames at 19. Given the team’s love for WHLers, expect he may be someone they take a long look at in the second round. He seems to have the right attributes to be a strong depth player in a few years.
Assuming all five are available to the Flames at 19, I would opt for Peterka. The German forward is a superstar, and has been playing against players bigger and older than him his whole career. While his numbers do not leap off the page this season, expect big things from him this year.
The Flames have a way of teaching young prospects how to get into the corners and push their weight around. They taught Dillon Dube, who was the target of numerous hits right as he broke into the NHL, how to get down low and create space for himself. If they think that Peterka can learn this and be more aware on defense, he’ll be a star in Calgary in no time.
Which left winger would you pick if you were the Flames? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Photo credits: Vincent Ethier/QMJHL