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 #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.
Let’s dive into the top five draft eligible right wingers the Flames could select in the first round:
|14||Dawson Mercer||RW||Drummondville Voltigeurs||QMJHL||10/27/2001||6’0″||179||R||26||18||24||42||21|
|15||Seth Jarvis||RW||Portland Winterhawks||WHL||2/1/2002||5’10”||172||R||58||42||56||98||24|
|20||Noel Gunler||RW/LW||Luleå HF||SHL||10/7/2001||6’2″||174||R||45||4||9||13||16|
|25||Jacob Perreault||RW||Sarnia Sting||OHL||4/15/2002||5’11”||198||R||57||39||31||70||40|
|41||Ozzy Wiesblatt||RW||Prince Albert Raiders||WHL||3/9/2002||5’10”||183||R||64||25||45||70||36|
In the first round of the draft, team’s generally look to find top-six forwards, top-four defenders, or starting goaltenders. Mercer definitely fits the bill as a top-six forward, and has been an offensive leader in the QMJHL this season for Drummondville and Chicoutimi. He’s a six-foot right winger and can play up and down the lineup.
Most scouting reports on Mercer begin with the disclaimer that he’s not a playmaker or a sniper. He’s both.
On the playmaking side, Mercer has shown a penchant for being a great distributor. His passes are swift, accurate, and smooth. He can set up his teammates tape-to-tape in one fluid motion and can find seams with ease. However, if passing lanes are blocked, he’s not afraid to shoot either.
Mercer possesses what has been described as an elite shot, some paint him as a natural sniper, and this is evident with how he keeps his stick close to the ice at all times, always ready to rip the puck at the net.
And it doesn’t even end there. Combining keen playmaking skills and an incredible shot, Mercer has impressive offensive awareness and instincts. His hockey IQ is strong in all three zones, and he uses a quick first step to create time and space for himself both in his own zone and on offense. He’s a big player who is tough to knock off the puck as well, just another notch in his offensive belt.
His play in his own zone isn’t something scouts usually compliment, but his work on offense is undeniable. If he’s paired on a line with a defensively responsible center, he should be just fine. One of the most intriguing lines from Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analysis was this: “An 18-year-old force who can look like a flashy 10-year veteran in one instance and a smothering checker the next ? Sign me up”.
For what teams look to target with their first round picks, Mercer seems to be a perfect fit.
This might be a bit of a reach given how Jarvis’ draft stock has soared the past few months, but there is still a legit chance he falls to 19. If that happens, the Flames would be lucky to select him with their pick.
With 98 points on the season, Jarvis finished in second place in total WHL scoring. As a draft eligible player, that’s a tantalizing stat line. He’s the highest scoring 17 year old in the WHL since Nolan Patrick in 2016, and that’s saying something.
Jarvis is as an offensive dynamo at a level that’s hard to describe properly. When it comes to scoring and creating goals, Jarvis leaves no stone unturned. He can skate, pass, and shoot as good as the best junior players the WHL has seen.
As they say, he skates like a deer, with incredible speed, agility, and technique. His skating is fluid and smooth which assists on creating odd-man rushes that he’s virtually impossible to stop on. He’s not a big player, but he’s evasive and hard to check. Jarvis’ feet are always moving and he’s one pesky customer. One scout described Jarvis as a player who “tracks the puck like a hawk.”
He adds excellent playmaking ability to his dynamic skating as well. With soft hands, Jarvis has a keen ability to find his teammates with highly accurate passes. He can control the puck as well as anyone and it’s very difficult to read what he’s going to do. If he doesn’t pass, he’ll shoot, and his shot is deadly accurate.
His wrist shot is his go-to weapon and what’s most impressive about it is that he can get it off in a hurry. It doesn’t matter if he’s in traffic, he’s off balance, or if he’s high in the zone. Jarvis will unleash a wicked wrister that is downright improbable too stop; his 42 goals in 58 games is a clear indication of that.
Like all players, he’s not without his flaws. Jarvis’ most impressive qualities are his offensive skills, but he doesn’t have the same dominance on defense. Not that his defensive play isn’t there at all, it’s just an area he needs to work on. Jarvis also lacks “overall physicality”, something that likely stems from him being a smaller player, but could also be due to his slipperiness allowing him to avoid physical play. He may need to take some time adapting to the larger, faster players in the NHL, but that’s expected. In terms of skating, he could work on adding more explosiveness to his first few steps as well.
In a league where offensive creativity and prowess is being rewarded more and more, Jarvis looks like an ideal candidate to tear up the NHL once he gets there. He’s got all the tools to succeed and being a WHL kid, there’s no doubt the Flames have seen him play many times. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’ve had their eye on him even before his monster second half. They’re not afraid to pick smaller players in the draft if they can make up for it with elite qualities in other areas. Jarvis definitely fits that bill.
Looking at Gunler’s profile, he seems like the perfect player to complement the Flames’ talent group right now. He’s a big, strong, right-winger with a shoot-first mentality. How nice would a player of that ilk look on the other side of Johnny Gaudreau?
He’s another older player in the draft, but even looking back the past two years, Gunler is an impressive prospect. Not this last season but the season prior, Gunler played primarily in the SuperElit, the top junior league in Sweden, and absolutely tore it up. In 31 games, he scored 27 goals and 46 points. His dominance prompted a promotion to the SHL, Sweden’s top men’s league, where he spent the majority of the 2019-20 season. His results in the SHL weren’t as eye-popping, but he had a strong season scoring four goals and 13 points in 45 games. The SHL is a very good league. To not only hold your own but to score goals in that league as a teenager is impressive all on its own.
Gunler looks to be your prototypical sniper. Scouts most often compliment his shot, and his ability to score using different types of shots. His wrist shot is his most lethal weapon, and he’s beaten goalies clean on plays without any traffic. It’s an extremely powerful and precise wrister that he’ll burn you on if he has the time and space to use it. He’s not afraid to bust into the dirty areas of the ice, especially the middle of the offensive zone, and doesn’t just stick to the perimeter. This is a really good sign because it’s easy to hide along the boards when you have an elite shot playing on international sized rinks.
For a player with a reputation as a pure goal scorer, he doesn’t get enough credit for his playmaking abilities. Gunler is also an excellent passer and can set up his teammates from the wing. His playmaking talent isn’t elite though by any means, and if he does translate to the NHL well he will likely be a player who puts up more goals than assists.
On the other end of the ice, Gunler leaves a lot to be desired. He’s an offense first winger who can be a difference maker in the o-zone, but his 200 foot game isn’t anything to write home about. He won’t be helping out on the penalty kill or be relied upon to start a lot of shifts in his own end. The other key knock on him is that he’s been criticized for “fading in and out of games”. That’s not a comment a lot of teams will like to hear as it speaks to his compete level and consistency. This isn’t an opinion held by every scout, in fact some have blatantly disagreed with that assessment of Gunler, but that impression is out there.
If the Flames do decide to select Gunler, they’ll add a pure sniper to their right wing depth chart, a clear area of concern for the team now and in the future. It’s usually not the best decision to draft based on position, and Brad Treliving doesn’t do that, but Gunler’s skill set might be an undeniable reason to deviate from that.
Similar to Mavrik Bourque who we covered earlier this week, Perreault played on a truly horrific team this past season. His Sarnia Sting were the worst in the OHL, winning just 22 games. The fact that Perreault is projected as a mid-first round pick is intriguing just on its own.
He’s the son of longtime NHLer Yanic Perreault, so he has NHL success in his genes. With the ability to play both center and the wing, he offers flexibility, but just as a guess it seems like he would be better suited as a winger at the NHL level.
What stands out most about Perrault among almost every scout is his offense. He’s a very gifted offensive player and really loves to score goals and put up points. Sarnia was a bad team this year and that may be one of the reasons for this, but Perrault was often the player leading the attack for the Sting and loved having the puck on his stick in transition. His ability to create plays on the rush forces defenders back and opens up time and space for Perrault to unleash his deadly shot.
Many believe his shot is already at an NHL level and combining that with his offensive awareness, he looks to be on his way to being a premier scorer in the professional ranks. However, that’s only possible if he is able to create the space required to get shots off his stick. While Perreault is able to do this at the junior level, there is some doubt that he’ll be able to do it as effectively in the NHL. He does have high hockey IQ and vision for a 17 year old though, which generally points towards a higher chance of him being able to adapt his game to the NHL.
The biggest knock on Perreault is his play away from the puck. He isn’t committed to playing defense or backchecking, though if your team is losing big on most nights, it can be hard to stay motivated to play defense on a shift by shift basis. Still, more engaged two-way play would have helped his draft stock tremendously as it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to play on a two-way line in the NHL. He’s no Andrew Mangianpane or Dillon Dube, at least not yet.
Perreault is also prone to neutral zone turnovers, which can be deadly especially as the level of competition grows. His lack of defensive awareness is likely why he was cut from Canada’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup team, something that GMs have surely taken notice of. Perrault could become a great offensive weapon and powerplay specialist in the NHL, but his defensive game leaves a lot to be desired.
He’s the kind of guy who you’d think is better based on his stats, but the holes in his game are gaping and leave you with a lot of questions. At 19 though, it might be worth the gamble to acquire such a great offensive player. In the right situation, he could thrive.
Not only does he have an elite name, Wiesblatt was a key cog in the Raiders’ rotation this past season. He comes from a hockey family with three of his other siblings playing high level hockey, all with equally exciting names: Orca, Oasiz, and Orca. Ozzy is the most normal sounding name when compared with his brothers’, but he’s no ordinary player.
Scouts downright rave about this guy. Words like “perfect”, “gifted”, and “dominating”, are present in multiple scouting reports, and it seems like anyone who watches him play just loves what they see.
He’s got that important explosive first step and has shown he can beat defenders one-on-one in many different ways. If he has the puck in the offensive zone, it’s very hard to get it back from him as he is aggressive, fast, and elusive down low. On the forecheck, he’s tenacious on pucks, isn’t afraid to lay the body on defenders, and forces turnovers. Dobber described him as a “frenetic ball of havoc [who] plays the game like he’s just been shot out a cannon.” Nice.
Wiesblatt also has an excellent shot, some even saying it’s among the best of all draft eligible CHLers.
On the defensive side of the game, Wiesblatt never slacks off on a backcheck and will hound the opposition all the way down the ice and once in his own zone, he puts himself in a position to help defend.
It’s fascinating to see all the incredible scouting reports of Wiesblatt, so many that speak of his impressive speed and agility, aggressiveness and physicality, and commitment to playing in all three zones, yet his average rank so low at 41. Some boards have him going late in the first round, but for the most part he’s ranked outside the first round altogether.
There seems to be two main reasons for this low ranking. The first is that Wiesblatt is “undersized”. At only 5’10” and 185lbs, he’s not a big player by any means. It’s crazy to think this still affects how players are valued by NHL teams even after players like Alex Debrincat, Brayden Point, and Johnny Gaudreau are stars in the league, among others. Old habits die hard, I guess, and this is definitely one of the reasons for Wiesblatt’s low ranking.
More importantly though, Wiesblatt had a very underwhelming performance at the Top Prospects’ Game. He finished that important game with zero points and zero shots on goal, a very poor showing for someone who had impressed all year for the Raiders. In the opinion of some scouts, Wiesblatt’s inability to stand out in this game exposed the gap between his skill level and the rest of the draft class. Yes, he dominated for the Raiders, but on the whole he was a step behind those ranked consistently in the first round.
Take that as you will.
Jarvis is the number one right wing pick for me, and it’s not particularly close. Unfortunately, his draft stock has risen from being a mid to late first rounder to all the way into the top 10. It would be downright shocking to see Jarvis available at 19; even if he does fall out of the top 12 or so, the Oilers are apparently as enamoured by Jarvis as I am and they would surely select him at 14. Mercer is also likely not going to be available at 19 so, more realistically, the pick I would make if it was a right winger is Gunler. He seems to be a full package sniper and goal scoring is the hardest thing to find nowadays. If the Flames could add Gunler to their right wing depth chart, it would go a long way in immediately restocking that cupboard.
I also really like Wiesblatt. He just seems to have all the skills and heart and motor to make a serious impact in the NHL, but with his low ranking it might be possible to get him in the second round if you’re lucky. Here’s hoping the Flames can snag two of these players because the hockey gods know they have huge holes on the right side.
Which center would you pick if you were the Flames? let us know in the comments or on social media.