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Hockey Insider: 10 Top NHL prospects destined to skyrocket

With the strange 2020-2021 season coming to a close, all eyes are on next season, when top NHL prospects will enter the players’ pool.

As both the Seattle Kraken expansion draft and the 2021 NHL Draft approach, teams will be looking at their depth to see where they’re strong, where they’re weak, and who will likely crack the roster for next year’s campaign.

Here are our NHL prospect rankings:

1. Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings

Top NHL Prospects - Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings
Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

The Swedish winger was selected fourth overall in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings and is touted as one of the top NHL prospects. Raymond plays for Frölunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League, and the well-rounded, highly skilled forward brings a dynamic skill set to the Red Wings’ lineup, who will need the help after trading Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals. Raymond is a two-way player, capable of performing on both the power play and the penalty kill, which will be instrumental to the Wings’ rebuild.

2. Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings

The second pick in the 2020 draft, Byfield is an NHL prospect whose rights belong to the Los Angeles Kings. The center made history as the highest-picked Black player (the record was previously held by Evander Kane and Seth Jones, who were both selected fourth overall).

Byfield’s offensive talents have been on full display during his OHL tenure, where he posted one of the highest points per game rates in the league (1.82). He also led his team, the Sudbury Wolves, in points, assists, and plus-minus. In six games with the Kings, Byfield recorded an assist and played impressive hockey, proving himself as one of the top NHL prospects.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Kings, check out #LAKings rumors, rankings, and news here.

3. Jamie Drysdale, Anaheim Ducks

This Anaheim Ducks defenseman has already spent time in the NHL, but not enough to be considered a rookie. The young Canadian has already shown both the San Diego Gulls and the Anaheim Ducks his hockey smarts, smooth-skating, playmaking abilities, and neutral zone responsibility. The arrival of Drysdale, who spent his limited NHL time being mentored by veteran Josh Manson, can only help the struggling Ducks. Among NHL prospects and 2020 draft picks, he is widely considered the most promising defenseman.

4. Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks

Top NHL Prospects - Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks
May 1, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras (46) takes the puck down ice against the Los Angeles Kings in the third period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Another Anaheim Ducks prospect, Zegras stood out on Team USA’s roster during the IIHF World Juniors tournament. He, like Drysdale, spent time with the Anaheim Ducks’ roster, learning from veterans like Ryan Getzlaf, but not enough to be considered a rookie. The forward is nothing if not versatile, capable in both the offensive and defensive zones. Among the elite NHL prospects, Zegras is unique because he can play a physical game, and create plays and opportunities. Look for the Ducks to build their offense around Trevor Zegras in the future.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Ducks, check out #FlyTogether rumors, rankings, and news here.

5. Iaroslav Askorov, Nashville Predators

Considered the best international goalie among all NHL prospects, Askorov’s dominating presence in the net–he stands at 6’4″–helps him with his wide stance and net coverage. He moves quickly and with fluidity, which is likely what made him so attractive to the Nashville Predators. He could replace veteran netminder Pekka Rinne, who may retire, and would make an excellent backup goaltender for Juuse Saros, who gained tons of recognition this season for his stellar play. Nashville loves reliable, decisive goaltenders, and Askorov certainly fits the bill.

6. Alexander Holtz, New Jersey Devils

One of the most exciting NHL prospects, Holtz was drafted in seventh overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2020 NHL Draft. Many scouts said Holtz has the best shot of the 2020 draft class, and he played with Lucas Raymond in the IIHF World Junior tournament with Team Sweden. Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald called him a “pure goal scorer.” The Devils will need that, as they struggled this season and ended in the second-lowest spot in their division with 45 points. What’s worse, they ended with a -49 goal differential–Holtz can help with that.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Devils, check out #NJDevils rumors, rankings, and news here.

7. Cole Perfetti, Winnipeg Jets

As one of the NHL prospects for the Winnipeg Jets, Cole Perfetti is currently playing with the Manitoba Moose. The forward is, at just 19, a complete player with excellent hockey IQ and puck carrying skills. The left-handed forward plays both center and left wing, and can problem-solve and use his quickness to carry a puck longer than most, a rare gift in a player so young. Perfetti will join Mark Scheifele and Pierre-Luc Dubois on an offensively-loaded Jets roster, which makes them an even bigger threat.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Jets, check out #GoJetsGo rumors, rankings, and news here.

8. Jake Sanderson, Ottawa Senators

Top NHL Prospects - Jake Sanderson, Ottawa Senators
Apr 19, 2015; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; General view of the Canadian Tire Centre as Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens fans cheer before game three of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The son of former player Geoff Sanderson, the American forward’s rights belong to the Ottawa Senators. Playing for the University of North Dakota, he thinks both offensively and defensively and can distinguish when to join the rush and when to play responsible, defensive hockey. Sanderson is great at creating traffic in the passing lane to decrease opposing threats, and playing college hockey allowed him to mature as a player, which could give him a leg up over other NHL prospects.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Senators, check out #Sens rumors, rankings, and news here.

9. Braden Schneider, New York Rangers

Named the WHL’s East Division Defenseman of the Year, the Brandon Wheat Kings captain earned a roster spot on Team Canada for the IIHF Men’s World Championships. His size — he’s 6’2″, 209 pounds — helps him play a physical game, but he has the hockey smarts not to take needless penalties. Schneider one of the New York Rangers’ elite, promising NHL prospects, and could make a huge difference on the club’s blue line when he is afforded the opportunity. Granted, that may take a while, considering the Rangers’ defensive riches.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Rangers, check out #NYR rumors, rankings, and news here.

10. Jack Quinn, Buffalo Sabres

Quinn, who is currently playing for the Rochester Americans as a part of the Buffalo Sabres franchise, was selected as one of the top NHL prospects because of his exceptional puck-carrying ability. He’s deceptive and crafty and can make any offensive zone entrance a threat. He has a heck of a shot, too, which helps him score big goals and throw the puck at the net in any kind of coverage. Selected eighth overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Sabres have high hopes for Quinn, who could help them turn the franchise around.