PROSPECTS | Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL, CHL, Top Prospect of the Year Award, NHL, Entry Draft, Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL, Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves, OHL

Alexis Lafreniere (Photo by Peter Power/Canadian Press)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA — Over the coming weeks, The Canadian Hockey League will be announcing the recipients of their 10 major awards for the 2019-2020 season. The CHL is split into three leagues across Canada and each of those leagues will have a nominee represented.

This is the second installment in a series of quick reads that will provide a summary of each of the respective nominees seasons, along with a prediction of who I think deserves to win the award, and of course, the actual winner as announced by the CHL. Enjoy!

Up next, The CHL Top Prospect of the Year Award presented by Kubota Canada.

The Nominees

WHL: Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders
OHL: Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves
QMJHL: Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski Oceanic

Kaiden Guhle enjoyed a breakout campaign patrolling the Prince Albert Raiders blueline in 2019-2020. The left-shooting defenseman put up 40 points (11 goals, 29 assists) in a pandemic shortened 64-game season. He relies on a strong two-way game, and with imposing size, can shut down the leagues best players.

Scouts have ranked Guhle as high as the middle of the first round for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He is widely considered to be a safe pick, thanks to his strong skating ability and self-awareness to make a smart play in all situations. With his nomination, Kaiden is attempting to become only the third defenseman in 19 years to win the award. Bowen Byram took home the honors in 2018-2019, after a 17-year break since the Medicine Hat Tiger rearguard Jay Bouwmeester last won the award back in 2001-2002.

One of the captains at the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects game in Hamilton, Ontario was Sudbury Wolves left-shooting center Quinton Byfield. The soon-to-be 18-year-old (August 19th) had an impressive, yet injury-riddled, campaign in 2019-2020. In 45 games played, he put up 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists).

Even more impressive than that point total, is that he achieved this playing in all facets of the game on a veteran Wolves squad. Quinton has all the tools to be ready to go pro. Even though he is one of the youngest players in this draft class, his size at 6-foot-4-inches, 214 pounds, paired with explosive skating abilities and excellent vision should make him the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft. With his nomination, Byfield is trying to become the 17th OHL’er to win the award in its 26-year history (no winners from 2002-2005.)

The winning captain of the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects game was the Rimouski Oceanic left-shooting, left-winger Alexis Lafreniere. In his third season in the QMJHL, he put up 112 point (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games, good enough for second in the CHL. He is widely considered the consensus first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Alexis only missed the cut-off for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by a month and likely would have gone at or near the top of that draft class as well. The 6-foot-1-inches, 192 pounds, Lafreniere is a supremely-gifted offensive threat who has the ability to take games
under his control. He offers the perfect blend of vision and shooting ability, along with a physical side that allows him to win puck battles all over the ice.

The Saint-Eustache, QC native was recently named the back-to-back MVP of the QMJHL. Becoming the first player since Sidney Crosby to receive that honor in consecutive seasons. After having already won the Michael Bossy Trophy, the QMJHL`s equivalent award to its top prospect, with his nomination, Lafreniere is trying to become only the third player in the QMJHL to also win the CHL Top Prospects award.

Mike`s Pick

This award is given to the top eligible CHL prospect for the NHL Entry Draft. First off, much respect to Kaiden Guhle. In a down year for the WHL from a draft perspective (after producing three, top-7 first rounders, seven in total, at the 2019 NHL draft), Guhle has a legitimate chance to be a career NHL rearguard. His defensive responsibility is already considered pro ready, with more untapped potential on the offensive side as he continues to develop. He had an impressive season in Prince Albert.

This award comes down to the consensus top two draft eligible players available in the world. Younger by 11 months, Byfield has not shown me enough this year to overtake the young phenom, Lafreniere, a monumental task to say the least. Alexis took another step this year and truly dominated to the point where it was almost unfair to the competition (insert seven point night reference here.) While Byfield showed he is elite, especially when games were on the line, he did not take over games consistently just yet, even though he has shown the potential to do just that.

Alexis Lafreniere is my pick for the CHL Top Prospect of the year.

But, if I may offer a hot take. I think Byfield`s blend of size, acceleration, vision and supreme stick handling abilities will eventually make him a more desired NHL’er, once he is fully developed. This may take as few years, but from my viewings, I think he has a legitimate chance to be a superstar in the NHL. Time will tell.

CHL Top Prospect of the Year Award

The 2019-20 recipient of the CHL Top Prospect of the Year Award is Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic.

“Kubota Canada is thrilled to be the presenting sponsor for the 2019-20 CHL Top Draft Prospect Award,” said Rob Allison, Director of Brand & Corporate Partnerships for Kubota Canada Ltd.

“Even though the season was abbreviated, we saw some great performances this season and it gives me great pleasure on behalf of Kubota’s employees and the Kubota dealers across Canada to congratulate Alexis Lafreniere as this year’s CHL Top Draft Prospect! Well done, Alexis!”

The 18-year-old from Saint-Eustache, Quebec, captained Team White to victory at the 2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Hamilton just weeks after earning MVP honours and winning gold with Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. Since being chosen first overall by the Oceanic in the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft, Lafreniere has scored 114 goals with 183 assists for 297 points in 173 career games. He is also a finalist for CHL Player of the Year honours after winning the award one year ago.

“I would just like to say thank you for the Top Prospect trophy,” Lafreniere said. “It’s really a big honour for me. I had the chance to play with an amazing team in Rimouski so this is really special for me.”

Award winners are selected by NHL Central Scouting in association with the CHL.

Up Next

Stay tuned for the next installment featuring the CHL Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award. The nominees are Brad Lauer, Andre Tourigny and Stephane Julien.

More From This Series

Marco Rossi, CHL Top Scorer of the Year Award

Cheers for now, Mike

By Michael Raschle, Contributor – Special Content.
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