Two-way forwards are currency in the NHL. The better the offense the higher the eventual paycheck. But if a player starts out strong defensively, as a young Sean Couturier did for the Philadelphia Flyers, teams can insert them early in their careers. Offense is very much appreciated but this is still a defense-first league. Here are some players who follow that mold as we inch closer to the 2020 NHL Draft.
Cole Perfetti – This center has a great blend of skill and hockey I.Q. He may have the best hockey brain in the draft. He excelled in Math in school and he’s watched a lot of hockey games. The Saginaw star is a key playmaker and that helped him get 74 helpers to go along with his fine 111-point season that ranked him second in the OHL scoring race.
Good speed, strong puck possession, and knowing when to get back on defense and strip the puck is part of what makes him so successful. Simply put, he knows where to be on the ice and is usually there before the competition is. He had two short-handed goals last season.
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Anton Lundell – He’s the perfect center. He’s got that blend of skill and defensive acumen. He’s probably the best defensive center in the draft. He’s a playmaker for sure, that’s his first instinct but he will be a dangerous scorer too, thanks to his dad, Jan, a former goalie and current goalie coach for HIFK in Liiga. He can read a goalie’s movements. Last season, he acknowledged he didn’t shoot enough.
His defensive instincts are similar to his favorite hockey player, Sasha Barkov. Some say his skating needs improvement but he’s a good directional skater and that’s how he makes up for that until he comes over and can improve that part of his game.
Lucas Raymond is already scoring in 2020 for Frolunda. He’s one of the youngest players on the team, in contrast, Joel Lundqvist, the brother of Henrik, is 37 and one of the top goal scorers on the team. Raymond’s speed and vision are evident. He should be a 70 point or more player in the NHL in the future. His speed and stick and puck control will make him a star on offense and effective defensively. The winger’s hockey I.Q. is high, and he plays among the toughest competition of the players listed so that’s important to keep in mind.
Alexis Lafreniere is the top player in the draft. He’s the top scorer and he’s the most talented. Even if he had zero commitment to his 200-foot game, he would still be drafted first overall. He scored 112 points and had 35 goals. It’s easy to be mesmerized about his skating vision and his offensive instincts. His hockey I.Q. and exceptional eye-hand coordination help him with his 200-foot game.
The Rimouski star has some grit in his game and a dirty side has come out from time to time. He will lay a hit to dislodge the puck and that’s dangerous for the other team because he’ll be the one going the other way with it. Nowadays, if you want to be a huge star in the NHL and win a championship, being a complete player is where it’s at. You will get the most ice and time and therefore have more opportunity to put more points on the board.
All of these players will get better at everything. Some are ahead of others for sure. I didn’t rank these players, but I feel confident that we will be talking about their all-around games for years to come. The highest scoring two-way forwards will always get the most hype, that’s just the way it is. Every two-way forward is a coach’s best friend.