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The 20 best names available in the 2020 NHL entry draft

From Leo Lööf and Linus Lööf to Bear Hughes and Ivan Ivan, there are some amazing names in this year's draft class.
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David Jesus of the Oshawa Generals skates the puck up ice. Nobody messes with the Jesus. photo: Terry Wilson, OHL Images

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is right around the corner, which means it’s time to look at some of the best names that could get announced on October 6th or 7th.

No, I don’t mean the best players. I’m talking about the best names. Every year, PITB ranks the top 20 names available in the upcoming entry draft. Why does this matter to Canucks fans? Because the Canucks have made a habit of picking a player with an excellent name from my lists in the past.

Before Jack Rathbone became one of the top defensive prospects for the Canucks, he was #6 on my list of the best names from the 2017 NHL draft. Jett Woo? He was #2 on the 2018 list, just behind Nando Eggenberger, who was an invitee at the Canucks 2018 prospect development camp.

At the 2019 draft, the Canucks kept the streak going, picking Nils Höglander early in the second round. He was #7 on my list.  

Once is a coincidence, twice is serendipity, but three times? That has to be intentional. I’ve only done this for three years and, every year, the Canucks pick a name from my list. There’s only one conclusion that can be drawn: the Canucks are stealing my work.

Clearly, the Canucks have a love for great names, and who can blame them? As much as fans cheer for the logo on the front of the jersey, it’s so much more fun when there’s a great name on the back of that jersey. A great hockey name becomes a legendary part of hockey history even if the player falls short of legendary status. 

There are some fantastic names available in this year’s draft and one of them could very well be a part of the Canucks’ system next week.

We’ll start with some honourable mentions: names that either came just short of the top 20 or belong to players that are not really legitimate prospects. Then we’ll dive right into the top 20.

Honourable Mentions: Damon Beaver, True Crowe, Luke Evangelista, Måns Forsfjäll, Trey Funk, Hampus Lövberg, Jake Neighbours, Jésus-Piaget Ntakarutimana, Mikkel Øby-Olsen, Antonio Stranges, Hugo Styf, Samuel Sweatman, Ethan Szmagaj, William Wallinder

 

20 | Åke Stakkestad

Part of the fun of this name is pronouncing it completely wrong: Acky Stacky-stad. It’s great fun!

Stakkestad is a longshot to get drafted, but some scouts like him well enough. McKeen’s Hockey has him ranked 175th overall, noting that his skill allows him to overcome his lack of size.

Stakkestad racked up points in both the under-18 Elit and Allsvenskan in Sweden, as well as the under-20 Elit league. He had 16 goals and 33 points in 20 J18 Elit games, 18 goals and 41 points in 17 J18 Allsvenskan games, and 16 goals and 26 points in 16 J20 Elit games. In the qualification games for the under-20 team, he had 5 goals and 12 points in just 3 games for BIK Karlskoga J20.

In total, that’s 55 goals and 112 points in 56 games across Swedish junior leagues this past year.

The one problem for Stakkestad is that he’s never really faced top competition. The Elit league is a second-tier junior league behind the SuperElit league and Stakkestad has never been tagged for international competition, so it’s hard to say how Stakkestad stacks up against his peers.

Stakkestad did get into 5 games in the Hockeyallsvenskan, the second-tier men’s league in Sweden that Elias Pettersson played in during his draft year, but he only averaged 5:24 per game and didn’t record any points.

19 | Maximilian Glötzl

Maximilian is already a strong first name. Pair that with an umlaut in the last name? That’s just fantastic. 

Glötzl is a superb name and he’s also a pretty decent prospect, one of the top young defencemen in Germany. McKeen’s Hockey calls him a potential sleeper pick, noting his size, skating, and offensive ability. He might have benefited from the cancelled U18 tournament this year, where Germany was playing at the top level and he could have showcased his game.

Glötzl had 28 points in 31 games in Germany’s junior league and also appeared in a couple of games in Germany’s first and second-tier men’s leagues. He has good hands and a big shot and could be picked in the sixth or seventh round this year. Get those umlauts ready, equipment managers.

18 | Winter Wallace

Did Winter’s parents know he was going to play hockey? There are names like Morgan Winters, Cameron Snow, and Blake Frost eligible for the draft as well, but those are just last names: this guy has the season of his sport as a first name. Add in some keen alliteration and you have a solid hockey name.

He needs to be on a team with a cool colour scheme: he’s a winter, after all.

Wallace put up some decent numbers in High School Prep hockey with Shattuck St. Mary’s, putting up 50 points in 44 games and is heading to Michigan State University in the NCAA next year.

17 | David Jesus

Regrettably, David Jesus is a defenceman, not a goaltender, so the play-by-play announcer will have to wait until he pulls a puck off the goal line with his stick to bust out, “Jesus saves!”

If you think about it, skating on ice is pretty much walking on water.

Jesus is under the radar for the draft with just 11 points in 61 games for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL this season, but he has good size at 6’3” and reports indicate he’s a solid skater for his size. Maybe he can rise again next season with a little more ice time.

16 | Ben VanWaterschoot

Calling Ben VanWaterschoot a prospect for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft is really stretching the definition of the word “prospect,” which is the only reason he isn’t higher on this list. Because Ben VanWaterschoot is an incredible name.

If I was a member of the VanWaterschoot family, I would use my name to open a chain of carwashes that specialized in washing minivans and also rented out scooters to ride while your van is being washed. I would go broke immediately, because that’s a terrible business model, but it would be worth it just to see VanWaterschoot VanWashAndScoot on a sign.

VanWaterschoot played Junior B hockey with the Brantford Bandits in the GOJHL this past season. He had a respectable 23 points in 38 games to lead his team in scoring.

15 | Zayde Wisdom

Already sporting a strong last name in Wisdom, Zayde goes the extra mile with a wickedly cool first name. Zayde Wisdom sounds like the antagonist in a mid-90’s movie about underground roller-hockey. 

Wisdom also happens to be a very good prospect, expected to go in the third or fourth round of the draft. He’s a hard-competing power forward that plays bigger than his 5’10” stature thanks to a strong core and impressive strength.

Away from the puck, Wisdom is relentless in his puck pursuit. With the puck, he has enough tools in his toolbox to challenge defencemen one-on-one, while also showing a willingness to make the simple play and drive to the net. He put up 29 goals and 59 points in 62 games for the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL, good for second on his team behind his linemate, the exceptional 16-year-old Shane Wright.

That is one of the caveats when looking at Wisdom. His production took a big jump from his rookie year when he had just 10 points; how much was he dependent on Wright for his production?

At the very least, Zayde Wisdom is a way better name than Shane Wright.

14 | Mavrik Bourque 

When you want to name your son after your favourite Mel Gibson film, but don’t want to be too obvious about it.

Bourque combines being a maverick with a classic hockey last name, like Ray Bourque, Rene Bourque, Phil Bourque, Gabriel Bourque, and others before him. Like those Bourques, Mavrik is a good bet to have a solid NHL career, as he’s expected to be a first-round pick.

Ranked as high as 13th by Elite Prospects, Bourque put up 71 points in 49 games in the QMJHL this past season. He’s a smart player with a wide array of offensive skills, who makes his teammates better with his playmaking and can pick corners with his shot. 

13 | Shakir Mukhamadullin

Holy moley, that’s a monumental name. He’s also a monumental prospect, standing at a towering 6’4”.

Mukhamadullin is arguably the most polarizing prospect in the draft. Both TSN’s Craig Button and International Scouting Services see Mukhamadullin as a first-round pick, while others have him ranked in the second or third round or, in the case of Elite Prospects, as a DND: Do Not Draft.

On the positive side, Mukhamadullin is a big defenceman that can skate and play a physical game. He spent the bulk of his draft year playing against men in the KHL, generally a good sign for a player’s future. He has a bomb of a slap shot from the point as befitting a defenceman of his size and can also get his wrist shot away quickly.

On the negative side, Mukhamadullin has questionable decision-making, gives the puck away far too much, and loses track of his man in the defensive zone. 

Mukhamadullin’s season in the KHL has already started and he’s put up 5 points in 11 games, an impressive start for the 18 year old. Given the chaos in the KHL right now, however, it’s hard to say what that production is worth.

Wherever you land on Mukhamadullin as a prospect — whether you believe in his size and potential or question his ability to move the puck — you can’t deny how cool his name is. 

12 | Leo Lööf and Linus Lööf  

These identical Swedish twins are a package deal when it comes to names. How can you separate Leo and Linus Lööf?

They can definitely be separated on the ice: Leo is a defenceman and Linus is a centre. Of the two, Leo is the better prospect, ranked as high as 96th overall by Elite Prospects. He’s a lanky defenceman who still needs to fill out his 6’1” frame, but he plays a physical game in his own end while also handling the puck well and making a good first pass.

Linus might be more highly thought of if he wasn’t injured for his entire draft year, playing just 3 games for Färjestad in the under-20 SuperElit league and 5 games internationally for Sweden’s under-18 team. He’s gotten off to a hot start in the 2020-21 season, posting 7 points in 7 games. It’s an unusual situation to get another viewing of a player like Linus Lööf before the draft, but perhaps his early surge will make a team take a chance on him in a later round.

If only there was an NHL team that needed both defencemen and centres in their prospect system, perhaps a team that has a history with identical Swedish twins. 

11 | Loris Rafanomezantsoa

Good lord, what a name. I do not envy the play-by-play callers that have to fit “Rafanomezantsoa” into their patter.

Rafanomezantsoa played on the third pairing for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the QMJHL this past season and didn’t provide any offence, putting up just 2 points — both assists — in 41 games. That doesn’t bode well for the possibility of getting drafted, but he is solid defensively and tends to win puck battles along the boards. 

He was Chicoutimi’s top pick in the 2018 QMJHL draft, but got limited opportunities behind older defencemen like Artemi Knyazev, Gabriel Villeneuve, Michael Pellerin, and Louis Crevier. Perhaps with more opportunities in the future, he’ll show more sides to his game.

10 | Boston Bird

All this time, I thought the Boston Bird was just the middle finger.

Either that, or Boston Celtics’ great Larry Bird.

Turns out, Boston Bird is actually a feisty forward from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who led the OCN Blizzard of the MJHL in scoring this past season. He put up 46 points in 52 games, attracting the attention of the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL, where he’ll spend next season.

Bird isn’t likely to get drafted this year, but perhaps a big year in the NAHL could attract more attention heading into next year’s draft.

9 | Ozzy Wiesblatt

Wiesblatt is simply an elite last name, a combination of two juxtaposing syllables that make it a delight to say. Ozzy is a solid first name to lead into that last name, but his brothers are even better: Ocean Wiesblatt, Orca Wiesblatt, and Oasiz Wiesblatt. 

No, seriously.

Orca Wiesblatt is also eligible for this year’s draft, but the 20 year old is unlikely to get drafted, unlike his brother Ozzy, who had 70 points in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL. Ozzy Wiesblatt might even be a late first-round pick, but is more likely to go in the second round. He’s a powerful skater, making him incredibly dangerous off the rush.

Look for the 16-year-old Oasiz Wiesblatt to be on the 2022 version of the best names list, assuming he develops into a legitimate prospect.

8 | Roman Faith

If Roman Faith isn’t a Catholic, then what are we even doing here? Hopefully, he gets drafted by the same team as Luke Evangelista, an expected second-round pick this year.

Faith is a longshot to be drafted, but he’s not completely off the radar, ranked 125th among European skaters by Central Scouting. 

He bounced between multiple leagues in Finland and Slovakia, putting up 6 points in 16 games in Slovakia’s top men’s league. He was one of the top players for Slovakia’s U-18 team, leading them in scoring with 21 points in 18 games across all international competitions. This season, he’s playing for the Bratislava Capitals in the Austrian Hockey League.

7 | Bear Hughes

The Canucks already have Quinn “Huggy Bear” Hughes. How confusing would it be to add a player named Bear Hughes to their system? 

Bear’s real name is Cassius, but he’s gone by “Bear” his entire life, to the point that he and his family don’t even know the origin of the nickname. My guess is that it’s similar to how Quinn got the nickname: it’s easy enough to turn “Hughes” into “Huggy” and from there get Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch or, if you’re really cool, the 90’s riot grrl band.

Beyond the excellent name, Hughes is a legitimate prospect, a late bloomer that was playing rec league hockey just two years ago. Hughes put up 47 points in 61 games as a 19-year-old rookie in the WHL, but has the potential for far more. He’s a puck possession beast and can  make plays with his vision and passing, though he needs to improve his skating.

Hockey Prospect is the most bullish on Bear, ranking him 86th overall, near where the Canucks are making their first pick of the draft at 82nd. Whoever picks him will get a quickly-improving centre that can play in all situations, along with a great story and a great name.

6 | Jérémie Biakabutuka  

I adore this name for so many reasons. One is that Biakabutuka is a treat to say out loud. The other is the wonderful juxtaposition of his accent aigu’ed first name with his multi-syllabled last name.

His uncle, Tshimanga “Tim” Biakabutuka, was a running back in the NFL. He was originally from Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but moved to Montreal with his family when he was four years old. Perhaps the name “Jérémie Biakabutuka” isn’t reflective of Canada’s cultural mosaic — french is one of the official languages of the DROC, after all — but it still seems like a particularly Canadian combination.

Whatever the case, Biakabutuka has an awesome name and an outside shot of being a late-round selection in the 2020 entry draft. The 6’4” defenceman is ranked 209th among North American skaters by Central Scouting after a solid season with the QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs. He has a huge shot from the point and can make a good first pass to transition the puck up ice. 

Combine that with his size and his excellent name and a team could take a chance on Biakabutuka, gambling that the rest of his game develops over the next few years. 

5 | Gunnarwolfe Fontaine

I try to avoid having repeat names when a player is once again eligible for the draft after going unpicked the previous year, but there’s no way I can leave Gunnarwolfe Fontaine off this year’s list. He did drop to number 5 from number 3 last year, as a strong crop of names bumped him down.

Gunnarwolfe’s name seems like a combination of Team Iceland’s Wolf Stansson and Gunnar Stahl from D2: The Mighty Ducks, but he’s not just a great name: Fontaine is a legitimate prospect, even as a 19 year old. He was one of the top scorers in the USHL this season with 26 goals and 57 points in 45 games and has a lethal wristshot. 

Fontaine is on the smaller side, listed anywhere from 5’8” to 5’10”, but makes up for his lack of size with a hard-nosed, pesky game, going to the hard areas of the ice and pursuing the puck with a purpose in all three zones.

He’s heading to Northeastern University, like Canucks prospects Adam Gaudette and Tyler Madden before him. It wouldn’t be crazy to see the Canucks take a chance on the talented winger in one of the later rounds.

4 | Ivan Ivan

There’s an old saying to “never trust a man with two first names.” But what do you do when that man’s first name is also his last name? Does Ivan Ivan have two first names or two last names?

Who cares? What matters is that Ivan Ivan’s name is so good you have to say it twice.

Ivan Ivan was a standout in his native Czech Republic before coming over to the QMJHL in his draft year. It wasn’t a great year for him, however, with just 22 points in 62 games, which likely won’t be enough for the centre to get drafted.

Still, he’s ranked 135th among North American skaters by Central Scouting and is a wild card to be a late-round pick by a team willing to take a chance on his skating and compete level.

3 | Sequoia Swan  

This is an absolutely incredible name. It’s simultaneously beautiful and strong, with the added bonus of alliteration.

Swan isn’t likely to get picked at the draft, but I wouldn’t count him out. He’s a little wrecking ball on the ice, throwing some major hits, and he’s got speed and hands to go with it. Unfortunately, he got just 6 goals and 18 points in 55 games in the MJHL, a step down from his rookie year as a 16 year old. 

Swan led the MJHL with 207 penalty minutes, so if a team is looking for a tough customer willing to drop the gloves, he’s your man.

2 | Daemon Hunt  

Hockey names don’t get more hardcore than this. “Oh, you think you’re hard to play against? I hunt demons. Wimp.”

After putting up 20 points in 57 games as a 16 year old in the WHL, Hunt was expected to have a big draft year, but a bad skate cut to his arm caused him to miss three months of the season. As a result, he played just 28 games and put up 15 points, all assists and went from being a potential first-round pick to sliding down the draft rankings.

Still, Hunt is highly regarded by scouts, with Bob McKenzie at TSN ranking him highest at 44th overall. He’s a fantastic skater, a heavy hitter, and a slick passer. The team that takes a chance on him in the second round could be getting both a great defenceman and a top-shelf hockey name.

1 | Primo Self

Are you kidding me?

When you ask someone if they’re being their best self, Primo Self can always answer in the affirmative.

At 5’10” and with just 37 points in 51 BCHL games in his draft year, Self is a longshot to get picked, but he’s actually a pretty good player. His game seems to be marred by streakiness, but he’s got some decent hands and a quick release on his shot, as demonstrated by this hattrick (plus assist) he scored in the playoffs this year.

Primo Self has made a commitment to play D1 hockey for Miami University in the NCAA, where he should be a favourite for play-by-play announcers. I can hear it now: “A primo play by Primo Self!”