When it comes to the 2020 NHL draft, there is little to no debate about who is going to be selected No. 1. That would be winger Alexis Lafreniere. But when it comes to which defenseman will be first off the board, things get a lot more complicated.
For much of the past few months, Erie Otters blueliner Jamie Drysdale and U.S. National Under-18 Team rearguard Jake Sanderson have been compared and contrasted. Drysdale was more of the known quantity coming into the past season, and Sanderson's push caught many by surprise and forced more than a few scouts to suddenly consider which player was the better prospect. Opinions vary, but both project comfortably into the future top pairing of an NHL team's defensive ranks.
To better understand the differences between their games, we asked an anonymous NHL scout from an Eastern Conference team for scouting reports on each player. Then things got interesting. We gave Sanderson and Drysdale a chance to hear the assessments and provide their own commentary and, in a way, critique the critique. We also spoke to each player's coach from last season, and I provided my own analysis to round out the breakdowns. To close, we took one final look at the neck-and-neck race to be the first defenseman off the board in October and made a prediction. Let's get started.
Note: Ages are as of the Oct. 6 draft date.
Jake Sanderson, USA U18 (NTDP)
Age: 18 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 185 | Shot: L
Stats: 47 GP, 7 G, 22 A
Anonymous scout on Sanderson: You knew he was a good player but didn't know he'd be this good. The size factor gives the edge to Sanderson because if you're going to have a minute-munching guy, you're going to lean toward the bigger guy.
Sanderson: That's very humbling. I think I'm somebody that can be put in all situations, on the penalty kill and the power play. I think I'm built for playoff hockey as well.
Peters: Sanderson has three inches and 10 pounds on Drysdale, which could be key. He has good physical strength and will initiate contact when he needs to.
Anonymous scout: You're kind of weighing those things and who would you rather have. But his skating, first-pass [ability] and compete [level] were always there.