The 2020 NHL draft is set up to be a vexing one, but in the most amusing sense of the word.
At the top, you have a razor-thin margin between Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield. Lafreniere has accomplished more at this point (with a world juniors under his belt already), but Byfield is the natural center. Right after that, Sweden’s Terror Twins – Lucas Raymond and Alex Holtz – pose a similar dilemma. Do you want Raymond’s refined game or the pure scoring talent of Holtz? And who will be the first defenseman off the board? There’s a pair of new-age, slick-skating blueliners – Jamie Drysdale and Justin Barron – who should both go in the top 10. And then, of course, there’s ultra-goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov. Just how high can he go? A netminder hasn’t gone top-10 in a generation, but Askarov looks worthy of the distinction.
While much will change as the season progresses, here’s a way-too-early mock draft to chew on. In terms of order, all previous trades have been honored (Ottawa owns San Jose’s pick and Carolina owns Toronto’s) and the rankings are based on our Stanley Cup odds from the recent Need-to-Know Issue (vol. 72, no. 20). But there are some tweaks, based on some teams looking a lot better early on (Edmonton) and others looking worse (Minnesota). Let’s dive into it.
1. Ottawa Senators
Alexis Lafreniere – LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
Makes everyone around him better. One of the best at the World Junior Summer Showcase. He’s lighting up the ‘Q.’
2. Minnesota Wild
Quinton Byfield – C, Sudbury (OHL)
Big kid with a hard shot and a ton of skill. What else do you want? Oh, he’s also a center and the OHL’s top scorer.
3. Los Angeles Kings
Lucas Raymond – RW, Frolunda (Swe)
Highly skilled and can create and finish. The more well-rounded of Sweden’s Terror Twins. He’s also a clutch player.
4. New Jersey Devils
Alex Holtz – RW, Djurgarden (Swe)
Imagine giving Jack Hughes a natural goal-scorer like Holtz on the wing. Few youngsters can wire the puck like him.
5. Detroit Red Wings
Cole Perfetti – LW, Saginaw (OHL)
The Wings can watch him a lot this year in-state. They’ll see a dazzling talent with incredible vision and a deadly shot.
6. Anaheim Ducks
Jamie Drysdale – D, Erie (OHL)
Ducks need a new generation of D-men, and Drysdale is as good as they get. Great skater. Can play a lot of minutes.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
Anton Lundell – C, HIFK (Fin)
Big pivot already has a WJC gold. Lundell can handle playing top competition and possesses excellent hockey sense.
8. New York Rangers
Justin Barron – D, Halifax (QMJHL)
The Rangers drafted his older brother Morgan, so why not add Justin, who’s a mobile, two-way defenseman?
9. Chicago Blackhawks
Yaroslav Askarov – G, St. Petersburg (Rus.2)
What team wouldn’t want a sure-thing goalie like Askarov? He’s got all the tools and could be NHL-ready soon.
10. Vancouver Canucks
Hendrix Lapierre – C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Dynamic playmaker opened a lot of eyes at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. Point-per-gamer in the ‘Q.’
11. Arizona Coyotes
Dylan Holloway – C, Wisconsin (Big Ten)
He’s taking on a challenge in college, but the Coyotes could land a prize in the big kid with the great wheels.
12. Winnipeg Jets
Kaiden Guhle – D, Prince Albert (WHL)
The Jets need blueliners, uh, now. Guhle will need time, but with his skating and ability, eventually he’ll be a great help.
13. Montreal Canadiens
Marco Rossi – C, Ottawa (OHL)
The Austrian dynamo has superb skill and hockey sense, and also plays a responsible two-way game. Has an edge.
14. New York Islanders
Zion Nybeck – RW, HV71 (Swe)
A bit on the small side, but there’s no worry about the production: he’s a talented playmaker who can also score.
15. Dallas Stars
Tim Stutzle – C, Adler Mannheim (GER)
The latest hyped German is a talented, tenacious center who’s already playing a key role against men back home.
16. Buffalo Sabres
Ryan O’Rourke – D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Talented with a big shot, O’Rourke isn’t fun to play against. He’d be a nice addition to the Sabres stable.
17. Pittsburgh Penguins
Antonio Stranges – LW, London (OHL)
Imagine what the electrifying Stranges could do on the wing with Crosby or Malkin. The kid has so much talent.
18. Edmonton Oilers
Mavrik Bourque – C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Fantastic as a rookie last season and just as good in his draft year. He can score in bunches, and the Oilers need depth.
19. Philadelphia Flyers
Noel Gunler – RW, Lulea (Swe)
A talented winger who plays with a chip on his shoulder. Gunler’s passion would play well with Flyers fans.
20. Florida Panthers
Braden Schneider – D, Brandon (WHL)
Panthers have a slew of talented young forwards, but Schneider and his two-way game would help the blueline.
21. Ottawa Senators
Jeremie Poirier – D, Saint John (QMJHL)
Having already snagged the best forward in the draft, the Sens go for blueline skill with their second pick.
22. Carolina Hurricanes
Jake Sanderson – D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Good storyline: Jake’s dad, Geoff, also played for Carolina. Jake is a North Dakota commit with plenty of promise.
23. St. Louis Blues
Michael Benning – D, Sherwood Park (AJHL)
The Blues can wait, and Benning, an exciting talent committed to NCAA Denver, will be worth it. Lots of two-way skill.
24. Boston Bruins
Connor McClennon – RW, Winnipeg (WHL)
An undersized goal-scorer, McClennon first emerged on the scene with an impressive showing at the under-17s.
25. Nashville Predators
Connor Zary – C, Kamloops (WHL)
One of the fastest skaters in the ‘Dub.’ Zary was great for Canada at the under-18s and has consistently produced.
26. Calgary Flames
Tyler Kleven – D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Big and strong, he’s bound for North Dakota. Kleven can be a physical stopper in the future. Has the tools for offense.
27. Carolina Hurricanes
Justin Sourdif – C, Vancouver (WHL)
Patrick Marleau gets an assist for this pick, which sees the Canes get a talented pivot who can put up points.
28. Colorado Avalanche
Jaromir Pytlik – C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The Avs have gone after size lately, and Pytlik, a power forward with skill, would bring a nice variation on that theme.
29. Washington Capitals
Rodion Amirov – LW, Ufa (KHL)
Talented and quick, Amirov can be deadly in all situations. Washington has a good thing going with Russian players.
30. Vegas Golden Knights
Jan Mysak – LW, Litvinov (Cze)
Decided to stay home to play against men, and he’s getting decent minutes early. The points are coming.
31. Tampa Bay Lightning
Ty Tullio – C, Oshawa (OHL)
High-skill player with an edge has really put his game together in Oshawa. Not big, but the Bolts don’t care about that.