Phase 1 of the NHL’s Draft Lottery is done and while we don’t know the ultimate winner, we do know the fates of the seven teams who missed the Return to Play qualifying round. And while none of them are getting their hands on Alexis Lafreniere (that will be determined with a Phase 2 draft, since a placeholder team ‘won’ the first overall pick), they will have a nice crop of players to select from.
But three teams stood out to me in the wake of the Phase 1 lottery: Los Angeles, Ottawa and Detroit. Let’s break down what it all means for these franchises.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings jumped up two spots in the lottery and will now select second overall. This is a franchise that has quickly restocked its coffers with prospects after winning two Stanley Cups in the past decade. With the second overall pick, the Kings are likely looking at a decision between big OHL Sudbury center Quinton Byfield and German left winger Tim Stutzle (who has also played center at times).
In Byfield, they’d be getting a kid with tons of skill (obviously), but also a formidable frame to grow into. Byfield is already listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and he still has room to pack more muscle onto his body. He skates very well and can put up big numbers offensively. He is not a fully-formed prospect just yet, but that’s also what makes Byfield so enticing – we’ve only seen the beginning from him. If the Kings were to pick him, they have the perfect mentor in town in center and captain Anze Kopitar. The two have similar builds and play the same position, with Kopitar possessing the excellent defensive game that Byfield is in the process of learning as a junior. And with fellow center Alex Turcotte, last year’s top Kings pick, already signed to a pro deal, Los Angeles has options up front for the coming years. Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Gabe Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari and Tyler Madden are at the high end for the forwards, while Tobias Bjornfot leads the future ‘D.’
Stutzle brings a different look to the table, but no less tantalizing. He did play center at the world juniors for Germany, though he’s listed as a left winger. Make no mistake though: the kid loves to be in the middle of things. Stutzle has a great motor and some incredible offensive tools, which enabled him to pull off one of the most impressive seasons ever by a teen in Germany’s DEL. Stutzle had 34 points in 41 games for Adler Mannheim, which featured a number of former NHLers on its roster. Should the Kings take him, Stutzle would have his own mentor in fellow German Marco Sturm, who is now an assistant coach with Los Angeles.
Whichever way the Kings go, they’re getting another exciting piece to a puzzle that is quickly coming together.
The Senators could have done worse, but they also could have done better. With their own pick and San Jose’s first-rounder from the Erik Karlsson trade, there was the possibility of Ottawa picking first and second overall (which would have been mind-blowingly fun). Instead, the Senators will choose third and fifth overall – but hey, at least they won that third spot.
Like Los Angeles, Ottawa has already packed its pipeline with talent and this draft has the potential to put them over the top for the future.
To begin with, the Sens will likely take whichever of Byfield or Stutzle the Kings don’t take. Byfield might be the better fit since he’s a pure center and the Sens have options (Logan Brown, Josh Norris, Shane Pinto) but no sure things right now, but as I mentioned in the Kings breakdown, Stutzle is going to be an impact player in the NHL sooner than later, so they can’t go wrong.
Where things get interesting for Ottawa is that fifth selection. Naturally, what Detroit does at No. 4 is going to be a big factor, because after the top three of Lafreniere, Byfield and Stutzle, there’s a lot of team-by-team variation.
If you want to be neat about it, the Sens should go for a top-end defenseman at No. 5, to balance out the elite forward at No. 3. In that case, the two options are Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson. Drysdale, a silky-smooth operator who jumped the line to make Canada’s world junior squad, is the most likely option here, though I do know some teams are very high on Sanderson, too. If the Red Wings take Drysdale, would Ottawa take Sanderson, the NTDP’s best player this season? I wouldn’t hate that if I’m an Ottawa fan. Put one of those two on a blueline corps with Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom and you’re singing.
On the other hand, the Sens may just go with the next player on their list, which could be a forward such as Lucas Raymond, Marco Rossi or Cole Perfetti. Again, it all depends on what Detroit does. So…
Detroit Red Wings
Dang, Detroit – it was supposed to be your year on top (of the bottom). The Red Wings had the best odds in the lottery and got blanked, pushing them down to pick No. 4. Luckily, there will still be a ton of talent available at that spot; the Wings just have to decide which way to go.
Last year, they went with big defenseman Moritz Seider in the first round and what was seen as a gamble at the time already appears to have been a stroke of genius from GM Steve Yzerman and his scouting department. Drysdale would be very nice and he would definitely fit a role in Detroit in a year or two (yes, I believe he’s that close). But do you go ‘D’ again in the top-10?
If not, as I mentioned at the end of Ottawa’s write-up, Wings fans are otherwise looking at a group of forwards, all of whom bring loads of skill to the table.
Left winger Lucas Raymond didn’t see a lot of ice in Sweden’s top league this year, but scouts know just how good he can be. I thought he was very impressive at the world juniors and the kid really knows how to cut up a defense when the puck is on his stick.
There’s also center Marco Rossi, who has been a beast for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s the past two seasons. He just won league MVP honors and his game is closer to NHL-ready than anyone else in the OHL. Not only can the Austrian national put up points, but he’s also responsible defensively.
If the Red Wings want pure sniping, there’s Cole Perfetti of OHL Saginaw or Sweden’s Alexander Holtz. Both can fill the net and while they’re not complete players right now, they have ample time to fill out their resumes.
My instant gut tells me Raymond could be the guy for Detroit, even though the Red Wings have been tough to predict in the draft recently. Raymond has the makings of a devastatingly effective top-line winger and with Dylan Larkin, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen down the middle, Detroit doesn’t necessarily have to go for a center here.
No. 4 wasn’t the number Detroit wanted, but they’re at least lucky this draft has a deep high-end.