With Phase 2 of the draft lottery and the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs complete, the 2020 NHL draft picture is slowly becoming clearer in this unprecedented season. The New York Rangers are the lucky winners of the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes, but there’s plenty of talent across this draft class for other teams that were dispatched from the postseason bubbles.
The Oct. 9-10 draft is going to be one of the most unpredictable we’ve seen in a while because nothing in its buildup has been normal. Teams have had extraordinary time to review prospect tape and hold Zoom meetings, especially those that weren’t part of the postseason. Opinions on players are going to vary across the board, and things might get interesting after the first few picks.
How might this most unique of drafts go? Here are my predictions for all 31 of the first-round selections in the 2020 NHL draft.
Note: Draft order for picks Nos. 1-19 is set. For picks Nos. 20-31, various playoff outcomes could impact where teams pick. We projected draft order for those picks based on potential playoff scenarios and the inverse of the regular-season standings. An explanation is provided prior to the 20th pick in the mock.
Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
The Rangers’ rebuild was already winding down — they went 37-28-5 this season — and now they have a chance to add another elite offensive weapon to their growing arsenal. Lafreniere should fit right into the way the Rangers play. He is a skilled forward with a solid frame, some snarl and the ability to contribute right away. Lafreniere posted a ridiculous 2.15 points-per-game average this season with Rimouski.
Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
The Kings have a lot of centers in their system, but there isn’t much reason to pass on a player who would immediately ascend to the top of the team’s deep prospect pool, thanks to his mountain of upside. Byfield has the size and speed to be an absolute monster at the next level, assuming that he continues on his current development track.
Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (Germany)
Whether Stutzle is a wing or center in the long term — I think he will be the former — doesn’t matter much. His combination of skill and speed is fantastic, and he is a zone-entry monster with the ability to take over shifts. Even as a 17-year-old playing professionally in Germany, he was controlling things on the ice. His confidence with the puck is nearly unrivaled in this draft, and he’d become a cornerstone player in Ottawa.