Draft Day is Upon Us!
This has been, without a shadow of a doubt, the most over-analyzed draft class I have had the pleasure of covering. With over 14 months to follow, rank and discuss the talent players eligible for the 2020 Draft, now is finally time to put pen to paper and simulate how the selection process could break down on Draft Day.
Some picks may shock folks, and that’s ok. The point of this exercise was to take my own rankings, as well as the team’s needs and draft history, into account for every pick and find the best value. This means that, although some players might not be the ”Best Player Available”, they present the best value for that organization.
Hope you enjoy!
1. New York Rangers : Alexis Lafrenière LW – 6’1, 194 lbs
What can you say about Alexis Lafrenière that hasn’t already been said before? He is seen as the unquestioned number 1 selection in this Draft and New York will gladly take him at 1st overall after winning the Draft Lottery.
Laffy was a monster this season putting up 35 goals and 77 assists for 112 points in just 52 games in his third season for the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic. His vision and incredible Hockey IQ made him the major attraction every time he was on the ice and he never really disappointed.
Alexis Lafreniere is at it again. He has another 5 points (1+4) today (his fifth 4+ point game this season).— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) October 20, 2019
Here’s the tally pic.twitter.com/nl7opxZCkL
On top of his performance in the QMJHL, Lafrenière was a monster this year at the World Junior Championships, propelling Team Canada to a gold medal victory (even while being injured mid-way through the tournament!). His 10 points in 5 games earned him the MVP honours for the entire tournament, as he was truly the spark-plug that drove the offense for Canada, especially in the elimination games.
Alexis Lafreniere is a literal bull. Dude just can’t be knocked off the puck. pic.twitter.com/tyh8QoQ9B4— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 1, 2019
2. LA Kings: Quinton Byfield C – 6’4, 215 lbs
Oddly enough, Byfield is the most polarizing player on this list. Some think his potential could be higher than Lafrenière’s, whereas some think that he is simply a player that uses his great size advantage (he is 6’4) to dominate at the junior level. Personally, I think he has legit #1 C potential, as his vision, speed, size and reach make him an ideal candidate for any rebuilding club. Byfield possesses the skating, edgework, stickhandling and vision to be an effective top-line centre in the NHL.
Many people will argue that the Kings should select Tim Stützle at this rank, but my argument is that the Kings drafted a very similar player in Alex Turcotte last year. In that sense, the Draft is supposed to be about adding something you do not have to your squad, and there isn’t a prospect in the system for the Kings who is trending toward being a bonafide #1. Alex Turcotte can easily be shifted to the wing, as was done in Wisconsin a few times this season and Gabe Vilardi is just slowly starting to get back to where he was before his back injury.
With all the potential in the world, Quinton Byfield simply cannot be passed on at this point, he’s almost a full year younger than half the guys currently ranked in the top-10 and he will get even more dominant as he learns to use his size in a more implicit way moving forward.
3. Ottawa Senators (via Sharks): Tim Stützle C/LW/RW – 6’1, 187 lbs
Ottawa needs a top-line centre, and Stutzle has the smarts and the skill to do just that. The German forward played mostly RW this year in the German Hockey League (DEL), but didn’t look out of place at all. Stützle uses his speed and excellent edge-work to escape player coverage and win board battles. His relentless motor, speed of execution and his exceptional passing abilities make him one of the most exciting prospects in this draft. He was always been a favourtie of mine, specifically because his thinks the game so quickly and creates his offense due primarily to an excellent work ethic.
Nice shift by Tim Stutzle.— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) November 19, 2019
He shows off both his offensive and defensive awareness in this clip, attacking the play while still understanding his responsibilities.
Quick analysis in the tweet below. #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/3q7om5grVT
Stutzle uses his speed and excellent edge-work (as seen in the sequence above) to escape player coverage and win board battles. He then follows up on the play with excellent vision and precise passing to create scoring chances. As seen in the sequence below, where he displays his possession-heavy game, Stutzle is able to use his skating and strong puck-protection to circle around the offensive zone unscathed, while generating a high-danger scoring chance.
Although he may have played on the wing this season, his vision and passing ability, as evidence by the sequence below, make him better suited for pivoting a line at the pro-level. Even though he may not be as imposing as someone like Quinton Byfield, Stutzle plays a very strong game and has a very strong centre of gravity when he skates, allowing him to shake off checks and hooks to power toward the net.With that said, Stützle has has the skill, character and speed to excel sooner rather than later in the NHL.
4. Detroit Red Wings: Lucas Raymond LW/RW – 5’10, 167 lbs
Raymond to Detroit might make a few people scratch their heads, as the Red Wings have drafted their fair share of wingers in the past. However, none (that includes Rasmussen and Zadina) have the potential that Lucas Raymond has, and Steve Yzerman is a GM that values upside above all.
Raymond has been on my radar for years due to his excellent international play. He is an explosive, talented winger than can attack the net with great speed and stick-handling to create optimal scoring chances and giant passing lanes for his teammates.
Lucas Raymond has elite Hockey IQ and passing skills, while being blessed with one of the most dangerous wrist shots in the draft; not necessarily due to it’s power, but because it is precise and heavy. The first thing that sticks out about Raymond is how he knows exactly where to be, especially on the powerplay, In the sequence above, he sees the play develop on the right side, gets himself quickly in position and calls for a pass, unleashing a deadly one-timer for the goal.
Raymond is able to make high skill plays in the danger areas as well due to his great hockey sense on the ice. He is able to aggressively attack the play, retrieve the puck and distribute it just as quickly as he received it. The play in the sequence below exemplifies how Raymond is able to create offensive with small and timely passing plays while under pressure. He is really a dual threat offensively on the ice, which allows his offense to come in a variety of ways.
Early signs in the 2020-2021 pre-season have been great so far, as Raymond looks primed for a bigger role this season with Frolunda. His situation is, given the context, eerily similar to that of Moritz Seider, who peaked just at the right time last year to vault up the ranks. Raymond has gotten bigger and stronger and is growing in confidence every day, and that is a dangerous hockey player I want on my hockey team for years to come.
5. Ottawa Senators : Jake Sanderson LD – 6’2, 185 lbs
When I did my first mock draft back in May, many people thought I was insane for having Jake Sanderson as high as 5th overall, yet here we are. Although the Senators already have Chabot as their top-pair LD, it is important to note that Erik Brannstrom has publically stated he prefers to play on the right side (despite shooting left). This leaves a rather big hole on the left side of the Senators defense. After meeting their most dire need 2 picks prior by selecting a #1 C, I believe Jake Sanderson would be able to come in and cement the Senators 2nd pairing for the next 10 years behind Chabot. Sanderson plays a very physical and mobile style of play, often pushing the pace of the game offensively and driving counter attacks with his size and speed.
Say what you will about Jake Sanderson’s offensive game, he’s shown some really impressive flashes of playmaking in the o-zone that suggest his effectiveness in the opposing end of the rink, too. Oh and his zone entry data is second to none in the USHL. pic.twitter.com/VrvBytgKKn— Joey Padmanabhan (@joeypad2) June 23, 2020
Sanderson, the youngest player on this list by 9-8 months in some cases, was seen by many as being a legitimate first-round talent as early as this summer, with many eyeing him and Luke Tuch as possible risers throughout the season. This quickly changed as Sanderson’s play continued to rise as the season went on. His speed, size, offensive instincts and possession skills have really stuck out in a draft class that, outside of Jamie Drysdale, lacks true, top-end defensive options.
Sanderson is the only one to truly rise out of the glut of mid-to-late round defensive prospects to position himself among the elite of his age group. This is mostly because of his sharp progression curve and the modifications he has made to his game throughout the season. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a minute-munching D that can help you win championships, Sanderson is the kind of guy you want.
Another goal off the draw for the U18s and this time it’s Jake Sanderson. He does a good job of creating a shooting lane and fires one that finds twine. #NTDP #UNDpround— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) September 20, 2019
Team 🇺🇸 9 LumberJacks 7 pic.twitter.com/NOnnkh1p4d
Many question Sanderson’s overall offensive ability at the NHL level, but the tools are certainly there for Sanderson to be a very competent NHL defenseman in the same light as Ryan McDonaugh. His type of offense is effective because he has many tools and ways he can get the puck into danger areas. He disposes of a very powerful and low one-timer, while having a very underrated wrist shot, which has a deceptively fast release. He could also be a powerplay quarterback at the next level, due to his solid puck distribution and his very strong one-timer. His variety of skills makes it harder for defenders to anticipate him.
Although there may be concerns over where he can top out at the next level offensively, his raw offensive game will benefit from even more structure in the NCAA for North Dakota next year. Just to give you a glimpse at how real this pick could be, current Senators prospects Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto also attend North Dakota. Seemingly, the Senators like how the Fighting Hawks produce hockey players.