I wouldn’t be a real pretend hockey expert if I didn’t take a stab at a mock draft. I will predict all of the picks up to and including the Oilers’ pick at 14. This has become one of my favourite articles to write because it’s fun to try to guess what teams are thinking in terms of their draft strategies. I have used a combination of consensus draft rankings and organizational need to arrive at my decisions for each team. I realize that my mock draft will be approximately 0% likely to be correct, but it’s all for fun anyway.
Enough chit chat, let’s get after it here. With the first pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, the New York Rangers will be proud to select:
1. NYR- Alexis Lafreniere
No brainer here. NEXT!
2. LA- Tim Stutzle
The Kings will add another skilled centre to their prospect pipeline. The German appears to be the most dynamic player in this star-studded draft. The Kings still have Anze Kopitar, and the 2-time Stanley Cup champion will be a mentor for 2019 5th overall pick Alex Turcotte and Stutzle.
3. OTT- Quinton Byfield
The Senators are in an enviable position here. The Kings will make their decision for them when they choose either Stutzle or Byfield with the 2nd pick. Byfield is a monster that has all of the skill in the world. He seems like a franchise centre. This will be an easy pick for Ottawa. Their next pick will be a different story.
4. DET- Cole Perfetti
This is where the draft will start to get interesting. Steve Yzerman went off the board to select RD Moritz Seider last year, so we know Yzerman is a wild card. The Red Wings are in a position where they need to pick the best player available. However, my guess is that since they took an RD last year, they won’t take another one this year. They need to address their aging centre group. Dylan Larkin is the lone exception, but Perfetti could end up pushing Larkin down to 2C eventually. Perfetti’s creativity and hockey IQ make him the pick in Detroit.
5. OTT- Lucas Raymond
The Sens will make out like bandits here. They already have Brady Tkachuk at LW. They are getting Byfield or Stutzle at 3, and they will round out a full line of potential stars by taking the righty Raymond here. Raymond’s skill and creativity will be a nice complement to Tkachuk’s nastiness and Byfield’s size. Those two will create a lot of space for Raymond, and that is a line that will make a lot of good things happen in Ottawa.
6. ANA- Jamie Drysdale
The Ducks won’t let Drysdale fall past them. They got lucky because the Red Wings drafted an RD last year and because the Sens already have Erik Brannstrom in their system. Drysdale is a smooth skating right-handed puck moving defenceman, which is the most sought after player type in hockey today. The Ducks will be sprinting to the podium to call his name.
7. NJ- Iaroslav Askarov
If there’s a team in the first round that is in a position to take Askarov, it’s the Devils. They have three picks in this year’s first round, so they can afford to take a bit of a risk with this pick. Their goaltending situation will be set for the next 10+ years. They have 23-year old RFA Mackenzie Blackwood as their current starter, and it will likely take Askarov a good five years to be ready to be an NHL starter. That mark would come right as Blackwood becomes UFA eligible. Picking Askarov would be great planning and management by Tom Fitzgerald. They would have a star in net for the first time since Martin Brodeur.
8. BUF- Marco Rossi
The Sabres just traded Marcus Johansson to the Wild for a 35-year old Eric Staal. Clearly, they aren’t happy with their current centres behind Jack Eichel. Sam Reinhart can play centre or wing, but they clearly like him more at wing since they made the trade for Staal. Rossi is their guy to play 2nd line centre in the future. There isn’t anything that Rossi doesn’t do well. He can score, he can make plays, he is good defensively, and he is mature beyond his years. The Sabres will be ecstatic with this pick.
9. MIN- Anton Lundell
New Wild GM Bill Guerin has talked about how he wants to start developing centres internally. He is going to be mad that Rossi got snapped up in front of him, but he will learn to live with having to take Lundell here. Lundell looks like a fantastic two-way centre that could be NHL ready sooner than many of his peers. Guerin will like that about him.
10. WPG- Alexander Holtz
This pick will be an insurance policy for Patrik Laine. The Jets are likely to move their star RW because he’s going to need to get PAID soon and he wants to play with Scheifele while the team doesn’t want that. Holtz will be a fine replacement as a young right-handed scoring winger on his ELC for the Jets.
11. NSH- Jack Quinn
Defence has long been the strength of Nashville’s organization. They have always struggled to score goals. Eeli Tolvanen hasn’t panned out like they’d hoped, so they need another prospect that could turn into a scorer for them. Quinn is that guy. He is supposed to be the best goal scorer in this draft. Nashville can’t afford to pass on him here.
12. FLA- Jake Sanderson
The Panthers have two bright stars in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau up front. They’ve also got Aleksi Heponiemi, Grigori Denisenko, and Owen Tippett as strong forward prospects. However, they have absolutely no one of substance in their defence pipeline. That will change when the Panthers draft Sanderson. He will be a nice complement to Ekblad on the left side should Florida keep Ekblad.
13. CAR- Kaiden Guhle
The Canes are stacked with young forwards. Sebastien Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Tuevo Teravainen, and Martin Necas are the young core of the Canes. It’s a disgusting collection of skill. Svehcnikov and Necas are both righties that will play RW in Carolina’s top 6 for many years to come. Aho is their top centre, and they have Staal and Trochek manning the next two C spots with Ryan Suzuki developing in the pipeline. After Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury, they basically have no good defence prospects anymore. Guhle is a fine skater with a bit of a mean streak in his game, and he will be a solid prospect for Carolina.
14. EDM- Seth Jarvis
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If we didn’t already know it last year, we learned that when Bob Stauffer talks about a draft eligible player as often as he talked about Broberg last year and Jarvis this year, then the Oilers will likely take that player. Ken Holland also admitted that he won’t be taking a defenceman with this pick. Holland talked about wanting competitive guys. He said that while teams need guys with size, there is also room for smaller guys that are competitive. Based on the evidence we have, I think we can reasonably assume that Jarvis will be the pick.
Jarvis is a bit on the smaller side, but he skates well, he can score, and he plays physical for his size. He is a righty in a system that has far more righties than lefties, but Jarvis will be a reasonable insurance policy at RW for the Oilers should their relationship with Jesse Puljujarvi fall apart.
Even if Jarvis goes before the Oilers pick, they would still have guys like Rodion Amirov, Dylan Holloway, and Dawson Mercer available to them. I think that Oilers fans will be happy with the choice that Holland makes at 14 on Tuesday.
Once all the fireworks have settled Tuesday night, I will be posting an article with my reaction to the pick and to anything else exciting that might happen during the first round.