With Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery complete, the draft picture is becoming clearer and clearer.
We now know the order of the top-15 of the 2020 NHL Draft, with the New York Rangers winning the unprecedented second stage of the draft and the rights to select the projected top prospect, Alexis Lafrenière.
With the top-15 set in the draft, fans are eagerly researching and wondering how their teams might handle their confirmed selection. As always, I’m happy to oblige those questions. This is the third edition of Bell’s Draft Mailbag, and the first two editions still have some very relevant questions that I tackled:
On Twitter, I asked for questions about prospects, the draft lottery, or reader’s favourite teams and what they could do in the draft. This time around, there were a lot more questions than I expected, so I’ve broken my answers up into four articles: three mailbags, and one draft feature. This is the first of those mailbags.
Here are the first wave of questions:
“If you were the Rangers, would you consider drafting Byfield first overall?”
The Rangers are going to look at all of the top players in this draft, and ultimately their decision will come down to the QMJHL’s Lafrenière and the OHL’s Quinton Byfield. In my honest opinion, I think that Byfield has a slightly higher ceiling. However, he has a sizable lower floor, giving Lafrenière edge.
Lafrenière is the right selection. While I think the Rangers and staff will do the appropriate homework and give the big centreman a very good look, the left winger is the right selection. He’s going to step right into the NHL next season and should provide an immediate impact.
If I were the Rangers, I’d give both players a long, hard look, but Lafrenière is the right choice. He’s a safer pick, he’s very likely a franchise player (although not generational, as some have suggested), and he’s ready for the next level now. It will, however, be interesting look back at this draft in 5-10 years and see if this is still the right choice. For now, Lafrenière has earned the top pick.
“If you’re the Rangers do you even consider trying to move first overall to Ottawa for a pair of first round picks?”
Sticking with the Rangers questions, this one’s another fairly easy answer: no. New York and general manager Jeff Gorton will be listening to what other teams have to offer – they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t – but it would take an astronomical return for the Rangers to consider moving their top selection.
In 57 NHL Drafts (including the Amateur Draft days), the first-overall pick has been traded just 10 times – and it’s only happened twice in this millennium, back in 2002 (Rick Nash) and 2003 (Marc-Andre Fleury). In today’s NHL, it just doesn’t happen.
In terms of the Ottawa Senators pitching a trade, if they were to include two of their three first-round picks, my honest opinion is that the Rangers wouldn’t even agree to the third and fifth overall picks. The NHL does surprisingly well with its first-overall selections, and there’s a steep drop off in value with each pick. The Senators offering the third and fifth-overall picks may make the Rangers’ brass stop and think, but it ultimately wouldn’t be enough to land the top selection and the Senators wouldn’t want (or shouldn’t want) to give up more than that.
“Do you see the Senators taking two forwards, or jumping for a defenseman? If so, do they go for Drysdale or Sanderson?”
This has been a very popular question among draft enthusiasts and Senators fans lately. How with the team handle their two top-five selections. It’s all but a certainty that Ottawa will be landing an excellent forward with their first pick, No. 3 overall. Lafrenière will presumably be taken off the board first, followed by the Los Angeles Kings taking one of Byfield or Tim Stützle. You can’t go wrong with either player.
Their second pick, the No. 5 selection, will be the interesting one. We don’t know what the Red Wings will do at No. 4, but rumours suggest they’re looking hard at Cole Perfetti. If that’s the case, there’s a plethora of talent available to the Senators.
Consider this. The Senators have taken defensemen in the first round the last two drafts in Jacob Bernard-Docker (2018, 26th overall) and Lassi Thomson (2019, 19th overall). They traded for Erik Brännström (2017, 15th overall) in the Mark Stone trade, they have a rising star in Thomas Chabot (2015, 18th overall), and a few other promising young defenders such as Maxim Lajoie, Christian Wolanin, Christian Jaros, and Jonny Tychonick (don’t give up on him yet).
Now, other than Chabot (and maybe Brännström), these defenders aren’t at the level of a Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson, but I do think that this young defence pool will make the team look to address the forward group. I’d be leaning towards Lucas Raymond, but Marco Rossi would be an excellent choice as well. Could Swedish sniper Alexander Holtz be an option here as well? He would fit in very nicely next to Byfield or Stützle.
The main takeaway here is the Senators are in a very, very good spot heading into the 2020 NHL Draft. They should alter the direction of this franchise fairly drastically and really can’t go wrong (…right?). I see them going two forwards in this draft.
For the fun of it though, I’ll address the second part of the question as well – Drysdale or Sanderson? Both are excellent choices, however, I do believe that Drysdale is in a tier above Sanderson. While these players have some very close traits, such as excellent skating (I say that broadly on purpose), Drysdale’s vision, playmaking and shot all edge out Sanderson. At the No. 5 spot, if forced to select a defender, I’d choose Drysdale every time.
“If the Devils had to choose between Drysdale or Rossi, who would be your choice?”
The New Jersey Devils come in at the No. 7 spot in the 2020 NHL Draft. Assuming that both Drysdale and Rossi are available at that spot, it’s likely the Devils would jump at one of them, as they’d probably be the two best players available. But who should they go for?
First, let’s look at the Devils’ recent drafts. In the last three NHL Drafts, they’ve taken two centremen first-overall in Nico Hischier (2017) and Jack Hughes (2019). In between those, they drafted defender Ty Smith 17th overall.
Rossi, as you may be aware, is a centreman. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman did a top-eight mock draft after the Phase 1 Draft Lottery, and commented on this, saying “NHL scouts think it’s possible he moves to the wing, which in an organization with Hughes and Hischier is a very reasonable path.” (From: “NHL Mock Draft: Completing all the first-round picks after the first lottery” – The Athletic – June 26, 2020).
Personally, I think Rossi would continue to thrive at the centre position in the NHL. Despite his 5-foot-9 figure, he’s surprisingly strong on his feet and has the vision and playmaking ability of a centreman. However, if the Devils did draft him, I think he’d have to shift to the wing to fit into the top-six. It’s not a perfect fit, but it could work.
And then there’s Drysdale. The smooth-skating, offensively gifted defender could be just what the Devils need in their system to complement Ty Smith’s ability, which is very similar to Drysdale. The two would make for an exciting power play, but it’s likely not a top-pairing duo as they’re both similar, offensive defensemen.
Between the two, I think I’d lean towards the Devils drafting Rossi, as you know they’ve seen him play since they love their Ottawa 67’s. Neither one of them is a perfect fit though. Who would that be you ask? I’d lean towards wingers Raymond and Holtz if they’re still on the board or Sanderson on defence.
Sanderson isn’t the sexiest pick that the Devils’ could make at No. 7, but it could be the most realistic. Sanderson, who as I mentioned could match Drysdale’s elite skating ability, also brings a sound defensive presence to his game. You know where that would fit well? Right next to Ty Smith on the top line in a few years.
“Do you see Myšák fitting in on the Devils?”
Kyle, Jan Myšák can fit anywhere. He’s wonderful. Alright, maybe I’m a little bias – he’s one of my favourite prospects this year. Seriously though, I think he’d be a great option for the Devils’ second pick (currently No. 18 from the Arizona Coyotes from the Taylor Hall trade).
His instincts are right where they need to be for him to be an offensive threat both from a shooting standpoint as well as being a playmaker. He sees the ice well and opens it up for his linemates by creating off the rush. On top of that, Myšák can skate among some of the best in the first round of this draft and that allows him to separate himself from defenders to make plays in the offensive zone.
On the defensive side, he’s able to pick up on plays well. He cuts off the passing lanes and does a good job of being an outlet for teammates in the transition game. I have him ranked 12th in my personal rankings, right where he’s bee all year. There’s potential for him to be a winger for either Hughes or Hischier (likely whoever is manning the second line).
The Devils have taken five centremen in the first round in the last six drafts With three picks in the first round this year, look for the Devils to land a defender and two wingers. Myšák should very much be on their radar for their second first-rounder.
“What’s the possibility of the Blue Jackets getting lucky in the bottom half of the first round or finding a hidden gem in later rounds?”
There’s always some hidden gems in the NHL Draft, and in 2020 there are quite a few scattered through the rounds that will break through and be contributing NHL players. Of course, we aren’t certain who those players are yet, but every draft analyst/scout has certain players that they like. These players deeper in the draft are always less likely to be top-line guys, but there’s always a few who surprise.
For the Blue Jackets, it’s looking like they’ll end up around the 20th pick – give or take a few selections depending on how Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs plays out. At that spot – there are some very promising prospects.
For forwards, I’d suggest keeping an eye on forwards Mavrik Bourque, Tyson Foerster, John-Jason Peterka, and defenders Emil Andrae and Braden Schneider. All have some very intriguing potential and would likely become top prospects in the Blue Jackets system. For your first-rounder, I’d be feeling very good about the prospect you land.
Columbus doesn’t have any picks in the second or third round though, which I’d expect them to try and change before the draft. But if that stays true, it’s definitely harder to assume who will be there and who will be a hidden gem. But there are definitely some players to keep an eye on. One of the questions for this mailbag was about later-round players to watch that I’ll be turning into its own article. Keep an eye out for that one for the answer here.
Thanks for reading Bell’s Mailbag! I’ll be doing this a few times leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft, and continuing it after as well. If ever you have questions, feel free to reach out @JoshuaBellTHW on Twitter. You can also drop a comment here or in any other article of mine.
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