2020 NHL Mock Draft 1.0: Lafreniere is the guy at the top
Most years there is a unique talent that rises to the top of the NHL Draft rankings to become the no-doubt No. 1 overall selection. This season is no different even if everything else about this draft might be different when it finally ends up happening, remotely or live and in-person.
Big Rimouski left winger Alexis Lafreniere combines size (6-foot-1, 193 pounds), speed, skating and offensive ability, along with a physical edge into the kind of dominant hockey package that teams are looking for in their top-line, game-breaking forwards. He and he’s been dominating at the World Junior stage since he was 17.
Lafreniere would be the first Quebec-born No. 1 overall pick since Marc-Andre Fleury back in 2003. So, it will be a historical pick for a number of reasons.
NHL Central Scouting tapped him as the top player available and Lafreniere will be the first name called, presumably by the Detroit Red Wings, whenever the draft is held.
"He makes plays that you don't even think those plays are possible, and he still makes them," said NHL Central Scouting regional scout J.F. Damphousse. "What separates him from the pack is his compete level. He's willing to play physical. He battles every game, and any time the game is on the line, you want him on the ice."
Below is our first crack at a 2020 NHL mock draft with no clear certainty about the draft order, where some of the conditional picks will be and when the draft might even take place if it gets pushed back from its original weekend of June 26-27:
1. Detroit Red Wings
Alexis Lafreniere — LW, Rimouski
Lafreniere was the top scorer in the QMJHL with 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games while also being named the MVP of the World Junior tournament as an 18-year-old on Team Canada. At 6-1, 193 pounds, he's a scorer, a playmaker and physical. He’s consistently excelled against older players in international tournaments. He would step right in and be a factor for a terrible Red Wings team while fitting in with other young guys Dylan Larkin and Antony Mantha. Of the players in this draft class, Lafreniere has the best chance to be a generational talent.
2. Ottawa Senators
Quinton Byfield — C, Sudbury
A 6-4, 215-pound center from the Sudbury Wolves that has prototypical size and skating ability with 32 goals and 82 points in 45 OHL games last season. Byfield has been compared to Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in terms of size, speed and offensive skill and that’s exactly the kind of player that the Senators could use to begin building around. Given his size and skills, he’s got a chance to be even more dominant as he matures.
3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)
Jamie Drysdale — D, Erie
Drysdale is a smooth-skating, playmaking defenseman in the mold of many others that have gone in the first round the past few seasons. He’s not the biggest at 5-11, 175, but he’s the best D-man in this draft. The nine goals and 47 points in 49 games this season are strong numbers that speak to his all-around game. As with other defenders his size, it’s about body positioning, smarts and using his stick at the defensive end where he’ll obviously never be a shutdown guy.
4. Los Angeles Kings
Tim Stuetzle — LW, Mannheim
Stuetzle, 6-1, 187, really showed up on everybody’s radar when he had five points in five games for Germany at the World Juniors and parlayed that into winning the Rookie of the Year for Mannheim in Germany’s top pro league. He finished with seven goals and 34 points in 41 games while playing against older players in Germany and should have a better chance of making the jump to the NHL as a result of that. It’s a testament to the resurgence of the German hockey program that they are beginning to produce first-round talent after going through a tough period prior to Leon Draisaitl going to Edmonton a few years ago.
5. Anaheim Ducks
Jake Sanderson — D, NDTP
A mobile, left-shot defenseman with good size at 6-1, 185, Sanderson is more of a traditional two-way defenseman with physicality along with good offensive tools. Sanderson posted seven goals and 29 points in 47 games for the Under-18 team last season and also served as the captain to show leadership qualities in addition to doing everything well on the ice.
6. New Jersey Devils
Marco Rossi — C, Ottawa
Rossi is a bit of a bowling ball at 5-9, 193, and plays with feistiness in addition to the breathtaking skill that allowed him to post 120 points in 56 games last season. Rossi goes to the net, scores and plays a bit on the edge in the kind of package that translates very well into today’s NHL. Austria-born Rossi scored the most points in the OHL since Alex DeBrincat in 2016-17, so that should bode pretty well translating to the NHL.
7. Buffalo Sabres
Lucas Raymond — LW, Frolunda
The Swedish left winger is renowned for his hands, play-making ability, and a tenaciousness to his game that endears him to scouts. The 5-11, 170-pounder is a right-shot who managed six goals and 10 points in 33 games in the Swedish Elite League as a 17-year-old. He’s an impressive prospect that has a lot of upside as he continues to get bigger and stronger.
8. Montreal Canadiens
Cole Perfetti — C, Saginaw
A 5-10, 177-pound points machine, Perfetti was second on the OHL with 111 points (37 goals, 74 points) in 61 games while showing off the kind of skill and smarts that will lead to offense in the NHL. He’s by no means the biggest or the fastest prospect among the forward class in this draft, but his production and his high hockey IQ put him near the head of the class. He’s also got one of the most lethal releases to his shot of anybody in this draft.
9. Chicago Blackhawks
Alexander Holtz — RW, Djurgardens
The 6-foot, 192-pound right winger is a tough goal-scorer and has shown a pretty good ability to be effective in the Swedish Men’s League with nine goals and 16 points in 35 games. Holtz is one of the better goal-scorers in the draft and that’s certainly something that any team could use more of. Holtz's ruggedness and the advanced offensive game might make him a pretty easy transition from the Swedish League to the NHL.
10. Arizona Coyotes
Anton Lundell — C, HIFK
One of the best two-way centers in the draft out of Finland, the 6-1, 185-pound Lundell plays a 200-foot game in the mold of Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews. Lundell had 10 goals and 26 points in 44 games for Liiga, Finland and was one of a number of prospects who played well against grown men in a European league. It was unfortunate that Lundell was injured in the World Juniors and couldn’t play for Finland, but his draft stock is still very high as a likely top 10 pick.
11. Minnesota Wild
Jack Quinn — RW, Ottawa
Quinn, 6-0, 176, was second in the OHL with 52 goals in 62 games along with 89 points. Others that have topped 50 goals in the OHL the past 20 years include Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner and Alex DeBrincat, so that bodes well for his overall development into something special in the NHL. Strength is most definitely not an issue for Quinn, but he needs to continue to work on his skating as he rises in the ranks.
12. Vancouver Canucks
Dylan Holloway — C, Wisconsin
Holloway, 6-0, 203, has big-time offensive potential and skating ability to go along with pretty good size and good pedigree as a college player. He should be the first NCAA player selected in the first round after posting eight goals and 17 points in 35 games for the Badgers last season as a true freshman. The Canucks may not be in the market for another center given their wealth of riches among their young players at that position, but Holloway might be the best player available here.
13. Nashville Predators
Iaraslov Askarov — G, Neva St. Petersburg
The 6-3, 176-pound Askarov has to be an elite prospect given how rarely goaltenders show up this high in mock drafts. It would be an interesting pick for the Predators given their current goalie situations, but it would make sense that Askarov could eventually be the heir apparent to an aging Pekka Rinne. He is considered the best goalie prospect since Carey Price, so somebody will take a flier on him in the first round.
14. Florida Panthers
Kaiden Guhle — D, Prince Albert
The 6-2, 186-pound defenseman is comfortable at both ends of the ice that took a jump in the offensive part of his game last season. Guhle finished with 11 goals and 40 points in 64 games that showed both good skating and big, hard shot that will translate into the NHL. He'd add to an already talented group of D-men in the Panthers organization.
15. Calgary Flames
Dawson Mercer — C, Chicoutimi
The versatile 6-foot, 180-pounder can play any of the forward positions and is a well-rounded prospect with 24 goals and 60 points in 42 games last season. Clearly, he’s got a good offensive game, but Mercer also showed a flair for the physical game in the QJMHL. His ability to also impact the special teams at both ends of the ice makes him a factor in all situations.
16. New York Rangers
Connor Zary — C, Kamloops
The 6-foot, 178-pound Zary was one of the most dangerous players in the WHL with 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games and showed good passing ability along with his willingness to shoot. Zary was among the league leaders in both power-play and shorthanded goals, so he’s another prospect who is going to have a major impact on a team’s special teams when he makes the NHL. Zary turned 18 in September, so he’s one of the oldest players in this draft.
17. Winnipeg Jets
Braden Schneider — D, Brandon
It feels like there’s a highly-ranked defenseman from the Brandon Wheat Kings pretty much every season and Schneider will be that guy this season. The 6-2, 202-pounder has ideal size and a big shot that helped him produce seven goals and 42 points in 60 WHL games this season. The Jets could certainly use a physical, skilled defenseman in the mold of Jacob Trouba and Schneider is exactly that kind of player.
18. New York Islanders
Hendrix Lapierre — C, Chicoutimi
The 5-11, 179-pound Lapierre didn’t play after November due to upper-body injuries, but he had already shown the speed and high-end skill that will play in the NHL. Lapierre had two goals and 17 points in 19 QMJHL games prior to the injury and was dominant for Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup over the summer as well. It’s a bit of a risk given the injury issues, but he projects to have elite skill and offensive ability.
19. Columbus Blue Jackets
Seth Jarvis — C, Portland
Jarvis, 5-10, 175, finished second in the Dub with 98 points in 58 games and scored 42 goals while showing the speed and quickness to play at an extremely high pace. Everything with the right-shot center is about speed and that would make him a really interesting fit in Columbus where a big, physical team could use a little more lightning in its game.
20. Toronto Maple Leafs
William Wallinder — D, Modo Jr
The Swedish defenseman is very young (he doesn’t turn 18 until the end of July) and very raw, but his 6-4, 191-pound size and his rapid skating ability project him to be an extremely effective NHL defenseman. It might take him a couple of years to get there, but Wallinder has the kind of tools that could make him the No. 1 defenseman that the Maple Leafs have been dying for on their NHL roster.
21. Carolina Hurricanes
Noel Gunler — RW, Lulea
The 6-2, 176-pound winger is a power forward in the making with an ability to create his own space and a deadly shot that will turn into NHL goals. Scouts have indicated he holds the best scoring shot of any of the European prospects in this draft. The Hurricanes already have a bevy of talented, young players on their roster and the Swedish winger would fit right in with what they’re developing in Carolina.
22. Dallas Stars
Mavrik Bourque — C, Shawinigan
The 5-foot-10, 178-pound Bourque already has one of the best names in hockey and he adds the offensive flair with 29 goals and 71 points in 49 QMJHL games last season. Bourque is a strong, sneaky-fast skater and hard worker. He has drawn some favorable comparisons to fellow Quebecois Patrice Bergeron. That’s a pretty large compliment to a kid in his all-important draft season. Given the Dallas focus on two-way players these days, Bourque makes a lot of sense here.
23. Edmonton Oilers
Jeremie Poirer — D, Saint John
The Oilers are still looking for that trigger-man defenseman who could make it all go for them while keeping up with greyhounds Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Poirer is that kind of guy. He led the Q with 20 goals from the back end last season and has drawn favorable comparisons to Shayne Gostisbehere for the instinctual way he plays defense. The 6-foot, 196-pounder will mix it up physically and is a gifted skater.
24. Vegas Golden Knights
Jacob Perreault — RW, Sarnia
The 5-11, 192-pound son of Yanic Perreault, scored 39 goals in 57 games for the Sting last season while showing a great combination of physicality, offense and work ethic. He certainly brings plenty in speed and creativity, too. Scouts will most definitely look favorably on the offspring of a player who played more than 800 games in the NHL and turned out to be a pretty decent goal-scorer in his day as well.
25. Pittsburgh Penguins
Brendan Brisson — C, Chicago USHL
The 5-11, 179-pound center showed himself to be a top two-way player while putting up 24 goals and 59 points (second in the USHL) in 45 games for the Steel. Brisson represented the family name well as the son of hockey super-agent Pat Brisson. Brisson is expected to head for the University of Michigan, so a team that could wait for him to develop, such as the Penguins, would be an ideal fit.
26. Philadelphia Flyers
Justin Barron — D, Halifax
The 6-1, 195-pound Barron would have likely gone higher in this draft were it not for a blood clot issue that wiped out much of his hockey season in his draft year. He returned in late February with his good-skating game and excellent defensemen instincts for moving the puck, so there shouldn’t be much doubt about him as a first-round talent. Barron may need some work in the defensive end of the ice, but that’s never been a big concern with the talent that the Flyers bring into the fold.
27. Washington Capitals
Helge Grans — D, Malmo
The 6-2, 206-pound defenseman has the size and smooth-skating ability of so many players that come out of the Swedish League and was good enough to log 20-plus games in the men’s league this past season. He has all the tools with the skating, shot and attention to the two-way game and would be in a situation where he can take time to develop with a loaded Capitals organization.
28. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning)
Tyson Foerster — RW, Barrie
The 6-1, 194-pounder put himself on the map with a big performance at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January and really put the pedal down with the Colts in the regular season. Foerster finished with 36 goals and 80 points in 62 games and would be a nice addition to a Sharks organization that needs to add an influx of young talent pretty much everywhere.
29. Colorado Avalanche
Thomas Bordeleau — C, NDTP
Bordeleau isn’t the biggest guy at 5-9, 175, but he fits right in where the NHL is headed these days with strong, explosive small forwards. The left-shot center led the NDTP with 46 points in 47 games and plays a quick, creative game. Bordeleau is headed to the University of Michigan and the Avalanche would be the kind of team that could allow him to develop in college. That being said, Bordeleau would fit right in with the Avalanche forwards.
30. St. Louis Blues
Jan Mysak — C, Hamilton
The 5-10, 175-pound Mysak jumped from the Czech League to Hamilton in the middle of the season and posted 15 goals and 25 points in 22 games after his arrival. Mysak won’t turn 18 until the end of June and showed that he’s not going to have much trouble adjusting to playing in North America. A Blues team full of size, heaviness and grit could do worse than adding a little more skill in this lefty shooter.
31. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)
Rodion Amirov — LW, Ufa
The 6-foot, 167-pound Russian winger has exhibited speed, skill and offensive ability in his time rising through the ranks. He managed a couple of points in 21 games for Ufa in the KHL and had a dominant 10 goals and 22 points in 17 games with the Ufa junior team. The Ducks need plenty of offense with the future assets they have accumulated and Amirov certainly brings some to the table.