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Alexis Lafreniere is the No. 1 selection expected in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft since last year’s draft entry, and there is still no reason to believe that he will drop out of first place.
The rest of the first round is much more up for debate as teams, players and fans await the remainder of the 2019-20 season. The campaign is being delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the project has also been postponed until the NHL can rework the schedule.
With that in mind, let’s check the predictions for the 31 first-round picks. The order is based on the reverse of the current regular season standings. The screenings are followed by a closer look at the best choices.
First round simulated NHL draft
1. Detroit Red Wings: Alexis Lafreniere, F, Rimouski (QMJHL)
2. Ottawa Senators: Quinton Byfield, F, Sudbury (OHL)
3. Ottawa Senators (via SJ): Lucas Raymond, F, Frolunda (SHL)
4. Los Angeles Kings: Tim Stutzle, F, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
5. Anaheim Ducks: Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL)
6. Buffalo Sabers: Marco Rossi, F, Ottawa (OHL)
7. New Jersey Devils: Alexander Holtz, F, Djurgardens (SHL)
8. Montreal Canadiens: Anton Lundell, F, HIFK (FEL)
9. Chicago Blackhawks: Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP (USHL)
10. New Jersey Devils (via ARZ): Cole Perfetti, F, Saginaw (OHL)
11. Minnesota Wild: Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA-1946 (MHL)
12. New Jersey Devils (via VAN): Dylan Holloway, F, Wisconsin (NCAA)
13. Florida Panthers: Dawson Mercer, F, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
14. Nashville Predators: Jack Quinn, F, Ottawa (OHL)
15. New York Rangers: Connor Zary, F, Kamloops (WHL)
16. Calgary Flames: Hendrix Lapierre, F, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
17. Winnipeg Jets: Noel Gunler, F, Lulea (SHL)
18. Ottawa Senators (via NYI): Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL)
19. New York Rangers (via CAR): Jan Mysak, F, Hamilton (OHL)
20. Carolina Hurricanes (via TOR): Mavrik Bourque, F, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
21. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
22. Dallas Stars: Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL)
23. Edmonton Oilers: Rodion Amirov, F, Salavat (KHL)
24. Minnesota Wild (via PIT): Tyson Foerster, F, Barrie (OHL)
25. Vegas Golden Knights: Lukas Cormier, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
26. Philadelphia Flyers: Emil Andrae, D, HV71 (SHL)
27. Washington Capitals: Ryan O’Rourke, D, Soo (OHL)
28. San Jose Sharks (via TB): Jacob Perreault, C, Sarnia (OHL)
29. Colorado Avalanche: Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)
30. St. Louis Blues: Roni Hirvonen, F, Assat (FEL)
31. Anaheim Ducks (via BOS): Ridly Greig, F, Brandon (WHL)
Break down the best selections
1. Detroit Red Wings: Alexis Lafreniere
The Wings are 23 points behind the second worst NHL team (Ottawa) and are well on their way to one of the worst seasons in the history of the league. In turn, there is no doubt about the franchise that needs Lafreniere the most in order to take the turn in the context of a complete disassembly and reconstruction.
He’s a dynamic winger with all the tools to immediately become one of the top 20 scorers at the highest level in the sport. He had 105 points (37 goals and 68 assists) in 61 games with Rimouski in 2018-19 and was on an even torrier pace, 112 points (35 goals and 77 assists) in 52 games this season.
Lafrenière, 18, was disappointed that the QMJLH season was interrupted by the coronavirus because he believed the Océanic was a legitimate contender for the Memorial Cup pursuit.
“It was certainly tough news for me and the whole team,” he told John Wawrow of the Associated Press. “I think we had a great team this year and we thought we could do something special for sure. It’s a little sad. But we have to make sure that everyone does their best to stay healthy. “
Lafreniere would fit perfectly alongside Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha on the Detroit front row. The rest of the squad still need some big improvements before the Wings return to the playoffs, but the trio could instantly become one of the most exciting lines in the league.
Now the Red Wings just need luck in the lottery to make it happen.
2. Ottawa Senators: Quinton Byfield
Byfield suffered a lackluster record at the 2020 World Junior Goalscoreless and one assist in seven games with Canada. Although the performance probably ended his hopes of chasing Lafrenière for first place, his overall results are still enormous.
The 17-year-old center has recorded 82 points (32 goals and 50 assists) in 45 games with Sudbury this season. These figures, combined with its already prototypical framework (6’4 “, 215 lbs), give it the bases to develop into a high-end center.
He is not, however, as advanced as Lafrenière. He would likely start his NHL career in the middle of the six for the Senators, which would give 2015 first-round pick Colin White another year to prove himself on the Senators’ front row. The OHL star will advance to the lineup once he is used to speed.
Byfield may never become a 100-point NHL marker, but he should hover around a point-per-game pace as a two-way impact center.
3. Ottawa Senators: Lucas Raymond
This is where the intrigue of the project begins to increase with much less certainty about the standings apart from the first two. Raymond makes sense as a target for Ottawa if he wants a close NHL perspective.
The winger spent most of last season with Frolunda’s U-20 team, but made the jump to senior roster for most of the 2019-20 campaign. The score was a little slow to happen (10 points in 33 games), but it held up in a league with older and more experienced opponents.
An interesting tactic for the Senators if they finally win two choices among the top five in the lottery would be to select a pair of attackers, place them on the second or third line together and let them win in chemistry before going up together the depth chart over the years ahead.
In this case, Byfield and Raymond could eventually join Brady Tkachuk to form a great offensive line which we could even trust to keep a late lead thanks to the group’s two-way capacity.