Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we start our 2020 NHL Mock Draft.
The NHL Draft lottery went down on Friday night and while it was won by a placeholder, we do know who owns picks two through eight in the 2020 NHL Draft. Since we will project the same player at first overall no matter who wins the second stage of the Draft Lottery, we are ready to release the first part of our annual LWOH NHL Mock Draft. We will go through the rest of the first round, along with rounds two and three closer to the draft.
For those who haven’t read the LWOH NHL Mock Draft before here are the rules.
1) No trades except for those that have already been made by NHL teams.
2) The NHL Mock Draft will be released in multiple parts. The first part comes out today. More parts will be added in time as more of the draft order is known.
3) Clicking the Player’s name will bring you to a full scouting report.
So with that out of the way, I present part one of the LWOH 2020 NHL Mock Draft.
Lottery Edition: 2020 NHL Mock Draft
Lafreniere is the clear best player in this draft class. While things were close between Lafreniere and others (specifically Quinton Byfield) early in the season, a dominant season where he was the clear best player in the CHL, along with an MVP performance in leading Canada to a gold medal at the World Juniors have solidified Lafreniere in a class above all others in this draft group.
Lafreniere has great hands, allowing him to make plays at top speed. Lafreniere can be a playmaker with his great vision and passing skills. He anticipates plays extremely well and makes his linemates better. Able to control the puck down low on the cycle, Lafreniere creates time and space while his teammates get open. Once they do, he can make a quick tape-to-tape pass that sets up his teammate in a prime scoring position. He can control the play on the half-boards, playing the role of a modern power-play quarterback. Lafreniere is also a natural goal scorer. He can put the puck in the net in a variety of ways.
Byfield has the size and power that makes NHL general managers drool. He combines that with high-end hockey IQ and an extremely high skill level. Byfield has the potential to be a franchise defining centre at the next level. Byfield also has the hands to make moves with the puck while travelling at that top speed. This makes him extremely dangerous in the transition game. Byfield can be a goal scorer, with an excellent wrist shot, quick release and a very good one-timer. He also has the soft hands to finish in close to the net. He understands how to get open and find space without the puck. Byfield is very good at give-and-go style plays. Byfield is also an excellent playmaker.
The Kings two Stanley Cup wins featured a one-two punch of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter down the middle. The team had two centres, who had tremendous size, could lead the team’s offence and play strong defensive hockey as well. Carter is 35, and Kopitar turns 33 in August. Its time to look for their replacements. The Kings have already started to address the issue with Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, and Akil Thomas all in the system. However, Byfield instantly becomes the top centre prospect of the bunch and the player the Kings hope to build their future top-line around. Besides, no team ever had too many good centres. Some of the above could eventually be moved to the wing or traded for other needs if the Kings find they have more than four NHL quality centres.
Germany is emerging as a top hockey nation and the 2020 NHL Draft class features another high-end prospect from the country. Stutzle is playing in the DEL, the top German league, putting up seven goals and 27 assists for 34 points in 41 games playing against men. Stutzle adds to his impressive skating with the soft hands and quick stickhandling to control the puck while moving at top speed and making his quick cuts. This gives him the ability to be a truly dynamic forward. He can make a defender look silly if they don’t give him respect, and before the defender knows it, Stutzle is behind them and cutting to the net.
The Senators have built an excellent prospect pool. It has good depth at a number of positions. However, the biggest question mark in the pool is at centre. While there are players who could become good second or third-line centres for the team in Logan Brown, Josh Norris, Filip Chlapik, and Shane Pinto, there remains a question as to who the team will have as a long-term option on the top line. In Stutzle, the Sens finally have an answer to that question and will look to develop the young German into a key member of the future core.
Rumours have long had the Red Wings brass taking a shine to Cole Perfetti, the OHL’s second-leading scorer this season. While he is the 7th ranked prospect on our draft board, we admit that the differences between players 4-9 are extremely small. Perfetti seems to fit the mould of the type of centre who Wings general manager Steve Yzerman targetted when he was in Tampa. Perfetti has outstanding hands. He combines his hands with his ability to make quick cuts and changes of direction. This makes him extremely dangerous in one-on-one situations. He uses his quick moves to create shooting and passing lanes. Perfetti sees the ice extremely well and only needs to create a small amount of space to be able to set up a linemate. He also has an excellent shot and can also be a sniper.
The Red Wings were extremely unlucky in the draft lottery. Despite having the worst record in the NHL, and the best individual odds to win a spot in the Top 3, they fell all the way to fourth in what was the team’s worst-case scenario. Being near the bottom of the NHL for several years now, the Wings have a deep system. Dylan Larkin is young and should be Detroit’s number one centre for years to come. Behind him, the top prospects for the position include Joe Veleno, and Michael Rasmussen (who might be a winger at the NHL level). In Perfetti, Yzerman adds a player who could become a strong one-two punch with Larkin in helping the Wings rebuild.
5.) Ottawa Senators – Jamie Drysdale, Right Defence, Erie Otters, OHL
Previous pick: Tim Stutzle
Drysdale is one of the best skaters in this draft and this helps him to be a strong two-way defender. He can rush the puck up the ice, making plays and setting up teammates. Drysdale uses his skating and puckhandling skills to avoid the forecheck and start the transition game. He makes an excellent first pass to start the rush as well as being strong in carrying the puck up the ice. He finds open teammates and sets up scoring chances. Drysdale is also good at walking the line in the offensive zone and creating shooting and passing lanes. He is a power-play quarterback. He has excellent vision and passing skills. Drysdale is able to find open teammates and create scoring chances. He controls the puck at the line, extending possession.
For the second time in the draft, the Senators come to the podium in a position where the best player available, also fills the Team’s biggest need. After Stutzle filled the Senators need for a number one centre, the team needed a top-quality, puck-moving offensive defenceman to play on the right side. In Drysdale they Senators get the best defenceman in the draft. He will combine with Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom to help lead the Senators offence from the back. Things are finally looking up for Ottawa.
Jake Sanderson, the son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson, is our top prospect from this year’s US NTDP. Sanderson plays a strong two-way game based upon his excellent skating. He moves well in both directions, with very good speed and excellent acceleration. Sanderson can join the rush or pinch at the blue line and still get back defensively. He also has very good edgework and agility. This allows him to cover a lot of ice and get into good positions. His smooth pivots allow Sanderson to quickly transition from offence to defence and vice-versa. He is also strong on his skates. Sanderson is able to avoid forecheckers and is tough to knock off the puck. He is also able to win battles along the boards and clear the front of the net. As he matures and adds muscle to his frame, this aspect of his game should improve even more.
For the Ducks, it’s time to rebuild what was once one of the best defensive groups in the NHL. They have plenty of strong forward prospects, but really need some help on the back-end. In Sanderson, they get a player who could develop into the defensive stopper who can match up against the other team’s best players, while also having enough offence to start the transition game and contribute on the power play. He may be a year or two away from the NHL and is headed to the University of North Dakota next season.
Raymond combines his excellent skating ability with very good stickhandling. He can make plays at top speed. He has the passing skill and vision to set up teammates on the rush as well as the poise to quarterback the play on the power play. Raymond controls the puck on the half boards and creates scoring opportunities. He reads the play extremely well, almost always making the smart pass. He sees opportunities as they develop and is good at anticipating when a teammate will be open for a scoring chance. Raymond also has a good wrist shot and a quick release. His quick hands allow him to change the angle on his shot and fool goaltenders.
With recent first overall picks, Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, the Devils are set down the middle for a long time. They can use a high-end winger to play alongside their franchise centres as Taylor Hall is gone and Kyle Palmieri is heading into the last year of his deal. In Raymond, the Devils get the best player remaining on our board. Raymond has the skills necessary to be a first-line winger in the NHL but will need some time. Another season in the SHL would help him to continue to mature and to produce while playing a high level of competition.
Rossi scored 39 goals and 81 assists for 120 points in just 56 games this year. He was a dynamic offensive force for the Ottawa 67s, helping them to be one of the best teams in the OHL. When the OHL season was stopped due to Covid-19, he had a nine-point lead for the league scoring title. Rossi has a quick wrist shot with an excellent release. When defenders back off, he can use them as a screen and fire a shot on net. He also has an excellent one-timer. Rossi is talented as both a playmaker and a shooter. He has the passing skills to set up his linemates and make them better. His ability to extend plays through his work down low really lets him take advantage of these playmaking abilities. Despite his lack of size, he plays the game in the dirty areas of the ice.
The Sabres have their franchise centre in Jack Eichel. It was hoped that Casey Mittelstadt would become the number two centre. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s still too early to write him off. The Sabres drafted Dylan Cozens at 7th overall a year ago, and he might become that centre behind Eichel. Rossi becomes another option to fill that role. As noted earlier, a team can not have too many good centres. Rossi is the best player on the board at this point. If all three develop, they can always move one of the players to the wing or trade them for other assets. The Sabres need scoring depth and Rossi will help bring that eventually. He’s also good in his own end.
Stay tuned for our continued Draft Prospect Scouting Reports, and the next selections in our NHL Mock Draft 2020.
NHL Mock Draft Main Photo:
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: A detailed view of the draft floor during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019, in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)