The NHL Draft is just around the corner and will be done a little differently this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the entire 2020 year upside down. Because of this, the 2020 NHL Draft will be a virtual online draft. Today, we will take a look at the Atlantic Division and their team needs entering the 2020 NHL Draft.
Click each player’s name to get a full scouting report from Last Word’s own Ben Kerr.
2020 NHL Draft: Atlantic Division Team Needs
Draft Position: 58th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: John Beecher, Urho Vaakanainen
The biggest need the Bruins have at this point is secondary scoring. The “Perfection Line” of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak scores almost half of the Bruins’ goals. The Bruins need to address this issue sooner rather than later. However, the Bruins do not hold a first-round selection in this draft. So their pick is going to be a longer-term project. The longer-term need is on the point. Zdeno Chara‘s career is coming to an end. The Bruins may want to try to add a blue-chip prospect to the pool as soon as possible.
Projected Pick: Ronan Seeley
To focus on that long-term need, the Bruins would benefit from selecting Ronan Seeley. Seeley is one of the youngest prospects in the draft as his birthday is August 2nd, 2002 and the cut-off is September 15, 2002. He was given a larger role with the Everett Silvertips this past season and strived in the role putting up three goals and 29 assists for 32 points in 63 games.
Seeley fits the mould of the new age defenceman perfectly, combining excellent skating with outstanding puck moving abilities and vision. His skating and positioning helps him play a solid two-way game. Seeley has excellent gap control and reads plays extremely well helping him cut off passes and turning the play the other way in transition. He could stand to bulk up to be even more effective at the NHL level. With proper development, Ben Kerr states he could be a top-four defenceman who could be utilized on both special teams.
Draft Position: 8th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Dylan Cozens, Ryan Johnson, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt
Another season gone, another draft where the Buffalo Sabres find themselves picking in the top 10. Something has got to give at some point, right? The Sabres have managed to put together quite the talented pool having so many high draft picks over the years, however, they still can’t put together a winning season. The biggest issue is goaltending. However, they look to have the answer in prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The next biggest need would be their ability to put the puck in the net. Buffalo finished 22nd in the league last year in goals for. The Sabres need to find a prolific goal scorer to join Jack Eichel and Victor Olofsson.
Projected Pick: Alexander Holtz
Holtz could not be a better fit for the Sabres in terms of the team’s need. He is arguably the best shooter in the entire draft. However, he is not just a one-trick pony. Holtz has great vision and can be a playmaker as well despite his shoot-first mentality. Even when he doesn’t have the puck, all eyes need to be on him as he is always looking to find an opening and once he does he is going to make you pay. Holtz can score goals in a variety of different ways and his ability to create his own shot makes him even more dangerous. He may not be the best skater in the draft, but his knack for finding twine just can’t be taught. What he lacks in skating ability, he makes up for in shooting, puck handling and vision.
Holtz could stand to stay in Sweden for another year or two to work more on his skating and defensive game, to make him a more complete player before making the transition to North America.
Detroit Red Wings
Draft Position: 4th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Moritz Seider, Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Michael Rasmussen
The Detroit Red Wings needs are plain and simple. They need more skill. At every position. Outside of Dylan Larkin, the Red Wings are bare up front. Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno are promising prospects. Anthony Mantha continues to improve each year, however, neither of these players look to be what you would call a game-breaker at this point. Detroit also has an ageing defence core, but at least having Moritz Seider, Jared McIsaac and Dennis Cholowski on the way up to take care of that. Detroit will want to grab one of the talented forwards on the board.
Projected Pick: Cole Perfetti
What better way to address their biggest need than picking one of the most skilled offensive players in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in Cole Perfetti. Perfetti is an extremely gifted offensive player. He possesses an outstanding set of hands and a tremendous shot. He’s also versatile as he is capable of playing either centre or the wing. While he could stand to work on his skating, specifically his first few steps, that should come with development as he transitions to the NHL. Perfetti would be another solid addition for the Red Wings who are in the middle of what’s sure to be a lengthy rebuild.
Draft Position: 12th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Spencer Knight, Grigori Denisenko, Owen Tippett
Last season the Florida Panthers‘ biggest need was goaltending. They answered that in the off-season. First by drafting goaltender Spencer Knight for the future. And secondly, by signing Sergei Bobrovsky to a monstrosity of a contract (which so far hasn’t panned out). This season, the biggest need is defence. The Panthers have not drafted a defenceman with their first-round pick since drafting Aaron Ekblad in 2014, and have only drafted one in the second round in that same time span. The Panthers’ defence is the weak point of their team as it is and the cupboards are bare. It’s time for the Panthers to re-stock.
Projected Pick: Kaiden Guhle
After five years of not picking a defenceman in the first round of the NHL Draft, the Panthers will change things up this year and pick Kaiden Guhle. For a team that desperately needs to replenish their defence pool, the Panthers would be doing it in a big way by getting Guhle 12th overall. Guhle is a solid two-way defender possessing great skating and puck-moving abilities. However, it’s his strong defensive game that stands out the most.
Guhle uses his skating to control the gap between him and his opponents and not allow them to beat him wide. He also likes to take part in the physical game and will make the big hit, but is smart about it. He won’t take himself out of the play to do so. Last Word’s Ben Kerr believes Guhle can be an elite top pairing, shutdown defenceman if he reaches his potential. A top pairing of Guhle and Aaron Ekblad in the future for the Panthers would be scary.
Draft Position: 16th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Cole Caufield, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ryan Poehling
The immediate need for the Montreal Canadiens is a left-shot defenceman. However, the Canadiens used last year’s draft to stock up on left defenders including Jayden Struble, Mattias Norlinder and Gianni Fairbrother. They also drafted top prospect Alexander Romanov in the 2018 NHL Draft who is going to be joining the Canadiens next season. For the long-term, the Canadiens should shift their focus to pick up some scoring options up front. The Canadiens finished last season 19th overall in goals for. They drafted prolific goal-scorer Cole Caulfield with their first-round pick last season. However, he is at least another year away from making the jump to the NHL. The Habs need to add another scoring presence to the pipeline.
Projected Pick: Dawson Mercer
If you were to mould a player the Habs needed right now, it would literally be Dawson Mercer. A right shot, goal scorer with size and speed. Mercer may not be the fastest player in the draft, but he still has great skating abilities. He plays a solid two-way game and brings versatility with him as he can play centre or the wing. Mercer is the type of player hockey minds refer to as a “Swiss Army Knife.” He can play in all situations and his ability to play centre or the wing gives him the ability to be moved around as needed. Something coaches salivate over. Mercer would certainly fit right in with the Canadiens style of play and would certainly be a preferred pick if still on the board at 16.
Draft Position: 3rd, 5th and 28th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Lassi Thomson, Brady Tkachuk, Shane Bowers
The Ottawa Senators have managed to put together a solid prospect pool over the last few years as they continue their rebuild. They have an abundance of high-quality prospects at every position. However, they could use the game-breaker down the middle. Logan Brown and Josh Norris are certainly valuable assets, however, it’s not a guarantee that either is a bonafide number-one centre. The Sens also do not have a blue-chip goaltending prospect in their pool at the moment. With three first-round picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Senators will certainly fill at least one of these needs.
Projected Picks: 3rd – Tim Stutzle, 5th – Marco Rossi, 28th – Jan Mysak
The Senators may not have won the actual lottery, but it’s just as well they did having two selections in the first five picks. If you said that this would happen after they acquired the first-round selection from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Erik Karlsson, no one would believe you. However, the Sharks bombed and now the Senators are reaping the benefits.
With their first pick, they’ll select the next best player available, who just so happens to fill their biggest need, Tim Stutzle. Despite spending most of the past season on the wing, Stutzle is someone who has played a lot of centre over the years and would look to transition to a fulltime centre role in the future. Stutzle possesses a decent size frame at 6′-1″, 187 pounds and has the playmaking abilities and hockey sense that you like to see from your top centre. Stutzle is also one of, if not the best skater in the entire draft. While he may not have the 200-foot style of play that Byfield has at the moment, that may come with proper coaching and development. However, there is no denying his offensive abilities, making him a potential franchise player in the future.
Next, the Sens will take another highly skilled player who also fills their need at centre in Marco Rossi. Rossi is versatile and can play the wing if the Senators feel he is better suited there. Having Rossi lining up next to Stutzle and Brady Tkachuk in the future would be an outstanding top line. However, Rossi is better suited as a centreman. He plays an outstanding two-way game and is an excellent playmaker. Despite his size, Rossi is not afraid to go in the dirty areas of the ice. He is also capable of playing on both special teams and is excellent in the faceoff circle. As Ben Kerr describes in his scouting report, Rossi has the ability to become a first-line centre if he reaches his full potential. Giving the Senators two fantastic options with both Rossi and Stutzle moving forward.
Mysak would complete a very successful first round for the Senators. He possesses a solid two-way game and has the versatility to play both centre and the wing. Mysak could use some work on his skating, however. As Ben Kerr describes, his first few steps are “herky-jerky”. Because of this Kerr believes he would be better suited as a winger, however, with work could be an effective 200-foot centre. Mysak possesses the tools to become a top-six forward. He is a pure sniper with a variety of shots in his repertoire. Mysak can beat you in many ways but can also play the role of a playmaker with outstanding vision and passing abilities. He could be a steal as a late first-round pick if he can improve his skating ability.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Draft Position: 62nd Overall
Tampa Bay does not hold a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft as they traded it to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Barclay Goodrow.
Recent First Round Picks: Nolan Foote, Cal Foote
The Tampa Bay Lightning‘s biggest need for the long-term is a scoring forward. The club traded their top forward prospect, Nolan Foote, at the deadline along with a first-round pick in exchange for Blake Coleman. With the team having limited cap space, they will need to bring up some players on entry-level deals in the near future to help fill some holes in their lineup.
Tampa Bay does not have any top-quality forward prospects at the moment and does not have a first-round pick in this year’s draft. However, their scouts have shown the ability to strike gold in the second and third rounds before (looking at you Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Anthony Cirelli). Holding a second and two third-round picks in this year’s draft, the Lightning will look to do much of the same.
Projected Pick: Luke Tuch
Tuch is reminiscent of his brother Alex. A big power forward with decent skating abilities and a powerful shot. Tuch uses his large frame to win puck battles and isn’t afraid to take part in the physical play. Although he won’t be drafted as high as Alex was going 18th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, he still is a solid pick late in the second round. With some development, he could become a solid depth piece for the Lightning, much like Alex has become for the Vegas Golden Knights.
It’s no secret that the Lightning are outstanding at developing players so Tuch will certainly benefit from joining the organization. On a team who will need to rely on development moving forward given their cap situation, Tuch is as safe of a pick as you can get. His skillset alone should allow him to make a career for himself at the NHL level. With proper development, he could become a top-six forward.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Draft Position: 15th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren
The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ biggest need is the same as it’s been the last few years, a top-quality right-shot defenceman. With Tyson Barrie expected to hit the open market as the Leafs will not be able to afford to bring him back into the fold, they do not have a top-pairing defenceman for the right side at the NHL level. The only prospect they have in the pipeline with any top pairing upside is 2017 first-round pick Timothy Liljegren. The Leafs managed to scoop up a first-round pick from the Penguins in a trade that sent Kasperi Kapanen back to the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving them a chance to fill that need.
Projected Pick: Braden Schneider
What better way for the Leafs to fill their need on the right side then by picking the second-best right-shot defender in the draft. Schneider is the complete package. He’s an excellent skater, puck mover and puck handler. Schneider has outstanding vision which helps him make a good first pass as well as set up his teammates in the offensive zone. On the defensive end, he has solid gap control and positioning. He also likes to take part physically, however, he is responsible enough to know when to do it. Schneider picks his times wisely so he doesn’t get taken out of the play trying to make a big hit.
Schneider has been used during his time in juniors as a minute eater playing against the opposition’s top players as well as both special teams. As Ben Kerr explains in his scouting report, this should translate to the NHL in time. Schneider is a solid and safe pick at 15 for the Leafs. He fills their longtime need of a right-shot defender.
That does it for the Atlantic Division team needs at the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to check back each day for the remainder of the division’s team needs and picks.