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 Central 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: Central Division Team Needs
Draft Position: 17th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Henri Jokiharju
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Chicago Blackhawks dominated the early 2010s and have three Stanley Cup rings to show for it. However, now they’re in a re-tool. The Blackhawks missed the playoffs in the previous two seasons but managed to make it this season by upsetting the Edmonton Oilers in the play-in series. Over the last three years, the Blackhawks focused on their defence group using five of their top six picks on defenceman. They traded Henri Jokiharju for Alexander Nylander to help out their forward group. With those two positions looking set for the future, the Blackhawks need to shift their sights on goaltending. Corey Crawford has battled numerous injuries recently and will turn 36 in December. With no top goaltending prospects in the system, it’s time for the Blackhawks to search for one.
Projected Pick: Seth Jarvis
With Yaroslav Askarov surely to be off the board, the Blackhawks will look to add another forward to their prospect pool and select Seth Jarvis. Jarvis is a pure sniper who also plays with an edge to his game. He is often referred to as a pest and given his size he puts you in mind of Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. He’s an explosive skater with outstanding puck handling abilities and a knack for getting to the net causing havoc for his opponents. Because of his small stature, Jarvis would benefit from adding some muscle to get a little stronger so he’s not pushed around at the NHL level. If he can do that, he will be the total package and an outstanding grab for the Blackhawks at 17.
Draft Position: 25th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook, Martin Kaut, Cale Makar
The Colorado Avalanche have become one of the most well-built teams under the watch of Joe Sakic. He has put together a string of top quality prospects through the NHL Draft as well as through trades. With no gapping needs on the team, the Avs just need to stay the course and draft the best available player. They are stacked in terms of youth on defence, so it might be their best bet to add another top tier prospect to their forward group to join Alex Newhook.
Projected Pick: Mavrik Bourque
When picking late in the first round, it’s hard to find that game-breaking talent. However, picking a player like Bourque late in the first round is as safe of a pick as you can get. While there are obvious areas he needs to work on, including his skating, Bourque is as well rounded of a player as you can get. He’s an all-around player contributing on both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. However, where he excels is his ability to put the puck in the net. He has a variety of shots in his repertoire. Bourque is listed as a centre but as Ben Kerr describes, it may be best for him to transitions to the wing as he progresses to the NHL level. Mostly due to his small size and skating ability. That’s not a bad thing, as the Avalanche certainly would like to add some more goal-scoring wingers to their prospect pool. Especially versatile ones.
Draft Position: 30th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Thomas Harley, Ty Dellandrea, Miro Heiskanen, Jake Oettinger
The Dallas Stars biggest need comes on the back end. They have a quality group of defencemen right now with John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Miro Heiskanen. They also have Thomas Harley on the way up who they drafted last year. However, he’s the only real quality defenceman in the pipeline. The Stars could benefit from drafting another defenceman with their first-round pick of this year’s NHL Draft. Especially since one of their top prospects, Julius Honka is on the way out.
Projected Pick: Lukas Cormier
Cormier is exactly the type of player the Stars need. He’s the new breed of defenceman that everyone is looking for. A smooth-skating puck mover with high hockey IQ. That describes Cormier to a tee. He does need to bulk up before transitioning to the NHL, however, he will have time to work on that. Cormier figures to be at least two years away from making the NHL and with the group of defenders the Stars already have in place and Thomas Harley ahead of him on the depth chart, there is no need to rush him. With proper development, Cormier could be a top-pairing defender at the NHL level.
Draft Position: 9th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Matthew Boldy, Filip Johansson
The Minnesota Wild‘s biggest need comes on the defensive end. While they have quality defenders in the NHL at this moment, most of their group are 30 or over. The Wild have only drafted one defenceman in the first three rounds over the last five NHL Drafts, that being in 2018 when they used their first-round pick to select Filip Johansson. They acquired defenceman Calen Addison from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Jason Zucker trade, so that adds another quality prospect to the mix. However, they need to replenish their pool of defenceman sooner rather than later. They could also benefit from adding another centre to the prospect pool as the team is pretty bare at the moment.
Projected Pick: Anton Lundell
To address the need at centre, the Wild would benefit from selecting Anton Lundell with the 9th overall pick. Lundell is already well developed possessing a strong two-way style of game. The one knock on him is his skating, however, with proper development, he could improve that and become a solid top-six centre. Lundell can be an effective presence on both special teams and his elite vision makes him dangerous all over the ice. If his skating was better, he may be ranked higher on draft lists. If he manages to put it all together, Lundell could be an outstanding addition to the Wild’s forward group soon.
Draft Position: 11th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Phillip Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen
Much like the Wild, the Nashville Predators‘ needs come on the back end. Other than Dante Fabbro, all of the Predators’ defencemen are pushing 30 or over. They do not have any blue-chip prospects in the pool at the moment, and with Fabbro in need of a new contract after next season, as well as Mattias Ekholm the season after that and Roman Josi‘s new contract set to kick in next season, the Predators will need to re-stock the cupboards with some solid defence prospects. One, in case of losing players due to cap issues, they’ll want to have a significant player to replace them on an entry-level deal. And two, so they can continue to be competitive for the years to come and continue to be the defensive juggernaut they have been known to be over the past decade.
Projected Pick: Jack Quinn
Despite the need to bring in some more defenders, the Predators can’t pass up to draft a player like Quinn. Quinn does it all. He can score, he can pass, he can skate and he can defend. He works extremely hard in all three zones and he never quit mentality is something teams salivate over. Quinn can make everyone around him better with his play. Ben Kerr says his game is reminiscent of Mark Stone, who is one of the best wingers in the game. If he can be anything close to Stone, the Predators will have one of the biggest steals of the draft.
St. Louis Blues
Draft Position: 26th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Dominik Bokk, Robert Thomas
The St. Louis Blues have no gaping holes. So their job is just to stay the course at this point. They managed to snag some high-quality players at both defence and forward despite picking late in the drafts. Players like Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Vince Dunn, Scott Perunovich and Klim Kostin are all set and are already contributing or will be shortly. The Blues can sit back and just focus on the best player available at this year’s NHL Draft, rather than trying to draft for a specific need.
Projected Pick: John-Jason Peterka
Peterka is a work in progress. His offensive game is outstanding, combining excellent skating abilities with great puck handling skills, a tremendous shot and a strong hockey IQ. However, his defensive game is lacking. Peterka tends to get himself out of position and chase the puck around. He’s also lacking size so he doesn’t get as engaged physically as some would want. However, with good development, he can fix his defensive issues. And spending some time in Germany playing against men in the DEL will surely benefit him, especially on the physical side of things. He still has lots of time to get stronger before making the jump to North America. His offensive abilities have top-six talent written all over it. Even without the defensive game, he should be able to an effective player in the NHL.
Draft Position: 10th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Ville Heinola, Kristian Vesalainen
The immediate need for the Winnipeg Jets is on defence. Specifically on the right side. After losing Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Dustin Byfuglien as well as left-shot defender Ben Chiarot all in the one off-season, it left some gaping holes in the Winnipeg defence. They brought in Neal Pionk in the Trouba trade, however, his upside is not as great and fits more as a bottom pairing defender. Tucker Poolman stepped in and put together a solid season and the Jets acquired Dylan DeMelo at the trade deadline to help the cause as well. The good news for the Jets long-term is that they have managed to put together a decent prospect pool. Sami Niku, Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg all look ready to make the jump. However, none of these players are right shots. Niku is comfortable playing the right side, but the Jets would benefit from drafting some quality right-shot defenders to groom as soon as possible.
Projected Pick: Jake Sanderson
Although he’s not a right-shooting defenceman, he still addresses the Jets need on defence. Sanderson is the second-best defenceman in the draft after Jamie Drysdale. He possesses a strong two-way game and if he reaches his potential he will be a minute eater at the NHL level. While Sanderson plays a strong offensive game and moves the puck extremely well, his biggest strength is in his end. With top-notch positioning and skating ability, Sanderson is extremely hard to beat off the rush. Sanderson’s all-around ability and size are something that every team wants out of their defenders. Sanderson is all the makings of a top-pairing defenceman in the future.
That does it for the Central 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.