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 Metropolitan 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: Metropolitan Division Team Needs
Draft Position: 13th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Ryan Suzuki, Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas
The biggest question mark the Carolina Hurricanes currently have is their goaltending. The Hurricanes have been using a 1A/1B tandem for the last couple of years. Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney fulfilled this role in 2018-19 and it was Mrazek and James Reimer this season. While Mrazek is supposed to be the starter, Reimer actually looked the better of the two last season. They do have prospect Pyotr Kochetkov on the way, however, is still a few years away from being NHL ready. The other need would be some more depth two-way forwards to add to their prospect pool. They have an abundance of skilled forwards up front and two more on the way in Ryan Suzuki and Dominik Bokk. They could benefit from adding some more “sandpaper” type players to their prospect pool.
Projected Pick: Dylan Holloway
Dylan Holloway is exactly the type of “sandpaper” player they need. Holloway plays a 200-foot game and brings the physicality in all three zones putting his body on the line time and time again. His work ethic is second to none. However, that’s not all he brings to the table is Holloway is immensely skilled as well. He complements that work ethic with solid skating ability and a slick set of mitts. Ben Kerr describes him as a coach’s dream due to his commitment to do whatever it takes to win a game. Players like Holloway are tough to come by. Carolina will certainly want to take advantage of the pick they acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring a player with his abilities into the fold.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Draft Position: 21st Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Liam Foudy
The Columbus Blue Jackets need a point producer up front. They finished 29th in the league in goals for and their leading point scorer this season was Pierre-Luc Dubois with 49 points in 70 games. The team massively overachieved this season but they can’t expect to produce the same results next season without scoring more goals. With only three picks total in last year’s NHL Draft and only one first-rounder (Liam Foudy) over the last three drafts, the Blue Jackets need to replenish the pool with some talented forwards.
Projected Pick: Noel Gunler
Offensively, Gunler is outstanding. His skating ability is outstanding as his first could of steps are excellent, which gets him to top speed quickly. He is also a pure sniper with an arsenal of shots he can beat you with. Not only that but he also has excellent hand-eye coordination, which helps him with tipping shots in front. Gunler doesn’t just stand around waiting for the puck to come to him either. He’s constantly moving around to find an opening to exploit the defence and make them pay once he gets open.
The knocks on Gunler though are his size and his defensive play. He does have a large six-foot-two frame, however, weighs just 176 lbs. Gunler will want to bulk up before jumping into the NHL. He also needs to work on his play in the defensive end. Gunler tends to do a lot of puck watching, which he will want to get out of as he makes the transition to the NHL. If Gunler can put it all together, he has the ability to be a top-line winger.
New Jersey Devils
Draft Position: 7th, 18th and 20th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Jack Hughes, Ty Smith, Nico Hischier
The New Jersey Devils need to add some scoring options on the wings. They drafted their one-two punch up the middle recently with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, now it’s time to add some scoring wingers to compliment them. Trading for Nolan Foote gives them a top-line talent and Jesper Boqvist looks promising, despite the slow start to his NHL career. However, they need to add some more pieces to the puzzle. With three selections in the First Round of this year’s NHL Entry Draft, they’ll be able to do just that.
Projected Pick: 7th – Lucas Raymond, 18th – Rodion Amirov, 20th –Hendrix Lapierre
With the seventh overall pick, the Devils will definitely take one of the talented forwards on the board. The beginning of the first round is loaded with skilled forwards and Raymond is no exception. Raymond is already accustomed to playing against men in the SHL and is currently playing in the SHL again with Frolunda. The extra year experience will help him transition his game to the NHL level. He is a fantastic skater who complements that with a slick set of mitts and quick and accurate wrist shot. Raymond could benefit from putting on some more muscle this season before trying to make the jump to North America. Given his overall skill level, it’s possible we see Raymond make the jump to North America for the 2021-22 season.
Sticking with the need, the Devils will use their second pick of the first round on Rodion Amirov. Amirov is currently playing in the KHL which is good news for the Devils as he will get another season playing against men before his KHL contract expires and he’s officially allowed to make the jump to North America. However, will he make the jump right away is the big question?
Regardless, having a player of Amirov’s stature in the pool is certainly the Devils wouldn’t pass up. He plays a 200-foot game and has outstanding skating and puck handling skills. He also possesses an outstanding shot-making him a natural goal scorer, something the Devils will certainly be looking to add next to Hughes or Hischier. Amirov isn’t the most physical due to his slender build, however, it doesn’t stop him from hounding players for the puck. Instead, he uses his hockey sense to anticipate plays to create turnovers. Much like you see from Joel Armia of the Montreal Canadiens. If Amirov can put on some muscle, he’ll be even more effective. Making him a potential steal at 18th.
There is no doubting the skill of Hendrix Lapierre. However, the thing that scares teams is his health. Lapierre has had major injuries in each of his last three years playing hockey. This could be what deters teams from selecting him. However, with the Devils having three first-round picks, they wouldn’t mind using the final one on the talented Lapierre. Lapierre does a bit of everything. He can score or set up as the playmaker. He defends extremely well. He’s really the complete package. He’s got all the tools in his repertoire to be a top-line player at the NHL level. Staying healthy will be the key to his development. If he can, the Devils will have an absolute steal at 20th overall.
New York Islanders
Draft Position: 90th Overall
The Islanders don’t hold a selection in the first two rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft as they traded them to Ottawa in exchange for Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Recent First Round Picks: Simon Holmstrom, Oliver Wahlstrom
The New York Islanders could benefit from some added scoring punch. The Islanders finished 23rd overall in goals for. Brock Nelson and Anders Lee are the only two players to hit the 20 goal plateau, with Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier most likely reaching that mark had the season not ended early. They didn’t have a single 30 goal scorer and Nelson was the only player who has a remote chance at hitting the milestone. Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows are certainly capable of providing this. However, it doesn’t hurt to have some insurance. With the Islanders not picking until the third round at this year’s NHL Entry Draft as it stands, the player they pick will most likely be a project.
Projected Pick: Tristen Robins
Considering they’re not picking until late in the third round, the Islanders pick is going to be a bit of a project. However, Robins possesses the tools to bring exactly what the Islanders need. Scoring. Robins is an excellent skater who is also an outstanding shooter. He is also willing to get involved defensively and will come back to support his defenders and help get the puck out of the zone. This despite usually giving up size. Robins will certainly need a few years developing and bulking up in order to become an effective player at the NHL. Having a strong base of tools is a good start. Now it’s up to the Islanders to groom him to be an important player for their organization moving forward.
New York Rangers
Draft Position: 1st and 22nd Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil
For the New York Rangers, there is no gaping need. They just need to stay the course. The Rangers made significant strides this year in terms of their rebuild. They managed to lure top free agent Artemi Panarin to the fold. He joins a very young and promising Rangers team. Panarin, along with Mika Zibanejad, lead the Rangers into the top five in goals for this season. However, they still found themselves on the outside looking in, in terms of the playoffs before the pause. Mostly because they could not keep the puck out of their net. This shouldn’t be an issue moving forward as Igor Shesterkin is taking over the crease.
If we could say there is one thing they may need, it’s a bonafide top-line centre. Not because Zibanejad is not a top-line centre, more so because he is. Once his contract ends after the 2021-22 season, he will require a hefty raise. Will the Rangers be able to afford him? Will they want to pay the money to a player who will be 30 years old at the time? That’s to be determined. It would not be bad to have a backup plan in the meantime.
Projected Picks: 1st – Alexis Lafreniere, 22nd – Justin Barron
The Rangers won phase two of the NHL Draft lottery and with that, they’ve earned the right to draft top prospect, Alexis Lafreniere. Lafreniere has the making of a franchise player in the future. He has everything you could possibly want out of an offensive player. He’s an excellent skater with a phenomenal set of hands. Complementing that with great size and hockey sense, Lafreniere has the tools to become one of the best wingers in the league in the near future. He’s also a very mature player with outstanding leadership abilities. There’s no questioning this pick as he is the clear top prospect in the draft. Joining the likes of Panarin, Zibanajed, and Kaapo Kakko, just to name a few, the Rangers are going to have an extremely potent offence for years to come.
Barron could be an absolute steal for the New York Rangers. He missed nearly three months with a blood clot which plays a factor in where he ranks on most people’s draft boards, however, Barron has the tools to become a legitimate top-four defenceman. Last Word’s Ben Kerr even goes as far as to say he could be a top-pairing defender playing big minutes at the NHL level. His outstanding skating ability helps him build a strong two-way game as he uses his skating to not only jump up into the play offensively but the get back defensively and close the gaps on his opponents. At six-foot-two, 195 lbs, Barron already possesses the size teams want from their defenceman. That to go along with his skating ability and hockey IQ, it’s not farfetched to think he could be a top-pairing defenceman in the future.
Draft Position: 23rd Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Cam York, Joel Farabee, Jay O’Brien, Nolan Patrick, Morgan Frost
The Flyers are starting to become the total package. They have the scoring. They have the defence. And FINALLY they have the goaltending in Carter Hart. However, looking longterm, their needs are on the defensive end. The Flyers have Philippe Myers and Justin Braun set to become free agents. After next year, they’ll need to re-sign Travis Sanheim and Matt Niskanen. The majority of these players will require raises. The chances of keeping them all in the fold are slim to none. The Flyers may want to focus on defence in this year’s NHL Entry Draft so they have their bases covered for the future.
Projected Pick: William Wallinder
The addition of Wallinder to the pool would be outstanding. Wallinder already possesses NHL size at six-foot-four 192 lbs. At 18 he could still be growing as well. He brings the size that coaches and general managers salivate over on the back end. He complements this with excellent mobility and puck-moving ability. As Ben Kerr describes in his scouting report, Wallinder game is still very raw. He needs to work on his defensive game. However, spending a few more seasons in Sweden before making the transition to the NHL will certainly help with that. If he can put it all together, Wallinder’s potential is through the roof, making him one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft.
Draft Position: 77th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Samuel Poulin
The Pittsburgh Penguins have had an outstanding run and at the moment there is no sign of them slowing down. However, as the say goes “all good things come to an end”. This will be the case for the Penguins once Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin start to slow down and eventually retire from the game. At 32 and 33 years of age respectively, that time will come sooner rather than later. Having only one first-round pick since 2014, it’s been hard for the Penguins to draft in any elite-level prospects. Now that they have traded their first-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Penguins won’t be drafting until the third round. They’ll look to get a skilled centre with this pick as they need to develop some pivots to take over once Crosby and Malkin are done.
Projected Pick: Evan Vierling
Vierling is an intriguing prospect. He possesses the two-way ability teams love to have in their centremen. His excellent skating abilities are one of the biggest keys to this as he is able to get back quickly when the opposition breaks out of their zone and his positioning and hockey sense allows him to read plays effectively and create turnovers. However, Vierling isn’t just a defensive specialist. Vierling is an excellent playmaker but also has a quick and accurate wrist shot so he can make you pay in more ways than one. As Ben Kerr states, even if Vierling’s offensive game doesn’t translate to the NHL level, he will still be able to make a career for himself given his outstanding defensive ability. However, with proper development, Vierling could be a top-six centre who plays against teams top players every night.
Draft Position: 24th Overall
Recent First Round Picks: Connor McMichael, Alexander Alexeyev
The Washington Capitals biggest need comes on the defensive end. The team’s defence faltered in the second half of the season and with six of the seven on the NHL roster pushing 30, it’s time for the Capitals to starting trying to replenish the cupboards. They do have Alexander Alexeyev on the way up who looks very promising. However, they need to add a few more names to the list.
Projected Pick: Shakir Mukhamadullin
To address the need, the Capitals could look to take Mukhamadullin at 24th overall. It’s no secret that Washington loves their Russian players and Mukhamadullin would be no exception. He’s already in possession of a large frame standing at six-foot-four and plays a very physical style of play. Something teams love from their defenceman. And despite the size, Mukhamadullin is also a very good skater. His mobility and puck-moving abilities to go along with his size and physicality make him a very intriguing prospect. However, he needs some work on his defensive positioning and his ability to read plays. That should come as he develops. If he can put it all together, Mukhamadullin could be a number two or three defenceman at the NHL level.
That does it for the Metropolitan 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.