NHL Mock Draft: Beat writers preview the 2020 draft lottery (2024)

The NHL Draft lottery was supposed to be held on April 9, and while that is no longer the case, that won’t stop the staff at The Athletic from looking ahead to the draft. We are awarding the top three picks to the clubs with the best chances to get them, and having the beat writer for each team make a pick for their respective club.


We based the lottery teams on points percentage at the time of the pause and the standard rules for the draft lottery, with the caveat that what is a “lottery team” this year is still up in the air as the NHL mulls potential significant changes in these unique times.

1. Detroit Red Wings: Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski-QMJHL

Max Bultman: Not too much suspense here. The Red Wings need help at every position on the ice, so they’ll take the consensus No. 1 player in the draft and be on their way. Adding a talent of Lafreniere’s caliber is a massive building block for the Red Wings’ rebuild, which is far from over, but gets one of the hardest-to-attain pieces in a potential star.

Pronman’s take: I applaud Bultman for his courage and his analysis is on point. Lafreniere provides one of the hardest pieces to acquire in a rebuild: a projected young star. But this rebuild is not near the end as Detroit needs a lot of great players before this starts to turn around. He would slot right into the top half of its lineup right away.

2. Ottawa Senators: Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury-OHL

Hailey Salvian: Byfield has the potential to become a No.1 center in the NHL and adding him to the fold could help the Senators truly become a contender. They have a number of center prospects, but nobody with the without-a-doubt skill to be a top-line centerman. He’d look pretty good with Brady Tkachuk.

Pronman’s take: A No. 1 center is arguably the hardest thing to find and Byfield has all the potential to become that. He is exactly what Ottawa needs to complement everything else it has acquired during its rebuild and becomes a foundational part of its rebuild. Byfield should contend for a roster spot out of camp.

3. Ottawa Senators: Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim-DEL

Salvian: I was really tempted to go off the cuff here and select Jamie Drysdale third overall. The Senators really need more depth on right defense, but GM Pierre Dorion has said the team would select the best players on the board rather than drafting by position, and Stutzle would probably be that player in the third slot. The Senators have lacked high-end skill, and Stutzle would bring that to the table at forward.

Pronman’s take: Stutzle excelled versus men this season and at the world juniors. Within the industry he is solidifying his position in the top three. He can play center or wing, so it gives Ottawa options on how it wants to use him, and like Byfield, he could contend for a roster spot out of camp, giving Ottawa one of the most exciting draft classes by any team in recent memory.

4. Los Angeles Kings: Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie-OHL

Lisa Dillman: Much like the Senators, the Kings could use some high-end talent on right defense in support of Drew Doughty. They’ve done an excellent job of restocking the pipeline up front, so it’s time to turn attention to this particular area. You’ll remember last year that defenseman Bowen Byram was my mock draft pick for the Kings on several occasions, so the choice to go with the top-rated defenseman shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Pronman’s take: After the top three, the draft starts to open up and a wide range of players become reasonable. Drysdale is in that group, and as the consensus top defenseman (although Jake Sanderson was beginning to challenge that assertion late into the season), he should go early to an organization such as L.A., which needs a top young defenseman. Drysdale might only need one more year of junior and then he could contend for a roster spot, where he would be an upper half of the lineup player for a while.

5. Anaheim Ducks: Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa-OHL

Eric Stephens: Since my good friend and teammate, Dillman, snapped up the consensus best defenseman in the draft – a young RHD power-play performer that fills a critical need within the Anaheim organization – it makes sense to grab the top scorer in all of Canadian major junior hockey, especially with Lafreniere, Byfield and Stutzle off the board. You can never be too deep at center and Rossi, who had 120 points in 56 games for the Ottawa 67s, offers dynamic puckhandling, playmaking and vision; while also possessing an accurate NHL-level shot that can beat goalies. Just imagine Rossi and the imaginative Trevor Zegras as linemates or possibly slotted as Anaheim’s top two centers. Rossi’s small size doesn’t scare me, especially when you need more pure talent.

Pronman’s take: I concur with a lot of the points Stephens made. I would add that, while Rossi has great skill, like Zegras albeit not as much, Rossi’s game has a bit more bite and is more well-rounded, giving the Ducks two great options down the middle who can play different roles.


6. New Jersey Devils: Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgarden-SHL

Corey Masisak: The Devils need more impact talent at nearly every position. Drysdale would have been tempting, and it’s hard to imagine any team other than the Senators having a better read on Rossi considering New Jersey has four prospects on the Ottawa 67s. But taking those two off the board makes this a little easier. It comes down to Holtz or his world juniors teammate Lucas Raymond. That’s a tough call (I said easier, not easy). I’m going with Holtz because he profiles as more of a goal scorer and is a little bit bigger. He seems like a natural fit next to Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier in the very near future.

Pronman’s take: I like the logic that Masisak went with of taking a goal-scorer to go with the play driving first-overall picks. Hughes had a lot of success with Cole Caufield, and Holtz’s shot is arguably as good. Given Holtz’s success already versus men, it’s very possible he only needs one or two years before he’s ready to make the Devils.

7. Buffalo Sabres: Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda-SHL

Joe Yerdon: It’s probably easy to say the Sabres will default to taking Swedes at this point, but there aren’t a lot of players that can do what Raymond does. He finds teammates with ease, he’s able to find areas in the offensive zone left unguarded, and he uses that time to create chances and score goals. Holtz would’ve been an ideal fit as a winger with size and a shot to match, but size can go both ways. Small and skilled works well with players that have Raymond’s ability. Buffalo needs offense in the system in the worst way and he can provide it.

Pronman’s take: Buffalo has a lot of very good young players in the organization, and Raymond would be yet another addition to a potentially elite young core group of players. He will need time to develop speed and strength before he gets to the NHL. It remains to be seen when all these young pieces in Buffalo will move the organization forward, but it’s a lot of talent, especially when you add a player like Raymond with his elite skill and hockey sense.

8. Montreal Canadiens: Cole Perfetti, LW, Saginaw-OHL

Marc Antoine Godin: Le Canadien d’Athlétique Montréal est fier de sélectionner – we are proud to select – Cole Perfetti. Unlike Paul Simon, it won’t take Perfetti four days to hitchhike from Saginaw. I think that within a year or two, he will provide more of the finishing ability this team has been lacking for years. Yes, he’s another undersized forward – and we can expect some pushback from the fanbase – but this pick, in a way, doubles down on the Cole Caufield selection last year. Between the two Coles, chances are at least one will become an impact player who can put pucks in the net. Perfetti was once considered one of the better goal scorers in this class; his significant increase in assists this season is a testament to his playmaking ability. Montreal is all in on players who process the game fast and that’s what Perfetti does, even if he’s not necessarily the best skater.

Pronman’s take: Adding Perfetti is bringing in an exceptionally skilled and intelligent player and one of the best passers in junior who had full-season 40-goal paces the past two seasons. I understand if some Habs fans are hesitant to pick a small winger at this pick given their depth chart, especially since he’s not all that quick, but the talent is too much value at No. 8 to pass up.

9. Chicago Blackhawks: Anton Lundell, C, HIFK-Liiga

Scott Powers: Lundell is one of the more NHL-ready players in this draft. He may not make the jump next season, but he certainly fits in the time frame if the Blackhawks are looking to add another high-end, responsible forward to play around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the near future. If you add Lundell to Kane, Toews, Kirby Dach, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad, the Blackhawks have to like how their top nine would be shaping up in the short- and long-term. Lundell’s skating is a bit of a concern, but what he’s done in Liiga at his age is undeniably impressive. Only Jesse Puljujarvi was a better possession player this past season in Finland. Lundell plays the type of two-way game the Blackhawks can use more of in their lineup.


Pronman’s take: I hate to do this to my longtime friend, but I am not a big fan of going after Lundell at No. 9. He’s a good player, but the upside is not that of a top-line caliber player. Powers is right about his NHL projectability given what he’s shown versus men already, but I think you can get more talent at this spot. I am aware that my opinion is not the opinion of a good chunk of the industry, although the more NHL scouts I’ve talked to in the second half, the more pessimistic I get Lundell is going to be a top 10 pick.

10. New Jersey Devils: Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA St. Petersburg-VHL

Masisak: This is all about the board. I’m sure the Devils will hope that one of the other top-nine guys slips to them at this spot to pair with Holtz. If not, Askarov has been one of the best players in this draft class for two years. Mackenzie Blackwood has established himself as the No. 1 guy this season, but few goalies can match Askarov’s upside. It feels like taking one of the defensem*n would be a reach here, so maybe a trade back is an option. If not, take the best player available and figure it out later. Having three picks in the top 17 mitigates some of the risk of taking a goaltender this high.

Pronman’s take: I like Blackwood, but I’m not convinced he’s a no-doubt, long-term, top-10 goalie in the NHL to justify not taking Askarov. If you think Askarov is a projected high-end talent at the position, as Masisak says, you have to get him if he’s available at this slot. I did think that way about Askarov in January, but the last few months of his season didn’t inspire as much confidence, so I continue to evaluate where I stand on him.

11. Minnesota Wild: Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa-OHL

Michael Russo: The Wild suddenly have a number of forwards coming down the pipeline like Kirill Kaprizov, Alex Khovanov, Adam Beckman and Matt Boldy. They are probably weakest up the middle and on the blue line when it comes to prospects, and there are some intriguing names still on the board. But it drives me crazy how historically the Wild pass over goal scorers in the first round, and Quinn is a pure one at the junior level. The 5-foot-11¾ right wing (he’s 6-foot on a good day) finished second in the OHL with 52 goals. The Ottawa 67 is just the 10th Canadian Hockey Leaguer in the past 20 years to hit the 50-goal mark during his NHL draft year. Some others: Sidney Crosby, Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner, Anthony Mantha and DeBrincat. Enough said.

Pronman’s take: Quinn was on fire in the second half of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s gone before No. 11 based on discussions I’m having with teams. Given how much Minnesota needs goal-scoring in its organization, this seems like an appropriate fit as Russo has mentioned. I don’t view Quinn as an elite sniper, but someone who scored a lot through his skill and sense – traits that scouts think will translate to the higher levels.

12. Winnipeg Jets: Jake Sanderson, D, USNTDP-USHL

Murat Ates: There are highly touted centers like Connor Zary and Dawson Mercer still on the board, and Winnipeg’s prospect pool is puddle deep up front. So why choose Jake Sanderson, a 17-year-old defenceman committed to UND this fall? He’s a great skater (like his dad Geoff, a 1,104 game NHLer), gaps well, and knows when to break up a play with his stick and when to lay the body. His wheels and intelligence make him a great player in transition, and his coaches rave about his leadership and work ethic. Put this all together, add a stand-out performance at USA Hockey’s BioSteel All-American Game, and the 6-foot-2 USNDTP D-man has become one of the 2020 draft’s fastest rising commodities.

Pronman’s take: Sanderson came on very well in the second half, emerging as the likely second defenseman off the board, and it is not a lock he will even be available at the No. 12 spot for Winnipeg. That would be back-to-back defenseman picks in the top round for the Jets, helping create depth at a position the organization lacks with hope that Sanderson, Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg all become quality NHL players.


13. New York Rangers: Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin-Big 10

Rick Carpinello: The Rangers have stocked up on goalies and defensem*n, and are still in need of forwards (even with recent first-rounders Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov) in the system. Holloway, a 6-foot01, 203-pound center, would be a pick for the future, having just completed his freshman year at Wisconsin, where he was teammates with 2018 Rangers first-rounder K’Andre Miller (who turned pro last month). A lefty shot with good hands and compete level, per Central Scouting, Holloway was 8-9-17 in 35 games this season.

Pronman’s take: After using a top 10 pick on Lias Andersson as a highly competitive player with skill that hasn’t worked out, Holloway would be a similar kind of bet – although he’s a far superior skater to Andersson with more size and a lot of skill too. The Rangers have had a lot of high picks recently, but center is a spot the organization could use more depth at, especially if Andersson is on the trade block.

14. Florida Panthers: Braden Schneider, D, Brandon-WHL

George Richards: The Panthers have added defensive depth throughout their system through trades and signing college free agents. Since taking Aaron Ekblad first overall in 2014, Florida has not taken a D-man in the first round. Brandon’s Braden Schneider, a solid two-way defenseman with a little offensive touch, would add more depth. In the past three seasons with the Wheat Kings, he has played in at least 58 games, so he has been durable as well as productive.

Pronman’s take: I agree with Richards that, if there was a position Florida needs to add to in their organization, it’s a top young defenseman after going heavy after forwards and goaltender Spencer Knight in recent drafts. Schneider would be fine value at this slot, as a great two-way defenseman all season and a first team All-Star in the WHL this week.

15. Columbus Blue Jackets: Connor Zary, C, Kamloops-WHL

Aaron Portzline: The Jackets have a sure-fire top-six center in Pierre-Luc Dubois, and they expect Alexandre Texier to move to the middle when he’s no longer wet behind the ears. So this is very much a “best player available” pick, not a need pick. They’d love to be able to take a defenseman at this spot – the pipeline is pretty thin – but the two they’d consider at this spot (Drysdale, Schneider) are already off the board. Zary has tons of skill and an impressive motor; Kekalainen values the latter almost as much as the former. After years of patching center ice together, a depth chart of Dubois – Texier – Zary (in some order) by 2022 is quite appealing.

Pronman’s take: I really like Zary’s game and think he would be fine value at No. 15. He’s got the potential to become a top two line center, and I think he’s talented enough to pass Texier on the depth chart if he gets a little quicker and hits his high side.

(Photo: Kevin Sousa / NHLI via Getty Images)

NHL Mock Draft: Beat writers preview the 2020 draft lottery (2024)


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