2020 NHL Draft: Mock Top 15

So now we know!  The New York Rangers won the Lafrenière lottery, and not only that but now we have the order of the top 15 as well.  So with that being the case, why not do a mock draft?!  I hope you weren’t expecting a longer opening than this, because I spent four hours working on this, it’s now 12:30, and I want to go to bed so I’ll do a 500 word opening some other time!

I don’t go off it for my mock drafts, but if you’re interested, my final rankings for the 2020 draft (a top 64 list) is also out now, and you can check that out here.

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1. Alexis Lafrenière

Team: Rimouski  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 192  Shot: L

Comparison: Peter Forsberg

SOH Rank: 1st

So NOW we know!  First of all…what a win for the league.  What a win for the league to the point of…and I’m so not a conspiracy theorist…but this is a little TOO perfect.  But I digress because I’d rather something good for the game than good for my team, and the Rangers being an elite team as it appears they’re set to become, is really good for the game.

Now…while I believe this is good for the game, I actually believe this is one of the few teams who could look at a couple of different trade opportunities.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect either to happen.  Maybe a 5% chance.  But IF Jack Eichel asks or has already asked out of Buffalo, there is definitely a blockbuster to be made between the Sabres and Rangers based around the top pick for Jack Eichel.  I believe a big contract would have to go to Buffalo (perhaps Jacob Trouba), I believe the Sabres would have to make sure they land Alexandar Georgiev as part of the deal given how bad they need to upgrade their goaltending, and then I’m not sure what else maybe needs to be added to make it work.  Maybe the 8th pick goes back to the Rangers, but if that’s too rich for the Sabres, then maybe the Canes 1st goes in the deal as well?  There is a deal here IF Eichel wants to leave Buffalo.  And before you say the Rangers won’t deal the pick, remember that they don’t just not have a 1st line centre moving forward, they’re really thin down the middle.  Also remember who Jack Eichel’s coach was at BU…that would be Rangers head coach David Quinn.

The other trade option that COULD be there for the Rangers and COULD make sense…the Senators possibly offering the 3rd and 5th picks.  I’m sceptical that Pierre Dorian would do this though.  Given the talent that will be available at 3, it’s A LOT to get someone who might only be a slight upgrade.  Dorian does have a crazy owner though who likes crazy things.  If the Rangers did get offered this, and had the chance to take one of Byfield or Stützle (both natural centres, and potential franchise centres) along with adding the 5th pick, I think they’d have to do it.

But the FAR more likely scenario is that the Rangers simply take Lafrenière.  As you see, and as you may be well aware of because I’ve been saying it for a long time now, I prefer Lafrenière to play the middle.  I think a talent like this needs to be maxed out, and playing the wing I believe limits the impact he can have on a game.  Given the Rangers needs, I believe there is a great chance that this comes to fruition.  If he or the team is stubborn though and he remains on the wing, then as much as the Rangers have done a terrific job rebuilding, I’m not sure they’re built to be anything more than just a perennial playoff team.  I could be very wrong about that, and no doubt that some of the “rebuild rules” so to speak won’t apply to the Rangers as they have no problem attracting UFA’s or players with NTC’s and NMC’s, but it could be a big issue for them moving forward if they don’t address it in some form soon.  Wow, I’ve never wrote this much on one pick, let alone the top pick!  But I didn’t feel like doing a full-on blog about it, so you got this instead.

Other Option: Trade – just laid it out for you, don’t think I need to go any further with it.

Possible Reach: Quinton Byfield – you can make the argument for him, especially for the Rangers.  He’s a legitimate centre, he’s got the size advantage, he’s got the skating advantage, he’s 10 months younger, and he was producing at a better pace this season than Lafrenière was last season, in a better league.  But it has about a 0.000000000000000000004% chance of happening.

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2. Quinton Byfield

Team: Sudbury  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 214  Shot: L

Comparison: Eric Staal

SOH Rank: 2nd

It is a toss-up between Byfield and Stützle.  I’m saying Byfield for a few reasons.  1) the Kings LOVE the OHL.  Now, that might be a Mike Futa thing, who is no longer with the organization.  But the way they’ve drafted in recent years, they might love the OHL more than any other team in the league.  2) the Kings won with size, especially down the middle.  While the regime that won is mostly gone, the people still in the organization were also with the King at that time.  3) I can’t imagine the league wouldn’t be pushing hard for the Kings to take a potential star of African descent.  Byfield in Ottawa wouldn’t have the impact that Byfield in a major U.S. market like L.A. would have.  It would be massive for the league.  Right or wrong, I believe it’ll play a factor in this decision.

Other Option: Tim Stützle – again, it’s 50/50.  I know what I just wrote, but we’re splitting hairs.  Stützle would likely be the pick for most teams as he’s the riser, just think Byfield ends up being the Kings guy.

Possible Reach: Jamie Drysdale – as I just said with Byfield, they love the OHL, but was that a Mike Futa thing or is it an organizational thing?  They really need to start the rebuild on the backend.

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3. Tim Stützle

Team: Adler Mannheim  League: DEL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

SOH Rank: 3rd

Originally San Jose’s pick sent to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.  Highly likely that what happens here is that the Sens simply take the guy the Kings don’t.  So, in this case, it’s Stützle.  Some debate whether or not he can play the middle.  I believe he can, and I believe he has 1st line centre ability which the Sens really need.

Other Option: Jamie Drysdale – I say Drysdale, but essentially it’s Drysdale or Sanderson because if they happen to love one of them more than the other and want to ensure they land him, then with the 5th pick in their possession they could afford to take that guy here and then maybe Rossi at five.

Possible Reach: Marco Rossi – same idea as Drysdale.  Perhaps they’ll love the kid playing in their backyard so much that they ensure they get him.  By the stats, you can justify it.

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4. Jake Sanderson

Team: USNTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Miro Heiskanen

SOH Rank: 7th

Risers always go higher than expected.  I can’t put Sanderson above this spot, but he’s going top five in my opinion and it’s just a matter of whether or not the Wings pull the trigger at four, or the Sens do it at five.  Honestly, I don’t get it, I prefer Drysdale, but it seems to be what always happens.  I’d love this for the Wings though.  Sure, last year they took Moritz Seider with their top pick, but that blueline still has a ton of work to be done.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I’m not ready to go here yet, but man alive is Sam Cosentino ever confident that they’re going to make this selection and if they do it is for ALL the wrong reasons!  This team needs to find pieces that can get them back to contender status, not complimentary wingers who have ties to the front office.  But Sammy Coz seems extremely confident that they’re going to take Perfetti.  I wonder if a trade back with Jersey to the 7th pick maybe makes sense if this is what they want to do?  I’ll explain later.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – Give this some real thought for a minute.  The Wings are still a LONG ways off.  They won’t be ready to win for another three years in my opinion.  He is going to be three or four years before he’s even ready for NHL action.  Goaltending prospects like this rarely come around.  And finally, Yzerman had amazing success taking Andrei Vasilevskiy in the 1st round in 2012.  I can actually make a strong case for it.

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5. Jamie Drysdale

Team: Erie  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 170  Shot: R

Comparison: Morgan Rielly

SOH Rank: 4th

To walk out of this draft with Stützle and Drysdale would be massive for this organization as you’d legitimately getting a potential franchise centre and a potential franchise defenceman.  They have stocked the shelves somewhat on D, but I don’t think teams ever feel as though they have enough.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – would make a ton of sense here, and while I prefer that they take a D-man with this pick, and believe they will, shoring up centre is never a bad thing.

Possible Reach: Yaroslav Askarov – 2nd in a row for Askarov.  I should clarify that he wouldn’t be a reach for me as I have him 6th, and in the same tier as Drysdale and Rossi.  But for most, he’d be considered a reach at four or five.  Again though, pretty damn rare for goaltending prospects like this to come along.

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6. Lucas Raymond

Team: Frölunda HC  League: SHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: R

Comparison: Paul Kariya

SOH Rank: 8th

The Ducks could really use some franchise pillars.  They actually have some really nice young talent, not to mention guys like Lindholm and Gibson who are still young enough to rebuild around.  But those are the only pillar type pieces I believe they have.  Trevor Zegras MIGHT get there, Sam Steel MIGHT get there, Isaac Lundestrom MIGHT get there, but no sure things.  I’m not sure Raymond is that guy either, but he’s close.  And this organization has hit some home runs drafting out of Sweden so it makes a lot of sense.

Other Option: Cole Perfetti – I don’t like him over Raymond, and I don’t like him for the Ducks, but it sure seems like he is the apple of most NHL scouts eye.

Possible Reach: Kaiden Guhle – for the same reason that Sam Cosentino loves Perfetti to go to Detroit, keep your head up about this one for the Ducks.  All the ties between the Ducks and the P.A. Raiders organization, Kaiden’s brother Brendan is in their system, and the Ducks have a need for defencemen in their system right now.

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7. Cole Perfetti

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: L

Comparison: Ray Whitney

SOH Rank: 10th

It’s actually just ironic that I brought up the whole Perfetti thing with Detroit.  Truth be told I didn’t think of that being a possibility until after.  But the Devils could package this pick with one of their other 1st rounders (now that we know they own three) to move up to the 4th pick and take the defenceman they pretty badly need, then the Wings could take Perfetti here if that’s in fact who they want.  But I don’t do trades, and they so rarely happen within the draft anymore (hardly ever within the top 10), so the Devils stand pat and take the player with perhaps the highest hockey IQ in the draft.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – this organization is going HEAVY analytics.  A kid like Rossi is going to have the attention of the analytics community when it comes to the draft, as he produced at the same pace this season as Lafrenière while playing in a tougher league (keep in mind too, both are late 01’s).  Also, if the Devils organization see Hughes as a winger long term, then they have a hole behind Hischier which Rossi could fill.

Possible Reach: Braden Schneider – I strongly believe they’ll look to address their blueline in this draft.  They have pieces, but not nearly enough.  If they love Schneider, it’s possible that they can’t get him with those later picks.  Keep in mind though, this is “possible reach”.  I highly doubt this is considered here.

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8. Yaroslav Askarov

Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg  League: VHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Glove: R

Comparison: Miikka Kiprusoff

SOH Rank: 6th

I just don’t think he’s getting past this point.  In no way does Askarov solve their goaltending issues today, and I know they have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the system.  But I just have a feeling that new GM Kevyn Adams will want to do everything he can this off-season to ensure they no longer have any goaltending issues.

Other Option: Marco Rossi – makes a ton of sense for the Sabres, because while he’s small, he could be that perfect fit of a 2C playing behind Eichel who can do a ton of heavy lifting eating up a lot of tough minutes.  And he’s ready to make the jump now.

Possible Reach: Hendrix Lapierre – for the exact same reasons I just laid out as to why they might go with Rossi.  Get ready to see him mentioned a lot, because if he has a clean bill of health, teams will have a ton of interest.

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9. Marco Rossi

Team: Ottawa  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 179  Shot: L

Comparison: Sebastian Aho

SOH Rank: 5th

The last mock I did, I had Kaiden Guhle as their pick.  And they badly need D-men in their system.  But now, not only are they picking higher, but in this scenario, I believe it’s a bonus that Rossi has fallen to 9th.  They aren’t terrific down the middle moving forward either, so take the centre here, they can look to load up on D later (even though it is a thin draft for D), and next years draft it appears they’ll own two 1st round picks (assuming the Penguins choose to give that one to the Wild) in a draft that is rich with quality defencemen.

Other OptionKaiden Guhle – having said what I just said…that blueline is THIN.  Not the current group they have, it’s actually pretty solid.  But they have next to nothing on the way.

Possible Reach: William Wallinder – yep…he would be a reach alright!  They’ve taken six Swedish D-men in the last nine drafts, so they’ve trusted their Swedish scout (though one of those kids was taken out of the USHL).  Having said this, Bill Guerin is now the GM, so who knows who Guerin will be willing to listen to from the previous regime.

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10. Seth Jarvis

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 172  Shot: R

Comparison: Brad Marchand

SOH Rank: 9th

NO.  FREAKING.  CHANCE.  He gets past the Jets pick.  Easily could go higher than this (perhaps as high as 6th to Anaheim).  But if he’s still on the board when his hometown team steps to the…webcam…Kevin Cheveldayoff is thanking the NHL for the event, saying thanks to the great city of Edmonton for doing a great job hosting the bubble, congratulating the Stanley Cup champions, and then announcing…that his director of amateur scouting Mark Hillier will make their selection.  And then Hillier will step up to the webcam and announce they’re taking Seth Jarvis.

Other Option: Anton Lundell – I had a really tough time going with just one other option here.  Lundell though really would fit the Jets well.

Possible Reach: Ridly Greig – The Wheat Kings are no longer the closest junior team to the Jets anymore, but I’d still consider them to be in their backyard.  Add to that, centre is a need, the GM knows the Wheat Kings VERY well, I’m sure he knows Ridly’s dad pretty damn well given they were in the same draft (1990) and would have played against each other a ton.  They also aren’t afraid to take the guy they love.  Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey were both off the board picks.  I only have one reach possibility for each team, but I can’t help myself here and suggest that Jack Finley having his dad on the scouting staff and this teams desire for players with size who play a pro game…he makes a ton of sense too if they were to reach on a kid.

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11. Kaiden Guhle

Team: Prince Albert  League: WHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 187  Shot: L

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

SOH Rank: 12th

Can’t see the Preds going anywhere else with this pick, as long as this is how it plays out.  David Poile has always made sure that the shelves are stocked on the blueline with his teams.  And while the Preds have one of the top blueline’s in the league, they are starting to get older (dumb line, everyone is getting older, I apologize), and nothing is on the way for them to get too excited about.  Guhle in my opinion is going to need time to develop, but could be well worth that wait.  And given the fact that the Preds blueline is so solid at the moment, the timelines on when they’d need him and he’d be ready would match up very well.

Other OptionBraden Schneider – it’s the same idea as Guhle obviously, and scouts have been torn on who they prefer of the two kids all season.  It could come down to preference of what they need more, a LHD or a RHD.

Possible Reach: Helge Grans – he would be a pretty big reach with this pick, no doubt.  RHD with a TON of upside, but any team that takes this kid will need to be patient.  William Wallinder would also qualify here, but I just used him for this two picks ago!

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12. Braden Schneider

Team: Brandon  League: WHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 209  Shot: R

Comparison: Brent Seabrook

SOH Rank: 24th

This is a big need for the Panthers.  In the system, they have some kids I like, but nobody who is a sure thing.  On the big club, Yandle and Stralman are in their mid 30’s, and the Mike Matheson contract has been an absolute disaster.  So they could really use someone.  I liked this pick better when Dale Tallon was the GM, as Schneider is his kind of player.  The new GM…we don’t even know who that is yet, so no idea what that guy might want to do.  I wouldn’t put it past this organization though to package this pick with a big contract as they were already shedding money BEFORE Covid hit.

Other Option: Anton Lundell – it doesn’t look good on D for this club moving forward, but they also have a pretty big hole in the system past Barkov.  The next best centre (long term) they have might be Henrik Borgstrom, and Borgstrom has had trouble adjusting to pro hockey.  So Lundell makes a lot of sense.

Possible Reach: Connor Zary – I’m not nearly as high on him as some are after tracking the WHL prospects this season as closely as I did.  But a lot of scouts really like him, and so if they happen to go the centre route, Zary might be pretty appealing to them.

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13. Lukas Reichel

Team: Eisbären Berlin  League: DEL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 172  Shot: L

Comparison: Alex Tanguay

SOH Rank: 13th

Originally Toronto’s pick sent to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade.  I know two guys that you think they’ll take over Reichel, but I not only think Reichel will be taken ahead of those two, I actually believe he could be one of those stunner top 10 picks that normally happen.  I’ve gone pretty conservative with what I have mocked here, but there is always one, and usually two picks in the top 10 that leave everyone with their jaw on the floor.  Last year it was Seider and to a lesser extent Broberg.  2018 it was Hayton and to a lesser extent Kravtsov.  2017 it was Andersson and to a lesser extent Rasmussen.  It always happens, and I think Reichel could be that guy.  However, if he’s here for the Canes, I think he’s a kid they’ll love.  They have a lot of this type of player which is high-end skill that plays a sneaky good all-around game.

Other Option: Hendrix Lapierre – this makes a lot of sense.  The Canes are ok in the middle, but not at all stacked.  And they have the type of roster and system where they can afford to take a home run swing like Lapierre would be.

Possible Reach: Rodion Amirov – reach for me (30th on my board), but he’s not that big of a reach for some.  Same idea as Reichel.  The Canes love their skill, and Amirov has a ton of it.

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14. Alexander Holtz

Team: Djurgårdens IF  League: SHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

Comparison: Nail Yakupov

SOH Rank: 15th

As you can likely tell by the comp I use, and the ranking I have on him, I’m not nearly as high on Holtz as most are.  Having said this, much like Cole Caufield a year ago, I believe that this is a spot that makes a ton of sense for the pure sniper.  The Oilers lack one, and they have the type of centres who would get the most out of a guy like Holtz.  I have concerns about his skating, his play away from the puck, his puck management, and his shot selection.  So he has plenty more red flags than most admit.  Still, when I compare him to Yak, keep in mind that Yak would be an NHL player if he had simply worked on his flaws.  He wouldn’t have been a superstar, but could have become a 20-30 goal scorer.  So as long as Holtz checks out in the interview process and he’s known to have a great work ethic, he should be ok and a great fit for the Oilers.  I’m not a fan of snipers in the draft, but you should see his shot.  It’s hypnotizing.

Other Option: Hendrix Lapierre – wouldn’t stun me if they were the team that steps up and takes Lapierre.  They BADLY need centres in the system, and as long as his medical’s check out, he’s going to be terrific.  Ironically, while my comp on him is Brayden Point, another guy who comes to mind is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Possible Reach: Ridly Greig – for me, he’s not that big of a reach here.  But he is for most.  He fits a TON of needs though for this team.  Conservatively, he could be the 3C they’ll need moving forward.  He has top-six potential and might be better on the wing long term given how physical he loves to play.

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15. Hendrix Lapierre

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 181  Shot: L

Comparison: Brayden Point

SOH Rank: 11th

Someone is taking him much higher than anyone expects.  I’m actually not sure that this is that big of a reach as Bob McKenzie has him in this range.  But why do the Pens make sense?  Because folks…it’s time they start looking at life after Sid and Geno.  It’s not coming soon, but it is coming.  Lapierre would be a terrific fit for them because they could break him in either as the 3C, or on the wing.  So he could still be a huge help to the Pens lineup while Sid and Geno are around, and then long term he is there to help soften the blow when those two are gone (or fading).

Other Option: Anton Lundell – as much as he has concerns about his skating, Lundell is going to be intriguing for some teams due to his ability to possibly step in next season.  So a team like the Pens who could use a centre who can take on some tough minutes (Lundell is a rare kid who could), he does make some sense.  Though players with skating concerns are pretty damn rare on the Pens roster.

Possible Reach: Dylan Holloway – he’d be a reach for my liking (I have him 22nd), but not for most.  As I just talked about with Lundell, the Pens love their speed, and Holloway can really fly.

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