2020 NHL Draft

Day 1 Recap: Picks 1-31

Steve Kournianos  |  10/7/2020 |  Nashville  |  [hupso]

NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — It may have taken a few months longer than expected, but finality greeted the NHL’s scouting community with open arms on Tuesday following the completion of Round 1 of a virtual 2020 NHL draft. Although the entire process won’t be complete until an additional 186 draft picks from Rounds 2-7 are registered on Wednesday, the fact that the first 31 selections are officially locked in following 16 months of uncertainty and ambiguity should be enough to finally provide the players and their families with some peace of mind.

Below you’ll find a quick rundown of each team’s haul, which in the case of both Ottawa and New Jersey involved three prospects apiece. No major deals were made, but Calgary traded down twice from 19 to 22, and again from 22 to 24, with third-round picks headed their way from the Rangers and Capitals, respectively.

Anaheim Ducks

Jamie Drysdale, Defenseman (6th overall)

This pick makes too much sense, and for a variety of reasons. Not only is Drysdale a ton of fun to watch, but he also is the kind of defenseman the Ducks would keep unbridled and allow him to run his own show, similar to what Vancouver did with Quinn Hughes, Colorado with Cale Makar, and Dallas with Miro Heiskanen. He may need another year to get stronger, but you’d like to think the Ducks want him to join Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson while they are still in their prime.

Jacob Perreault, Right Wing (27th overall)

Ranked 21st in my final list, Perreault danced near the top 15 for most of the season and certainly showed skills usually reserved for the top-tier guys. His shot and release baffled OHL goalies for two straight years, and I said it time and again that he probably was the best sharp-angle scorer in the entire class. Some people seem confused as to why (or even how) his skating can be “inconsistent”, but trust me, it’s a freaky thing that puzzled a lot of us throughout the campaign — one night he looks like Tony Amonte on steroids, the next like Gordie Howe in the green pants. For all we know, this can be some sort of ruse on his part, because he’s in open ice a lot and can enter the zone effortlessly at any speed.

Buffalo Sabres

Jack Quinn, Right Wing (8th overall)

Most of us felt the Sabres were going with a finisher, so when wingers Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz were taken respectively at picks four and seven, the possibility of a sniper like Quinn or Cole Perfetti landing in Buffalo increased, with the Sabres deciding on Quinn. Whether it was his edge in skating or two-way play that tipped the scales in Quinn’s favor probably won’t be relevant until three or four years down the road. What does matter is that Sabres fans need to realize that Quinn is neither Casey Mittelstadt nor Alex Nylander. If Quinn isn’t scoring, he’s still making his presence felt on or off the puck and in all three zones.

Calgary Flames

Connor Zary, Center (24th overall)

Trading down twice but adding two third-round picks and only sliding five spots in the process is a Day One win in itself, but the best part is that the Flames drafted one of the better centers available outside the top 11. It’s reasonable to believe their planned target was Dawson Mercer, who when selected by New Jersey at No. 18 likely triggered Brad Treliving’s deal with Rangers’ GM Jeff Gorton to acquire New York’s 22nd and 72nd picks for his 19th. In Zary, they’re adding another asset to a sneaky-good prospect pool that will only get deeper with four additional selections within this draft’s first 80 picks.

Carolina Hurricanes

Seth Jarvis, Wing/Center (13th overall)

Talk to enough people around scouting circles and they will tell you that Jarvis has the potential to make several teams in this year’s top 10 regret passing on him. The Canes already have a loaded pool while setting their sights for another run at the Stanley Cup, so it’s a safe bet they’ll let a superior playmaker like Jarvis marinate for another season or two, and potentially join fellow neophytes like Morgan Geekie and Martin Necas to form a dangerous support unit behind Carolina’s deadly top line.

Chicago Blackhawks

Lukas Reichel, Left wing (17th overall)

A strategy that involved the drafting of defensemen with three consecutive first-round picks between 2017 and 2018 has now shifted towards the offense, where Reichel joins center Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat at the top of Chicago’s list of premier young forwards. Reichel is a mature young man who certainly knows what do with the puck in both open ice and in close quarters. His goal-scoring abilities and stickhandling will become an instant hit once Blackhawks fans get to see him participate in the prospect camps.

Colorado Avalanche

Justin Barron, Defenseman (25th overall)

This is the type of pick that puzzles the hell out of you for a few hours but then settles nicely into the shrewd category. You see, Barron’s stock was unquestionably high for several years until he suffered from a blood clot in the middle of last season. Thus, the likelihood that he would end up in the first round became more and more unrealistic. But when you own one of the league’s top farm systems while challenging for a Stanley Cup, a GM like Joe Sakic can lob the deep trifecta from time to time, especially if it’s late in the first round. Barron usually plays at his best most nights and can be a smothering force against opposing transitions. If there’s a concern, it’s limited to both Barron and Conor Timmins being two premier right-shot defense prospects in the organization with injury histories.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Yegor Chinakhov, Right wing (21st overall)

The Jackets have roped line drives with several recent picks out of Russia in Kirill Marchenko, Dmitry Voronkov, and goalie Danil Tarasov, so you know they did their homework with Chinakhov. Granted, he went at least a full round higher than expected, but his mind, hands, and feet simply work too quickly for opponents to catch up. If there was a one-touch pass competition among draft eligibles, Chinakhov would probably win it blindfolded since he’s already used to delivering no-look dimes during game play. He has serious scoring potential but also kills penalties and hustles all over the ice.

Dallas Stars

Mavrik Bourque, Center (30th overall)

The Stars deserve credit for landing one of the better playmaking centers in the draft, and most certainly among those available at pick No. 30. Although it’s been a while since Dallas went for a skilled pivot this early in the draft, Bourque’s work ethic and competitiveness when he’s not controlling the puck should quickly reassure Stars fans that he’s probably going to last longer than cult-hero Scott Glennie. Don’t look now, but Dallas is picking up the pace in stocking its cupboard with several high-value items.

Detroit Red Wings

Lucas Raymond, Left wing (4th overall)

The Red Wings sure love those Swedes, so the drafting of Raymond out of the Frolunda organization shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Although they could have targeted the center position, it’s clear that they viewed Raymond’s sublime puck skills and point-producing potential as critical factors in selecting the winger. One must wonder, however, how long a rebuilding team in a demanding market is willing to wait for him to develop into a regular contributor. Remember, this was Detroit’s highest pick in Round 1 in 30 years.

Edmonton Oilers

Dylan Holloway, Center/Wing (14th overall)

There seems to be some sort of directive coming from GM Ken Holland to make the Oilers a bigger, stronger team; one that will be as intimidating off the puck as on it. If so, then Holloway will not only meet his demands, but also look good in the process. You rarely see a true power forward look smooth while playing the part, and Holloway’s impressive skating and multi-directional mobility should quickly dispel any notion that he’s a “grinder” or “checker”. Now that Alex Turcotte’s moved on, expect Holloway to center sniper-superior Cole Caufield on Wisconsin’s top line.

Florida Panthers

Anton Lundell, Center (12th overall)

The drafting of goalie Spencer Knight in the first round last year followed by Tuesday’s selection of a two-way center like Lundell certainly accentuates Florida’s desire to eventually tighten things up in their own end. He is able to tackle the tough checking assignments but also transitions the other way in a hurry. It’s not uncommon to see Lundell’s line run lengthy cycles in the opposing end, adding to the idea that the best defense is to have an even better offense.

Los Angeles Kings

Quinton Byfield, Center (2nd overall)

Teams who never toy with the opportunity to take a potential franchise player must know that they are covered by a 100-percent guarantee that the pick won’t ever be questioned. That’s why drafting Byfield despite the Kings already owning some serious prospect depth at center should never have been scrutinized as much as it was before Tuesday night. Not only does the big-bodied playmaker vault to the very top of their already-deep collection of young talent, but he should be expected to begin his apprenticeship in the NHL immediately and without interruption.

Minnesota Wild

Marco Rossi, Center (9th overall)

The Wild got good use out of playmaking center Mikael Granlund after drafting him ninth overall in 2011. Why is this relevant? Because Granlund was the last player Minnesota drafted in Round 1 who was under six feet tall. Rossi has similar elite puck skills but also battles hard and contributes in all three zones. While it’s obvious his vision and passing make him a candidate to man the half wall on Minnesota’s power play, Rossi’s two-way play and faceoff proclivity should also add penalty killing to his job requirements. Good luck trying to knock him off the puck, let alone steal it from him.

Montreal Canadiens

Kaiden Guhle, Defenseman (16th overall)

It seems like GM Marc Bergevin (as in a former physical NHL defenseman Marc Bergevin) is more than willing to continue stocking Montreal’s blue line with higher picks. Granted, the Habs have drafted forwards with each of their last three top-31 selections. But even impressive development of 2019 draftee Cole Caufield shouldn’t have precluded the Canadiens from benefitting from a deep collection of high-end forwards that included Hendrix Lapierre, Lukas Reichel, and Dawson Mercer. Nonetheless, drafting a big-bodied, minute-eating defender like Guhle simply adds to an already impressive group with the likes of Alexander Romanov, Mattias Norlinder, Josh Brook, Jayden Struble, and Jordan Harris.

Nashville Predators

Yaroslav Askarov, Goalie (11th overall)

Building from the net out has been a Predators’ strategy for years, so the need for scoring punch took a backseat when the best goalie prospect in 15 years was available at pick No. 11.  Askarov is NHL ready, but he’s under contract (like every other top Russian prospect, it seems) for at least two more seasons. Whether or not Juuse Saros is capable of sniffing Pekka Rinne’s legacy in Smashville is now irrelevant — Askarov should be groomed to own the net at Bridgestone for at least a decade, if not longer.

New Jersey Devils

Alexander Holtz, Right Wing (7th overall)

Holtz going to New Jersey at seventh overall makes all the sense in the world. It’s one thing to score goals or to get off a shot with quick release, but getting open requires work, and few teenage wingers work harder at finding those cozy spots near the goal than Holtz. It will be interesting to see when and how the Devils use him, but you have to think Jack Hughes is just itching at the chance to share the same ice with him.

Dawson Mercer, Center/Wing (18th overall)

This pick was a little confusing at first since the Devils are set at center, but it seems like the plan is for Mercer to play the wing and compliment one of New Jersey’s young pivots. That kind of versatility is exactly what the young man brings to the table, in addition to the flash, stickhandling, and razor-sharp awareness.

Shakir Mukhamadullin, Defenseman (20th overall)

An off-the-board selection indeed, but obviously not according to the Devils. Watching Mukhamadullin shoulder the role of a top-pairing defender at multiple levels while producing offense revealed a blueliner who causes matchup problems and then some. Mukhamadullin can skate, hit, pass the puck on the tape, and make life miserable for a forward trying to establish a net-front presence.

New York Rangers

Alexis Lafreniere, Left Wing (1st Overall)

Really not much else to say — a ping-pong ball went this way and that way to send one of the best draft prospects in the last 15 years to the bright lights of Broadway. Lafreniere may not solve New York’s issues on defense or score 100 points as a rookie, but his ridiculous playmaking abilities and hard-nosed physicality certainly will be worth the price of Madison Square Garden admission no matter what the standings say.

Braden Schneider, Defenseman (19th Overall)

Easily one of the top two-way defensemen available, Schneider’s combination of size, speed, and power must have played a role in Geoff Gorton’s desire to once again trade up to grab a defenseman he thought wouldn’t be there. Time will tell if these types of moves will ever pay off for him, but for now he added another premier defense prospect to the league’s best collection of young blueliners.

Ottawa Senators

Tim Stutzle, Center (3rd Overall)

Physical, quick, and incredibly skilled, Stutzle may very well have been the Sens’ consolation prize for losing Quinton Byfield to the Kings, but that means next to nothing now that the young man will don the red and black. He will be a difference maker both on and off the puck, and it is not out of the question to expect Stutzle in the  Senators’ opening night lineup.

Jake Sanderson, Defenseman (5th Overall)

There are many ways a team can become tougher to play against, but history says a physical presence on the blue line when combined with an up-tempo attack can create devastating results for opponents. That is why complimenting the Stutzle selection with a swift-skating masher like Sanderson should not only make the Senators a matchup nightmare, but prepare them for when it’s time to challenge the Bostons and Tampas of the league.

Ridly Greig, Center (28th Overall)

Considering they already won Day 1 with the third and fifth picks, any result from the 28th selection should have sufficed for Sens fans. But Greig’s high-energy approach while mixing in abrasiveness and underrated puck skills in the form of his shot and stickhandling should soon make them thankful GM Pierre Dorion decided to draft him.

Philadelphia Flyers

Tyson Foerster, Right Wing (23rd overall)

Delivering accurate hammer blows from the flank has to be the desired result that coaches expect from their wingers, especially those who play on a top line. Foerster can execute one-timers as well as anyone, and it was refreshing to see a present-day player use the slap shot with frequency. But there’s more to his game than just scoring, albeit mostly in the coachability and intangibles departments. Remember, the Flyers already are a powerhouse team and have young centers who are more than capable of feeding pucks into Foerster’s wheelhouse.

San Jose Sharks

Ozzy Wiesblatt, Right Wing (31st overall)

In one of the more touching podium announcements made in any draft, the Sharks’ selection of this aggressive puck hound in the form of scouting director Doug Wilson Jr. signing Wiesblatt’s name for his hearing-impaired mother provided a fitting end to a job well done by the league. As for the player himself, Wiesblatt is one of those kids who never seems to take anything for granted and finds a way to work really hard and look super flashy all in the same shift. Prince Albert is a highly competitive team and Wiesblatt’s efforts contribute greatly to their success.

St. Louis Blues

Jake Neighbours, Left Wing (26th overall)

A once rich and deep prospect pool that has since been whittled down to only a handful of notables received a shot in the arm on Tuesday when the Blues drafted this physical and energetic winger. Neighbours was a critical piece to Edmonton’s success by doing a ton of the hard work necessary for a skilled linemate like Dylan Guenther to have his way with the puck. He hits hard and makes bang-bang plays off an incredibly aggressive forecheck, and any concerns with speed are likely connected to his stride rather than the actual ground he can cover.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rodion Amirov, Left Wing (14th overall)

Although this pick didn’t answer calls for the Leafs to become “tougher” or “grittier”, Amirov is a puck-possession animal who uses an east-west style and impressive shiftiness to dominate the puck anywhere inside the offensive zone. He has an incredibly high panic threshold when cornered or doubled teamed, but Amirov unlike most young forwards seems to enjoy the pressure and actually lure opponents closer to him before exploiting their overzealousness with a rapid reversal or inside dash to the goal. He’s put up points in several tough environments, to include his first few games in the KHL this season.

Vegas Golden Knights

Brendan Brisson, Center (29th overall)

Vegas sure loves drafting centers in the first round, as the Brisson selection makes it four of five in the Knights’ brief history. To their credit, they certainly have good taste, as Brisson was a key cog in a deep Chicago attack that always received shift-to-shift consistency from arguably their top forward. He’ll probably stay at the NCAA level with Michigan for at least two seasons, and the aforementioned center depth within the organization should keep the pressure off him as he bulks up and develops his overall game.

Washington Capitals

Hendrix Lapierre, Center (22nd overall)

You can never fault a team for trading up to grab a top-10 skill set in the later portion of the first round, so concerns over Lapierre’s concussion history, although valid, become more and more of an afterthought. The best advice anyone can give Capitals fans regarding this pick is that it’s completely pointless to fixate on whether or not he’ll be out of the lineup. Rather, focusing on Lapierre’s sublime playmaking and world-class vision would probably be a more rewarding approach.

Winnipeg Jets

Cole Perfetti, Left Wing (10th overall)

The Jets employ a high-octane attack spearheaded by the creativity and lethality of their forwards, and one can say that Perfetti was the best available option to help keep that machine humming into the next decade. Nobody should be complaining about this pick, not only because Perfetti was our fourth-ranked prospect, but because the Jets have plenty of options in the system to address the need for defense. I commend Cheveldayoff for taking the electrifying forward rather than overdrafting for a physical defenseman like Guhle or Schneider.

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