Re-Drafting the Top 10 Picks from the 2020 NHL Draft
Choosing the best player among the top-10 prospects in the NHL draft can sometimes be a crapshoot. In most cases, the player selected first overall goes on to meet or exceed expectations. Sometimes, however, a player chosen lower in the order rises to become the biggest NHL star of his draft class.
For example, the New Jersey Devils chose Nico Hischier first overall in 2017. While he's had a fine NHL career thus far, Cale Makar emerged as a superstar. Chosen fourth overall, the Colorado Avalanche defenseman won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2020. This year, he took home the James Norris Memorial Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup.
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. It's easy to sit back with the luxury of time and say a team should've picked a different player than the one they chose. However, with NHL news at an ebb during the dog days of summer, we felt it would be fun to re-draft the top-10 picks of the 2020 NHL draft.
We're basing this exercise on the players' performances since 2020-21. We'll also keep in mind what roster need each team was attempting to address with their original selections.
Once you've read our revised picks, feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section below.
1. New York Rangers: Lucas Raymond
With the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft, the New York Rangers chose Alexis Lafreniere. A better choice, however, might've been Lucas Raymond, who was selected fourth overall by the Detroit Red Wings.
A creative, defensively responsible forward who can skate on either wing, Raymond spent the 2020-21 season with Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League. That additional season skating against professionals served the youngster well when he made his NHL debut in 2021-22.
Raymond was an immediate hit with the rebuilding Red Wings in 2021-22. With 23 goals and 57 points in 82 games, the 20-year-old winger finished third on his team and among all NHL rookies in scoring. He fit in well at right wing on Detroit's first line alongside center Dylan Larkin and left wing Tyler Bertuzzi.
The Rangers chose Lafreniere in this draft because he was ranked as the top prospect, but he's a natural left wing. Already deep at that position with Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin, the Rangers moved Lafreniere to the right wing where he had just 21 points in 56 games in his first season and 31 points in 79 games last season.
Raymond's versatility would've made him a better fit with the Rangers. His rookie performance with the Wings suggests he would've been a ready-made first-line scorer on the Blueshirts' right wing.
2. Los Angeles Kings: Tim Stützle
The Los Angeles Kings were in the market for a center with the second-overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. They passed over Tim Stützle and chose Quinton Byfield, a 6'5”, 220-pounder from the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League.
While Byfield's NHL debut last season was hampered by an ankle injury, Stützle has already had a positive impact with the Ottawa Senators, who chose him third overall. Now 20, he quickly established himself as a rising star with this rebuilding club.
Stützle put up a respectable 29 points in 53 games during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign, finishing fifth among NHL rookie scorers. He followed up with a solid sophomore performance, sitting second on the Senators with 58 points.
Entering his third campaign with the Senators, Stützle will be better adjusted to the North American pro game. With his tremendous speed, offensive skills and ability to play center or left wing, the young German is well on his way to becoming an NHL star. He's expected to center the Senators' second line.
Stützle likely would've also enjoyed similar success with the Kings. His skills would've made him the heir apparent to captain Anze Kopitar as a promising scoring star. Entering this season, he would either be centering their second line or filling a role as a top-six left winger.
3. Ottawa Senators: Anton Lundell
Tim Stützle was the Ottawa Senators' selection with the third-overall pick. With the Los Angeles Kings taking him second overall in our redraft, they'd have to shift their focus to another skilled forward with the ability to play center or left wing.
Anton Lundell could be a good fit here. Chosen 12th overall by the Florida Panthers, he had 25 points in 26 games during 2020-21 with Finnish club HIFK Helsinki. A gifted two-way player, he would've been a significant factor for the Senators at both ends of the rink.
Lundell, 20, saw mostly third-line duty with the Panthers in his NHL debut last season, averaging 15:44 of ice time per game. However, he had 18 goals and 44 points in 65 games. He finished fifth among rookie scorers and led them with a plus/minus of plus-33 and in short-handed points with four.
His defensive game was also solid. He led all Panthers forwards with 2:22 of shorthanded ice time per game and 56 blocked shots. He also finished fourth among their skaters with 59 takeaways. That performance suggests he's capable of handling more responsibilities as a sophomore.
Lundell would've likely seen more ice time with the Senators last season compared to what he saw on a deep Panthers roster. He would probably already be entrenched as their second-line center. His all-around abilities would've made him a terrific addition to this rebuilding club.
4. Detroit Red Wings: Seth Jarvis
Holding the fourth-overall pick in the 2020 draft, the Detroit Red Wings chose winger Lucas Raymond. With Raymond off the board in our redraft, we have them selecting Seth Jarvis, who was chosen 13th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jarvis spent the 2020-21 season split between the WHL's Portland Winterhawks and the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. Making his NHL debut last season, he enjoyed a promising rookie performance.
A speedy forward with solid offensive skills who can play center or right wing, the 20-year-old Jarvis finished with a respectable 17 goals and 40 points to sit ninth among rookie scorers. He was also eighth in regular season scoring on the Hurricanes and acquitted himself well in his first postseason with eight points in 14 games.
Jarvis encountered a few bumps during his rookie campaign. He played up and down the lineup and managed just three points in 18 games from Jan. 22 to March 10. He was a healthy scratch early in the season and missed time with COVID-19 and a hip injury. Nevertheless, he wound up skating on the Hurricanes' top line down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Had Jarvis played with the rebuilding Wings last season, his stats probably would've been better. He'd have seen more playing time among their top-six and perhaps played his way alongside Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi on their top line.
5. Ottawa Senators: Jamie Drysdale
Having chosen a forward with the third-overall selection, the Senators shifted their focus toward their blue line with the fifth-overall pick. They selected defenseman Jake Sanderson, who spent the past two seasons with the University of North Dakota. In our redraft, we have them taking rearguard Jamie Drysdale.
Sanderson is expected to debut with the Senators this season and has the potential to become a top-tier defenseman. Drysdale, however, saw 24 games of NHL action with the Anaheim Ducks late in the 2020-21 season and played his first full campaign last season.
Drysdale finished sixth among last season's rookie class in time on ice per game (19:33) and 13th in points with 32 in 81 games. He also saw 2:04 of power-play ice time per game, collecting 12 points with the man advantage, and was fourth among Ducks skaters with 72 blocked shots.
The Ducks ensured Drysdale saw protected minutes during his rookie season. Nevertheless, his performance bodes well for his sophomore campaign with this rebuilding club. He'll likely take on more responsibilities with veterans Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm no longer in the lineup.
Right-side depth was an issue on the Senators' defense corps last season and could remain a problem in 2022-23. Their transition game still lacks a gifted puck-moving rearguard. Drysdale's potential was on display last season with the Ducks. He would've been a welcome addition to Ottawa's blue line.
6. Anaheim Ducks: Braden Schneider
The Anaheim Ducks chose Jamie Drysdale with the sixth overall pick. With Drysdale taken by the Senators in our redraft, we have them choosing Braden Schneider, who was taken by the New York Rangers with the 19th overall pick.
Like Drysdale, Schneider is a right-shot defenseman. He saw limited playing time on a deep Rangers roster last season, was called up in January and made his NHL debut on Jan. 13. Nevertheless, he managed 11 points in 43 regular-season games and played in all 20 of the Blueshirts' postseason matches.
At 6'2” and 202 pounds, the 20-year-old Schneider has the makings of a top-four NHL defenseman. He skates well, plays a smart game in his own zone and isn't afraid of physical play. He was seventh among the Rangers in blocked shots with 52.
Schneider plays a more shutdown style of defense, whereas Drysdale has a more offensive style. Nevertheless, Schneider's style of game would be just as effective for a rebuilding club such as the Ducks. He'd clear the front of the net and stifle opposition scoring chances, easing the burden upon their goaltending.
The Ducks didn't go wrong selecting the puck-moving Drysdale, who should play a significant role on their blue line for years. Schneider, however, would also have been a solid addition to their defense corps.
7. New Jersey Devils: Alexis Lafreniere
Alexander Holtz was chosen by the New Jersey Devils with the seventh overall selection. The 20-year-old winger saw action in nine games last season and has the potential to become a scoring winger. In our redraft, however, we have them taking Alexis Lafreniere, who was taken first overall by the New York Rangers.
During Lafreniere's first two seasons with the Rangers, his production wasn't what was expected of a player chosen No. 1. A natural left wing on a team with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider ahead of him at that position, he's had to adjust to playing as a right winger moving up and down their lineup.
Lafreniere has also played for two head coaches in as many seasons, first for David Quinn and then Gerard Gallant. After scoring 12 goals and 21 points in 56 games during his rookie campaign under Quinn, he had 19 goals and 31 points in 78 games last season under Gallant. He's expected to skate as their first-line right winger this season.
Perhaps Lafreniere would've fared better had he played on a rebuilding club such as the Devils. Their selection of Holtz was due in part to the presence of two highly skilled young centers in Nico Hischier (first overall 2017) and Jack Hughes (first overall, 2019).
Lafreniere might've benefited more during his first two NHL seasons skating on his natural wing alongside Hischier or Hughes on the Devils' top-two lines. He would've received more playing time and an opportunity to skate alongside two rising young stars who could've helped him more easily adjust to the NHL pace.
8. Buffalo Sabres: Dawson Mercer
With the eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft, the Buffalo Sabres chose Jack Quinn. The 20-year-old right winger saw action in two NHL games last January but spent most of the past two seasons with the Sabres' AHL affiliate in Rochester.
Dawson Mercer would have been a good selection here. Chosen 18th overall by the New Jersey Devils, he spent the 2020-21 season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before making his NHL debut last season.
Mercer enjoyed a solid rookie campaign with the Devils. With 17 goals and 42 points, the 20-year-old winger finished sixth among their leading scorers and was seventh among NHL rookies while playing an average of 16:42 of time on ice per game. He's expected to see more playing time at right wing on their second line in 2022-23.
A skilled forward who can play center or wing, Mercer's versatility and offensive gifts made him a solid fit with the rebuilding Devils. Those traits would've served him well with the Sabres, whose roster is also filled with promising talent.
The Sabres chose Quinn in part because they still had Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart as their top-two centers. With both since traded away, Mercer might've helped them fill their second- or third-line center position.
9. Minnesota Wild: Quinton Byfield
Quinton Byfield's campaign last season was hampered by an ankle injury that limited him to 10 points in 40 games after being chosen second overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2020. The 20-year-old center also dressed for just two games during the Kings' first-round series against the Edmonton Oilers.
The 6'5", 220-pound Byfield has plenty of time in his young NHL career to become a franchise player for the Kings. Like Alexis Lafreniere, he's dropped down in our redraft not because he's a lousy player but because his development at the NHL level has been a little slower than expected.
Marco Rossi was the Minnesota Wild's original selection at ninth overall. However, they might've leaped at the opportunity to take a center of Byfield's size, skating ability and offensive potential had he been available at this stage of the draft.
As with his tenure with the Kings, Byfield probably would've seen checking-line duty last season behind Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek among the Wild's depth chart. Nevertheless, the expectation would be for him to eventually move higher in the lineup.
Byfield would still be developed carefully by the Wild as he is currently with the Kings. They might have penciled him into the third-line center position alongside promising Matthew Boldy.
10. Winnipeg Jets: Cole Perfetti
The Winnipeg Jets chose Cole Perfetti with the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft. They were seeking to bolster their depth at center that year, making the 20-year-old still their best choice at this position in our redraft.
Perfetti spent the 2020-21 campaign with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, tallying a respectable 26 points in 32 games in his first experience against professional players. He split last season between the Jets and the Moose, collecting seven points in 18 NHL games.
Slender at 5'11” and 175 pounds, Perfetti is blessed with blazing speed and terrific offensive skills. He's also a versatile forward capable of playing center or right wing.
Perfetti has the skills and ability to become a scoring threat for the Jets. The promise he showed last season before his injury suggests the best is yet to come.