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NHL Draft 2020: Examining Latest Mocks for 1st-Round Projections

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 22, 2020

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere celebrates after winning the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds gold medal match between Canada and Russia in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Even though the 2020 NHL draft isn't set to get underway until June 26, there is a consensus regarding which prospect should be taken No. 1 overall.

Canadian left winger Alexis Lafreniere has topped the majority of mock drafts and prospect lists because of his all-around skill set.

If the NHL draft lottery ends up with no surprises, the Detroit Red Wings would land the opening pick of the selection process. The Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are the other teams currently part of the group with the best odds of landing the top choice.

After Lafreniere, center Quinton Byfield and versatile forward Tim Stutzle are the likeliest to go at No. 2 and No. 3 in a draft class that could have a lot of forwards off the board in the top 10.

                  

Examining Latest Mock Drafts

Alexis Lafreniere Expected to Go No. 1

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ESPN's Chris Peters and Sporting News' Steve Kournianos both have Lafreniere landing with the Red Wings at No. 1.

The Athletic's Scott Wheeler also listed the Ramouski left winger in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as his top prospect.

Peters noted that "Lafreniere does all of the little things well, has tremendous skill and plays with edge."

Wheeler tempered praise for the 18-year-old when comparing him to No. 1 overall picks of the last decade:

"Really, in the last 10 drafts, just two players (McDavid and Auston Matthews) have had an immediate, franchise-altering impact. Even Nathan MacKinnon and Taylor Hall, would-be contenders for the Hart Trophy, took some time to get to where they are today. And while Lafreniere isn't going to have the immediate instant game-breaking ability of McDavid and Matthews, he has what it takes to follow the trajectory of a MacKinnon or a Hall, rather than that of a Nugent-Hopkins or a Nico Hischier."

Lafreniere checks all the boxes from an offensive standpoint after putting together back-to-back 100-point seasons in the QMJHL. This season, he has 35 goals and 77 assists over 53 games, which is an improvement from the 37 tallies and 68 helpers he earned in 61 appearances last term.

The offensive improvement should be a positive sign for whichever team wins the lottery, and if he carries his scoring touch into the NHL, he could be the top rookie next season.

If he comes away from his first professional season with the Calder Trophy, he would join Nathan MacKinnon, Aaron Ekblad and Auston Matthews as players to be taken first overall and to win that award in the past decade.

                    

Critics Split on Stutzle, Byfield for No. 2

Peters projected Byfield would land directly behind Lafreniere is his latest mock draft, while Kournianos placed Stutzle into the No. 2 overall position. Wheeler has Byfield at No. 2 in his prospect rankings but then has Swedish right winger Lucas Raymond at No. 3 and Stutzle at No. 6.

Kournianos argued that Stutzle's "versatility as a goal-scoring winger with a deadly shot" could sway a team into choosing him at No. 2.

In 41 games for German side Adler Mannheim, Stutzle earned 34 points. He also produced 14 points across 13 contests for Germany's U-20 side. However, the intrigue of taking a pure center in Byfield could position him at No. 2. But since he does not have a perfect resume, others could slide in behind Lafreniere, as Peters pointed out:

"[Byfield] has had some stumbles lately, leading to questions about his status as the clear No. 2, but the upside is still bigger than his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, making him an incredibly important building block."

The 17-year-old produced 82 points for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League this season, but he only had one point in seven appearances for Canada's U-20 side at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The second selection will likely come down to team need. If the franchise wants to add a center with a physical presence who can score, Byfield is the option. Stutzle's ability to play center or left wing may help his draft stock since the former position is typically the most coveted.

A year ago, five centers were chosen in the first nine picks, and five of the past seven No. 1 overall selections were centers.

                             

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from Elite Prospects.