NHL Draft 2020: Breaking Down Top Prospects in Draft Class

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIApril 4, 2020

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere celebrates after scoring his sides fifth goal during the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds match between Canada and the United States in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/Associated Press

The NHL will soon add an influx of talented, young players from around the world in the league's annual draft.

When will that happen? That's not too clear at the moment as the NHL is currently suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic and had to postpone the draft, which was scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal, as well as several draft-related events, such as the lottery and scouting combine.

Regardless of when the draft arrives, it will feature some new future stars who will be ready to try to take the league by storm.

Let's break down three of the top players in this year's draft class who have the potential to be selected early.

               

Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)

The best player in this year's class, Alexis Lafreniere is likely to be the No. 1 pick, regardless of which team ends up with the top selection. The Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators currently stand to have the most ping pong balls in the lottery, and Lafreniere would provide a much-needed boost to either franchise.

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NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale recently praised Lafreniere's playmaking ability and skating, listing them as two of the 18-year-old left winger's best assets.

"Exceptionally smart player with top-end speed and a pull-away gear," Morreale wrote. "He's great at carrying the puck and leading rushes and executes under pressure, has great vision and anticipation."

Not only did Lafreniere tally 112 points (35 goals and 77 assists) in 52 games for Rimouski Oceanic in yhe QMJHL this season, but he also had four goals and six assists in five games at the IIHF World Junior Championships, winning the event's MVP Award and leading Canada to the gold medal.

Lafreniere has the potential to develop into a star in the NHL, and he should be fun to watch for many years to come.

                     

Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)

OSHAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 7: Quinton Byfield #55 of the Sudbury Wolves skates during an OHL game against the Oshawa Generals at the Tribute Communities Centre on February 7, 2020 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Chris Tanouye/Getty Images

After Lafreniere comes off the board at No. 1, there's a strong chance that the second player drafted will be 17-year-old center Quinton Byfield.

The Athletic's Corey Pronman has been impressed with Byfield's play in the OHL, where he tallied 82 points (32 goals and 50 assists) in 45 games for the Sudbury Wolves this season.

"He has the best pure toolkit in the draft," Pronman wrote. "He's 6-foot-4, he's a very good skater and his hands are right up there with the best in the draft. He can break a shift open with his ability to power past or dangle through defenders."

Byfield's combination of skill and size makes it likely that he'll be the first center drafted this year, as well as one of the first players overall. It's easy to see how Byfield could have a smooth transition to the NHL and quickly make an impact in the league.

                     

Jamie Drysdale, RHD, Erie (OHL)

HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16:  Jamie Drysdale #4 of Team Red skates during the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team White at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Jamie Drysdale is the best defenseman in this year's draft class. The 17-year-old had a strong showing for Erie in the OHL this season with 47 points (nine goals and 38 assists) while also recording a plus-minus of plus-nine in 49 games.

Knowing that he might be the first defenseman to come off the board doesn't have Drysdale overconfident as he approaches the draft, though.

"It would obviously be something really cool and just show that all the work I put in paid off," Drysdale told Mark Masters of TSN on Thursday. "It'd be a stepping stone in the right direction. If that happens, I know the work has just begun. It would just make me bury my head and get to work even harder."

Drysdale will likely be a top-10 pick in the draft, but where he gets selected could depend on team needs. However, the first team that decides it wants to add a defenseman should be selecting Drysdale.