NHL Draft 2020: Predictions for Alexis Lafreniere, Tim Stutzle and Top Prospects

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 5, 2020

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere celebrates his sides first 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 may not know when this year's draft will take place, but teams do know a lot about the players who will be available to them when it happens.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL postponed the Scouting Combine, scheduled for June 1-6 in Buffalo, New York, and the draft, scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal.

Another major order of business still to be determined is whether the league will be able to finish the 2019-20 season. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said the NHL is trying to figure out a way to preserve the integrity of the postseason if games resume.

A lot of questions will hopefully be answered in the coming weeks. As NHL fans wait to see what the league might look like when that happens, here's an early look at where some of the top prospects in this year's draft could end up.

                                 

Updated 2020 NHL Draft Order

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1. Detroit Red Wings

2. Ottawa Senators

3. Ottawa Senators (via San Jose Sharks)

4. Los Angeles Kings 

5. Anaheim Ducks

6. New Jersey Devils

7. Buffalo Sabres

8. Montreal Canadiens

9. Chicago Blackhawks

10. New Jersey Devils (via Arizona Coyotes)

11. Minnesota Wild

12. Nashville Predators

13. New York Rangers

14. Florida Panthers

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

16. Calgary Flames

17. New Jersey Devils

18. Nashville Predators (via Tampa Bay Lightning from Vancouver Canucks)

19. Carolina Panthers (via Toronto Maple Leafs)

20. Edmonton Oilers

21. Ottawa Senators (via New York Islanders)

22. Dallas Mavericks

23. New York Rangers (via Carolina Panthers)

24. Minnesota Wild (via Pittsburgh Penguins)

25. Philadelphia Flyers

26. San Jose Sharks (via Tampa Bay Lightning)

27. Colorado Avalanche

28. Vegas Golden Knights

29. Washington Capitals

30. St. Louis Blues

31. Anaheim Ducks (via Boston Bruins)

Draft order based on current standings.

                         

Top Prospects

Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

Widely regarded as the best draft-eligible prospect in years, Alexis Lafreniere has immediate-impact potential even though he only turns 19 on Oct. 11.

Per ESPN's Chris PetersLafreniere is a prospect who has "few if any weaknesses" to his game as he prepares to come to the NHL:

"With his ability to create separation with his hands, vision to spot plays on the ice and frame to challenge opposing defenders with or without the puck, Lafreniere is a handful. On top of that, he has put up monster production in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he posted an MVP performance at the World Juniors, and he seems to get better as the year progresses, putting him in the driver's seat to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 prospect."

Lafreniere has been compared to Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby for years, though it's not something the Rimouski Oceanic is necessarily comfortable with.

"He played in Rimouski, and I did too," Lafreniere told Tal Pinchevsky of the New York Times. "That's something people say. But I'm not Crosby. I just try to be myself and play my game. If I can watch Crosby play and do things like he do, for sure I will do it to try to get better, but I don't think I'm Crosby."

Even though Lafreniere may bristle at being compared to one of the league's best players, it bodes well for him going No. 1 overall in the draft.

No team will be hoping to win the draft lottery more than the Detroit Red Wings, who need a franchise building block after falling on hard times over the past four seasons.

One of the NHL's most storied franchises, the Red Wings haven't made the playoffs or finished higher than fifth in the Atlantic Division since the 2016-17 season. Their 27.5 winning percentage this season is on pace to be the third-worst in franchise history.

Being able to land a prospect with the kind of ceiling that Lafreniere possesses will be the thing that Detroit needs to return to prominence.

Prediction: Lafreniere goes No. 1 overall to Detroit.

                        

Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (Germany)

If not for Lafreniere, Tim Stutzle could well be regarded as the best offensive player in the 2020 draft class. The German has 34 points with a plus-minus of 12 in 41 games for Mannheim this season.

NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale has Stutzle ranked as the second-best prospect in this draft, calling the 18-year-old "capable of playing all situations with speed, great vision and some swagger."

As scoring continues to increase across the NHL, elite offensive players are going to become more in demand than ever before. There are 17 teams averaging at least three goals per game in 2019-20. For comparison, as recently as the 2016-17 season, only seven teams had a scoring average that high.

The Ottawa Senators, who can control the first round of the draft with three of the first 21 picks, are tied with the New Jersey Devils for the seventh-worst goals-per-game average (2.68). Stutzle would be able to fill their biggest need if they secure one of the top three picks.

Prediction: Stutzle goes No. 2 overall to Ottawa.

                      

Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (Ontario)

If any player can challenge Lafreniere for the top spot in this draft, Quinton Byfield has the skills and upside to do it.

One advantage working in Byfield's favor is age; he won't turn 18 until Aug. 19 but is already built like an NHL veteran, with a listed size of 6'4" and weight of 214 pounds.

Peters has Byfield ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 2020 class but did note some scouts have expressed concern about his consistency and a desire to see him play "maybe even a little meaner."

Byfield spent the 2019-20 season putting up video game stats in the Ontario Hockey League. He has racked up 82 points via 32 goals and 50 assists in 45 games, per Elite Prospects.

No team would be happier to either see their draft positioning bump up through the lottery than the Anaheim Ducks. If that doesn't happen, they would love to see him fall into their lap.

The Ducks have Adam Henrique under contract for four more seasons, but he is 30 and hasn't established himself as a No. 1 scorer on a playoff team. Ryan Getzlaf, 34, has just one year left on his deal and has seen his playing time decrease in each of the past two years. His 18:44 minutes per game is his lowest total since 2006-07.

Byfield will be a nice complement to Henrique at the center position before taking over as the No. 1 option if things work out for the Ducks.

Prediction: Byfield goes No. 5 overall to Anaheim.