Like every major sports league, the NHL is at a standstill amid the coronavirus pandemic.
No one is sure when—or if—the season will resume, as leagues around North America continue to adhere to guidelines set by medical professionals and the federal government. The pandemic has already affected the NHL draft, which was scheduled to take place June 26 and June 27 before it was postponed March 25.
Here is a look at the pre-lottery draft order when the season shut down, along with some predictions for top prospects.
1. Detroit Red Wings
3. Ottawa Senators (via San Jose)
4. Los Angeles Kings
5. Anaheim Ducks
6. New Jersey Devils
8. Montreal Canadiens
9. Chicago Blackhawks
10. New Jersey Devils (via Arizona)
11. Minnesota Wild
12. Winnipeg Jets
13. New York Rangers
14. Florida Panthers
15. Columbus Blue Jackets
16. Calgary Flames
17. New Jersey Devils (via Vancouver)
18. Nashville Predators
19. Carolina Hurricanes (via Toronto)
20. Edmonton Oilers
21. Ottawa Senators (via New York Islanders)
22. Dallas Stars
23. New York Rangers (via Carolina)
24. Minnesota Wild (via Pittsburgh)
25. Philadelphia Flyers
26. San Jose Sharks (via Tampa Bay)
27. Colorado Avalanche
28. Vegas Golden Knights
29. Washington Capitals
30. St. Louis Blues
31. Anaheim Ducks (via Boston)
Alexis Lafreniere, LW, QMJHL
Everyone knows Lafreniere is going No. 1 overall. The only question is what sweater he will wind up wearing.
Lafreniere is one of the best wing prospects in recent memory, a scoring machine who should be ready to step in right away and make an impact. He's blessed with elite puck skills and will quickly develop into an offensive fulcrum for his team despite playing on a wing rather than at center. His ability to pass the puck is next-level, and he is coming off an MVP performance at the World Junior Championship.
Stephane Dube, Lafreniere's strength coach, said the prospect has been working hard to be in peak shape despite the pandemic.
"He's never skipped over any steps...he's just steadily added a lot of power and explosiveness," Dube told Sam Gordon of The Athletic. "All the puzzle pieces kind of fell into place during that second Bantam season, but I'd say what really sets him apart is the mental aspect. He's so strong mentally. He runs on challenges. The harder the task, the bigger the stakes, the more excited he gets."
Prediction: No. 1 overall pick
Quinton Byfield, C, OHL
If there's anyone who could challenge Lafreniere at the top of the draft, it's Quinton Byfield. The best center in this class has done everything in his power to rise up draft boards and solidify himself as the second-best player in the 2020 draft.
"I'm very optimistic and confident that I can definitely make the step next year," Byfield told Mark Masters of TSN. "I was blessed with a big body, big frame, which definitely helps me out a lot, and then a good skating ability, so I think I can definitely keep up with them and hopefully make a mark next year."
Listed at 6'4" and 217 pounds, Byfield is already a massive body at age 17 and should become a physically dominant force as his body fills out further. He's also a points-scoring machine, with a skill set that includes an elite shot and strong passing vision.
The Ottawa Senators' dream here would be to land at No. 1 and No. 2 and be able to build around Byfield and Lafreniere.
Prediction: No. 2 overall pick