NHL Draft 2020: Best Team Fits for Alexis Lafreniere and Top Prospects

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 18, 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

The anticipation for the 2020 NHL draft has been building for years, with the potential for multiple superstars to emerge from the top of the class.

Alexis Lafreniere seems like a lock to go No. 1 overall, but there are elite talents like Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond not far behind. One byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic is the NHL has postponed its entry draft, originally scheduled for June 26-27, with no makeup date as of now.

There will be a time when teams are able to start preparing for the draft in earnest, but until that arrives, let's take a look at the best team fits for the top prospects in this year's class.

                           

Alexis Lafreniere, LW (Canada)

The short answer is that every one of the league's 31 teams would love to have Lafreniere on its roster for the next 15 years. There's nothing he can't do with the puck, and his scoring ability should make him an instant impact player despite not turning 19 until October.

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NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale did his best to sum up the reason that Lafreniere is going to be special:

"He led all players in the Canadian Hockey League (QMJHL, Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League) with 2.15 points per game, but as skilled and talented as Lafreniere is, the thing that makes him even more impressive is his relentlessness and willingness to play a hard game and finish checks."

If the rules for the draft lottery remain the same, the Detroit Red Wings have the best odds to win the top pick. If play were to resume, their 39 points mean they would be unable to finish anything other than last, even if they won their remaining 11 games. The Ottawa Senators are next in line with 62 points and 34 losses.

The Red Wings have been trending in the wrong direction for a long time, having missed the playoffs in each of the past three years. Their .275 winning percentage this season is the third-lowest in franchise history.

One advantage of having a roster that needs help at virtually every position is there's no way to go wrong in the draft. Lafreniere is the spark that this franchise, one of the NHL's Original Six and loaded with a rich tradition, needs to return to prominence.

Best Fit: Detroit Red Wings

                         

Alexander Holtz, RW (Sweden)

If a team in need of a dominant scoring presence can't take Lafreniere, there are much worse fallback options than Holtz.

"A pure goal scorer with a great selection of shots, Holtz plays a tough, intelligent game," Morreale wrote of the 18-year-old. "He had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) and 55 shots on goal while averaging 12:53 of ice time in 35 games in the Swedish Hockey League."

If there is one team that needs a young star who can score from the wing, it's the Los Angeles Kings. But they may have done themselves a disservice prior to the season's suspension in March by putting up seven consecutive victories.

That hot streak moved the Kings ahead of the Senators and San Jose Sharks in the standings, giving them the fourth-best odds in the lottery as things stand. There's still a good chance the team comes away with a high-upside goal scorer because that's the strength of this class.

Even at its best, Los Angeles hasn't been known for being explosive on offense. The team hasn't finished higher than 14th in goals scored since the 2013-14 season, when it last won the Stanley Cup. Goals have been particularly difficult to come by this season.

Only the Red Wings' 2.00 goals per game is worse than Los Angeles' 2.53 mark this season. Dustin Brown and Adrian Kempe are the only wingers on the Kings roster with more than six goals.

Best Fit: Los Angeles Kings

                              

Quinton Byfield, C (Canada)

In terms of pure playmaking ability, Quinton Byfield might be on the same level as Lafreniere. The Sudbury Wolves superstar racked up 82 points in just 45 OHL games during the 2019-20 season.

Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects has Byfield ranked as the best player in this draft: 

"A physical specimen who blends exceptional power to a speed-driven, skill game. His quick hands allow him to maneuver in tight spaces, while the long reach propels his puck-protection. A mammoth of a man at just 17. He’s not the best player today, but his upside is too large to ignore."

Morreale has compared Byfield's talent and skill set to that of Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

The Anaheim Ducks will be hoping against hope they get the opportunity to add Byfield to their roster. Like the Red Wings and Kings, they are a mess on the offensive end, with just 2.56 goals per game this season.

Center is also a position the Ducks can stand to upgrade. Adam Henrique is in the first season of a five-year extension. He's been effective, putting up at least 40 points in each of the past seven seasons, but the 30-year-old has a limited ceiling.

Ryan Getzlaf is the Ducks' other primary option at center, but he's 34 and has just one year left on his deal.

Henrique's contract won't stop Anaheim from selecting Byfield should the opportunity present itself.

Best Fit: Anaheim Ducks