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NHL Mock Draft 2020: Predictions for Mid-1st-Round Prospects

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIApril 21, 2020

BOISBRIAND, QC - NOVEMBER 13:  Justin Barron #20 of the Halifax Mooseheads skates against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada during the third period at Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau on November 13, 2019 in Boisbriand, Canada.  The Halifax Mooseheads defeated the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 4-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The 2020 NHL draft has an air of uncertainty surrounding it, as a new date for the event has yet to be set.

That fluidity extends to where first-round prospects might land beyond the consensus top pick once draft day comes.

Rimouski Oceanic left wing Alexis Lafreniere is widely projected to go No. 1 overall, which would likely place him with the Detroit Red Wings if the 2019-20 standings stay the same from when the season was suspended on March 12.

Below is a first-round mock draft as well as predictions for three mid-ranked first-round prospects.

          

2020 First-Round Mock

1. Detroit Red Wings (17-49-5): Alexis Lafreniere, LW, QMJHL

2. Ottawa Senators (25-34-12): Quinton Byfield, C, OHL

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3. Ottawa Senators (via 29-36-5 San Jose Sharks): Tim Stutzle, LW, DEL

4. Los Angeles Kings (29-35-6): Jamie Drysdale, D, OHL

5. Anaheim Ducks (29-33-9): Alexander Holtz, RW, SWE

6. New Jersey Devils (28-29-12): Marco Rossi, C, OHL

7. Buffalo Sabres (30-31-8): Cole Perfetti, C, OHL

8. Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9): Lucas Raymond, LW, SHL

9. Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8): Jake Sanderson, D, NTDP

10. New Jersey Devils (via 33-29-8 Arizona Coyotes): Jack Quinn, RW, OHL

11. Minnesota Wild (35-27-7): Yaroslav Askarov, G, MHL

12. Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6): Braden Schneider, D, WHL

13. New York Rangers (37-28-5): Connor Zary, C, WHL

14. Florida Panthers (35-26-8): Justin Barron, D, QMJHL

15. Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15): Anton Lundell, C, FIN

16. Calgary Flames (36-27-7): Dylan Holloway, C, NCAA

17. New Jersey Devils (via 36-27-6 Vancouver Canucks): Hendrix Lapierre, C, QMJHL

18. Nashville Predators (35-26-8): Kaiden Guhle, D, WHL

19. Carolina Hurricanes (via 36-25-9 Toronto Maple Leafs): Dawson Mercer, C, QMJHL

20. Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9): Jan Mysak, C, OHL

21. Ottawa Senators (via 35-23-10 New York Islanders): Noel Gunler, RW, SWE

22. Dallas Stars (37-24-8): Seth Jarvis, C, WHL

23. New York Rangers (via 38-25-5 Carolina Hurricanes): Jeremie Poirier, D, QMJHL

24. Minnesota Wild (via 40-23-6 Pittsburgh Penguins): Emil Andrae, D, SWE

25. Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7): Ridley Greig, C, WHL

26. San Jose Sharks (via 43-21-6 Tampa Bay Lightning): Lukas Cormier, D, QMJHL

27. Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8): Jacob Perreault, RW, OHL

28. Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8): William Wallinder, D, SWE

29. Washington Capitals (41-20-8): Rodion Amirov, LW, RUS

30. St. Louis Blues (42-19-10): Thomas Bordeleau, C, NTPD

31. Anaheim Ducks (via 44-14-12 Boston Bruins): Ty Smilanic, C, NTDP

Order courtesy of Tankathon.com

                

Justin Barron, D, Halifax (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)

The Halifax Mooseheads announced Justin Barron would be out indefinitely with a blood clot on Dec. 3:

Halifax Mooseheads @HFXMooseheads

Justin Barron shares his thoughts after being diagnosed with a blood clot. Get well soon JB. #GoMooseGo https://t.co/dTXrBHToEd

The 18-year-old returned to action on Feb. 26, but his ability to recoup draft stock was halted when the QMJHL paused the 2019-20 season on March 16 due to COVID-19.

"If Barron (6-1, 195) hadn't missed three months with a blood clot issue, he might have been higher than No. 16 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters," NHL.com's Adam Kimelman wrote while projecting Barron to go 14th overall to the Florida Panthers in The Athletic's April 12 mock.

Barron finished 16th overall among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings.

The Canadian defenseman tallied four goals and 15 assists across 34 games this season. He had posted nine goals and a career-high 32 assists in 2018-19 for Halifax.

Placing Barron with the Panthers is interesting, seeing as Florida was tied with the New Jersey Devils as allowing the third-most goals per game (3.25) before the season was suspended. 

Defense is definitely an area of need in Florida, and the team addressed it prior to the trade deadline by acquiring 26-year-old Emil Djuse from the Dallas Stars. Chase Priskie, a 24-year-old defenseman, also landed with the Panthers as part of a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes. Both players reported to the AHL's Springfield Thunderbirds.

The Panthers gave goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky a seven-year, $70 million deal and defenseman Anton Stralman a three-year, $16.5 million contract in free agency last summer. Those hefty investments did not payoff this season, leaving the organization with the same problem heading into next year. Barron represents a cheap way to address it in the long term.

It's also possible Barron falls to the end of the first round because of his recent health concern and the ice time it cost him. If that turns out to be the case, the Anaheim Ducks would be wise to take advantage at No. 31. Their defense has been an increasingly problematic area since 2017, as The Athletic's Eric Stephens noted in early March.

Defensemen Matt Irwin and Michael Del Zotto are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after this season, per Spotrac.

Prediction: The Panthers snag Barron.

              

Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (Sweden)

Noel Gunler placed ninth among European skaters in the NHL's Central Scouting rankings.

The 18-year-old wing scored four goals with nine assists across 45 games for Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League in 2019-20. He previously excelled with 27 goals and 19 assists across 31 contests for Lulea HF J20 in SuperElit in 2018-19.

NHL.com experts' latest mock draft is split on where Gunler could land in back half of the first-round.

The Oilers are particularly interesting, as explained by Adam Kimelman:

"With a quick, hard release, Gunler might have the best shot among the European draft prospects this season. He's already earned enough respect from opponents that he's able to fake shots to draw goalies out of position and find open teammates. It's fun to think of what Gunler could do with time and space afforded by playing alongside forwards Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton."

The more prominent Swedish prospects in this class are Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond, the Nos. 2- and 4-ranked European skaters, respectively, on the final Central Scouting list.

Gunler's name has gotten lost in the shuffle, but he has still garnered significant intrigue:

Eliteprospects @eliteprospects

Most clicked 2020 #NHLDraft eligible players at EP 1 Alexis Lafreniere 506,398 clicks 2 Antonio Stranges 348,163 3 Alexander Holtz 345,194 4 Quinton Byfield 234,351 5 Lucas Raymond 233,079 6 Marco Rossi 175,491 7 Anton Lundell 121,080 8 Cole Perfetti 115,396 9 Noel Gunler 98,656

It's interesting to consider a team with several first-round picks, such as Anaheim, Ottawa or New Jersey, double-dipping with a prospect like Gunler.

The Devils drafted five right wings in the third round and beyond last year. The Ducks' 35-year-old right wing, Patrick Eaves, is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Ottawa is slated for right wings Ryan Callahan (unrestricted), Connor Brown (restricted) and Scott Sabourin to hit free agency in 2020.

Prediction: Gunler goes to Ottawa at No. 21.

             

Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (Western Hockey League)

Middling first-round prospects can't be discussed without mentioning Connor Zary, who landed pretty much exactly in the middle at No. 15 overall among North American skaters in the eyes of NHL Central Scouting.

The 18-year-old Saskatoon native had a breakout year with the Kamloops Blazers in 2019-20 with 38 goals alongside a career-most 48 assists.

Zary was cut by the Canada under-18 national team's World Juniors roster in December but made up for it with a strong showing at January's CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. He finished the contest with three assists.

"I had a couple chances in the first where I didn't bury and it kind of ticked me off," he said afterward, per Sportsnet's Ryan McKenna. "But just being able to feed other guys and seeing them put the puck in the net makes me just as happy as me getting a goal myself."

CanadianHockeyLeague @CHLHockey

#CHLKTP Profile: Connor Zary The smile never leaves @ConnorZary’s face as the @blazerhockey forward lives the dream of a top #NHLDraft prospect having fun with every step of the way. @KubotaCanadaLtd | @TheWHL 🎥 https://t.co/3HrqC0Jiam

Adam Kimelman had Zary going to the New York Rangers in NHL.com's latest mock on April 12, calling him "a nice addition as the Rangers continue to build depth at the center position."

The Rangers are scheduled to see Ryan Strome (restricted), Greg McKegg (unrestricted) and Michael Haley (unrestricted) hit free agency after this season, per Spotrac.

Mika Zibanejad is New York's starting center and under contract through 2022. The 27-year-old has been the team's leading scorer with 41 goals across 57 games in 2019-20. 

Prediction: Zary falls to the Rangers.

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