If the NHL draft takes place as originally scheduled in late June, then it won't be long before a new crop of prospects begin the next stage of their careers at the pinnacle of hockey.
After the NHL suspended since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the draft was postponed indefinitely. As such, the draft lottery hasn't occurred, which may still be dependent on whether the season is completed.
But at some point, the order will be solidified and teams can start planning for who they might select when it's their turn on the clock. Here's a look at where mock drafts are projecting several of this year's top prospects to be selected.
Jamie Drysdale, RHD, Erie (OHL)
The best-case scenario for right-handed defenseman Jamie Drysdale in the NHL draft? It could be getting selected at the No. 3 overall pick.
Several mock drafts have Drysdale being the third player to come off the board, as NHL.com's Guillaume Lepage and Mike G. Morreale and NBC Sports' Joe Haggerty all have him getting drafted No. 3 to the Ottawa Senators. It's probable that Ottawa will have two early selections (it owns the San Jose Sharks' first-round pick in addition to its own), so it should have a good chance of landing Drysdale if it wants to add to its defense.
But the Senators may opt to draft a pair of offensive players with their first two picks instead. That could leave Drysdale available for a different team that could have interest in adding the best defenseman in this year's class.
NHL.com's Adam Kimelman has Drysdale going No. 5 to the Anaheim Ducks, while Larry Fisher of The Hockey Writers projects he'll go No. 6 to the Los Angeles Kings. It seems unlikely that Drysdale would fall any lower than that, as it would make sense for either the Ducks or Kings to add a defensemen with their top selection.
Tim Stutzle, C/LW, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
Although Tim Stutzle is one of the top offensive players in this year's draft class, there are a lot of differing opinions about just how early he'll be selected in the first round.
Lepage has Stutzle going No. 2 overall to the Senators. Meanwhile, Fisher is projecting him to be on the board longer, falling to the Blackhawks at No. 9. But many mocks have Stutzle getting drafted somewhere in between those two selections.
Kimelman is predicting Stutzle to go No. 3 to the Senators, while Morreale and Haggerty have him going No. 4 to the Kings. These all seem like fair projections as Stutzle's speed and potential make him an exciting prospect, but it may be a bit of a stretch to predict him being one of the first two players selected.
However, as Kimelman pointed out, Stutzle faced tough competition in Germany that should benefit him as he makes the transition to the NHL. Despite being only 18, Stutzle could reach the league quickly and gain valuable experience that will help him soon make an impact.
Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
Most mocks have Alexis Lafreniere getting drafted No. 1 overall, and many have Quinton Byfield immediately following him off the board at No. 2. And there's a good reason for that, as the 6'4" center has the size and skills to become a top player in the NHL.
Kimelman, Morreale and Haggerty all have Byfield getting drafted No. 2 by Ottawa. Because the Senators will have two picks early in the opening round, there's a good chance they'll own that selection and will have the opportunity to add Byfield.
There is a chance, however, that a different team could end up getting the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery. Fisher has the Buffalo Sabres owning that selection. But even in that scenario, he's still projecting Byfield to be the second player drafted.
Although Lepage has the Senators making different decisions with the Nos. 2 and 3 picks, drafting Stutzle and Drysdale, he still has Byfield going No. 4 to the Kings. If that's how the draft unfolds, then it would be a tremendous success for Los Angeles to land a player with Byfield's talent at that spot.