It can be hard to project how the NHL draft will go before the order is set. But sometimes it's clear that a player is likely to be the No. 1 overall selection regardless of which team ends up with that pick after the lottery.
In 2020, that will almost certainly be the case.
Alexis Lafreniere is the favorite to be the first player selected in this year's draft, and although there are a couple of teams that might land the top pick, the Canadian left winger is likely to be drafted first no matter what.
Here are predictions for where Lafreniere and several other top forward prospects in this year's draft class are going to land.
Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski (QMJHL)
On Thursday, Alexis Lafreniere was named the MVP of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the second straight season. The last player to receive the honor in back-to-back years? Two-time NHL MVP Sidney Crosby. He went on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, and it's likely Lafreniere will receive that honor this year.
Lafreniere is the clear front-runner to be the first player selected in this year's draft, and it would come as a surprise if the team that lands the No. 1 pick uses it on a different player. Over his pair of MVP seasons for Rimouski, Lafreniere tallied 217 points (72 goals and 145 assists).
"Obviously, Alexis is quite the player when you look at every aspect of his game," NHL regional scout J-F Damphousse said in April, according to Sam Jarden of the Sporting News. "I think you could consider every aspect as elite when you look at his skating, his puck skills. Obviously it's above average."
It's likely that the Detroit Red Wings or Ottawa Senators (who also own the San Jose Sharks' first-round pick) end up with the top selection. Although Detroit has the worst record in the NHL, Ottawa has the second-worst mark and San Jose's is third-worst, giving them a decent shot to pick No. 1.
Either way, Lafreniere is going to be the first player off the board and projects to be a star for his franchise in the years to come.
Prediction: Lafreniere goes No. 1 to either the Red Wings or Senators.
Tim Stutzle, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
German left winger Tim Stutzle is the top European player in this year's draft class and has a high chance of being the first one to come off the board. Along with Lafreniere and Canadian center Quinton Byfield, Stutzle is projected by most to be a top-five pick.
Stutzle's top attribute is his speed, but he also possesses several other traits that should bode well for him as he nears the start of his NHL career, as ESPN's Chris Peters pointed out in his draft rankings, in which he has the 18-year-old ranked No. 3.
"There is a sense of ease in Stutzle's game, a level of poise that is not easily attained for a teenager in his first season of pro hockey," Peters wrote. "He has high-end puck-handling and skating abilities along with elite vision and hockey sense."
With the Senators owning two picks so early in the opening round, there's a chance they could end up with two of the draft's three best prospects. If they get pick Nos. 1 and 2, they might take Lafreniere and Byfield. But in the more likely scenario that the lottery doesn't go completely in their favor, they should take Stutzle, who has the potential to develop into a strong player.
Prediction: Stutzle goes in top five to Senators.
Alexander Holtz, Djurgardens (SHL)
Another European forward who has a good chance of getting drafted early is Swedish right winger Alexander Holtz. The 18-year-old is a strong goal scorer, as he showed when he netted 30 goals in 38 games for Djurgardens U20 in the SuperElit in 2018-19.
Holtz moved up to face tougher competition in the SHL this season, and although his numbers weren't quite as impressive (nine goals and seven assists in 35 games), he still flashed his strong skills, which Peters broke down in his scouting report of Holtz.
"He is a natural offensive talent, with an elite release and quick hands," Peters wrote. "He has vision and offensive sense that challenge opposing defenses, along with the strength to drive the net. His skating is very good, and there's power in his stride."
The New Jersey Devils are likely going to be looking for a top forward in the draft after trading Taylor Hall earlier this season. Holtz could be a player they would consider with the first of what could be three first-round selections. Like Stutzle, Holtz may take some time to develop, but he could turn into a top player.
Prediction: Holtz goes in top 10 to Devils.