The NHL has been suspended for more than two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, but hockey's comeback appears to be getting closer. The league's return-to-play plan was announced recently, and with it, a firmer timetable for the draft lottery became clear.
For the seven teams that won't be included in the NHL's expanded playoffs, they know their odds for landing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (which NHL.com's Tom Gulitti listed in his breakdown of the lottery, set for June 26). Not only that, but there could also be two phases of the lottery this season, the second of which could occur after the qualifying round of the playoffs.
Until those events arrive, here's a look at how the NHL standings would set the draft order, followed by predictions for several of the top prospects in this year's draft class.
Current Projected NHL Draft Order
1. Detroit Red Wings (17-49-5)
2. Ottawa Senators (25-34-12)
3. Ottawa Senators (via 29-36-5 San Jose Sharks)
4. Los Angeles Kings (29-35-6)
5. Anaheim Ducks (29-33-9)
6. New Jersey Devils (28-29-12)
7. Buffalo Sabres (30-31-8)
8. Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9)
9. Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8)
10. New Jersey Devils (via 33-29-8 Arizona Coyotes)
11. Minnesota Wild (35-27-7)
12. Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6)
13. New York Rangers (37-28-5)
14. Florida Panthers (35-26-8)
15. Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15)
16. Calgary Flames (36-27-7)
17. New Jersey Devils (via 36-27-6 Vancouver Canucks)
18. Nashville Predators (35-26-8)
19. Carolina Hurricanes (via 36-25-9 Toronto Maple Leafs)
20. Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9)
21. Ottawa Senators (via 35-23-10 New York Islanders)
22. Dallas Stars (37-24-8)
23. New York Rangers (via 38-25-5 Carolina Hurricanes)
24. Minnesota Wild (via 40-23-6 Pittsburgh Penguins)
25. Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7)
26. San Jose Sharks (via 43-21-6 Tampa Bay Lightning)
27. Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8)
28. Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8)
29. Washington Capitals (41-20-8)
30. St. Louis Blues (42-19-10)
31. Anaheim Ducks (via 44-14-12 Boston Bruins)
Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, Alexis Lafreniere could play in Europe for a season if the 2020-21 NHL season doesn't start on time, which is a possibility depending how long it takes to finish the 2019-20 campaign. Will that affect when Lafreniere is selected in the 2020 NHL draft? Don't count on it.
Lafreniere is the favorite to be the No. 1 overall selection, and even if his NHL career doesn't begin next season, he's too talented to be passed over with the top pick. The left winger tallied 112 points (35 goals and 77 assists) in 52 games for Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.
"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," NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale wrote.
No matter which team gets the top pick, that's where Lafreniere is going to get drafted. So while the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings are the favorites to land him, it will all come down to how the lottery unfolds.
Prediction: Lafreniere goes No. 1 overall to whichever team owns the pick.
Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
A 6'4" center, Quinton Byfield has been projected by most experts to be the second player selected following Lafreniere. It would be a surprise if the start of the draft goes any other way.
Byfield tallied 82 points (32 goals and 50 assists) in 45 games for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League this season, and his skill set should translate well to the NHL game. Not only does he have great size, but he also has strong skating skills that could help him get behind defensemen and have more opportunities at the net.
"Byfield is a very competitive player who uses his large frame to power his way to chances and win battles along the walls," The Athletic's Corey Pronman wrote. "He projects as an all-situations center."
Because the Senators own the picks with the second- and third-best odds of landing the top selection, there's a strong chance they will have a pair of top-five picks and a decent chance of picking at No. 2 with one of the selections. That should allow them to draft Byfield, who could become the player Ottawa's builds around for the future.
Prediction: Byfield goes to the Senators at No. 2 overall.
Jamie Drysdale, RHD, Erie (OHL)
Jamie Drysdale is the best defenseman in this year's draft class, and it's likely he will be the first one to come off the board. He also could be a top-five pick—or potentially even higher.
In 49 games for the Erie Otters this season, Drysdale tallied 47 points (nine goals and 38 assists), showcasing how he can contribute on offense in addition to his strong defensive skills. Pronman wrote that Drysdale has "elite skating and vision," and that's not the only reason he's an exciting prospect.
"He has a great ability to make plays and think the game," Erie coach Chris Hartsburg said, according to Pronman. "His feet are dynamic. He can lead a rush and be the first guy back due to his skating."
The Kings could be in the market for a defenseman with their first-round pick, and they are likely to be drafting in the range in which Drysdale could still be available. It would be a logical fit for the 18-year-old to head to Los Angeles to begin his NHL career, and he could anchor the Kings defense for years to come.
Prediction: Drysdale goes to the Kings in the top five.