NHL Draft 2020: Breaking Down Top Prospects in Draft Class

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 8, 2020

Jordan Harris of the US, right, challenges Canada's Quinton Byfield, left, during the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds match between Canada and the United States in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/Associated Press

The top prospects in the 2020 NHL draft class have had to display more patience than previous classes in finding out their first professional destinations. 

This year's draft will be held in October because of the season's delay amid the coronavirus pandemic, with a second lottery to determine the No. 1 overall pick Monday.

Alexis Lafreniere is the likely prize for one of the eight eliminated sides from the qualifying round, a group that includes Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Nashville. 

The Los Angeles Kings will likely get to choose between Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle at No. 2, with the other falling to the Ottawa Senators. 


Top NHL Draft Prospects

Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)

The 18-year-old Lafreniere put himself in position to be the top player selected through standout performances in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and on the international stage. 

The Athletic's Corey Pronman described Lafreniere as a "foundational player" when he ranked the left winger No. 1 on his prospect board in May. 

"Lafreniere has shown for years that he is a unique prospect who projects to become a foundational player for an NHL franchise," Pronman wrote. "He's dominated the QMJHL, scoring more than two points per game this past season. He was the MVP of the world juniors and has been great at other international events." 

While any team would love to have Lafreniere on board, the player has to be thrilled that he will likely contend for a postseason position in his rookie season. 

If a rebuilding team such as Detroit, Buffalo or Ottawa had won the lottery, it may have taken Lafreniere a few years to reach the game's biggest stage.


Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)

Byfield does not boast the robust scoring totals that his international teammate has, but he does carry a larger physical presence on the ice. 

His skill, hockey intelligence and size make him a perfect package as a prospect, as Pronman noted: 

"He's 6-foot-4, he's a very good skater for such a large player and his hands are right up there with the best in the draft. He can break a shift open with his ability to power past or dangle through defenders. His creativity is great, and his large wingspan combined with his elite hands allows him to stickhandle around defenders with ease." 

Byfield will likely land with the Los Angeles Kings at No. 2 or Ottawa Senators at No. 3. 

Los Angeles has had a knack for selecting centers in the first round in recent years with Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari and Gabriel Vilardi all being selected from 2017 onward. Vilardi was the only one of the last three first-round centers to earn NHL playing time during the 2019-20 season. 

Stockpiling centers is not a bad strategy for a team looking to rise up the standings with a young core, but most observers would not argue against picking Stutzle to provide more elite talent on the wing.


Tm Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (Germany)

The top European prospect is also the most versatile of the top three players. Stutzle has been listed as a left winger for the draft process, but he can play each of the three forward positions. 

The other edge Stutzle holds over Lafreniere and Byfield is he is coming off a professional season in the German league, while the other two played junior hockey. 

Stutzle's speed and scoring ability should draw him to the fans of whichever team selects him, as Adler Mannheim Director of Player Development and Pro Scouting Todd Hlushko told Sportsnet's Sonny Sachdeva:

"Fans will fall in love with this kid immediately — he's the type of player that gets you out of your seat. He'll grab the puck on one end of the ice, and he has the ability to skate through the entire team. But he also has the hockey intelligence to understand when to dish the puck and when to get open for passes."

Stutzle is expected to be the next success story out of Adler Mannheim, a club that produced Dominik Kahun, Leon Draisaitl and Moritz Seider from its youth ranks.

Los Angeles could opt for Stutzle to provide more versatility in its prospect ranks, but if it goes with Byfield, Ottawa could scoop up the German before focusing on defense with its second top-10 selection.


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