Alexis Lafreniere, the latest budding hockey superstar out of Canada, is a lock to land with the New York Rangers with the No. 1 overall pick when the 2020 NHL draft kicks off Tuesday night.
Everything else in the first round and beyond is far less certain, with plenty of promising prospects in the class but few who are ready to make immediate jumps to the NHL. It could force teams, especially those picking in the top five, to choose between short-term impact or long-term potential.
Let's check out a mock draft for the opening round as the focus shifts to the offseason after the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars to win the Stanley Cup. That's followed by analysis on some noteworthy draft-related topics for fans to track.
2020 NHL 1st-Round Mock Draft
1. New York Rangers: Alexis Lafreniere, F, Rimouski (QMJHL)
2. Los Angeles Kings: Quinton Byfield, F, Sudbury (OHL)
3. Ottawa Senators (from SJ): Tim Stutzle, F, Mannheim (DEL)
4. Detroit Red Wings: Lucas Raymond, F, Frolunda (SHL)
5. Ottawa Senators: Cole Perfetti, F, Saginaw (OHL)
6. Anaheim Ducks: Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL)
7. New Jersey Devils: Marco Rossi, F, Ottawa (OHL)
8. Buffalo Sabres: Alexander Holtz, F, Djurgardens (SHL)
9. Minnesota Wild: Jake Sanderson, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)
10. Winnipeg Jets: Jack Quinn, F, Ottawa (OHL)
11. Nashville Predators: Dawson Mercer, F, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
12. Florida Panthers: Anton Lundell, F, HIFK (FEL)
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR): Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA (MHL)
14. Edmonton Oilers: Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL)
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PIT): Seth Jarvis, F, Portland (WHL)
16. Montreal Canadiens: Rodion Amirov, F, Toros Neftekamsk (MHL)
17. Chicago Blackhawks: Noel Gunler, F, Lulea (SHL)
18. New Jersey Devils (from ARZ): Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL)
19. Calgary Flames: Dylan Holloway, F, Wisconsin (NCAA)
20. New Jersey Devils (from TB via VAN): Connor Zary, F, Kamloops (WHL)
21. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jan Mysak, F, Hamilton (OHL)
22. New York Rangers (from CAR): Hendrix Lapierre, F, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
23. Philadelphia Flyers: William Wallinder, D, Modo (SHA)
24. Washington Capitals: Justin Barron, D, Halifax (QMJHL)
25. Colorado Avalanche: Ryan O'Rourke, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
26. St. Louis Blues: Mavrik Bourque, F, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
27. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS): Tyson Foerster, F, Barrie (OHL)
28. Ottawa Senators (from NYI): Jacob Perreault, F, Sarnia (OHL)
29. Vegas Golden Knights: Lukas Cormier, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
30. Dallas Stars: John-Jason Peterka, F, Munchen (DEL)
31. San Jose Sharks (from TB): Ridly Greig, F, Brandon (WHL)
Top Draft Storylines to Watch
What Type of Impact Will Alexis Lafreniere Make as a Rookie?
Since there's little drama surrounding the Rangers' selection with the first choice, the conversation shifts to what type of numbers Lafreniere can put up in his debut campaign.
The Quebec native, who will turn 19 on Oct. 11, dominated the junior ranks in the QMJHL. He scored a mind-boggling 297 points (114 goals and 183 assists) in 173 games across three years with the Rimouski Oceanic and averaged 2.15 points per game during the 2019-20 season.
By comparison, Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid scored 285 points during his three years with the OHL's Erie Otters and averaged 2.55 per game in his final junior campaign.
McDavid only made 45 appearances as an NHL rookie because of a broken clavicle, but he still immediately asserted himself as a high-end scoring threat with 48 points. He's proceeded to lead the NHL in scoring twice over the past four years, winning the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP in 2017.
Lafreniere possesses similar upside. He will likely slot in on the Rangers' second line opposite Kaapo Kakko, the second overall pick of the 2019 draft. That's a soft landing spot that should help him make a smooth transition to the next level.
He could push toward a point per-game-pace if he receives playing time on the team's top power-play unit. Otherwise, somewhere in the 65-point range is a good target for his rookie year.
Who Will Emerge from the Crowded Battle to Go 2nd Overall?
The Los Angeles Kings are in a powerful spot by holding the No. 2 pick. They can take their choice of any prospect not named Lafreniere, or—since the Rangers aren't going to move out of the top spot—they could demand a huge return in a trade if any team wants to make sure it gets a certain player.
That type of blockbuster deal is unlikely this late in the process, but whether it's L.A. or another team in the second slot, there's a wealth of options headlined by Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle.
Byfield is a rugged, two-way centerman who should make a 200-foot impact right away. He recorded 82 points (32 goals and 50 assists) in 45 games for the Sudbury Wolves last season and tallied 44 penalty minutes.
Stutzle is the more creative playmaker and could become one of the NHL's assist leaders when he hits his prime. He gained experience playing at the pro level playing for Adler Mannheim in Germany and held up well, scoring 34 points (seven goals and 27 assists) in 41 contests.
The other less likely option should the Kings retain the pick is the class' top defenseman, Jamie Drysdale. L.A. already has one of the league's most prized prospect pools, but it's built almost entirely on the strength of its forwards. Adding another blueliner could balance the group.
Can Goalie Yaroslav Askarov Crack the Top 10?
Taking a goalie in the first round is rare. It's only happened 13 times since 2000.
Selecting one inside the top 10 is even more uncommon—and almost unheard of recently. Only Rick DiPietro (2000), Pascal Leclaire (2001), Kari Lehtonen (2002), Marc-Andre Fleury (2003), Al Montoya (2004) and Carey Price (2005) have bucked the trend this century.
Yaroslav Askarov has a chance to end the top-10 drought for netminders. He owns both the size (6'3", 176 pounds) and the athleticism teams are looking for in modern goalies, and he's been been impressive while working up through the SKA Saint Petersburg system in Russia.
Goaltending prospects in hockey are a lot like MLB catchers. They tend to take a little longer to reach the pro level. That creates some added bust potential, as a few of the names mentioned above showcase.
Askarov isn't a surefire dominant force between the pipes, but he's displayed all the hallmarks of developing into a true No. 1 goalie in the coming years. It could help him sneak into the top 10 and should lock him into the first round at minimum.