The Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup champions, and the journey to reach that mountaintop for most of the other teams in the NHL will rest on drafting well this year and in the future.
The 2020 NHL draft, like so many other things in the sports world, was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have also been fewer opportunities to evaluate the prospects in person with restrictions in place over the summer and plenty of attention on the actual hockey inside the playoff bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.
Still, there is plenty of top-end talent available in this year's talent grab who can help turn around any number of struggling franchises or bolster teams that are annually in the middle of the playoff race.
With that in mind, here is a first-round mock draft.
1. New York Rangers: Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
2. Los Angeles Kings: Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks): Tim Stutzle, LW, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
4. Detroit Red Wings: Lucas Raymond, RW, Frolunda HC (SHL)
5. Ottawa Senators: Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
6. Anaheim Ducks: Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
7. New Jersey Devils: Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL)
8. Buffalo Sabres: Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgardens IF (SHL)
9. Minnesota Wild: Jake Sanderson, D, USA U-18 (NTDP)
10. Winnipeg Jets: Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Liiga)
11. Nashville Predators: Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
12. Florida Panthers: Braden Schneider, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs): Yaroslav Askarov, G, Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
14. Edmonton Oilers: Seth Jarvis, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh Penguins): Dawson Mercer, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
16. Montreal Canadiens: Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
17. Chicago Blackhawks: Rodion Amirov, LW, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
18. New Jersey Devils (from Arizona Coyotes): Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL)
19. Calgary Flames: Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL)
20. New Jersey Devils (from Vancouver Canucks via Tampa Bay Lightning): Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA)
21. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
22. New York Rangers (from Carolina Hurricanes): Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
23. Philadelphia Flyers: Ridly Greig, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
24. Washington Capitals: Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
25. Colorado Avalanche: William Wallinder, D, MODO Hockey J20 (SuperElit)
26. St. Louis Blues: Lukas Reichel, LW, Berlin (DEL)
27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins): John-Jason Peterka, LW, EHC Munchen (DEL)
28. Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders): Tyson Foerster, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
29. Vegas Golden Knights: Brendan Brisson, C, Chicago Steel (USHL)
30. Dallas Stars: Justin Barron, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning): Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
It probably doesn't seem fair to the rest of the Metropolitan Division that the New York Rangers get the first pick and the chance to draft potential franchise cornerstone Alexis Lafreniere.
After all, the division is already loaded with contenders with the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets, all of whom will now have to deal with another electrifying playmaker for the foreseeable future.
The Rangers were good enough to earn an invite to the NHL's restart in 2019-20 but lost in the Stanley Cup qualifying round to the Hurricanes.
They were likely a couple of pieces away from being a true contender, and Lafreniere can be one of those pieces. He can be a point guard with impressive vision from the wing and the ability to set his teammates up with high-quality shots. He can also finish as an elite goal-scorer who flashes into space with the puck and picks his spot.
The thing is, New York already has someone else like that in Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin.
Teaming Panarin with Lafreniere will make the Rangers a nightmare on the power play and in transition in the open ice, seeing how both can control the tempo of a game with the puck on their stick.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see them anchor New York's attack for years to come.