The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will be held virtually on Tuesday and Wednesday. As is our annual tradition, here is HabsWorld’s official mock draft. In our mock, we project the entire first round plus all of Montreal’s second-round selections.
Joining me to pick the draft this past Wednesday (September 30th) was HW Editor Norm Szcyrek. Picks were made on an alternating basis as follows:
1, 3, 5, etc – Norm
2, 4, 6, etc – Brian
Each writer offers up their rationale for their selections below.
#1 – New York Rangers – Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
Earlier in the season, there was some debate about who would be the first overall ranked player in the 2020 draft, but as the year progressed, the choice was clear. Lafreniere was dominant in the 2019-20 season as well as the World Junior Championships. He is the most NHL-ready player available, and should easily step into a top-six forward position for the Rangers.
#2 – Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
There’s a case to be made for Stutzle here but it would be hard for Los Angeles to pass up a projected top-line centre with size. They’d be able to ease him into the lineup and in a few years, he could take the top spot from Anze Kopitar. Byfield may not have quite the offensive upside as Stutzle but a 70-75 point player that can anchor a top line and play in all situations is the better fit for them.
#3 – Ottawa Senators – Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (DEL)
A highly gifted offensive player, Stutzle was one of the biggest risers in this draft from the start of the season, where we expect he’ll be taken at the third position. Tim is a dynamic skater with great passing, shooting, and hockey sense. He should easily adapt into the NHL and stands a good chance to crack the Senators lineup right away.
#4 – Detroit Red Wings – Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa (OHL)
This is where the draft gets interesting as Detroit could go a lot of different ways here. As they work through their extended rebuild, they’ve added centres but none that really have top-line potential and high-end offensive skills. Rossi has that type of upside so it would be difficult for GM Steve Yzerman to pass him up. We’ve seen Detroit reach for a player before (Moritz Seider) and while this might be a bit early for Rossi, top centres tend to go earlier than expected (just look at Montreal’s pick of Jesperi Kotkaniemi).
#5 – Ottawa Senators – Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie (OHL)
Ottawa’s blueline transformation is well underway and Drysdale could be a key piece to restoring it. Jamie is an excellent puck-moving defender with great mobility and skating skills. His decision making is pro-level, allowing him to force opposition turnovers or jump into the play with perfect timing. He’s a power play quarterback due to his passing and shooting skills. As a right-shooting defender, Drysdale could form a top pairing with Ottawa’s #1 defenceman, left-shooting Thomas Chabot.
#6 – Anaheim Ducks – Lucas Raymond, RW, Frolunda (SHL)
Anaheim has a collection of decent players and prospects but none that really profile as someone that can fit on their top line. Raymond should change that. He has the ability to play on both wings and is good enough in his own end that he should be able to be a factor against top lines down the road. He won’t make the jump to the NHL next season but it shouldn’t be long after that before he makes an impact.
#7 – New Jersey Devils – Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw (OHL)
Cole is a deadly scorer, potting 37 goals in each of the last two seasons. Last season he elevated his playmaking to double his assists from the previous season to 74, which raised him into the top ten OHL scorers. To put it simply, he’s arguably the best pure scorer in this draft. He has played both centre and left wing but will likely stick to the side when he advances to the pros. The Devils could use a game-breaker like him.
#8 – Buffalo Sabres – Jake Sanderson, D, US U-18 (USHL)
While there weren’t many games down the stretch, Sanderson has been somewhat of a late riser, moving from the teens into the top-ten. He doesn’t have the offensive upside that Rasmus Dahlin has but he’s reliable in both ends and is a strong enough skater to fit with the more modern style of having blueliners attack on the rush. While he’s going the college route, Sanderson may not need that much time before he’s able to jump into an NHL lineup.
#9 – Minnesota Wild – Yaroslav Askarov, SKA (VHL)
This big, very athletic goalie draws many comparisons to fellow Russian Andrei Vasilevskiy. His skating and side to side movements are top-notch, he anticipates the play very well and rarely gets fazed by a goal or bad play. The Wild are in a full rebuild mode and do not have a goaltending prospect at Askarov’s level which makes him an excellent option.
#10 – Winnipeg Jets – Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (SM-liiga)
Does Lundell have top-line upside? Probably not but he’s a safe bet to be a reliable two-way NHL centre for a long time. Winnipeg has plenty of firepower already but they’re lacking in quality depth down the middle which is why they’ve had to keep trading for short-term assets since Jack Roslovic is a better fit on the wing. Lundell should conceivably produce enough to hang on their second line in a few years and fill a huge need in the process.
#11 – Nashville Predators – Alexander Holtz, Djurgardens (SHL)
A sharpshooter, Holtz has very quick hands and strong hockey sense to make him a deadly option on the ice. His playmaking and skating skills are also excellent to go with a high compete level. Nashville has shown a penchant for drafting Swedish forwards in the past with some success so it’s unlikely they will let Holtz get past him at their draft slot.
#12 – Florida Panthers – Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
One of this year’s breakout stars, Quinn’s rapid rise could actually hurt him a little bit here as there are questions as to whether his 52 goals were a by-product of playing with Rossi or a sign that he’s a go-to sniper. Even if it’s a bit of a gamble, it’s one worth taking for the Panthers who don’t have a lot of pure goal-scoring potential in their system.
#13 – Carolina Hurricanes – Seth Jarvis, RW, Portland (WHL)
The old saying “speed kills” applies well to Jarvis, who is one of the fastest skaters in the league in both speed and acceleration. Seth was the third-highest goal scorer in the WHL with 42 markers; his shot is accurate and he can fool a goaltender with a variety of release points. He is a small forward but with great offensive skill and will blend into the Hurricanes system quite well.
#14 – Edmonton Oilers – Dawson Mercer, RW, Drummondville (QMJHL)
Yes, there isn’t top-line upside with Mercer but Edmonton doesn’t need someone that can really drive the play. Instead, they need a player who can simply be a fit alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He’s defensively reliable and has shown enough of a scoring touch in the QMJHL to suggest that with an elite pivot on his line, he could produce at an above-average level. From a fit perspective, Mercer checks a lot of boxes for Edmonton.
#15 – Toronto Maple Leafs – Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL)
Being a right-handed, big two-way defenceman is what Braden brings to the table. He is a little more old school in that he’s not a puck rushing defenceman, but more of a player that prefers to make a good first pass to clear his defensive zone. He handles shutdown assignments very well and still chipped in with 42 points in 60 games. It’s no secret the Maple Leafs covet a defenceman that can help their blueline, and Schneider may be a good fit for them.
#16 – Montreal Canadiens – Lukas Reichel, LW, Berlin (DEL)
Based on most rankings, this is a bit of a reach but Reichel has intriguing offensive upside and the Canadiens are a team that doesn’t have a ton of offensive upside. He didn’t look out of place playing in the DEL against players that were at times twice his age and played well at the World Juniors against players closer to his age group. Reichel may be more of a complementary player than one that really drives the play but he could fit in Montreal’s future top six before too long.
#17 – Chicago Blackhawks – Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL)
An offensive forward with great vision and a great shot is the type of player Zary represents. When he carries the puck into the offensive zone, he’s equally capable of passing to a linemate if the defence focuses on him, or drive the net if there’s an opening. The Blackhawks have good young centres with Kirby Dach and Dylan Strome but could use a prospect with true #1 potential, which Zary could become for them.
#18 – New Jersey Devils – Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL)
I think this might be a bit early considering some of the other options on the board but Guhle is the last defenceman in this tier and going a little early is justifiable for New Jersey when they pick two spots later as well. He’s not someone with top-pairing upside but he’s a safe bet to help anchor a second pair. Considering that the Devils don’t have a particularly strong back end, he’d be a strong complementary piece to add to their group.
#19 – Calgary Flames – Dylan Holloway, C/W, Wisconsin (NCAA)
The Flames could use help up front sooner than later and at this draft slot, Holloway may fit their needs. He has one season of college to his credit and could possibly stay another season before being ready to make the jump to the NHL. Dylan is a pro-sized centre with excellent skating ability who could easily adapt to Calgary’s lineup in the bottom six to start given his defensive abilities.
#20 – New Jersey Devils – Rodion Amirov, LW, Salavat Yulaev (KHL)
After going safe with their previous pick, Amirov represents a bit of a high-risk, high-reward selection. His offensive numbers in the KHL weren’t pretty but they rarely are for draft-eligible players. He is an offence-first player and with New Jersey building through the middle with a pair of high-skill guys in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, Amirov’s skill-set would fit in well with either one of them.
#21 – Columbus Blue Jackets – J-J Peterka, LW, Munchen (DEL)
Peterka represents the third high-end German prospect that is expected to be drafted in the first round. John-Jason is a very skilled winger who outworks the opposition every shift. He also has a great combination of passing, playmaking, and shooting abilities to make him a threat in multiple ways. Columbus is not shy to draft European players and Peterka will easily fit into the Blue Jackets way.
#22 – New York Rangers – Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Bourque may not have as much pure upside as other players still on the board but he’s a safe bet to be a quality middle-six centre and the Rangers certainly have a hole down the middle with Filip Chytil not progressing as they hoped and Lias Andersson looking like he might wind up as a bust. Besides, with Lafreniere, Artemi Panarin, and Kaapo Kakko, adding someone that’s more of a two-way player here certainly makes sense.
#23 – Philadelphia Flyers – Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia (OHL)
The son of former Hab Yanic Perreault, Jacob is a pure scorer and one of the best snipers in this draft. He shows great puck control and can feather a pass to a teammate easily. His skating is excellent and he demonstrated that among his peers when he won the CHL Top Prospect Game’s skating competition. Philadelphia is currently in a good position with their depth at centre, and I predict the Flyers see him more as a scoring threat for the wing.
#24 – Washington Capitals – Ryan O’Rourke, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Washington has spent the last few years trying to add to their back end with varying degrees of success. Rather than trying to trade for a top-four guy, it may make more sense for them to try to develop one and O’Rourke would fit the bill. Players that are pure stay-at-home types don’t typically go in the first round but there is enough of an offensive skill-set for him to develop into a 25-point player at the NHL when, coupled with his physicality and defensive play, makes him a desirable option on a second pairing.
#25 – Colorado Avalanche – Noel Gunler, W, Lulea (SHL)
A potential power forward with really good offensive tools is what Gunler brings to the table. His shot is elite level and one of the best in this draft. His skating ability is very good and he has excellent hockey sense both with and without the puck. Colorado could use a winger like Noel to add to their lineup.
#26 – St. Louis Blues – Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
In terms of upside, Lapierre should be a lot higher on this list but a confusing injury that may have been a concussion, neck injury, or both limited his playing time and presented a lot of question marks. He’s someone that a team will need to be patient with and the Blues are one that can afford to take the extra development time that Lapierre may require as they have Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn down the middle for a while yet.
#27 – Anaheim Ducks – Ridly Greig, C, Brandon (WHL)
The Ducks need help in a lot of areas of their lineup, and Grieg represents a positive step towards their rebuild. Ridley is a high energy player who is tenacious with and without the puck. He net crashes with the same pace that Brendan Gallagher had earlier in his career. Grieg is a very good puck handler who loves to drive to the net for a scoring chance as much as he does setting up a teammate to score.
#28 – Ottawa Senators – William Wallinder, D, MODO (Swe. Jr.)
After getting a righty in Drysdale, the Sens get the opportunity to nab an intriguing project in Wallinder. He has top-four upside but it will take a bit of time for him to get there. With as many young players as they have already, spacing out their timelines should be one of the priorities for GM Pierre Dorion and this pick would accomplish that while adding another mobile puck-mover to their ranks.
#29 – Vegas Golden Knights – Sam Colangelo, RW, Chicago (USHL)
A good-sized power forward with good hockey vision is what Colangelo has to offer. Sam is already a pro-sized player with a hard shot and great skating both in terms of acceleration and speed. Although the right wing is a deep position for the Golden Knights, they will not pass over the chance to draft him and let him develop in college for the next few seasons.
#30 – Dallas Stars – Jan Mysak, LW, Hamilton (OHL)
Mysak’s midseason decision to play junior hockey certainly boosted his stock. He went from being a role player back home to someone that was on the Bulldogs’ top line but with limited time in North America overall, he’s one that could be sliding under the radar a little bit. He’s not the most dynamic of players but should be a good complementary second liner down the road.
#31 – San Jose Sharks – Tyson Forester, RW, Barrie (OHL)
Foerster was a fast riser in this year’s draft who is expected to be drafted somewhere in the bottom of the first round. Tyson’s shooting is already at an elite level and he has strong hockey sense and good size to go with it. The knock against him is his skating, which requires much work. Years ago, the Sharks drafted an offensive forward in the first round from the OHL with skating issues by the name of Logan Couture so San Jose will take chances when they know a player is pro-level in one area despite other deficiencies.
#47 – Montreal Canadiens – Ty Smilanic, C, US U-18 (USHL)
The Habs have shown in recent years that you can never have enough centres so they’ll likely be adding to that group here. With as many prospects as they’ve picked lately, however, some longer-term projects may be on the horizon which also helped dictate our other picks. Smilanic profiles as a capable bottom-six forward down the road which Montreal has drafted a lot of in recent years with varying success. After taking a bit of a swing with Reichel, this is a safer pick to balance that out.
#48 – Montreal Canadiens – Topi Niemela, D, Karpat (SM-liiga)
Montreal’s depth on the right side of the back end isn’t anywhere near as deep as it is on the left although having Shea Weber and Jeff Petry buys them some time. Niemela doesn’t profile as much of an offensive threat but he is reliable in his own end and certainly held his own at the top level in Finland as a draft-eligible player which is notable. The Canadiens have drafted some aggressive defenders in recent years (Alexander Romanov, Jayden Struble, and Mattias Norlinder all come to mind) so having a safer option like Niemela to pair one of them with makes some sense.
#57 – Montreal Canadiens – Roby Jarventie, LW, Koovee (Mestis)
This has nothing to do with the fact the Habs drafted his father back in the days where teams could draft 25-year-olds. Jarventie has some promising offensive upside and the size that a lot of their prospect pool is lacking. He’s a few years away from being ready to come to North America but while some teams may be concerned with that, it may be appealing to the Habs if they want to space out their signing timelines. Alternatively, they could trade down as GM Marc Bergevin likes to do.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to enter our annual draft pool where you can make your predictions and see how they stack up against ours.