2020 NHL Draft Overview


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Top draft picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, Alexis Lafreniere (left) and Quinton Byfield (right), playing against each other in the 2020 CHL Prospect Game.

By Emily Chin, Staff Writer

Thirty-one players were selected in the first round of the 2020 NHL draft, on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. This year the draft was supposed to be hosted by the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre but due to COVID-19, this year was different.

Considered the worst kept secret, it was obvious that the 18-year-old forward, Alexis Lafreniere, would go first overall to the New York Rangers. Lafreniere is the first Québécois to be taken first overall since goalie Marc-André Fleury in 2003. Another milestone he reached was being the second player to win the CHL Player of the Year award twice, something that hasn’t been done since Sidney Crosby. He dominated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112 points in 52 games during the 19-20 season, and as captain, brought team Canada to win gold in the 2020 World Juniors. Lafreniere is highly projected to be the next best generational player following in the path of Crosby and Connor McDavid. Many compare him to the Colorado Avalanches forward, Mikko Rantanen, as Lafreniere has an elite sense of vision in offensive and defensive zones, not to mention his nasty wrister and ability to finish plays in phenomenal.

So far he has all the tools to become an elite scoring winger, which is huge for the team considering that they got the second overall draft pick from 2019, Kaapo Kakko. Rangers have the depth in scoring already, and with Lafreniere, he’ll bring another aspect on opening up the ice and making plays.

History was also made during the first round, center Quinton Byfield, who was picked second overall by the Los Angeles Kings became the highest-drafted black player in NHL history. Byfield remains on the younger side of the draft and has top-end playmaking ability and impeccable skating. He is highly compared to the center, Anze Kopitar, because he is a strong center that’s able to bring speed, strength, and other strong skill sets to the table. His age will also provide him to have a large range of growth in the future, and being able to play behind Kopitar, will certainly increase his progression.

Another team that won big at the draft was the Ottowa Senators, taking Tim Stützle, third overall and defenseman, Jake Sanderson, fifth overall, the Senators are a team that will definitely dominate the 20-21 season. Even though Stützle was projected to be the second-best prospect in the draft, many knew that he was going to be picked third overall. Stützle’s playing ability is very similar to the great Patrick Kane. He is an extremely dynamic player and can play both center and winger, he has the ability to hold onto the puck and be creative with plays, trying to find the best opportunity. Putting him on a line with Anthony Duclair or Brady Tkachuk will bring out the ability of the elite players on this team to create dynamic plays.

Defenseman Sanderson, took some by surprise. Many were thinking that Jamie Drysdale would be the first defenseman to be picked, but instead, it was the Montana native Sanderson. Sanderson has a good left shot and is not afraid to play physical. With his mobility and agility, he’s able to close off opponents and neutralize attacks. His defensive game is really strong, but something that he needs to work on is his offensive creativity. Putting him on a line with defenseman, Thomas Chabot, will open a lot of opportunities in his growth as a player.

A highly anticipated player that was surprisingly taken early on in the draft was goalie, Yaroslav Askarov, the goalie was chosen eleventh overall by the Nashville Predators. Many were surprised that he was picked so early in the draft generally because goalies are picked later on around the 20-31st pick. But when you have a reputation of being, “the best goaltending prospect since Carey Price,” that says a lot. He has been very dominant in international events due to having exceptional hockey sense, and the ability to maneuver around the net. It will take him a couple of years to have an impact on the Predators especially since he will be staying in Russia to play in the KHL for a couple of years, but when he starts there is no doubt he won’t be an elite starting goaltender.

With the seventeenth pick overall, the Chicago Blackhawks picked German forward, Lukas Reichel. People were shocked to see him go in the first round because he was projected to be a second-round player. Even though he might not be a topline player, he has strong playmaking ability and will be critical for the Blackhawks in the future.

The 2020 draft class will definitely be a sight to watch this year. Hopefully, the NHL will be able to return to play for the 20-21 season. On October 9, the 2020 free agency will start, with many elite players rumored to be signing with new teams. Lafreniere, Stützle, and Byfield are the main prospects that will be heavily watched this year, the 20-21 season will be a very different atmosphere especially with Lafreniere joining the mix.