The talent for the 2020 NHL draft is vast. However, choosing the right player, especially in the later rounds, requires more than sheer luck or cashing in on the law of averages.
While the consensus believes that winger Alexis Lafreniere and center Quinton Byfield are all but guaranteed to be the first two picks in this year’s draft, the depth of superior talent in this year’s pool, specifically forwards from the Canadian Hockey League and Europe, makes the difficult job of predicting the draft’s outcome all the more enjoyable.
Additionally, the NHL standings, even as late as New Year’s Day, are so tightly packed that teams currently holding home-ice advantage in the first round may very well end up near the bottom of the league’s overall standings by April. Through Sunday, only 11 points separate Colorado, the team with the fifth-best record, and Montreal, which is ranked 24th.
This type of parity may be good for the league in terms of maintaining hope for the postseason, but it also gives fans the chance to manage their expectations and start to consider the draft lottery as a legitimate possibility. What is 100 percent certain, however, is that this year’s talent pool offers playoff teams the chance to achieve draft success later in the first round and possibly into the middle of the second.
Why is that the case? For starters, this is considered one of the deepest collections of Canadian-born forwards since the historic 2003 draft class that produced the likes of Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron and Corey Perry. Any draft that heavily favors forwards will push elite defense prospects into the late first or second round, similar to the aforementioned 2003 group that saw Brent Burns (20th overall) and Shea Weber (49th overall) drafted outside the top half of the first round.
Another takeaway is that the European pool, specifically via Russia, Finland, and even Germany, will place a good two-dozen North American types outside the top 31. History should be very kind to the 2020 draft class, which bodes well for NHL clubs regardless of whether they make the playoffs this season or not.
The draft order you see below is via Tankathon, the mock draft simulator which uses current NHL standings and the league’s mandated odds to generate the lottery positions. For example, the worst team in the league as of Dec. 31 — in this case the Detroit Red Wings — will have only an 18.5 percent chance to draw the first pick if they finish dead last at season’s end. The simulator was run once, and the results are below for all to see.
NHL Mock Draft 2019, version 1.0
1. Ottawa Senators: Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
An easy choice for the rebuilding Sens, who now has a marketable French-Canadian player who has the work ethic, leadership and intangibles to complement his elite vision and scoring touch. Lafreniere is the leading scorer in the entire Canadian Hockey League, and that was before leaving Rimouski for Team Canada and the World Junior Championship. A recent knee injury at the tournament, which he returned from to win tournament MVP and a gold medal, should not impact his second half of the season.
2. New Jersey Devils: Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
The obvious need for New Jersey is in goal, but it’s doubtful any team is willing to pass up the chance at a 6-5 franchise center like Byfield to make Yaroslav Askarov the highest goalie taken in 17 years. With Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes already penciled in at center, the Devils can explore the option of moving one to wing. The fact that Byfield also plays a 200-foot game and wins the majority of his draws helps make this a no-brainer pick for general manager Ray Shero.
3, Detroit Red Wings: Tim Stutzle, C/LW, Adler Mannheim (DEL)
The Red Wings are in desperate need of a superstar to help fill seats in their state-of-the-art arena, and no player in this draft class can excite and amaze at top speed the way this German roadrunner can. Not only is Stutzle producing in Germany at a record pace for pre-draft teenagers, but he previously committed to the University of New Hampshire, which means he’s more than willing to consider a move to North America.
4. Los Angeles Kings: Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA-Neva (VHL)
The Kings have plenty of goalies in their system, but none have played well enough to earn the title of future star or potential franchise netminder. Askarov changes all that, and the fact that Los Angeles has used its last three first picks on centers makes taking a goalie this early all the more understandable. His herky-jerky style may seem unorthodox in an era where rigidity in goalies is optimal, but Askarov stops puck and slays powerhouses no matter how high the stakes are.
5. Ottawa Senators via San Jose: Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa (OHL)
The Senators can thank the San Jose Sharks for giving them to chance to draft the most prolific draft-eligible forward in the entire Canadian Hockey League since Connor McDavid. Rossi has incredible hands, a wicked shot and is terrorizing OHL goalies to a tune of 2.38 points per game. Although the Senators gave up what turned out to be the fourth overall pick to Colorado in the Matt Duchene deal, they landed this pick from San Jose for Erik Karlsson.
6. Anaheim Ducks: Jamie Drysdale, RHD, Erie (OHL)
Unlike previous years, the crop of elite defense prospects not only is thin but also lacks star power beyond the top 10. Drysdale is the lone exception, and if there ever was any question as to how special a talent he is, look no further than Team Canada head coach Dale Hunter, who made this explosive puck rusher the youngest defenseman to play for the Canadians in 18 years.
7. Chicago Blackhawks: Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgarden (SHL)
One of the purest goal scorers available in this draft, Holtz has dominated his peers in Sweden and is the SHL’s top draft-eligible forward. He has a high compete level and is a force along the boards, which will make the young Hawks a tougher team to play against. Not only does Holtz fill a critical need, but Chicago has drafted a Swedish league prospect in six of the last seven years
8. Buffalo Sabres: Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL)
Speaking of Swedish-friendly organizations, the Sabres have had much success dipping into the Scandinavian talent pool, and a high-motor scorer like Raymond would be an excellent addition to a team looking to develop two lethal scoring lines. This kid is all effort and hustle, and his ability to be a terror on the forecheck generates lengthy possessions inside the opposing end.
9. Edmonton Oilers: Cole Perfetti, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
A dual-threat winger who can play the role of playmaking center with as much success as being a shoot-first scorer from the flanks, Perfetti is lighting up the OHL for the second year in a row. The Oilers have picked defensemen with each of their last two first-round picks, and the expected removal of Jesse Puljujarvi from the depth chart should accelerate the requirement of filling that void with one of the draft’s top scoring threats.
10. Minnesota Wild: Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (SM-Liiga)
An unfortunate knee injury shouldn’t take away from the fact that Lundell is one of the most cerebral 200-foot centers available in June. Not only has he been productive from a traditional stats perspective while playing against older competition in one of Europe’s premier circuits, but Lundell also is a possession player who uses his excellent balance and puck control to wear out opposing defenders.
11. Montreal Canadiens: Dylan Holloway, C/W, Wisconsin (Big-10)
As much as the Habs and general manager Marc Bergevin would love to add a French-Canadian with star potential like Lafreniere, the club nonetheless will bolster one of the league’s deepest prospect pools by adding a skilled power forward like Holloway. The son of former Vancouver Canuck Bruce Holloway, Dylan is quite creative with the puck and plays an in-your-face game while serving a variety of roles for the Badgers, who are one of the youngest teams in all of college hockey.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jean-Luc Foudy, C/W, Windsor (OHL)
After having only three picks last year and none in this year’s second or third round, GM Jarmo Kekalainen has to make the most of this pick, and the speedy Foudy has incredibly high upside as a scorer. His fearless style is similar to brother Liam, who the Jackets took in the first round in 2018. Foudy plays for a deep Windsor squad that rolls four lines and keeps it tight defensively, and his quick stick and positioning creates turnovers in the offensive zone.
13. New York Rangers: Jan Mysak, C/W, Hamilton (OHL)
The Rangers made a mistake in 2017 by passing on electrifying Czech star Martin Necas in favor of the now-failed Lias Andersson experiment; Mysak gives them a chance for a reprieve. A fast, agile skate in open ice and a consistent breakaway threat, Mysak is on pace to come close to matching Necas’ draft-year production as a 17-year-old and was doing so on one of the worst teams in the Czech Extraliga. He is now headed to the OHL to play for Hamilton.
14. Nashville Predators: Rodion Amirov, RW, Salavat Ufa (KHL)
The Preds are pretty consistent when it comes to drafting Russians, albeit CHL import types rather than those from Russian leagues. Nonetheless, Amirov is an incredibly hard worker and expert puck handler who makes bigger defenders bounce off him. He’s one of the better draft prospects in tight-quarter battles, and his elusiveness from scrums continues to baffle opponents. He’s a top-10 caliber prospect who will likely slip a bit because of the Russian factor.
15. Tampa Bay Lightning: Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL)
Drafting out of the WHL is something the Bolts have done in the first round in three of the last four years, but a tough-yet-skilled forward like Zary would fit their mold regardless of the league he played in. Kamloops has one of the WHL’s top power plays and penalty kills, and Zary is a big reason why.
16. Calgary Flames: Jacob Perreault, LW, Sarnia (OHL)
A dangerous winger with one of the more accurate shots in the draft, Perreault is another streak scorer from the OHL who is benefiting from the league’s run-and-gun nature. Still, you can't teach soft hands, and Perrault puts an incredible touch on the puck, especially near the goal. Perreault also has NHL bloodlines — his father Yanic played 13 seasons after Toronto made him the 47th pick in 1991.
17. Winnipeg Jets: Justin Sourdif, RW, Vancouver (WHL)
A tough hombre with excellent hockey sense and consistency in his ability to make momentum-changing plays on or off the puck, Sourdif is a critical piece for a thin Giants’ squad that relies on him in all late and close scenarios. He would fit in nicely with Winnipeg’s physical style.
18. Florida Panthers: Seth Jarvis, C/W, Portland (WHL)
One of the more complete forwards likely available outside the top 10, Jarvis has been stirring the drink for the Winterhawks with three-zone play and a flair for the dramatic. The puck always seems to follow him, and his creativity from either center or wing would be a nice compliment to the gun-slinging forwards the Panthers are accumulating in their system.
19. New Jersey Devils via Arizona: Noel Gunler, RW, Lulea (SHL)
The Devils are the last organization that wants to invite more controversy, but Gunler’s sublime puck skills address the organization’s limited amount of game-breaking wingers at the prospect level. Perceived attitude issues have kept Gunler off several of Sweden’s national teams despite impressive numbers at the junior level, but that chip on his shoulder could turn out to benefit New Jersey on draft day.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning via Vancouver: Jake Sanderson, LHD, U.S. U18 (NTDP)
A poised defender with tremendous upper-body strength and an aggressive style while carrying the puck up ice, Sanderson is the son of former NHL winger Geoff Sanderson. He is the NTDP’s top defender in terms of usage and holding late leads, but there is potential for far more production once he graduates to a program that promotes an up-tempo style[ think Ryan McDonagh as an NHL comparable. Keep in mind that this is a protected pick that goes back to Vancouver if the Canucks don’t make the playoffs.
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21. Carolina Hurricanes via Toronto: Vasili Ponomaryov, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Super skilled and flashy, as well as strong defensively? It sounds almost too good to be true for the Canes, who continue to favor the slick playmakers and puck wizards when it comes to drafting forwards. Ponomaryov has been more than solid for Shawinigan in his first year in North America since coming over from Russia, and he was critical in their gold-medal wins this year at the Ivan Hlinka and World Junior “A” Challenge. This was the pick previously acquired in the Patrick Marleau trade.
22. Dallas Stars: Dawson Mercer, C/W, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
The Stars always seem to favor point-producing forwards who offer more than just gaudy stats, and Mercer would be a nice addition to a pool that already includes Ty Dellandrea and Jason Robertson. Mercer is a strong forward with sharp hockey sense and a nose for the net, and he always seems to find those soft areas to unload his hard, accurate shot. The fact that he was chosen for Team Canada as a first-year eligible over older, more experienced options speaks volumes about his potential.
23. Carolina Hurricanes: Kaiden Guhle, LHD, Prince Albert (WHL)
A physical yet mobile defender who is eating minutes on the top pairing of one of the best defensive teams in the WHL, Guhle has the smarts, size, shot power and crisp first pass that all teams should want in a defense prospect. The Canes are loaded with forwards at every level and have favored speed and skill the last few draft classes, but they need a stopper and crease clearer on the back end.
24. Philadelphia Flyers: Mavrik Bourque, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
A playmaking center who hasn’t had the benefit of premier linemates, Bourque is one of the QMJHL’s top scorers and has served as a power-play specialist for Shawinigan. There’s a lot of trickery to his game, and the Flyers can afford to roll the dice on a kid with the potential to be a big point producer in the NHL.
25. Colorado Avalanche: Jake Neighbours, LW, Edmonton (WHL)
The Avs used their two first-rounders last year on defenseman Bowen Byram and center Alex Newhook, but they may want an insurance policy after seeing 2018 top pick Martin Kaut struggle through injury and a lack of production. Neighbours has a lot of promise and shows puck skills off the rush, but he also offers 200-foot play with abrasiveness and physicality. Consider him one of the biggest agitators among draft peers.
26. New York Islanders: Shakir Mukhamadullin, LHD, Salavat Ufa (KHL)
A mean two-way defender who hits as hard as he hammers the puck from the point, Mukhamadullin has been a key cog for the Russian under-18 team while serving as their No. 1 rearguard and playing the point on the power play. The Islanders may have to wait a few years for him to leave Russia, but their patience will be well worth it when he shows up as a polished NHL-ready defender with legitimate top-pairing upside.
27. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sean Farrell, LW, Chicago (USHL)
An excellent playmaker who works hard every shift, Farrell graduated from last year’s history NTDP to become of the USHL’s top players. He’s committed to Harvard, so it’s no surprise that he processes every shift on a moment-to-moment basis, and he uses his speed and agility to carve up defensive schemes in either the neutral zone or the offensive end. It’s been years since the Penguins have drafted a highly-skilled forward with no red flags in the first round, and Farrell is the perfect choice to buck that trend.
28. Vegas Golden Knights: Emil Andrae, LHD, HV71 J20 (SHL)
A pure power-play quarterback and on-ice leader for Sweden’s U18 squad and HV71’s junior team, Andrae plays a similar style to Duncan Keith in terms of the way he skates with confidence and delivers a hard pass right on the tape. He’s on the smallish side for defenders, but Andrae is the perfect fit to fill Erik Brannstrom’s spot within the farm system following last year’s Mark Stone trade with Ottawa.
29. Boston Bruins: Brendan Brisson, C, Chicago (USHL)
At some point, the Bruins have to start using the draft to address the organizational need for point-producing prospects who look good while doing so, and Brisson is one of the smarter choices this late in the first round. A Michigan-bound center, Brendan is the son of Pat Brisson — one of the league’s most notable player agents. Brendan, however, is beginning to carve out his own reputation around NHL circles by dominating the USHL with an impressive blend of quickness, puck skills and quick thinking. He also plays physical and owns a deadly shot off the pass.
30. St. Louis Blues: Braden Schneider, RHD, Brandon (WHL)
One of the more physical defensemen available in the draft, Schneider nearly made Team Canada for the World Juniors thanks to a noticeable understanding of the game and consistency in his reads and open-ice hits. Simply put, Schneider is very difficult to play against in any scenario, which fits with what the Blues have going on in St. Louis.
31. Washington Capitals: Jeremie Poirier, LHD, Saint John (QMJHL)
For whatever reason, the Capitals have stayed away from purely offensive defensemen in the first round since 2004, when they drafted Mike Green. Poirier is a similar player from a stylistic standpoint in that he can hammer the puck without hesitation after using his speed to enter the zone cleanly. He’s a power-play quarterback who gracefully spins away from pressure before delivering pucks with authority.