Less than two weeks and counting, finally.
The 2020 NHL Draft is quickly approaching. The two-day virtual event will take place on Tuesday Oct 6 and Wednesday Oct 7.
For the prospects, their lifelong dream will finally be realized after months of waiting for their moment. Eight of the top prospects joined the media on Thursday afternoon via Zoom to answer questions and discuss their upcoming moment.
In order of appearance, we were joined by Tim Stutzle, Jack Quinn, Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, Quinton Byfield, Jamie Drysdale, Alexis Lafreniere and Jake Sanderson. Each had some interesting things to say.
Starting with Stutzle, we will go prospect by prospect and highlight some of the interesting quotes and nuggets that came from their availability.
If you are familiar with our annual Emptying the Combine Notebook piece we do every year, it will be formatted in a similar fashion; quick hits to give you a taste of what was said. I’ll also sprinkle in some opinion. Here we go.
- Stutzle said that he and his Mannheim teammates have been able to train together for the last month. That’s a good sign. He went on to say that he hopes the season in Germany starts soon.
- He said that he would support playing in a bubble for the next World Junior Championships.
- Stutzle on the rise of Germany in the hockey world of late: “I think you need to have two, at least three guys playing on the pro team and train with them. So I think that’s a big part of it. Young players can play in the big leagues and get to know everything and get to know the veterans and learn from those guys every time. And play and train against men everyday. I think that helps a lot too. I think Leon (Draisaitl) really showed everything off. He was an unbelievable role model last season. I think Germany is definitely on the right way.”
- Stutzle was asked if he thought about the pros and cons of being in Los Angeles versus being in Ottawa. Not surprisingly, he said he doesn’t think about that. He just tries to play his game and work hard off the ice. He did go on to say both interviews went well but is unsure where things stand.
- He also admitted that he will be watching the draft with both his teammates and his family. He says his team was a big part of him last season and they need to be there with him.
- Quinn said he spoke to over 20 teams throughout the process. He however could not recall an odd Combine-like question from anyone.
- So how does someone go from 12 goals to 52 goals in one season? “I think there’s a lot of factors that went into it. It started with a great summer in the gym. That led to me feeling in good shape and being a lot more confident in myself. I think my skating improved a bit.”
- Quinn confirmed he has had multiple interviews with the Devils. He also spoke to the Predators as well.
- His coach Andre Tourigny challenged him to be harder to play against and go to the inside more. Quinn accepted that challenge and also made it a point to shoot more pucks. Good combination.
- Rossi conducted his interview when it was 10:30 P.M. his local time. When the draft goes in October, it will be 1 A.M. his local time. Hope he and his family has plenty of coffee! And yes, his family will be with him to celebrate his moment.
- Rossi says he’s spoken to the Red Wings three times. The talks were good in his mind. Apparently Yzerman was on the Zoom calls but his camera was shut off. Imagine what the prospects might be thinking knowing he’s there but you can’t see him.
- Rossi says he’s even faster and stronger now than he was when the season ended. That’s to be expected. But given how great he was in the OHL, that’s downright scary and great for the team that lands him. His biggest priority was to get quicker. Mission accomplished.
- If there was an award for best interview, Perfetti wins hands down. He’s thoughtful and expounds on his responses.
- Example A: “A lot of coaches are still stuck in their olden days. They’re kind of chip pucks in and crash and bang, play hard, stuff like that and you gotta play the structure to a T.” I mean geez! How refreshing! But it gets better.
- Example B: “If I was under a head coach where I had to dump the puck in every time I go out over the red line and get on the forecheck, it would be frustrating and I wouldn’t be able to express how I really am as a player.” Whoa!
- All this was said in response to the way his coach in Saginaw Chris Lazary coaches. Perfetti called his coach’s style a pro style and a new style of hockey and where the game is going. He credits Lazary for helping him be creative within the structure.
- Byfield on the lessons he learned post world juniors: “It was definitely a bit of a learning curve for me going from playing such a high role (with) a lot of minutes in the OHL on the teams previous. I think going in there I didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to do whatever for the team in order to get the win. I took a lesser role and tried to be a good teammate off the ice and try to help the guys as much as I could.”
- Byfield was a big Tampa Bay Lightning fan growing up. But on the call he said he was rooting for Dallas in the Stanley Cup Final. “I’m cheering for Dallas right now. I don’t know why. I think they have a great story.”
- Byfield on the wrist injury and any lessons learned: “I wasn’t really thinking about the draft much during the year. I was just trying to play my game and just let the chips fall (as they may.) I just put out my best effort and show everyone what I can do and why I’m kind of a high-rated prospect. It was tough just watching my team going out and play in games and not being able to help them get the win.”
- As expected, Byfield had interviews with the Kings and Senators. He does not however have a sense if one went better than the other or not. He and Stutzle will likely go two and three in some order.
- Notice a theme yet? Drysdale too has had “a few” interviews with the Red Wings. While I still maintain Perfetti is the leader in the clubhouse, the Red Wings are going to get a great player no matter which direction they go. Silver lining for missing out on first overall.
- Erie Otters associate coach B.J. Adams has been working extensively with Drysdale on his defensive side of the game. When asked what his biggest improvement was on that side of the puck: “The main thing he wants me to do is using my skating to my advantage, more specifically in closing gaps in the neutral zone and in the d-zone.” He also said he is starting to trust his feet more.
- Drysdale grew up watching Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly and tries to emulate the way he plays the game. He also has watched a lot of the young stars in Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes. Their confidence is something Drysdale tries to put into his game.
- Lafreniere to the New York Rangers is academic. But he’s not taking it for granted. On New York: “Really nice place, one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s exciting. We’ll see what happens, but I would be really excited for sure.”
- Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin together? Yep. “Every game I watched he was creating chances and I think he was one of the best players in the league this year.” Talk about expediting a rebuild.
- Lafreniere’s Conn Smythe predictions: Heiskanen and Brayden Point. Solid choices.
- Sanderson confirmed multiple interviews with the New Jersey Devils. He also spoke to the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of his father Geoff’s former teams. “I actually did an interview with one of their media guys. He knew my dad pretty well. So it was kind of a small world just because my dad knew him when he played there. He finally got to interview me as I grew up in the game.”
- Sanderson said he has been working on getting stronger and becoming a better skater. He also admitted he was working on his one-timer.
- And in a light moment, Jake said he would give it to his father a little bit if he gets drafted higher than his dad did. Pretty good chance that happens. Geoff was drafted in 1990 36th overall by the Hartford Whalers. Jake is expected to go in the lottery.
How will it all shake out come Oct 6? These eight can’t wait to find out which jersey they will wear. My biggest takeaway from this availability? This is a really good group of prospects. Whoever lands these players will see their team dramatically improve their future outlook.