The first round of the 2020 NHL Draft is finally in the books after months of anticipation and – as always – there were a few surprises. There are bound to be more surprises in rounds two to seven, but now seems like a perfect time to review what has already happened in the most exciting event of the NHL calendar.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Here are a few of my biggest takeaways from the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
Senators Early Winners of Day 1
With three picks in the first round, including two in the top five, the Ottawa Senators came away from round one as the early winners in the draft. There are going to be some questions about the fifth-overall pick – maybe even the 28th – but if this front office has taught Senators fans anything, it’s patience.
The Senators are walking away from the 2020 NHL Draft with centre/left winger Tim Stützle (third overall), defender Jake Sanderson (fifth overall), and feisty winger Ridly Greig (28th overall). Looking at my personal rankings, theses are all higher than I have them, but again, the front office knows what it’s doing. Remember the reactions to Brady Tkachuk? To Shane Pinto? Give them a chance.
In one night, about three and a half hours actually, the Senators potentially landed a top-line forward, a top-line defender, and a top-six forward. If that’s not a win, I’m not sure what is. It will obviously take some time to truly see how these selection pan out, but for now, I’m willing to bet the Senators are happy. There were some big names that slide out of the first round, and the team does have four second rounders. Keep an eye out, Sens fans.
Jack Quinn Goes Before Marco Rossi
One of the early shocks in my eyes was how the NHL teams viewed Ottawa 67’s fowards Jack Quinn and Marco Rossi. Rossi seemed like a sure-fire top-five pick in this draft to many, top seven or eight at the very least. Jack Quinn on the other hand, was all over the place, from top-eight to the mid-20s. After the first seven picks in the draft, people started taking notice of Rossi left on the board.
Then, with the eight-overall pick in the draft, the Buffalo Sabres appeared on the virtual podium, to select from the 67’s: Quinn. After scoring 52 goals in 62 games, it’s not completely shocking to see a team grab him high, but leaving centreman Rossi on the board is definitely hard to understand. Instead, Rossi was scooped up by the Minnesota Wild at No. 9.
I think that the Rossi selection is going to be one that we look back on and say, “how did he go that low?” He’s slightly smaller than some of the others in the top-10, but he makes up for it with his skill, his power, and his motor. Quinn, I personally had at No. 21 after seeing some big red flags in his game. I question whether or not he can actually drive offence, but I know there are some others out there that disagree with that. One thing’s for sure here, many people are going to be watching how the two 67’s progress into their NHL careers.
Blues Jackets Shock with Yegor Chinakhov Selection
The biggest shock of the 2020 NHL Draft: the Columbus Blue Jackets drafting Yegor Chinakhov with the 21st selection of the draft. You might be thinking, who? Don’t worry – most people are. Luckily, The Hockey Writers’ Andrew Forbes prepared a profile on the Russian forward:
“He wouldn’t be the first player to need another year to develop before hearing his name called at the NHL Draft and because of the extra time, 2020 could be the year Yegor Chinakhov becomes a legitimate NHL prospect.
“Even last season, he showed signs that he could be a solid pick in the later rounds, but his consistency in play just wasn’t there. There were questions regarding his game-to-game effort and what he did in his own end. That said, he took a big step forward in both departments during the 2019-20 season and could make for an interesting mid-round pick this time around.”
It later came out that the Blue Jackets had Chinakhov in their top-10 prospects. This is definitely going to be a prospect to watch now for everyone as the public tries to understand this selection. It’s seems general manager Jarmo Kekalainen must know something the rest of us don’t about the overaged Russian.
Despite Health Worries, Lapierre and Barron go Top-25
Coming into the 2019-20 hockey season, many analysts and outlets had Hendrix Lapierre as a top-10 pick and Justin Barron as the second-best defender. But then, Lapierre missed the majority of the season to a concussion and neck injury, and Barron missed a good chunk of the season with a blood clot. Granted, neither of them really stood out in the games they did play as much as they did in the past, but obviously, there was some worry about their health.
It may have hurt their stock slightly, but both were still taken in the first round. The Washington Capitals drafted Lapierre 22nd overall and the Colorado Avalanche landed Barron 25th overall.
If these players reach the ceilings that many thought they had at the start of the season, the Capitals and Avalanche could have two of the biggest steals of this draft. On the other hand, if their health issues impact their development process or hinder their hockey careers, these teams could end up with a missed selection. Drafting for ceiling is never a bad thing and these risks could bay off dividends. Only time will tell.
Flames Get Crafty on Day 1
The Calgary Flames came into the 2020 NHL Draft with the 19th overall pick. When they were on the clock, they traded the pick to the New York Rangers for the 22nd-overall selection and the 72nd pick. When it came to their selection again at 22, they traded back again, this time to the Capitals for the 24th pick and the 80th overall selection. At 24, they drafted Connor Zary, a player that many thought could be a top-15 or 20 pick in this class.
So, the Flames come away with a player that they likely would have taken at 19, and add the 72nd and 80th selection in the draft. All while getting the player that they wanted. It was definitely a risky move, but this was a highly crafty move from general manager Brad Treliving.
There are still six rounds left, tons of action, and there will be more surprises. After the draft wraps up, be sure to tune into The Hockey Writers Live, streaming live on Facebook and YouTube. My colleague, Mark Scheig and I will be live on Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST with two special guests, breaking down the entire 2020 NHL Draft. You won’t want to miss it!
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.