THW 2020 Mock NHL Draft Round 1: Our Armchair GMs Make Their Picks

The 2020 NHL Draft will happen. We just don’t really know when. Or how. But we know it will happen at some point… Right?

The NHL discussing moving up the draft to early June has led media outlets, scouting agencies, and NHL teams to really amp up their draft content and preparation. We at The Hockey Writers are no different, as we’ve been putting out some stellar prospect profiles, features, rankings, and – (pause for dramatic effect) – mock drafts.

Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide

We have an annual tradition of getting our writers together for one of the most entertaining times of the year for us internally, the THW Writers’ Mock Draft. Our staff members pick teams and then make their picks for that respective team. Then they provide some reasoning about why they think that team would take that player.

The lottery hasn’t happened yet, but the most likely scenario at this point looks to be the ranking being based on points percentage at the time the season paused, so that’s what we used here while keeping the existing picks via trades in place.

There’s only one rule: no trading picks.

We also did one thing differently this year. Similar to what Corey Pronman does in The Athletic‘s writers mock draft, this year I gave my take on the writer’s picks. I don’t give an alternate selection, just my thoughts on what if that team took that player. (from: “NHL Mock Draft: Beat writers preview the 2020 draft lottery” – The Athletic – Apr. 9, 2020).

1) Detroit Red Wings: Alexis Lafrenière

THW Writer: Tony Wolak

Who else? Alexis Lafrenière is the real deal and consensus best player available in the 2020 NHL Draft. He’s ready to join the Detroit Red Wings now and will be playing in their top-six next season. Lafrenière’s skating is already explosive, he protects the puck and shoots very well, and has elite vision to boot. Simply put, Lafrenière is a cornerstone player that will make an immediate impact with the Red Wings.

Alexis Lafreniere Rimouski Oceanic
BOISBRIAND, QC – NOVEMBER 23: Alexis Lafrenière in action in a QMJHL game between the Rimouski Océanics and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on November 23, 2019, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by Vincent Ethier/CHL)

Bell’s Take

Just as Tony says, who else? Lafrenière is the best player in this draft class, and it seems very likely that he’ll step right into the NHL next season. He’s a dominant offensive force that will immediately make the Red Wings better. Imagining Lafrenière and Dylan Larkin together should make Detroit fans extremely excited.

2) Ottawa Senators: Quinton Byfield

THW Writer: Ben Fraser & Dayton Reimer

With the second-overall pick, the Ottawa Senators pick Quinton Byfield. Although they miss out on the Lafrenière sweepstakes, they take home an excellent consolation prize. He’s big, powerful, can score goals, and already has a refined defensive game. He could likely find himself in the NHL next season, and along with Brady Tkachuk, the Senators’ top unit will be one to be reckoned with.

Related: Is Quinton Byfield Underrated?

Bell’s Take

Byfield is the only player in my mind that I could possibly see overtake Lafrenière for the number one spot (he won’t). He’s a dynamic player that brings speed, strength, and one of the best skillsets in this class. The Senators have a number of centres in their system, and a number of very good prospects. Byfield will be the best by a long shot. I don’t think he’ll make the jump to the NHL next season, but he’s not far off. Senators fans, you have your future number-one centreman.

3) Ottawa Senators (Via SJ): Jamie Drysdale

THW Writer: Ben Fraser & Dayton Reimer

While some may see this pick as a reach, Ottawa can acquire the best D-man of the draft, immediately after selecting the draft’s best centre in Byfield. Jamie Drysdale’s skating ability is nothing short of elite. His agility and balance are incredible to watch, and he can instantly take over the game using this ability. Even more impressive is his hockey IQ. He is one of the most intelligent defensemen I have seen in years. This is going to help his transition to the NHL, as the decision-making skills are already there.

Jamie Drysdale, OHL, Erie Otters
Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

While he may not be NHL ready for 2020-21, another year with the Erie Otters will only benefit him, especially at 18 years old. The Senators are getting a legitimate number-one defenseman, who’s puck skills, hockey IQ, and skating will make him a force to be reckoned with when he arrives in the NHL.

Bell’s Take

There are two specific positions that NHL teams covet most: a number-one centreman and a number-one defenseman (especially right-handed ones). With this selection, the Senators have a chance for both from this draft. Drysdale has the skating ability, excellent vision, and the puck skills that you can really only dream of in a defender. Having him on your backend, along with Thomas Chabot and Erik Brännström? The points that this defensive unit could put up is terrifying.

4) Los Angeles Kings: Tim Stützle

THW Writer: Nick Abramo

Tim Stützle creates a ton of offense and is the type of player I feel the Los Angeles Kings could really use, especially with the many goal-scoring threats coming up in the system. I see that his shot is not as lethal as some others, but he can still bury it.

Related: Top Euro Draft Prospect Tim Stützle Talks About His Rise to the Top

Bell’s Take

Heading into the draft, there’s no doubt that the Kings have the best prospect pool in the league. The Senators might challenge that now with Byfield and Drysdale, but the Kings landing Stützle is incredible. He’s an excellent playmaker, with great offensive awareness. He’s been used at centre and the wing, so it would be interesting to see how the Kings use him. With Alex Turcotte in the ranks, and I still think he can be a number one centreman, I’d likely say Stützle would move to the wing.

5) Anaheim Ducks: Alexander Holtz

THW Writer: Anthony Ciardelli & Eddy Jones

There is no question the Anaheim Ducks’ have a lot of needs when it comes to jump-starting their rebuild. There is a gaping hole on the right side of the defense, but the Senators scooped up Drysdale so scratch that until later. However, with some exceptionally talented forwards left on the board, it’s time to address another need: scoring. The Ducks’ finished 29th in goals per game this season and what better way to address that than by picking up arguably the best shooter in the entire draft.

Alexander Holtz Djurgarden
Alexander Holtz, Djurgarden (Photo by ERIK SIMANDER/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

It was a tough decision between Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond, and personally I think there isn’t much of a difference between the two when it comes to the best player available. So, we went with the sniper. Holtz fits the mold of what general manager Bob Murray is looking for. At the Ducks Hot Stove event in March he said “We’ll be looking for shooters in the draft. Some of our guys just can’t shoot one-timers, boggles my mind”. It seems like a good fit to me. Also, how could we pass up a Trevor Zegras/Holtz combo.

Bell’s Take

Let’s let that last line sink in for a minute. Your future is Zegras at centre, arguably the best playmaking prospect in the NHL right now, and Holtz on the wing, arguably the best shooter in this draft class. Would this be the second coming of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry? That’s exciting. I wouldn’t say this is a best player available pick, but it addresses a huge need for the Ducks and he’s one of the best players left on the board.

6) New Jersey Devils: Lucas Raymond

THW Writer: Alex Chauvancy

It was a bit of a surprise to see Raymond available outside the top five. Fortunately, it benefits the New Jersey Devils. He’s a dynamic winger who’s an absolute beast on the forecheck. He’s always chasing the puck and creating havoc for opposing defenders. And when he has puck possession in the offensive zone, he thrives on his playmaking and ability to set up scoring chances. His shot could use a bit of work, but it’s not a detriment. That should come with age, too, as he bulks up from 165 pounds. He’s arguably the best European prospect and perhaps a winger who can carry his own line in the NHL. So the Devils get themselves a steal with their first pick. 

Related: Lucas Raymond: The Next Swedish Superstar

Bell’s Take

Alex puts it beautifully. Raymond is a top-three player in this draft in my eyes still, and the Devils jumping on him at six looks like our first steal of the draft (don’t worry, there are more coming). Last year, the Devils landed number-one pick Jack Hughes. Say what you will about his 2019-20 season, he’s elite. Now, you add an elite winger to that? Don’t worry Devils fans, it looks like your time is coming sooner rather than later.

7) Buffalo Sabres: Marco Rossi

THW Writer: Jordan Deshane

The Sabres would be thrilled to add the skilled Austrian with the seventh pick. Marco Rossi is a dynamic playmaker with a great shot but also plays with an edge. Don’t let his shorter stature fool you. He’s built like Sidney Crosby from the waist down. He is hard on the puck and cannot be knocked off easily. In addition to his elite offensive game, Rossi plays hard in the defensive zone and has a sound all-around presence while also playing on the edge like the much-beloved Brad Marchand.

MArco Rossi Ottawa 67s
Marco Rossi of the Ottawa 67’s (Credit: CHL Images)

A natural centre, he may start on the wing in the NHL but has all the tools to be an excellent second-line centre. In addition, he will not be returning to the Ottawa 67’s next season and will either play in the NHL or overseas. Many pundits feel he can play in the NHL next season and make an impact.

Related: Marco Rossi Could Be The Best Austrian Ever

Bell’s Take

The Sabres don’t have the greatest prospect pool after 2019 first-rounder Dylan Cozens. Landing Rossi is an immediate upgrade to that system. It would be very interesting to see how they use him, as Jack Eichel is the undisputed number-one guy in Buffalo, so both Cozens and Rossi would fight for that number-two spot, but it’s likely that one slides to the wing – I’d assume Rossi. That being said, at number seven, this is a great pick, and will definitely be adding to Buffalo’s goal differential in the near future.

8) Montreal Canadiens: Cole Perfetti

THW Writer: Trege Wilson

Cole Perfetti is an excellent puck handler with great hockey IQ, compete level and skill. He was second in scoring in the OHL and had a tremendous Hlinka/Gretzky tourney. He was not only the BPA but he also fits a need for scoring on the top six for the Canadiens.

Related: Cole Perfetti Talks His Game & His Draft Season

Bell’s Take

We’re still dealing with elite prospects, and we’re almost out of the top-10. I’m not sure I’d take Perfetti over anyone above, yet this still feels like a steal. He needs to improve on his skating to really make an impact at the next level, but he has the potential to be something great. With him and Cole Caufield both earning the nickname “Goal,” this would be an exciting duo to watch. Perfetti also showed his elite playmaking ability this season, making that duo even more intriguing.

9) Chicago Blackhawks: Yaroslav Askarov

THW Writer: Peter Baracchini

Since the Montreal Canadiens drafted Carey Price fifth overall in 2005, no other goalie has been selected in the top 10, let alone the top five. There’s too much of a risk involved, as you’ll never know how goalie prospects will pan out. In the case of Askarov, he is worthy of being a top-10 pick. With an ageing Corey Crawford and his health concerns, there’s so much uncertainty surrounding the Blackhawks’ goaltending situation. Askarov will be their starter and the answer that this franchise needs. The soon to be 18-year-old has high-end vision, movements and reflexes, making the most difficult of saves look easy. He addresses a potential need, and that’s extremely difficult to find.

Yaroslav Askarov Team Russia
Team Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov (Russia Hockey/FHR.RU)

Related: New Era of Goaltenders Will be Led by Yaroslav Askarov

Bell’s Take

As you see with many mock drafts out there, Askarov and the Blackhawks seem like a perfect match. Not only does Askarov become the top goaltending prospect, but he becomes the best prospect in the system and the top goaltending prospect in the league. The Blackhawks aren’t far removed from three Stanley Cups, and they’ve been stockpiling a few incredible prospects over the last couple of years. Askarov bolsters that in a big way.

10) New Jersey Devils (Via ARI): Anton Lundell

THW Writer: Alex Chauvancy

The Devils don’t need a center. But with Askarov and Perfetti off the board, Lundell would be the best player available with the 10th pick. He spent this season with HIFK in the Liiga and had 28 points in 44 games. There’s nothing flashy about his game, but he excels at both ends of the ice. He’s an exceptional defender and has incredible hockey IQ. His offense may lag behind some of the other top prospects in this class. But he has enough offensive upside to be a very effective two-way, second-line center in the NHL. And that’d leave the Devils set down the middle for years to come with him, Jack Hughes, and Nico Hischier. 

Bell’s Take

So the Devils draft Raymond and now Lundell. Woah. This would be another interesting player to see how they’d fit him in with Hughes and Hischier as I don’t really see Lundell shifting to the wing and I think he’s better than a third-line centreman. Lundell is an excellent two-way player, and while he needs to improve his skating, I think he’s a very promising player. His vision and his skill at both ends of the ice is excellent. It’s always said that you should take the best player available in the draft, and Lundell’s it.

11) Minnesota Wild: Hendrix Lapierre

THW Writer: Justin Haddad

This may be considered a “reach” at this point in the draft with health concerns surrounding Hendrix Lapierre’s future. However, prior to the injuries, he was essentially a lock to be a top-15 selection as he was just coming off a 45-point season and winning the QMJHL Offensive Rookie of the Year. This selection might not have been “Best Player Available”, but he might have the highest ceiling of almost any first-round pick. This is exactly the type of draft pick that the Wild need with aging veterans centers and low ceiling forwards on their team (outside of Kevin Fiala). This sets up the team nicely down the middle with highly touted prospects Kirill Kaprizov and Matthew Boldy waiting in the wings and ready to join the Wild within the next couple seasons.

Hendrix Lapierre Chicoutimi Saguenéens
Chicoutimi Saguenéens player Hendrix Lapierre (Credit: André Emond)

Bell’s Take

Our first reach of the draft! Or is it? I actually really like this pick for the Wild. Justin’s right in that I don’t think this is the best player available based on his history with concussions and the neck injury, but based on potential this is right on the nose. He put his skill on display in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and that’s the level he performs at when he’s healthy. He adds a ton of skill to the Wild’s prospect pool and if he can stay healthy, he might actually turn out to be a steal.

12) Winnipeg Jets: Dylan Holloway

THW Writer: Ryan Goethals

Selecting Dylan Holloway at 12th overall was an easy decision. He is a big, two-way power forward that will bring grit and toughness to the lineup. He has drive, determination, and a willingness to play in the tough areas of the ice while retrieving pucks and driving the play. His ability to play both centre and left-wing will go a long way in the development of his NHL career and with his size, skating, and hands I do not see why Holloway could not become a top-six centre/winger for the Winnipeg Jets at some point down the road.

Bell’s Take

Say what you will about Holloway’s season, this guy has something. He’s got the speed and skill to be a top-six guy in the NHL. Let’s not forget that the University of Wisconsin struggled as a team this season, the NCAA is one of the toughest leagues out there, and Holloway was one of the youngest players in the league. This is a great pick up for the Jets to go with their Ville Heinola defensive first-round pick last season.

13) New York Rangers: Rodion Amirov

THW Writer: Jeb Biggart

I won’t beat around the bush, Holloway was my go-to pick at 13th overall. The Rangers need centers and he seems like the perfect fit for the organization. However, with him going to the Jets at 12, I had to pivot. Rodion Amirov is a close second to Holloway, and fills a big hole in the Rangers prospect system. Besides Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin, the Rangers have weak left-wing depth, both at the NHL level and the prospect level. Just like Vitali Kravtsov in his draft year, Amirov dominated in the MHL and VHL but struggled to produce in the KHL’s regular season due to limited ice-time and inexperience.

Rodion Amirov Team Russia
Rodion Amirov of Team Russia (Vincent Ethier/LHJMQ)

He’s shown plenty of promise, playing a 200-foot game despite his smaller frame. He’s poised with and without the puck, has excellent board play in all three zones, and is very elusive in tight spaces. With some development in his shot and acceleration, Amirov could become everything the Rangers need in a two-way winger. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do that the KHL level next year.

Bell’s Take

I really like this pick for the Rangers. Amirov is a guy that honestly could go in the top 10, but likely won’t. He has the skill at both ends and joins a very good young group that New York has been building up. The Rangers are loading up on skill at every position through the draft, and Amirov fits that perfectly. I could see him being one of the best two-way forwards to come out of this draft.

14) Florida Panthers: Noel Gunler

THW Writer: Tyler Halsey

The Florida Panthers have shown a willingness to swing for the fences with their first-round picks, and Noel Gunler is no exception. The supremely skilled yet polarizing forward is an excellent fit in Florida’s prospect pool. An infusion of high-end skill is much needed on the wings – after Grigori Denisenko and Owen Tippett, there is a glaring need for wingers in the organization. Gunler is the most skilled player available at this point and coupled with the organizational need, he’s a perfect fit for the Panthers.

Related: Noel Gunler is Learning from Adversity

Bell’s Take

The Panthers draft a guy who has been ranked from the top-10 to the second round, but I think this is a great spot for Gunler. He’s a very offensive player, but don’t put too much weight into the rumours that he can’t defend – he can. He’s one of the best shooters in this class, yet brings a full arsenal to Florida here. This might just end up being a steal.

15) Columbus Blue Jackets: Jake Sanderson

THW Writer: Mark Scheig

By this point in the draft, the mindset should always be to take the best available player. Sanderson being available here is exactly that. When you are compared to the likes of Seth Jones, Zach Werenski and Charlie McAvoy when it comes to your upside, it shows what many think of his talents. Sanderson is an excellent defender who has no trouble adding offense.

Jake Sanderson USNTDP
Jake Sanderson, USA NTDP (Credit: Rena Laverty)

He would give a much needed boost to the defensive depth of the team and could eventually open the door for the Blue Jackets to address the forward position by making a deal involving a current defenseman. Sanderson’s father Geoff scored the first hat trick in CBJ history so there is an obvious connection here. The Blue Jackets couldn’t be more thrilled to add a player like Sanderson into the fold.

Related: Jake Sanderson: Playing for More Than His Country

Bell’s Take

This might be the biggest steal of our mock draft. The pick before this, I imagine Mark was rubbing his hands together with anticipation to add Sanderson. Mark says it well in his description, that this an excellent player that will bolster the Blue Jackets blue line. The connection with his dad getting the first hat trick is a nice touch as well. This is a big add for the Blue Jackets, and Mark wasted no time scooping him up.

16) Calgary Flames: Jack Quinn

THW Writer: Mathieu Sheridan

Jack Quinn makes sense for the Flames as they could use another big time player to round out their top six. With the likes of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm on one line, Quinn would slot in nicely on the other wing playing alongside Matthew Tkachuk. 

Quinn’s goal scoring abilities is something any franchise would love to have. Playing for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL, Quinn put up 52 goals in 62 games. He can finish from anywhere and would easily find success on the Flames power play. With a bit more development, I have no doubt Quinn will make a major NHL impact in the future. 

Bell’s Take

This is about where I can see Quinn going, but it’s a bit higher than I’d take him. Keep in mind that Quinn is one of the older players in this class, and he was on a stacked Ottawa 67’s team. That being said, the step forward that he took when given the opportunity can’t be ignored and his high-end shot is real. He could be a great addition to the Flames system as they look for goal scoring.

17) New Jersey Devils (Via VAN): Seth Jarvis

THW Writer: Alex Chauvancy

Seth Jarvis is one of my favorite players in this class, and I even considered taking him over Lundell with the 10th pick. He finished with 98 points in 58 games in the WHL, ranked second in the league, and first among draft-eligible players. There are a few things that stand about his game. For starters, he’s a flawless skater and is usually the fastest guy on the ice. Second is his playmaking ability, which is elite and among the best in this class. He had 42 goals this season, so his shot is pretty decent too. He’s only 5-foot-10, 172 pounds, but there’s plenty of room for him to bulk up. It was tempting to take a defenseman with this pick. But Jarvis was too good to pass up because he has the potential to be a top-line right-winger for the Devils. 

Seth Jarvis Portland Winterhawks
Seth Jarvis of the Portland Winterhawks. (Megan Connelly/Portland Winterhawks)

Bell’s Take

Raymond, Lundell, and now Jarvis for the Devils. This should be considered a steal at this spot – I was very surprised to see him drop. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken in the top 12 or 13 picks. The Devils come away like bandits, completely stocking the cupboard in terms of forward. It would be hard not to add a defender with a third first-rounder, but in terms of best player available, New Jersey has nailed it. With Hughes last year and these three this year, the Devils are trending up in a very big way.

18) Nashville Predators: Connor Zary

THW Writer: Justin Haddad

The Nashville Predators would be thrilled if Connor Zary falls to them at 18 as he would be perfect for their system. He was outstanding in the WHL this past season with 38 goals, 48 assists, and 86 points. Zary compares to Bo Horvat stylistically as he plays a 200-foot game, plays on special teams, and can be a formidable presence in front of the net. The Predators seem to be in a never-ending search for top-six centers, and with Philip Tomasino and Zary in the pipeline, they could be secure down the middle for years to come.

Bell’s Take

Another player that very well could be a top-15 pick, this is a great add of the Predators. Zary seems to not get the love he deserves always, but Nashville is able to capitalize on that. He was one of the most offensive players in the WHL and for a team that had a middle-of-the-pack goals for per game, offence is a welcome addition.

19) Carolina Hurricanes (Via TOR): Dawson Mercer

THW Writer: Matthew Zator

The Carolina Hurricanes will need someone to take over from Justin Williams, as he’s not getting any younger. The Canes also need some more skill on right-wing to potentially align with the dynamic Andrei Svechnikov. Dawson Mercer fits the bill as he possesses a high motor, superb puck retrieval skills and excellent playmaking abilities. He can also play center ice, so that will make him even more valuable down the road. Throw in the fact that he can impact a lineup even without producing is a skill in itself, as evidenced by his performance at the 2020 World Juniors. Canes’ fans will be very happy with this pick.

Dawson Mercer Drummondville Voltigeurs
Dawson Mercer of the Drummondville Voltigeurs (Drummondville Voltigeurs)

Related: Dawson Mercer: Family, Hockey and the Draft

Bell’s Take

My honest opinion is that Dawson Mercer is one of the more underrated prospects that will be taken in the first round. Let’s not forget that he made Team Canada for the 2020 World Juniors and that’s no easy task in a player’s draft year for the Canadian team. He’s one of those guys who never gives up and is always fighting for the puck. He looks like he could be a top-six guy, and this pick continues the trend of the Hurricanes grabbing very good players, as was evidenced in 2019.

20) Edmonton Oilers: Jacob Perrault

THW Writer: Kevin Armstrong

It is highly unlikely the Oilers will have the 20th overall pick. Ken Holland will be busy at the draft. He’s talked extensively about creating a program through drafting players. But he was stuck in the paradox of win now of keep building when he traded away some picks at the trade deadline. Expect him to trade down to acquire later picks.

However, if the Oilers got the 20th selection they would be thrilled to land Jacob Perreault from the Sarnia Sting. The son of a long time NHLer, Yanic Perreault, Jacob is an offensive threat who in his rookie year was up there with Byfield, Rossi and Perfetti. He has been stuck on a horrible Sting team yet still been able to shine without much help around him. Imagine if he had a Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl on the rush with him.

Bell’s Take

Perrault had a very quiet 70-point season in the OHL. I think he could be a very welcome addition to the Oilers top-six. He would likely shift to the wing for this group, but imaging him with McDavid, Draisital, or even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is very exciting. He has great offensive instincts that should fit well with the Oilers. I could see him racking up the goals in Edmonton, being a welcome addition to this group. After taking two defenders in the past two first rounds, a forward seems likely in 2020.

21) Ottawa Senators (Via NYI): Jan Myšák

THW Writer: Ben Fraser & Dayton Reimer

At the 21st selection, the Senators grabbed left wing Jan Myšák from the Hamilton Bulldogs. To me, he was the best player available, and with the franchise still within the growing pains of a rebuild, it was the clear choice. He has international experience, as well as having spent some time in the Czech men’s league before joining the OHL. There’s really not a lot that can be said against him, and seeing him fall to 21 could be a steal for the Sens.

Jan Mysak HC VERVA Litinov
Jan Mysak of HC VERVA Litinov (HC VERVA Litinov)

Bell’s Take

It’s been no secret that Myšák is one of my favourite prospects coming into this draft, and I have him as top-15 talent. The Senators added Byfield and Drysdale already, now grabbing Myšák with the Islanders pick? Oh boy. The already-great prospect pool gets a massive boost in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft. Senators fans will be very happy with this first round, and they still have four picks in the second.

22) Dallas Stars: Mavrik Bourque

THW Writer: Matthew Zator

The Dallas Stars need more elite skill throughout their lineup, and Mavrik Bourque brings that in spades. Though he is a centerman in a prospect pool strong down the middle, you can never have too many skilled right-handed forwards in your system. He is a shifty and creative player with the potential of being someone that can get fans out of their seats with a flashy play. Despite being undersized, he will go to the tough areas and create chaos along the boards. If he can shore up some inconsistencies in his play, he could become a very productive player for the Stars in the future.

Bell’s Take

Bourque is a top-20 player in this draft in my mind, and the Stars landing him at 22nd overall is a big win for the organization. He would come in as one of the best prospects in the system, joining a very promising Ty Dellandrea and Thomas Harley. He’s player that can drive the offence, create chances, and Stars fans are going to love him.

23) New York Rangers (Via CAR): Justin Barron

THW Writer: Jeb Biggart

Originally projected as a top-10 draft pick, Justin Barron possesses the toolkit to become a shutdown defenseman at the NHL level, but luck hasn’t been on his side. His impressive sophomore season of 41 points in 68 games appeared to be the beginning of a top-tier prospect in the works, but his 2019-20 season was derailed before he could repeat. Blood clots kept him out for three months and his Halifax Mooseheads was one of the worst teams in the QMJHL.

Justin Barron Halifax Mooseheads
Justin Barron of the Halifax Mooseheads (Photo: Halifax Mooseheads)

Despite the injuries and lack of help, Barron still managed 19 points in 34 games. However, his offense isn’t the “wow” factor of Barron’s game. He won’t jump off the page with his stickhandling or creativity, but will always make the safe and smart play. He’s rarely beat in front of the net and brings a ton of physicality. There’s no reason why Barron can’t redeem himself and return to his former pedigree. Not to mention, he’ll have some help along the way from current Ranger prospect and older brother, Morgan Barron.

Bell’s Take

It seems crazy that this is only the third defender off the board and we’re in the mid-20s. This is an interesting one for sure. Barron’s ceiling looks very promising, but prior to being taken out of the lineup, I wanted to see more of him. That being said, there’s a chance that the blood clot factored into his early-season struggles. There was a time when Barron was widely considered one of the best defenders in this class, and that could very well be the case. The Rangers could look like geniuses here if Barron reaches that potential.

24) Vegas Golden Knights: Braden Schneider

THW Writer: Devin Little

I want to start by saying my preference for the Golden Knights in this spot would be to trade back. Given the fact that they do not have a second round pick and there were still plenty of quality players on the board, I think there is prime opportunity for the Golden Knights to recoup some draft assets while still adding quality players. In the case of Schneider, I see a defenseman who could make a realistic push for an NHL roster spot starting next season. By my estimation, he still needs another year to marinate in the CHL, but the opportunity to snag a two-way, impact defenseman at 24 was too good to refuse. He could potentially make a great partner for Shea Theodore in the future.

Bell’s Take

Now the defenders start to roll and the Golden Knights land a guy that many believe could step right into the NHL. After stealing Peyton Krebs in the first round last season, the Golden Knights turn their attention back to the blue line and land one of the better two-way defenders in this class. He can throw his body around and provide some offence. He could be a great fit with Vegas.

25) Minnesota Wild (Via PIT): Marat Khusnutdinov

THW Writer: Justin Haddad

The name of the game for the Minnesota Wild is upside. This team is in dire need of high ceiling centers and Marat Khusnutdinov fits the bill. There will be a lot of teams that will shy away from him because of his small 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame, but his stature is deceptive on tape because of his highly competitive nature and aggressive style of play on both ends of the ice. He has an air of confidence about him which is evident on film with his high hockey IQ, fantastic vision, and creativeness. The Wild need to replenish their depth at center in the prospect pool and they do just that with both Lapierre and Khusnutdinov in the first round.

Marat Khusnutdinov Team Russia
Marat Khusnutdinov of Team Russia (Russia Hockey/FHR.RU)

Bell’s Take

The Wild take another great forward here with Khusnutdinov and add to an incredibly growing forward corps in Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Boldy, Adam Beckman, and Lapierre from the 11th pick. Marat brings in an extremely high compete level that he brings every shift. He’s a very in-your-face player that I’m convinced will be a fan favourite. He’ll likely take some time to reach the NHL, but this is a great pickup by Minnesota.

26) Philadelphia Flyers: Ridley Greig

THW Writer: Johnny Berman

With Nolan Patrick’s future uncertain and a need to add more depth at center, the Flyers reach for Ridley Greig. The 17-year old is coming off a strong season of 26 goals and 34 assists with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. His 1.07 points per game rate were highest on the team. Interestingly, the last Wheat King to be drafted by the Flyers was Nolan Patrick in 2017. This time, they will hope for better luck. Greig has also represented Team Canada on the international stage during the 2018 U-17 World Hockey Challenge. He is the son of former NHL player, Mark Greig, who is now a scout for… the Philadelphia Flyers.

Bell’s Take

This might be one of biggest surprises of our first round, but you know what? It works. As Johnny points out, Greig’s dad is a scout for the Flyers and I think it’s safe to say that he would have seen his son play. I see him more of a second-round pick, but he’s definitely the type of player that could sneak into the first. He’s a guy that does it all, working the power play, the penalty kill, scoring, and defending. I really don’t think he’s that far off from making an NHL roster.

27) Washington Capitals: Martin Chromiak

THW Writer: Jack Dawkins

Martin Chromiak really sticks out as a potential top-six complementary forward. It’s hard to deny that Shane Wright’s production improved once Chromiak was added to his wing. If that’s a thing that Chromiak is able to do, it makes his value to an organization like the Caps higher than it might be to another team. In a few years, both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana will still be in their primes while Connor McMichael will be up and coming. Chromiak is a good enough player in his own right, but as a cog in Washington’s machine, I think he’s more valuable than he might be elsewhere.

Martin Chromiak Kingston Frontenacs
Martin Chromiak of the Kingston Frontenacs (Kingston Frontenacs)

Bell’s Take

For the majority of the season, Chromiak was underrated. But similar to Myšák, he came over from Europe and excelled in the OHL. He put his high hockey IQ on display and became one of the most productive players in the league before the season was cancelled. Keep in mind that he’s one of the younger guys in this class. This is a very promising young player.

28) San Jose Sharks (Via TB): Vasili Ponomaryov

THW Writer: Peter Baracchini

While the San Jose Sharks could use a defenseman to increase their prospect depth, adding a strong, two-way player like Vasili Ponomaryov will bolster their centre position. He plays with a high level of intensity, plus his drive and attitude are what make him a great prospect to have. It’ll be great for him to learn under captain Logan Couture and Joe Thornton who possess the same qualities as he does. He’s a complete-package player you want in a centre.

Bell’s Take

Ponomaryov is another guy that brings a high compete level to his play. He never gives up and the team that lands him will be very happy that they did. The Sharks prospect pool is in need of a boost in offensive potential and this selection does that with a player that also brings a strong defensive game. He’s a well-rounded prospect that will likely slide into the top-six. After Ryan Merkley, Ponomaryov likely comes in as the next best prospect.

29) Colorado Avalanche: William Wallinder

THW Writer: Chris Haddad

William Wallinder’s a puck-moving defenseman with plus size who was the third-highest under-18 scoring defenseman in the Swedish Elite Under 20 League (U-20 SuperElit) in 2019-20 (21 points in 25 games). He’s a strong first-round talent in a weak defensive class with a good shot at making the NHL and could replace Erik Johnson with the Avalanche as a middle-tier defender. Ranked as the 14th top European skater, Wallinder could be gone by the time the Avalanche draft, but I suspect that he’s on Sakic’s short-list.

Bell’s Take

This first round has not been kind to defenders not named Drysdale and it continues here. Wallinder could very well be a top-20 or 25 pick in this draft. While the Avalanche are likely going to lean towards a forward with this pick with Cale Makar and Bowen Byram leading the defensive prospects, if Wallinder fell to them, this might be a player Sakic can’t say no to. He’s a great skater, that will still take some time to develop but has a great deal of potential. I think the Avs would likely go forward here, but Wallinder is a great young prospect and the team could have a very dangerous defence in a few years.

30) St. Louis Blues: Ryan O’Rourke

THW Writer: Ethan Carter, Colleen Flynn, and Stephen Ground

The St. Louis Blues have both big, powerful defensemen as well as playmakers, but a solid two-way, gritty D-man like Ryan O’Rourke is just what they need. O’Rourke’s bulldog style and modeling of Duncan Keith will play heavily in favor for the Blues to stir up the opposing teams. He’s ahead of his game and will develop quickly to be at the NHL level sooner than later.

Ryan O'Rourke Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Ryan O’Rourke of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Related: Meet the Steal of the 2020 NHL Draft

Bell’s Take

As Mark Scheig would say, this could be the steal of the 2020 NHL Draft. O’Rourke is a very mature defender, playing well above his age. He’s able to be used in all situations, shutting down opponents top lines or chipping in offence. For a Blues prospect pool dwindling from trades and calls to the big club, O’Rourke could be the club’s top prospect immediately.

31) Anaheim Ducks (Via BOS): Shakir Mukhamadullin

THW Writer: Anthony Ciardelli & Eddy Jones

Defense is still a significant position of need for the Anaheim Ducks. Eddy and I had settled on Swede William Wallinder before the Avalanche took him at No. 29. We decided to go with a defender that had a similar style of play and body type but was a bit more of a risk. According to scouts, Shakir Mukhamadullin has a strong all-around game. He’s a good skater with great size and physicality. He’s got a rocket shot from the point which the Ducks need. He has poise with the puck and makes smart passes out of his zone. He’s also been described as a “crease clearer,” which is something the Ducks need badly.

When COVID-19 paused the 2019-20 season, the Ducks ranked No. 28 in high-danger chances against, one spot better than they finished last season. Mukhamadullin has the potential to finally keep opposing forwards from sitting directly on top of John Gibson and steer high-danger chances away from goal. Though Mukhamadullin isn’t particularly offensive-minded right now, he’s got the tools to develop a good offensive game while his strong in-zone play will be important for the Ducks.

Bell’s Take

Ah, Mukhamadullin. I’ve talked about how he’s not my favourite prospect, but I know that some are fairly high on him. His potential comes largely in the back end right now, but he did win the gold medal for Team Russia at the World Junior A Challenge with a goal in double overtime. There are mixed feelings toward him. Some cite the fact that he’s playing in the KHL already, is a versatile defender and can read the play well, while others say that he struggles in his own end and with the puck. The Ducks are drafting for upside, of course, but we’ll see what happens with Mukhamadullin.

Final Thoughts

There were definitely a few surprises in The Hockey Writers’ first-round Mock Draft, and there’s a ton of high-end talent left on the board. At both forward and defence, the top of the second round looks set for some potential steals, just like it was in 2019.

The fact that the Senators are walking away from night one with Byfield, Drysdale, and Myšák while the Devils land Raymond, Lundell, and Jarvis likely make them the big winners early on. I’m not sure which trio I like more – it’s too hard.

It’s also interesting that two teams with multiple picks in this round took chances on the players who suffered from injuries this season. The Wild scooped up Lapierre, and the Rangers nabbed Barron. That might very well be the case for these two players that are first-round talents but have had their stock affected by their injured seasons.

What do you think about THW team’s picks? Let us know in the comments!

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