With the Phase 1 Lottery complete for the 2020 NHL Draft, we know two things. One: we’re going to have a Phase 2 Lottery. And two: this means another edition of Bell’s Mailbag!
Team E, a placeholder team that is one of 16 teams competing in the NHL’s play-in series, won the rights to the first-overall pick, meaning that all eight of the teams that lose their play-in series receive equal odds to earn Alexis Lafrenière – er, I mean the first overall pick. You wanted chaos? You’ve got it!
The Phase 1 lottery did start to clear some things up though, as we know now who’s picking No. 2 to No. 8 (in order): Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and the Buffalo Sabres.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
And with that, the questions start to grow. Once again, we’ll answer some of those questions here. On Twitter, I asked for questions about prospects, the draft lottery, or reader’s favourite teams and what they could do in the draft. Here are some of those questions:
“Who’s got the best chance of landing Lafrenière, why, and do you think teams will tank for him?”
Well that’s just a trick question there, Chris! All eight teams that lose the play-in round will have an equal shot at landing the first-overall pick. So really, there are eight teams that will have the best chance to land Lafrenière.
If I had to guess which eight teams would be in contention? I’d say the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild, and Winnipeg Jets. But when (or if) these teams are in the Phase 2 lottery, they’ll all have a 12.5% chance of landing the top spot.
As for the second part of your question, there’s no way a team is tanking – but mainly because they can’t. Tanking is a general manager and front office idea, and their jobs are largely done at this point, post-trade deadline. Coaches and players don’t tank, it’s not even a thought in their minds. They always hit the ice to win.
“Who do you think will be the biggest surprise in the top 10 as a selection?”
I guess saying Jake Sanderson isn’t really a surprise for the top-10 anymore, right? Alright, let’s go with Kaiden Guhle. In Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings, usually the gold standard for rankings out there as he survey’s NHL scouts, Guhle comes in at 14th. In last year’s final edition, Philip Broberg and Moritz Seider came in at 15th and 16th. Both were top-10 picks.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he should be there, but I think there’s a very good possibility. In Colin Cudmore’s consolidated rankings, Guhle comes in at 23. He’s a bit all over the place, from the high-teens to the 40s (he’s at No. 34 for me).
Guhle is a defence-first defender who is an extremely safe player – which NHL teams will love (once again, insert Seider reference here). He has a very big, hard shot from the point and he’s pretty good at dishing it out as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go at No. 9 or 10 to a play-in team.
“If you are a GM on draft day and one of the best players available is Lapierre, do you take a chance on him?”
Continued: “or do you think his history with injuries is too risky and take someone else?”
I think you have to. Hendrix Lapierre could very easily be a top-10 player in this draft, if it wasn’t for a series of injuries that have brought his durability into question. I think if he’s there at the end of the first, he’s worth a pick – especially for a team that has multiple first-rounders.
I think a lot of people saw what he can do in his rookie season in the QMJHL and the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He can flat out play. He’s a high-end playmaker and simply dynamic at both ends of the ice. The concussions and neck injuries are a bit worrisome, but he was about to come back and play when the season was cancelled.
There’s definitely a chance that Lapierre becomes one of the biggest steals in this draft if he can come close to his ceiling and stay healthy. But you have to consider where your pick is and if it’s the best (and safest) bet at that spot.
“Who’s the best option at six for Anaheim?”
This could get interesting here, and I think it’s very likely that a player drops right into the laps of the Anaheim Ducks. You know Lafrenière goes first-overall to an unknown team. Then you have to think that the Kings and Senators get Quinton Byfield and Tim Stützle in some order. Now we’re at No. 4, where it’s been rumoured that the Red Wings like Cole Perfetti.
Now, the Senators pick again. I’d think they select one of Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz, Marco Rossi, or Jamie Drysdale. Well, Eddy? You get your choice of what’s left. What you get is largely going to depend on the Senators.
If they get Stützle at No. 3, they’ll maybe aim for Rossi at the fifth-overall spot. But, if they get Byfield, I think they’d go for one of Raymond or Holtz, with the off-chance of taking Drysdale. So, in terms of best case for the Ducks? I’d aim for Raymond. In my mind, I think he has the most potential of the remaining players – he’s ranked No. 3 in my rankings. Imagining Raymond and Trevor Zegras on a line together in a few years? Sign me up.
“What are your thoughts on Amirov? Where do you see him going on draft day?”
In my final rankings, Russian forward Rodion Amirov comes in at No. 10. That’s right, a top-10 prospect. I think he has the talent to be a top-six player. He’s one of the best two-way forwards in this draft and just sees the ice so well.
Amirov can find his teammates through traffic, he can set up plays, and he can stop plays going back the other way. He’s not perfect, as his skating won’t really “wow” you, but this is a guy that played 21 games in the second-best league in the world this season (the KHL). He may have only had two assists in those games, but they came in minimal minutes played, averaging just 9:53 per game. Playing that many games in one of the toughest leagues in the world? My hopes are high.
Where he goes on draft day will be interesting. McKenzie’s rankings have him at 19th. Cudmore’s consolidated rankings put him at 14th. I think that will end up being his range. The “Russian Factor” will see him drop a bit lower than I have him, but he should still be a top-20 pick. He’s one player that I think should slide over to the NHL very, very well.
“Who’s going to be the biggest slider of this draft?”
I had to really think about this one and narrowed it down to a few guys: Anton Lundell, Noel Gunler, and Jan Myšák. All three of these guys could be top-10 players, but I don’t believe any of them will actually be top-10 selections. Lundell will be just outside I think, Gunler should still be a top-20 pick, but Myšák – arguably my favourite player in this draft – is likely to fall the furthest.
I have Myšák at No. 12, where he’s bee all year, and on Cudmore’s consolidated rankings, he comes in down at 19th. He’s been all over the first round, more so in the bottom half, and then McKenzie put him down at 34th. There’s a good chance that this player could slide right out of the first round.
Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s not perfect. Some say that they just don’t know if he can drive a line. I think he can. He also needs to work on his skating a bit – one of the easier things to fix at the next level. But what he does bring is excellent vision, a great shot, and high-end offensive instincts. He’s a player I believe in, but I think he’ll slip – possibly out of the first round.
Keep an eye on Zion Nybeck too. He has first-round skill, but the size and skating bring in question marks. For that, he’ll likely slide too.
“I’m honestly most interested in what the Kings do.”
Continued: “Do they go positioning needs, draft best regardless and sort out later, or trade down even and build up assets even more?”
I think this is going to be one of the most discussed selections leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft, which makes sense. Before we dive into this, let’s take a poll. You’re general manager Rob Blake. Lafrenière has just been selected No. 1 overall by a team that was nearly in the playoffs. Who are you taking?
The Kings have the best prospect pool in the league and no matter who they pick, it’s going to be vastly better. In my rankings, I have Byfield at No. 2, but there’s a large group that thinks Stützle should be there. Looking at what the Kings already have, they’re pretty deep at centre. They selected Alex Turcotte last year (who I still hold in high regard), and also have Gabe Vilardi, Akil Thomas, Aidan Dudas, and Rasmus Kupari.
Sure, some of these guys could and will likely shift to the wing, but you have to wonder if that positional need will come into play. Or, do they grab Stützle because he can play both centre and the wing? Personally, I’d take the best player available all day and to me that’s Byfield. I wrote about why I think he’s so good here.
“How much does this change the Senators draft strategy now that they’ve fallen outside the top 2?”
Continued: “Do they trade up (especially with their draft capital)? Do they go safer at 3 with Drysdale and go for Raymond/Holtz/Rossi if they’re still there at 5 (assuming Stutzle is gone at 5)?”
I’ll let Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion answer this one, “For us it is just continuing on with the plan and doing the rebuild the proper way we wanted to… We know that it is such a deep draft, especially in the top five, that we are going to get two impactful players.”
I think Dorion wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t kick the tires to see if he could move up, but more likely is that they just stay put. You land a Byfield or Stützle, and then one of Raymond, Holtz, Rossi, or maybe Drysdale. I personally think they’ll go two forwards and I think that’s the best option for them. Grab a defender with the third first rounder.
I think they are in a pretty good spot right now and it shouldn’t change their strategy at all – draft best player available and run with it. With the pieces they have and the piece they’re about to have, this Sens rebuild might not be lasting much longer.
Thanks for reading Bell’s Mailbag! I’ll be doing this a few times leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft, and continuing it after as well. If ever you have questions, feel free to reach out @JoshuaBellTHW on Twitter. You can also drop a comment here or in any other article of mine.
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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.