The 2020 NHL Playoffs aplowing through, and with each elimited team, we get a clearer picture of the 2020 NHL Draft.
We’ve almost got a full draft order, with just a few teams left to solidify their positioning in one of the more exciting annual events on the NHL calendar. I guess the playoffs are alright too.
With the draft approaching, fans are eagerly researching and wondering how their teams might handle their confirmed selection. As always, I’m happy to oblige those questions. This is the fifth edition of Bell’s Draft Mailbag, and the first two editions still have some very relevant questions that I tackled:
- Bell’s 2020 NHL Draft Mailbag: Myšák, Farrell, Foerster & More
- Bell’s 2020 NHL Draft Mailbag: Lafrenière, Lapierre, Amirov & More
On Twitter, I asked for questions about prospects, the draft lottery, or reader’s favourite teams and what they could do in the draft. This time around, there were a lot more questions than I expected, so I’ve broken my answers up into four articles: three mailbags, and one draft feature. This is the third and final edition of those mailbags. Here’s the first and second:
- Bell’s 2020 NHL Draft Mailbag: Rangers, Senators, Devils & More
- Bell’s 2020 NHL Draft Mailbag: Trading Picks, Evangelista, Biondi & More
Here is the third wave of questions:
“Who will the Red Wings take at No. 4?”
While we might not know the exact order the top-three will go, we can assume Alexis Lafrenière is first off the board to the New York Rangers, and that the Los Angeles Kings will then take one of Quinton Byfield or Tim Stützle. Then, the Ottawa Senators (thanks to the San Jose Sharks), will take who’s left of those two. In my eyes, I think there are four realistic options for the Detroit Red Wings.
My first choice would be Lucas Raymond. I feel like he hasn’t been talked about much for the Red Wings at this spot, but if you want the best player available, he’s it. He’s been my number three prospect all season and I really believe that he could be one of the more dominant players out of this draft.
Second is centreman Marco Rossi. After the four players mentioned, Marco Rossi would be my next top player. The high-compete player is extremely smart on the ice and has the ability to take over games. He also might not be that far away from making the jump to the NHL. Keep an eye on him.
Third, and my next ranked player, is Jamie Drysdale. The top defender of the class, the smooth-skating Drysdale could be an offensive weapon from the blue line. This is a role that we’ve seen how much success it can have after seeing what Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, and Quinn Hughes have done in the league and in the 2020 NHL Playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Drysdale go higher than people think, and he could be a perfect complement to Moritz Seider down the line.
Finally, and I really just bring him up because of the rumours surrounding it, is Cole Perfetti. The connection is clear with the centreman playing in Saginaw, just an hour and a half down the I-75. While I like Perfetti, I’m not sure he’d live up to that selection. Plus, general manager Steve Yzerman is known for his surprises, so this rumour being so public gives me pause.
So, with the four players I consider the top options for this pick, what would I do? I’d go with Raymond. I think he’s the best player available and at that point in the draft, BPA is the way to go. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Red Wings go for Drysdale at this spot. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Yzerman go off this list completely and shock us all. I do hope for some chaos on draft day, and Yzerman seems to never disappoint.
“Say Holtz and Drysdale are both available at No. 6 for the Ducks. Which one should they draft and why?”
I think that a lot of Anaheim Ducks fans are hoping for some firepower. However, I think I’d go defence and Drysdale here. Alexander Holtz is likely the best shooter in this draft class, but the Ducks have a need at defence in their prospect pool and I do have Drysdale above Holtz, personally.
The Ducks have been compiling forwards through the draft in recent years, including Trevor Zegras, Brayden Tracey, Isac Lundstrom, Maxime Comtois, Max Jones, and Sam Steel. That’s just some of the first two rounds since 2016. The Ducks haven’t selected a defender in the first two rounds since 2015, where they took Jacob Larsson. I think it’s time for another.
Drysdale could very well be the puck-moving, mobile defender that the Ducks will need to feed the forwards. He could be that fourth forward on the ice that drives the offense. Think of the roles that Hughes, Makar, and Heiskanen have played for their respective teams. Drysdale may not reach that level, but he could very much bring that style of game to the Ducks’ backend. It’s a tough choice, but Drysdale makes a lot of sense here.
“Why do you think there’s so much hype surrounding Braden Schneider and the Leafs?”
Question from Peter
Honestly, I think it’s simply because of the playoffs and roster need. Obviously, the Toronto Maple Leafs need some defensively-minded players on the back end, especially down the right side, maybe with a right-hand shot. Enter Braden Schneider. It seems like a perfect fit, right? Not so fast.
The Maple Leafs need help now. While I think Schneider is one of the more NHL-ready players in this draft, I don’t think he’s ready to step into the NHL on a Cup-contending team and make a difference. With the pressure to bring a Cup to Toronto right now, I think a trade or free agency (with some cap moves, of course) will likely be the route the Maple Leafs go. Granted, he could be a long-term plan, but I just don’t think it’s the best option at No. 15.
Plus, let’s not forget, there are two very promising right-hand shot defenders in the Maple Leafs system in Timothy Liljegren and Mac Hollowell. Granted, both are more offensively-minded, but they could be filling two of those right-side spots in the near future.
On top of those two, the Maple Leafs have drafted 11 defenders in the past three drafts. Sure, all of them won’t be NHLers for Toronto, but there are players who could be that defensive defender for the Maple Leafs. Such as 2019 third-rounder, Mikko Kokkonen. He might be a left-hand shot, but he could be that defensive presence on the blue line that the team has seemingly needed forever.
To be transparent, I’m not super high on Schneider. I had him ranked No. 36 in my final rankings back in June. I just think taking him at 15th is too high. I think that general manager Kyle Dubas will be more inclined to grab someone who people might not expect or someone who’s sliding. He’s not always very predictable, and I have a hard time believing he’s going to do what the public seems to think.
“If Askarov falls to 14th, the Oilers would be fools to pass on him.”
Well, this isn’t a question at all but deserves some discussion. If the top goaltender in this class, Yaroslav Askarov, slides to the 14th selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Edmonton Oilers are going to need to pause and think. But, is it the right decision? I’m a little torn on this one.
On the one hand, Askarov is one of the best goaltending prospects we’ve ever seen. The Oilers’ goaltending pool isn’t exactly stacked, but Ilya Konovalov could very much be the real deal. He’s looked good in the KHL over the past couple of years and the Oilers could (and should) have faith in him. Of course, adding Askarov would elevate the pool, but I’m not sure they are going to.
In my opinion, the Oilers need to add wingers. You’ve got Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as two of the best players in the game today, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the third-line role. There are some promising young defenders in Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Even Bouchard, Philip Broberg, and Darnell Nurse. Kailer Yamamoto has looked very good, but the Oilers will need more. The 2020 NHL Draft could provide the chance to add one.
Imagine the Oilers landing someone like Noel Gunler? One of the best shooters in this class, plus you know that general manager Ken Holland loves his Swedes, Gunler could be a top-six winger that could play on the top or second line. Putting this natural goal scorer with two of the best in the game, you better imagine that Gunler would be in the running for the Rocket Richard Trophy annually.
I really like Askarov, but I’m just not sure the Oilers are going to bet big on the Russian netminder when they have a glaring need upfront and some high-end talent available to them.
“Which defencemen do you think could sneak into the 1st round?”
Alright, so we already know that Drysdale and Jake Sanderson are going to go in the first round, potentially in the top-10. At this point, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Kaiden Guhle and Schneider will be selected in the first round. We’re up to four now.
After these players, the consensus starts to waiver. There are quite a few defenders that could potentially hear their name called on day one. Personally, I have Emil Andrea, Lukas Cormier, and William Wallinder all in the first round. They should definitely be considered by NHL teams, but they could slide to day two and the second round.
Two more Europeans that could be considered in Helge Grans and Topi Niemëla. Nielmëla might be a bubble first-rounder, but numerous analysts think Grans could be the third-best defender in this class. Then again, some don’t have him in the first round at all. He’s a name to keep an eye on though.
Finally, we have two defenders that may be highly-regarded but have some red flags. Jérémie Poirier and Justin Barron started this season on numerous first-round rankings, but Poirier’s struggles in the defensive zone and Barron’s health concerns and overall stagnant performance could see them slide. Poirier’s offense and Barron’s high-end potential that was seen in 2018-19 could be enough that teams consider them though.
I’ll mention two more here, as I know that some of my fellow THW contributors think they could go in the first round: Ryan O’Rourke and Joni Jurmo. Personally, I think they’ll be second-rounders, but their names are worth a mention.
So, I’ve given 13 names here as potential names to keep an eye one. I’m going to guess that eight of them are selected on Oct. 6: Drysdale, Sanderson, Guhle, Schneider, Andrea, Wallinder, Grans, and Barron. We’ll soon see if I’m right in that guess.
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.