Prospects News & Rumors: Lafrenière, McKenzie & Vegas Lottery Odds

With Phase 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery set for Friday, June 26th, the hockey world is abuzz discussing just what the 2020 NHL Draft will eventually look like. With so much constantly changing in the world, there’s little known about what could happen this year, other than one Alexis Lafrenière will be the top pick.

Alexis Lafrenière Rimouski Oceanic
By all accounts, Alexis Lafrenière will be the first-overall pick at the 2020 NHL Draft, regardless of who ends up with the selection on June 26th. (Photo by Vincent Ethier/CHL)

Once you get past Lafrenière, however, there are far more questions than answers. As of now, there is no timetable for when the draft will actually occur, putting a bit of a question mark over the event. Of course, this uncertainty has not slowed any of the discussion surrounding the draft.

Bob McKenzie Reveals His Final Draft Rankings

Just in time for the Lottery, Bob McKenzie has revealed his final prospect rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft. While you can see his full list here and compare it to other available rankings, there’s one particular idea that he presents that I would like to discuss.

As McKenzie says:

In the modern history of the NHL draft, no class has been as severely under-scouted as the coronavirus-hampered 2020 class.

Before reading this, I hadn’t really thought much about how losing eight-plus months of hockey would affect prospects. As a fan, you expect NHL franchises to adapt to any situation, even one as thoroughly bizarre as the coronavirus pandemic. In that vein, scouts will find a way to assess players, even if the situation is far from ideal.

Related: Who’s Never Picked #1 in the Draft?

However, losing months of playing time can only negatively affect prospects who are still developing their game. This applies to all levels of hockey, from pre-teens playing on local travel leagues, all the way up to AHL’ers who were supposed to be competing for the Calder Cup this month.

Suddenly, you have an entire swath of players who missed out on international tournaments, major junior hockey competitions like the Memorial Cup and the J20 SuperElit in Sweden, and postseason play in the AHL.

2019 Calder Cup logo
Under normal circumstances, the Calder Cup would have concluded this month, giving prospects of all ages valuable experience while making deep runs into the playoffs. (Courtesy AHL)

It’s impossible to know how this will affect players both in the short and long-term. Obviously a prospect can develop into a legitimate NHL’er without playing in a major event, so this missed playing time may end up being a moot point.

But, we may also look back at this whole situation in a few years as a factor to some players developing slower than expected. It’s difficult enough for prospects to reach their full potential under normal circumstances, so the idea that this won’t have any effect on them may be a bit hopeful.

Draft Profile: Alexis Lafrenière

Since this conversation started with Lafrenière, let’s take a look at why he is considered the top prospect at this year’s draft. For this, I will turn to THW’s draft profile, written by Josh Bell.

To put it simply, Lafrenière has one of the best pre-draft resumes of any player in recent memory. While playing for the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL, he absolutely dominated the league, posting more than 35 goals in three-straight seasons while breaking 100-points twice.

Related: Bruins’ Draft History Under Don Sweeney

Along the way, he collected such accolades as QMJHL/CHL Rookie of the year, QMJHL most valuable player, CHL Player of the Year, and MVP at the 2020 World Juniors.

Alexis Lafreniere
While playing for Team Canada at the 2020 World Juniors, Lafrenière was named MVP of the tournament. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

However, if you want to know why Lafrenière will be the first-overall pick, Bell does a great job explaining what makes him special in this excerpt:

Lafrenière truly is an all-round, elite player with an offensive gift. The offense runs through him. He can cycle the offensive end on his own, finding the perfect pass for an assist or the best positioning for a shot. His offensive awareness is off the charts. He reads defences so well that when you watch him play it looks like he visualizes the path to the net and he takes it.

Lafrenière is a truly elite prospect capable of shifting the future of a franchise with his ability. If you cheer for a team in the Draft Lottery, you should be excited about what June 26th could bring.

Vegas Betting Odds for the NHL Draft Lottery

To round everything out, let’s take a look at the Vegas betting odds as of June 23rd.

Nothing here should come as a surprise, as the Detroit Red Wings are the odds-on favorites to win the Lottery. However, given recent history, the team with the best odds won’t get the top pick.

Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide

With that in mind, it would come as no surprise to see a franchise like the L.A. Kings, Anaheim Ducks, or even the New Jersey Devils jump up and take the top pick for the second straight year.