On Monday, Oct. 6, the first round of the NHL draft came and passed, with most mock drafts nailing the top three picks. Left-wing Alexis Lafreniere went first overall to the New York Rangers, followed by Quinton Byfield second and Tim Stutzle third.
With the first pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers selected Lafreniere, currently the captain of Rimouski Oceanic. Lafreniere is one of those prospects that we have been hearing about for years, with speculation across the league that he’s comparable to Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, or Auston Matthews. He is essentially a lock to be a star in the NHL, especially after tying Crosby’s record for most points scored by a player in their rookie season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 42. He will join a New York Rangers team that is in a bit of a rebuilding phase at the moment, but should cement himself as a star. Offensively their rebuild has been accelerated over the last two offseasons, with last offseason’s signing of 2020 MVP candidate Artemi Panarin, and now the draft selection of Lafreniere. On the back end there is still work to be done for the New York Rangers but within a few years you can expect them to be a force.
The second pick in the draft was owned by the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings made history selecting center forward Quinton Byfield second overall, as Byfield became the highest-drafted black player in NHL history. The big center, standing at a looming 6 foot, 4 inches in height, has the ability to muscle people off at 214 pounds, while at the same time having the speed and skill to make the best defenders have headaches. A common pro comparison used by analysts around the league is Pittsburgh Penguins’ assistant captain, center Evgeni Malkin. The comparison to the former league MVP is high praise, but when looking over Byfield’s resume and game footage, you can see why. Byfield should easily make the roster opening night for the Kings and will remain a staple of their team for years to come.
Forward Tim Stutzle went third overall to the Ottawa Senators, a pick they acquired from the San Jose Sharks in 2019 in a massive trade that sent multiple Senators’ stars to San Jose in exchange for developmental prospects and multiple draft picks. With the aforementioned trade, the Senators are another team in a rebuild and have a lot of work to do before they break the playoff threshold and begin competing for the Stanley Cup again. Stutzle will most likely be on the ice for the Senators come opening night, as the German left winger is said to be a scoring threat whenever he is on the ice and has the speed and ability to beat defenders one-on-one, while also possessing the skills necessary to maneuver the puck through traffic. Stutzle had been playing in the German pro league prior to the draft and had an impressive 34 points in 41 games last season — not bad for a teenager in a men’s league.
The Detroit Wings took winger Lucas Raymond with the fourth overall pick. The Swedish winger has a lot of promise, and like Stutzle he is a highly skilled wing who has played in a professional league in his home country. Stutzle may have a higher offensive ceiling according to a lot of scouts, but Raymond may be the more well-rounded player when things are said and done. Raymond is a grinder on both sides of the ice, which is not always common with high skilled wingers. Raymond will have a good shot at making Detroit’s active roster for opening day.
Ottawa also had the fifth pick in the draft, and they would take the first defensive player off the board with their second pick of the draft. They selected defenseman Jake Sanderson of the U.S. National Development Team. Along with being the first American selected in the draft, Sanderson was also the first Division I college commit to come off the board. Sanderson is committed to the University of North Dakota, so he will not be playing in the NHL this upcoming year, but when the time comes it looks like Sanderson has great potential to be the top defenseman on a team in the NHL.
As a whole, the NHL draft is drastically different from other major sports’ drafts. While players have a tendency to gather with friends and family to watch their respective drafts throughout the week hoping they’ll be selected, many of the players in the NHL draft, outside of the first-round prospects, are often informed that they’ve been selected while at practice or just living their lives. Multiple hilarious videos of players celebrating can be seen on social media, especially on the NHL’s own accounts, after having their coaches or friends inform them that they’ve been drafted. The NHL and MLB are comparable in the fact that they often send their players down to the minor leagues, or “farm teams,” to develop before being called up to start under the brightest lights. NHL hopefuls know that, for the most part, being drafted isn’t a guarantee that they’ll hit the rink with the league’s brightest stars, so they continue their grind to improve their game in order to make it to the biggest stage in their sport. For the five men mentioned above, their futures are all but secured as starters for their respective franchises, even if it takes a while for some of them to make their way to the big leagues.