Image courtesy of NHL.com
The day is finally here! The 2020 NHL Draft has been the class that never seems to end but tonight, it finally comes to an end! We get the answer to whether the New York Rangers do what everyone expects and take Alexis Lafrenière. We finally get to see what side of the Byfield-Stützle debate that the Los Angeles Kings settle on. We finally get the answers to so many of our questions.
So what better way to cap off the pre-draft coverage of the 2020 class than to take questions from Twitter and pretend like I have the answers? Let’s get to it!
I’m going to say it would take selling the franchise.
I think he will get passed on again. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team take a late-round chance but it isn’t all that likely. Could be an interesting UDFA signing eventually maybe. His size and playing style don’t really lend itself to being able to produce at the next level. I’m generally more open to taking smaller players and even I wouldn’t be really pushing for Simoneau. He has some skill and playmaking ability to be sure but the journey will be a long one for the 5’7″ forward.
I think Anton Lundell could be an interesting ‘reach’ pick for the Detroit Red Wings. He is almost assuredly going to play center at the next level and his defensive game is upper echelon. He should be a very good two-way presence and could push Larkin for the top-center job but could win up being one half of a formidable 1A/1B at center for the foreseeable future.
Admittedly I am a fan of Lundell’s game and think that his offensive upside is higher than the public consensus. He has a heavy shot and can pick his spots well and he is always in the right place at the right time. He could be a guy who challenges 30 goals at his peak and bring the two-way ability that could put him in the Selke Trophy conversation. If he hits his ceiling, St. Louis Blues’ center Ryan O’Reilly is a great comparable. If he settles at his floor, he could bring similar value to Philip Danualt of the Montreal Canadiens. Steve Yzerman isn’t afraid to get his guy and maybe he sees the value in a high-end two-way center.
Honestly, I have a gut feeling it’s whoever drafts Jacob Perreault or Rodion Amirov. Jacob Perreault is a personal favorite of mine. He showed a major improvement in his skating and developed a more well rounded offensive game that isn’t solely reliant on his insane shot. With Alexander Holtz being the only clear cut better shooter in the class, the tools around Perreault’s shot being brought up a level could mean that he winds up being a scary player at the next level.
The reason I think Amriov could be that guy is that there seems to be some chatter about him being lower on draft boards than I would have thought. There are the standard “Russian Factor” concerns that are almost always overblown and he isn’t a big player by any means, although he isn’t small standing six-feet tall. Amirov is one of the best transitional puck carriers in draft class with his ability to stay agile and take unique and sometimes unorthodox routes through the neutral zone. He is an excellent playmaker who threads passes to the middle with ease and has a very good saucer pass. Both Amirov and Perreault have the potential to be top-ten talents when we look back on this draft in a decade.
He could probably play in the NHL next season. I don’t know if he’d be able to excel but he could certainly hold his own in the middle-six and likely on the wing in year one, at least to start. I do think he is a center long-term and I think that depending on the situation, he could be a productive rookie but a lot will have to do with what team takes Rossi and how willing they are to let a young guy make some mistakes while trying to make an impact. He’s a very intelligent player and should be able to adapt a bit more easily than many players next season.
This is an interesting one because I think the Flyers have done a good job recently at the draft and they may be in a situation where the next best defender has a decent gap in value to the forwards available. In all likelihood, names like Schnieder, Grans, and Guhle are gone and that’s not to mention the top-two. That leaves the Flyers in a position to reach on a guy like Emil Andrae or William Wallinder. I don’t think either of those guys is really worth passing up on at 23. If a Grans or Guhle fall, they could be an option at this spot.
The one defender that does intrigue me for the Flyers in this range is Topi Niemelä. He’s an adaptable and smart defender who unexpectedly played at the Liiga level for all of last season as he proved too good to send down on what was supposed to be a brief stint to cover for an injury early in the year. He has some puck-moving ability that we saw at the junior level but he was more than willing to adjust and adapt his game to the pro game and show that he can be a capable player at both ends of the ice. 23 might be a bit high for Niemelä but the case could be made, especially if defenders start flying off the board.
For me, Yaroslav Askarov comes into the conversation at sixth overall. While I acknowledge that the sixth pick might be a bit high, the conversation should be had. Askarov is as can’t-miss as they come in net. He already plays and excels at the pro-level in Russia. He has shown the ability to dominate at every international tournamnet save for the World Juniors, where he was young for the event. You don’t need to be a goalie analyst to see the difference between watching Askarov and just about any netminding prospect in years. Askarov has more similarities to the netminders in the NHL than any goaltender in junior hockey.
As for how you factor in ‘need vs. best player available’ debate, I think the only position that you have to consider a need is goalie but if you don’t have a young stud netminder (ie. Sorokin, Shestyorkin, Hart) then you probably need a goalie prospect. I think it takes a general manager who is willing to take a perceived risk and understand that by drafting Askarov, you have a plan in place to get him on your NHL roster in two years, playing a 1A/1B situation and playing meaningful games on his entry-level deal. Realistically, his numbers won’t be world-class from age 21-23, which gives your team the opportunity to lock the young netminder up at a reasonable cap hit for his second contract. That could realistically give a team somewhere between 6-8 years of cost-controlled netminding at what could be a Vezina level for a good chunk of it.
I want to thank everyone who has read anything myself or anyone on the DobberProspects team has written and thank you for anyone who has listened to Dobber’s DraftCast with myself and Jokke Nevalainen. The 2020 NHL Draft class was an interesting one, to say the least, and the world around it was no different. We’ve stopped sports at times to bring a platform to the racial injustices of society and we’ve paused the world temporarily as we dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we try to move forward as best we can and adapt to our world as it’s become an ever-changing reality.
Thank you for reading, this was a fun exercise and I always love getting you involved. Enjoy the draft tonight. It will be a blast! You can follow me on Twitter (@TheTonyFerrari) for all of my instant reaction and analysis to the draft picks as well as profiles on your team’s newest prospect!