SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 06: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman prepares for the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The second day of the 2020 NHL Draft was a blast! There were some great picks, some questionable picks, and some picks of guys no one knew. As always, there were trades and picks being swapped as well as a few NHL players on the move. Sometimes you watch a team draft over the course of two days and realize that they are just doing things at a different level than some other teams. Today, we’ll take a look at three ‘Podium Worthy’ classes and award a gold, silver, and bronze medal to the three teams that I feel got the most value out of their draft picks and why!
Gold Medal – Carolina Hurricanes
Draft picks courtesy of NHL.com
Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the Carolina Hurricanes are really good at drafting. They didn’t have their own first-round pick but did have Toronto’s at 13th overall and added some offensive pop with Seth Jarvis, the top player drafted out of the WHL. The high octane winger brings an exciting offensive toolset to the Canes prospect pool. He plays a bit of fearless game, attacking the high danger areas and converting at a high rate. Jarvis should be a quality dual-threat option at the next level.
The Hurricanes made a habit of stopping a player’s slide and it began with the selection of divisive Swedish winger Noel Gunler. The talent has never really been a question for the lethal shooter, rather he needs to commit to being a pro and coming to the rink ready to play each night. He has top-line upside as a triggerman and feisty battler but he needs to do it every night. Much like Gunler, Vasili Ponomaryov is a player who has some skill but comes with some motor issues. When he’s going, he can be an effective playmaker.
Adding a big defender next in Alexander Nikishin, they bring a stout defender into the fold. He played in the KHL last year so he is used to playing with men, the question is where does his upside land him. Their next pick has the opposite problem. He has a smart, skilled game but his frame might hold him back as they selected diminutive forward Zion Nybeck. The bet on talent with Nybeck is more than worth it at 115th.
Ronan Seeley and Lucas Mercuri were solid additions and decent picks to add some variety to the class but the true gem might be the player taken 199th overall, Alexander Pashin. Falling almost certainly because of his size, the hyper-aggressive and highly skilled Pashin plays with speed and skill, burning his opponents regularly with his ability to find some open space. If Pashin were two inches taller, he might have been selected a bit closer to his teammate Rodion Amirov.
Silver Medal – Los Angeles Kings
Draft picks courtesy of NHL.com
The Kings were narrowly edged by the Hurricanes and it might not even be fair. The Kings turned everything they touched into gold it seemed. They didn’t over complicate things early and grabbed the player with the highest upside in the entire draft in Quinton Byfield second overall. The massive center plays with the speed and skill we’ve come to expect from a player who is 5’11” but the hulking Byfield stands 6’4″. He was the best center available and might be the best player from the class when it’s all said and done.
The second round featured both my own and the DobberProspects Scouting team’s third-best defender in Helge Grans and U.S. National Development Team Program member Brock Faber. Grans is a big Swede who skates well and has the ability to pitch in on both special teams, likely in a secondary role. Faber is a picture-perfect skater who showed some good two-way ability this year.
Adding the highly skilled Kasper Simontaival in the third round was another tidy piece of work for general manager Rob Blake. The Finnish forward has a ton of skill and brings excitement to the game when he has the puck. They also made a move to acquire Lias Andersson from the New York Rangers for the 60th overall pick, used to select Will Cuylle. The former seventh overall pick from 2017 has been in need of a change of scenery and this might allow him to flourish after a season at home in Sweden. While not technically a pick, I’m lumping him into their class.
The hits didn’t stop there though! Alex Laferriere was taken at 83rd and while that might be a bit high, he is a player who I pegged for the mid-late rounds as a value grab. Ben Meehan has his fans, EliteProspects’ J.D. Burke among them and represents a nice swing on talent late in the draft. The real nice piece that makes this class very good though is Martin Chromiak at 128th overall. He may not be a guy who drives play or pushes the pace on his own but he played very well with Shane Wright and not everyone can play with a high-level talent like that and hold their head above water and Chromiak did more than that.
Bronze Medal – San Jose Sharks
Draft picks courtesy of NHL.com
The top two spots were pretty clear cut with the only decision being who wins the gold. The bronze was a bit more up for debate. Despite Toronto and Detroit both having very solid showings, acknowledging my bias towards those clubs, the San Jose Sharks were given the bronze. Doug Wilson Jr. capped the first round by adding the skilled and firey Ozzy Wiesblatt by using sign language to spell out “Ozzy” before audibly announcing the pick. Why you ask? Ozzy Wiesblatt’s mother is deaf. The gesture meant a lot to the family as the Sharks welcomed their newest member to their family.
For a team who gave up their own first-rounder – the number three pick – to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade, they made out with some quality talent for a team that is in desperate need of young talent. Thomas Bordeleau is a skilled, shifty forward who plays center but likely profiles as a winger at the next level. His playmaking is very good, often the driving force offensively for the U.S. NTDP club. Tristen Robins was a forward who shot up draft boards towards the end of the year and for good reason, the kid can play! Just ask DobberProspects Western Scout Joel Henderson.
Daniil Gushchin is a highly-skilled forward who will be moving to Niagara of the OHL next season and should be an instant impact player in the OHL. Insane puck skills and a very good shot, Gushchin will welcome some help around him. Brandon Coe has the size, skating and strength that NHL teams covet. His shot is very good and he does a good job of getting his teammates involved, even if they weren’t always capable of helping him on a struggling North Bay club.
With the solid value on their first five picks, they were able to take some swings late with the selections of players like Adam Raska and Timofey Spitserov. Overall, the Sharks had a solid draft and inject that much-needed talent mentioned. They made the best out of not having their own first-round pick and came away with a good haul despite that self-inflicted wound.
Toronto Maple Leafs
This was the class I most wanted to put in the top-three. Rodion Amirov is an immensely skilled winger who is one of the best transition players in the entire draft. His 6’0″, 170lbs frame may be on the lighter side but he is more than willing to battle and has a knack for using his body positioning to create space so that he can utilize his skill. In a classic Dubas move, they also traded down with Ottawa in the second round, from 44 to 59 and 64. The Senators selected Tyler Kleven, a defender who I personally had as a late-round swing if even at all. With the two picks acquired, they took Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemelä. Hirvonen is a skilled center who plays his best down the middle but doesn’t look quite as good on the wing. A smart player who is in the right spots all the time, if any team is going to let a 5’9″ center have a chance to stick in the middle, the Leafs might be that team. With Niemelä, the Leafs snag a player who both myself and the DobberProspects Scoutingteam had as a first-round talent. The two-way defender played well at the Liiga level last year after forcing Kärpät’s hand early in the year.
Grabbing a netminder in Akhtyamov is a move that some in the goaltending community really liked. William Villeneuve is a raw, toolsy player who was an offensive dynamo in the QMJHL but he will need to be molded into something resembling capable defending. Taking him at 122 was the perfect spot to gamble. The next couple of picks are what almost had them in the bronze position. Dimitri Ovchinnikov is a player who captured the hearts of prospect Twitter with his speed and skill as he lit up the MHL last season. He is a ton of fun but will need to fill out his frame a bit in order to be effective at the next level. Veeti Miettinen is a diminutive goal-scorer who has a wicked wrist shot. He tore up the Finnish junior circuit last year and likely would have played in the Liiga had he not been committed to St. Cloud State University in the NCAA.
These are the kind of swings more general managers should be taking later in the draft. With a ton of value in the first five rounds, they were able to take some more unconventional swings on players like Joe Miller and John Fusco. Miller is the youngest possible player in this draft. Had he been born mere hours later he would be eligible for next year’s draft. He is another small, skilled forward who has a pretty decent shot. Fusco is a defender who stands 5’11 and 185lbs with a willingness to step into an attack at the blueline. Both players are very raw and haven’t played high-level hockey which means they could be diamonds in the rough or swings late in the draft where you have no guarantees anyways.
Detroit Red Wings
This is one of the draft classes that was quietly good. They didn’t get the love that LA or Carolina received but they put together some quality work. They kept it simple at four and grabbed the third-rated prospect on my board and the DobberProspects Scouting team’s board in Lucas Raymond. The divisive Swedish winger has been very good in the early SHL season thus far and is starting to show all of the promise that so many believed he had before being relegated to 13th forward duty in the SHL last season. He brings the rare ability to drive play from the wing and control the game when the puck is on his stick. He is strong at both ends of the ice and should have been in consideration at three had the hype train on Tim Stützle, my favorite prospect in the draft, not run wild.
Picking up Willia