NHL Draft: Podium Worthy Draft Classes

Tony Ferrari

2020-10-08

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.

 

Honorable Mentions

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 William Wallinder to kick off the second round was a swing on upside and tools as the hulking Swedish defender is an excellent skater and transition player but he will need work on refining things, specifically in his own end. He played better at the men’s level than the junior level last season which should bode well for his development long-term as he succeeded in a more structured environment. Theodor Niederbach was their next selection as they added some physicality and skill to their prospect pool. He has very good playmaking instincts and should bring an element to the Wings that many teams need.

 

 

Cross Hanas, Donovan Sebrango, and Eemil Viro were are good blends of adding some skill with some risk while grabbing good value. Hanas is a skilled playmaking winger who works hard on every shift. Sebrango is an undersized blueliner who has the tools but needs to continue to get bigger and stronger as he moves through his development. Viro is a defender who has the skating and smarts to get to the next level but his tools are good, not great outside of that. Jan Bednář is a Czech goaltender who has some big fans and others who really aren’t fans at all. With some interesting picks late, included Kris Draper drafting his own son, the Red Wings came away with a nice collection of prospects to add to their pool.

 

New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils had a very good draft when you look at it as a whole. The one glaring problem with it seems to be their bet on Shakir Mukhamadullin at 20th overall. I spoke about that pick here so I won’t harp on it too much but there was a lot of value still on the board and grabbing the big, raw Russian was a swing, to say the least. Thankfully, the Blue Jackets shocked the world with the next pick to take the heat off the Devils back. Snagging the draft’s best goal scorer in Alexander Holtz was a win for a team that could pair him with Jack Hughes to give opponents nightmares down the road. Throwing Dawson Mercer, a player many pegged to go just outside the top-ten, at 18 was also some tidy work for the new GM in NJ. Ignoring the Mukhamadullin pick, the Devils crushed the first round.

 

Nico Daws is a favourite among many scouts when you get past Yaroslav Asakrov in the goaltending market. Jaromir Pytlik was a player many thought would go higher because of his solid two-way play and ability to play across all three positions if needed. He is a prototypical third-liner center that teams often covet for their ability to play the cycle and ensure that they are being responsible on both sides of the puck. Ethan Edwards was a sneaky good pickup in the fourth round and Artem Shlaine is one of the quietly fun late-round swings. There is some serious talent in this class, even with the early swing on a raw defender in Mukhamadullin.

 

Late-Round Round Gems

Ty Tullio – Edmonton Oilers – 5th Round, 126th Overall

The fall of Tullio was confusing to me and many in the prospect world. His size isn’t great but he was far from the smallest player available and plenty of smaller players were taken ahead of him. Tullio is a good skater, creative playmaker, and true dual-threat offensive player. He plays with a high-motor and doesn’t shy away from contact. His defensive game is solid and he has positional versatility across the forward positions. The Oilers may not have had many picks but they come away with a very good talent in Tullio.

 

 

Anton Johannesson – Winnipeg Jets – 5th Round, 133rd Overall

When he was on the ice, he was the most talented player of the ‘Big Four’ Swedish defenders (Grans, Wallinder, Johannesson and Emil Andrae). The issue was that he was often not on the ice often enough due to injuries. He is also a smaller player who has small player problems at times. The skill level is through the roof and we could be looking back in a decade as Winnipeg laughs at the steal they got in the fifth round.

 

Yevgeni Oksentyuk – Dallas Stars – 6th Round, 162nd Overall

The Belarusian import played with the Flint Firebirds this year and brought a combination of skill, snarl and scoring that few in the OHL brought to the ice each night. Much like many of the other players who fell, he is a bit smaller. He was the top overage player on my board so getting him in the sixth round was an impressive value pick. If he can get his feet moving a bit more, there is a really feisty middle-six winger here who can pitch in with some offense while being under his opponent’s skin.

 

 

******

 

I hope you enjoyed the 2020 NHL Draft! It was a long “year” of scouting the draft and the second day seemed to last even longer but we made it. The 2020 class has been selected and we move on to the 2021 class in the draft world. Jokke and I will be back this weekend for our 2020 NHL Draft recap episode of Dobber’s DraftCast so watch out for that! After that and some housekeeping, both Jokke and I will be taking a bit of a break to recharge (let’s be honest, we won’t be gone that long, I give it a day or two tops) but we will be back full force for the 2021 class! Thank you so much for all of the love, hate, discussion, and debate this year and the DobberProspects team worked relentlessly to cover the draft and the world of prospects in general.

 

For your fantasy hockey needs, the DobberProspects Fantasy Prospect Report and Fantasy Guide are the best sources to get you ahead of the game in your league whether you play in a simple year-to-year league or you’re involved in a decade long keeper league, the DobberProspects’ Fantasy Guides are your one-stop-shop for winning your league! 

 

For more on prospects and the NHL Draft, you can follow Tony Ferrari on Twitter.

 

Draft Class Deep Dives

Quinton Byfield                           LW Cole Perfetti

LHD Jake Sanderson            RHD Jamie Drysdale

Mavrik Bourque                    RW Dawson Mercer

RW Jacob Perreault           RHD Braden Schneider

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