Photo courtesy of NHL.com
We have had a rough year. I don’t think that’s an unusual statement. There are so many things that happened this year that have made 2020 a year to forget and so many others that have made this such an impactful year that will weigh on our minds and hearts as we move forward. We have all been through difficulties and hardships, we have all been dealing with the most unique time in the history of the world.
With today being Thanksgiving in Canada, I wanted to go over a few things that we should all be thankful for in the hockey world. Some are on the ice, some are off the ice but all of them are moments or things that have moved the game forward and helped the game of hockey itself. These are the things that I felt stood out but I am sure there will be so many more that I didn’t name so I encourage you to tweet at me (@TheTonyFerrari) or DobberProspects and tell us what you’re thankful for.
Quinton Byfield Makes History!
When Quinton Byfield was selected second overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, he was the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history! The Los Angeles Kings didn’t overthink the pick and took the second-best player in the draft with the second pick. Many thought that wouldn’t be the case. Byfield is an elite-level playmaker who controls the game with the puck on his stick. His high-end talent forces his opponents to focus in on him and his vision and IQ allow him to find the open man all over the ice. His raw potential is seemingly limitless with the very real possibility existing where he winds up being the best player in the draft class.
I think that it shows that having guys like Evander Kane and Seth Jones and P.K. Subban getting drafted and being impact players helped me growing up. It gave me the example that I could do it some day. Maybe I could see myself as a player. Now it is my time and my turn to take that role. It would be special to know that with this new generation that you could make an impact. – Quinton Byfield
While being the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history would be a massive deal in most years, having it happen in 2020 when we have dealt with so much racial injustice seems fitting. The hockey world has its issues and as we saw in the playoffs, the level of commitment on a league level may not always be as prominent as it should be. Byfield spoke about being the highest-drafted Black player in NHL history in the quote above from a wonderful piece by Ryan S. Clark of The Athletic. Ryan did an outstanding job talking about Byfield and his roots and I encourage you to read that piece, even if it means leaving this one to do it. Quinton Byfield being drafted with the second overall pick and to a massive media market such as Los Angeles, with his personality and willingness to show a side of him that many hockey players won’t, could mean the young Canadian becomes one of the faces of the league.
We all have so much work to do. We need to listen and learn. We need to speak up. We need to do our best to make sure hockey is truly for everyone because despite the NHL’s tag line, it hasn’t been true. This historic moment could mean so much for every kid who hasn’t or seldom seen a player in the NHL that looks like him. Quinton Byfield has already made in an impact on the league and he hasn’t even stepped on the ice yet.
The NHL Made It Work
The NHL actually pulled it off. They got the NHL playoffs done and over, awarding a Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season. Many, including myself, didn’t see this working out the way it did. With Zero COVID-19 cases in each bubble, the league seemed to find a way to successfully pull off the final chapter in their season in an effort to award the greatest trophy in sports. The Stanley Cup.
It wasn’t perfect and the players may not have enjoyed the experience but all sides made a commitment to finishing the season and I respect them for it. First, I want to say I am thankful for the player’s families. Without their sacrifices, understanding, commitment, love, and support from afar and so many other things that we will never know, the NHL playoffs couldn’t have happened at all. The families of every player in the bubble had to deal with a different scenario and none of them could have been easy. The player’s families are their rocks and they made a major sacrifice, especially for families of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars who were away from their loved one in the bubble for the entirety of the playoffs.
Photo courtesy of NBC Sports
The players deserve major kudos for following all of the rules, treating the procedures as they should, and respecting their teams, their teammates, and public health and safety. From being away from their families and loved ones in the bubble to having to relocate and live in a hotel for months, the players made so many sacrifices and they will likely need to continue doing so to ensure that they can have a season next year as well. We are unlikely to get things back to normal until at least the 2021-22 season. The players deserve a ton of credit for what they did in the NHL bubble cities.
The final party I’ll name is the league and owners. I know, they are the ‘evil empire’ but they at least deserve credit for being willing to put up the money to get the daily testing done and get so many of the logistical situations ironed out. Without the leadership and guidance by the league, the entire thing doesn’t happen.
The NHL and its players were able to get the playoffs worked out and they will continue working together to iron out the details of the next season as well. The fact of the matter is that it was an impressive feat for the players, their families, the owners, and the league to all work together to get this thing done and do it safely which was always of the utmost importance if this was going to get done.
Hockey in Europe
The NHL season may be over and we may not see it come back until January but the leagues in Europe have started up for the most part! This gives crazy hockey fans like myself a chance to keep watching the game we love. It gives me a chance to get familiar with many of the European prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft and continue following many of the prospects that have been drafted over the last few years.
The SHL has started up in Sweden and we’ve been given a show by some of the top prospects that just had their names called last week. Lucas Raymond, selected fourth overall by Detroit, decided to give Red Wings fans a peek at what he can do. New Jersey Devil’s seventh overall pick, Alexander Holtz, has been showing off the playmaking ability that many felt he didn’t have. Helge Grans has been showing the Los Angeles Kings why he was such a good pick in the second round. Even older prospects like Jonatan Berggren (DET), Nils Höglander (VAN), and Nils Lundqvist (NYR) have all been having good starts to the year.
The Liiga has gotten underway as well in Finland. Roby Järventie has been a point-per-game player thus far, showing that the Ottawa Senators made a good choice. Anton Lundell, Florida Panthers’ 12th overall pick, was given an “A” and has had a decent start to the season with HIFK. Jesse Puljujärvi leads the league in scoring and has signed a new deal with Edmonton for when the NHL season starts back up. There is so much to learn about so many players as we watch the Liiga.
Yegor Chinakhov may have been a surprise to all of us on draft night but the KHL has seen what the Columbus Blue Jackets 21st overall pick can do earlier in the year. Toronto quasi-prospect Mikko Lehtonen has been impressive as he scores the lights out from the blueline. Marat Khusnutdinov and many of his fellow young SKA St. Petersburg teammates were given the chance to make their KHL debuts. The second-best league in the world has been a ton of fun to tune into early in the year, even if they have zero regard for the pandemic.
Overall, it’s been nice having hockey still around. Even if it’s not the NHL spectacle so many have become accustomed to.
Speed and Skill Win Out
The Tampa Bay Lightning are your 2019-20 Stanley Cup champions. The team built on speed and skill from their core players and supplemented with grit, toughness, and solid role players won the Cup. With the NHL being a copycat league, like many professional sports leagues, if the Dallas Stars or New York Islanders became the champions, so many teams would have attempted to play the methodical, slow, drown-out your opponents style of play that they both played to an extent.
Photo courtesy of NHL.com
The Lightning were a team that many questioned for years, even as recently as last season when they were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets after Tampa Bay tied the NHL wins record with 62. Many questioned whether they should trade pieces of their core, fire their coach, or make drastic changes to their club. Instead, they trusted their gut. Identified the pieces that became expendable and move them for assets. They drafted well. They got some luck. The biggest key was that they understood that keeping their core together was what made them special. Hopefully, we see other teams who are beginning their ascent to the league’s upper class make the same kind of decisions.
I also want to say that I am thankful for you, the reader. The DobberProspects team has put so much time and effort into making the site one of your go-to stops for prospect and NHL Draft content. From fantasy hockey relevance to the scouting team providing top-notch draft analysis, the past year has been one of the best at DobberProspects and we have no one else to thank for that than YOU!
Whether you come to us for the Fantasy Prospect Report for help dominating your fantasy league or whether your favorite team is a basement dweller and you want some information on the next crop of prospects coming into the NHL on draft day, THANK YOU! You have made it all worth it!
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 are back today 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
C Quinton Byfield LW Cole Perfetti
LHD Jake Sanderson RHD Jamie Drysdale
C Mavrik Bourque RW Dawson Mercer
RW Jacob Perreault RHD Braden Schneider