Who Are the Top Prospects of the 2020 NHL Draft?

By WGR 550 SportsRadio

While the 2020 NHL Draft has yet to be set in stone later this fall, the NHL Draft Lottery is set to take place this Friday.

This year's draft lottery format could look a bit different after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shut down of the rest of the 2019-20 regular season and the league came up with the 24-team Return To Play format this summer. Depending on how the lottery balls fall, we could see a separate draft lottery take place following the qualifying play-in round.

Friday's draft lottery will see 15 teams eligible to win the top-three picks in the NHL Draft. The seven teams that failed to make it to the qualifying play-in round will hold the best odds to win any of the top-three picks, while the eight teams eliminated in the qualifying round will make up the rest of the field.

Here is a look at how the draft order looks, along with the draft lottery odds for each team:

1. Detroit Red Wings - 18.5%
2. Ottawa Senators - 13.5%
3. Ottawa Senators (from the San Jose Sharks) - 11.5%
4. Los Angeles Kings - 9.5%
5. Anaheim Ducks - 8.5%
6. New Jersey Devils - 7.5%
7. Buffalo Sabres - 6.5%
8. Team A - 6.0%
9. Team B - 5.0%
10. Team C - 3.5%
11. Team D - 3.0%
12. Team E - 2.5%
13. Team F - 2.0%
14. Team G - 1.5%
15. Team H - 1.0%

If a top-three pick is won by any of the seven teams that missed out on the Return To Play format, that team, or the team that holds on to the rights of that first round pick will get that selected position. If all three teams that are selected are part of that group of teams that missed out on the Return To Play format, there will be no need for a Phase 2 part of the draft.

If any of the three picks were to be won by a team that played and lost in the qualifying round, there will be a second phase of the draft lottery that will only involve the teams that did not advance past the qualifying round. All of the teams involved will have the same odds of winning the pick(s) at 12.5%.

Once the top-three picks of the 2020 NHL Draft have been determined, the rest of the draft order will determined by points percentage in reverse order.

So if a team wins the NHL Draft Lottery and holds one of the top-three picks in the 2020 draft, who are the top names that will be available?

Here's a look at the top-three players of the 2020 NHL Draft:

1.) Alexis Lafrenière - Left Wing - Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)

Lafrenière is seen as the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by most people closely following the draft, and has been touted as one of the best prospects to enter the draft in some time.

Over the past three seasons, Lafrenière has put up some outstanding production with Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 114 goals and picking up 183 assists for 297 points in 173 games played. His 2018-19 season was a memorable one as a 16/17-year-old, where he put up 105 points (37+68) in 61 games. Although he failed to win a QMJHL title, Lafrenière was named as the league's most valuable player, and eventually was named the MVP of the entire Canadian Hockey League.

Lafrenière was having another phenomenal 2019-20 season in Rimouski before the rest of the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 18-year-old had scored 35 goals and amassed 77 assists for 112 points in just 52 games played. With that performance, he was able to repeat as MVP of the QMJHL, as well as MVP of the CHL, becoming just the second player in history to repeat as MVP in both league.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby was the other player to accomplish that feat before he was drafted first overall in the 2005 NHL Draft.

The native of Saint-Eustache, Quebec was also a pivotal part of a Canadian team that won the gold medal at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic. Lafrenière missed a pair of games in the preliminary round due to a knee injury, but he was still able to play in five games, scoring four goals and picking up 10 points while earning the MVP honors of the tournament.

While Lafrenière has not been labeled as a "generational" talent heading into the draft, he is a high-octane player on the wing that will likely become one of the better players in the NHL for years to come. His all-around game is dynamic with the ability to distribute the puck, score, play reliably in both ends of the ice, and use his leadership to step up his game on and off the ice.

“Lafrenière has exceptional skills and attributes which make him a scoring threat every time he steps onto the ice,” said NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr when they released their final rankings in April. “Whether it’s with Rimouski in the QMJHL or on the world stage he has continually shown that he is a force that can impact and be a difference maker in games. What sets him above in this Draft class is the natural compete and battle traits that are ingrained in his game, allowing Alexis to lead the way and make others around him better.”

2.) Quinton Byfield - Center - Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

Byfield started the 2019-20 season as a prospect who was thought to be the best competition for Lafrenière as the top prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft. While he is not likely to be taken first overall anymore, Byfield is still considered as one of the best prospects of this year's class.

The 17-year-old stands as a big-bodied forward at 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds, who led the Wolves in scoring this season with 82 points (32+50) in 45 games played. Byfield was named the Ontario Hockey League and CHL Rookie of the Year for the 2018-19 season, and ended up ranking fifth this season in the OHL with an average of 1.82 points per-game.

The native of Newmarket, Ontario also won the gold medal with Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championship, picking up an assist in seven games played in a much smaller role on the team than Lafrenière.

Byfield is a strong and powerful skater with the ability to quickly move around the ice to join a rush, break free for a scoring chance, or get back defensively and help cover. He's got the skillset to become a powerful two-way centerman at the NHL level, even drawing some comparisons to Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin with his style of play. He's got the frame to be strong with the puck on his stick and be difficult to take out of the play, but he still has room for growth in that department.

He may need another year of play at the junior level before making the jump to the NHL, but overall, Byfield has all the tools to develop into a stud No. 1 or No. 2 centerman at the top level.

3.) Tim Stützle - Center - Adler Mannheim (DEL)

Stützle may be the best European player to come from this draft class after a stellar first season as a 17/18-year-old with Adler Mannheim in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) in Germany.

The young German played mostly on the wing this year in Mannheim, but is likely to develop as a center at the NHL level. He ended up being named the DEL Rookie of the Year with seven goals and 27 assists for 34 points in 41 games at Germany's top level of professional hockey.

The native of Viersen, Germany also took part in the 2020 World Junior Championship in Ostrava, where he picked up five assists in five games played for Germany's first appearance in the top division of the tournament since 2015. Stützle was a big part of that German team that helped the nation survive relegation and earn a spot in the 2021 World Juniors in Alberta, Canada.

Stützle may be smaller in size at 6-foot and 187 pounds, but he is a very good skater and is always a threat on the ice with the puck. He has great vision in the offensive zone, and has the ability to carry the offense for his team while playing on the wing. He will look to become just the third-ever German-born and trained player to be picked in the top-10 of the NHL Draft.

He may just be able to leap Byfield for the second overall pick if a team likes him, but nonetheless he is still a top-three pick in the 2020 draft.

In the Mix

Marco Rossi - Center - Ottawa 67's (OHL)

The native of Austria is a very good playmaker with the puck on his stick, who can distribute the puck well and use some good patience and deception to make a play happen. He's a weapon on the power play, he has a quick release on his shot, and also has a good motor to be able to move around extremely well on the ice. Rossi is also quite reliable in his own end, and has been able to step up and play some key minutes at both ends of the ice.

Where Rossi's draft stock may take a hit with some teams is his size, standing at just 5-foot-9 and 179 pounds. However, he has shown the ability to stay strong on the puck and be able to take a physical beating on the ice.

Before making the jump to North America in 2018, Rossi was playing at a higher level of hockey in Switzerland as a 15/16-year-old. With that, paired with his level of play and production in the OHL this past season, Rossi has been said to maybe be ready to take the next step to and contribute at the NHL as a 19-year-old rookie.

Lucas Raymond - Left Wing - Frölunda HC (SHL)

The 18-year-old has the ability to play on either wing as a right-handed shot due, in part, to his excellent vision on the ice. Raymond has the ability to put himself in position to make plays constantly, while also being a guy who wants the puck on his stick to make a play. He possesses good foot speed, some soft hands, can protect the puck well, and is an outstanding passer.

Raymond played a total of 33 games this season in the Swedish Hockey League and managed to score four goals and pick up six assists for 10 points. While that may not seem like a big offensive total, he was often times protected with his minutes and played a smaller role on a powerhouse Frölunda team as a 17/18-year-old.

With Sweden at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, Raymond was productive with a pair of goals and assists for four points in seven games. While he wasn't used as one of their top offensive weapons, and ended up doing his part in helping the Swedes to a bronze medal in the tournament.

Before making the jump to the North America and the NHL, Raymond will have to get a bit bigger and strengthen up his 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame. Another year or two playing more minutes and in a bigger role with Frölunda will certainly benefit his development. 

Alexander Holtz - Right Wing - Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

The 18-year-old winger has one of the better shots in the 2020 draft class, and was able to net nine goals and 16 points in 35 games with Djurgårdens in the SHL. However, like Raymond, Holtz played more of a sheltered role in Sweden's top professional league this season. He's got a quick, accurate release with his shot, his speed and skating has improved over the course of the season, and he is a pretty darn good passer as well.

At the 2020 World Juniors, Holtz was also productive in helping Sweden to a bronze medal, scoring three goals and adding two assists for five points in seven games.

Where Holtz has a bit of an advantage over Raymond is his size, standing at 6-foot and 183 pounds. However, a bit more time in the SHL next year in a larger role on Djurgårdens will help him with building strength for the next level of hockey.

Jamie Drysdale - Defenseman - Erie Otters (OHL)

The 18-year-old was one of the bright spots for the Otters this season on the blue line with nine goals and 38 assists for 47 points in 49 games. He finished the 2019-20 season as the OHL's 13th leading scorer among defensemen, while ranking 10th among defensemen in average points per-game (0.96).

Drysdale is a smooth-skating offensive defenseman who is very calm with the puck from the blue line, and has the ability to be an impact player with his transition game. He can skate with the puck all by himself, or he can make some good passes to get the puck down the ice. He is also very smart at both ends of the ice, being able to move the puck and make the right decisions at the right time.

The Toronto native was also a part of the Canadian roster that won gold at the 2020 World Junior Championship, where he scored a goal and added two assists in seven games on the back end.

Drysdale has the potential to be a dynamic, top-pairing defenseman in the NHL that will fit that prototypical style of blue liner in today's game.