The Journey: Projecting The Top Eight Draft Picks Based On Organizational Needs

Dave Hall

2020-07-04

Welcome back, hockey fanatics. To all my fellow Canadians, I hope you had a great Canada Day, and as for all of the readers hailing from the USA, happy Fourth of July.

Has last week’s draft lottery finally sunk in yet? What a ray of light for the league after a few dark gloomy months. Not only did a placeholder team snag the first overall selection, there will now have to be a second lottery, which gives writers nothing but content to stew on for weeks to come. There has been a lot of moaning and groaning about the results, most notably from Detroit fans. My thoughts on the matter are simple – Yes, it is unfortunate that a potential playoff-bound team will receive a potential game-breaker player (Alexis Lafreniere), however, not only did all teams agree to this, but it's also important to remember that teams like the Red Wings are still going to be gifted a very talented young player. If there was any year to drop a few picks, this was the year. 

To recap the draft order, it looks as follows: 

  1. Placeholder
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. Ottawa Senators
  4. Detroit Red Wings
  5. Ottawa Senators
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Buffalo Sabres

To be honest, all of these teams are winners in my books. This draft year is so deep, and even though there are clear consensus picks in the top 10, all players involved are fantastic options and should have long lustrous careers. 

With that in mind, I’d like to go over each of the teams’ (placeholder included) organizational needs and who I think they could draft. This will not be a mock draft, that’s to come before the draft itself, but more a brainstorm of who they should take based on needs or in some cases, best player available.

Let's dive right in.

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1st overall – Placeholder

While the consensus varies based on who you ask, I firmly believe that no matter who wins first overall honors, Alexis Lafreniere is the clear choice here. He may not be the generational player we have seen in past seasons such as Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, but he’s as close as you can come to it. The impressive element that he brings to the table is that he sprinkles a little bit of all the league's top players into one – he’s got hands, he can skate, he has the quick release, his vision is bar none and what’s more, he brings a physical element as well. He’s the most NHL-ready player available and will instantly change the course of where (insert team name) is headed.

My prediction: Alexis Lafreniere, LW

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2nd Overall – Los Angeles Kings

If I am being honest, the fact that the Kings landed the number two pick slightly put me off-kilter and forced me to re-evaluate who may be selected here. For starters, if they were to land anywhere but the top-2, I believe they lock in a defenceman and move on. With the club's prospect pool already arguably one of the best upfront, the backend still could use some assistance, making Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson the obvious choice.

However, now with the second-best pick in the draft, this pick becomes that more enticing. With high-end talents such as Alex Turcotte, Gabriel Vilardi, Tyler Madden, and Akil Thomas (to name a few) all occupying roles down the middle, it's easy to gravitate towards selecting a speedy winger such as Tim Stutzle. Yet, as much as I love Stutzle’s game, and I really do, I cannot imagine a scenario that doesn't see Quinton Byfield go number two. 

At 6-foot-4, 214-pounds at the young age of 17, he’s got the size to overpower those even at the NHL level, along with the hands to compliment it all. While he may not be the most NHL-ready among the draft group, his projection is right there at the top and is poised to enjoy a very lustrous career. Sure, their center position is logjammed, however, moving a few players to the wing to pave way for a player like Byfield is an easy and obvious choice. 

My prediction: Quinton Byfield, C

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3rd Overall – Ottawa Senators (Via San Jose Sharks)

Much like the Los Angeles Kings, the Senators rank one of the best in regards to organizational depth. To top it off, they now are the proud owners of two top-5 picks as well an extra pick later in the first via the New York Islanders. This means that they can really go for it and turn their rebuild into high gear.

If you are going by organizational depth, the Sens already showcases a decent lot of talent on their backend. With players like Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom, Lassi Thompson, and Jacob Bernard-Docker on patrol, there is not much to complain about and plenty to work with going forward. While it may not be as strong as the Kings, they are also sitting pretty up the middle as well. I think selecting a winger with this pick is the right choice, and luckily, the best available player is just that.

The German-born offensive dynamo has shot up the rankings in the second half of the season, solidifying himself as a top-3 candidate. With his high-level skating and offensive upside, Tim Stutzle should be the choice here and will instantly sit tops on the list of wingers within the organization. 

My prediction: Tim Stutzle, LW

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4th overall – Detroit Red Wings

After one of the worst seasons recorded, it’s hard to pinpoint what their major issue may be, aside from possibly everything (I joke). To be fair, I personally think their defensive pool is better than most may assume, with prospects such as Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, and Moritz Seider

With that in mind, I think the path the club decides to go can sway in any direction and this will likely be the pick that opens up the entire top-10. I have seen some rumblings about the Wings going with Saginaw Spirits, Cole Perfetti. However, with a few names up the middle already, their largest hole for me is on their right side. Aside from Evgeny Svechnikov, there is not much going for them in regards to a rebuild. This is why I think Lucas Raymond would not only be the best option for the club's depth charts, but likely the best available player with the number four pick at the same time. 

Raymond comes as a dynamic talent, with superb playmaking abilities. His skating is already up to NHL standards and would serve as a massive addition to their up-and-coming special teams units. With a shoot-first winger already occupying the left side (Filip Zadina), there could be serious connections in the future.

My prediction: Lucas Raymond, RW

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5th overall – Ottawa Senators

After waiting for just one pick, the Ottawa Senators are right back at it with the number five pick. Let's be real for just a moment: To have three picks in the first round is considered a massive privilege, and to own two in the top-5 is just plain spoiled. I somewhat struggle with this pick. As I am choosing based on organizational needs first, I am forced to leave out defenders and in all honesty, everything here is telling me, goaltender.

While they have no shortage of prospects between the crease, they do lack a solid number one option for the future. With Yaroslav Askarov showing signs of being a future elite, it is hard for me to shake the possibility of them at least entertaining the idea of going netminder here. However, with goalies being as unpredictable as they are, I think it would be smart to lock up another winger in the top-5, this time on the right side.

With many great playmakers coming up, the Sens could use a bonafide goal scorer. Someone who has a shoot-first mentality and the power to put it to use. That someone should be Alexander Holtz. The Swedish winger is a proven goal-scorer and is likely the best shooter within this draft class. He could instantly step in a catapult their power-play and scoring production in a big way. Let's go back-to-back right-winged Swedes.

My prediction: Alexander Holtz, RW

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6th Overall – Anaheim Ducks

We have gotten passed the top-5 and some very big names still remain up for grabs. In fact, before the lottery draft came out, I would have assumed players like Jamie Drysdale would have already been snagged up, and yet, here we are. 

It's hard to deny what the Ducks are in desperate need of next year. Sitting 28th in scoring league-wide and dead last on the man advantage, heavy offensive power is at the very top of the list. However, there are some very skilled forwards heading towards the club within the next few years, so I believe that this will work itself out eventually.

This begs me to think that the smart choice for them would be on the backend. While players such as Josh Mahura or Jacob Larsson are very respectable defenders, the Ducks ultimately lack that game-changing top-pairing defender in their pipelines. Taking Jamie Drysdale here makes perfect sense to me, and even though he is likely a year or two from making the jump, could really point that back end in the right direction heading forward. 

My prediction: Jamie Drysdale, D

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7th Overall – New Jersey Devils

Despite falling much short of what their pre-season expectation was, the Devils have put themselves in a very nice spot heading into the 2020 Entry Draft. Depending on what transpires with the Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks, they could be looking at three first-round picks, two of them potentially landing in the top-10 spot. 

I think there a few areas that the Devils need to work on, but with a nice bundle of picks to work with, they should be able to address most of these. With that in the back of my mind, I think they need to be gunning for the best possible player, that being the very talented Austrian, Marco Rossi.

While Jake Sanderson is tempting here, I do believe passing on a player such as Rossi is almost impossible. He is a point-producing machine who can skate like the wind. He absolutely destroyed the OHL this year and there is no reasons to believe otherwise that he can’t do the same at the NHL level. Look out Jack Hughes, you may have company.

My prediction: Marco Rossi, C

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8th Overall – Buffalo Sabres

Finally, we arrive at the Buffalo Sabres, a team that marvelously underperformed during the 2019-20 season. I think many pegged them a playoff contender heading into the year, and the fact that they hold yet another top-10 pick serves as both a massive disappointment but a nice consolation prize. No matter who they take in this spot, the Sabres will be adding yet another high octane to a club begging for success.

Goaltending is taken care of and with big names like Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju, so is their blue line. With former first-rounder Casey Mittelstadt struggling to find his feet at the pro level, it seems as though Cole Perfetti is a clear choice here. 

While his skating could use some work in order to keep up at the NHL level, his offensive upside is through the roof. He has a powerful and deadly shot but can also thread the needle like the best of them. At number eight, the 18-year-old could prove to be a nice steal for the club, some news that Sabres fans could use right now.

My prediction: Cole Perfetti, C

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I would love to hear your thoughts or if they differ from mine, which I am sure they will. This year is extra meaty as it’s rare to find two rankings the same, which is going to make for one heck of an action-packed day. 

Please feel free to let me know through Twitter @hall1289.

Have a great week everyone.

UPCOMING GAMES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency VGK Players
21.8% WILLIAM KARLSSON CHANDLER STEPHENSON MARK STONE
16.2% JONATHAN MARCHESSAULT REILLY SMITH PAUL STASTNY
15.6% WILLIAM CARRIER TOMAS NOSEK RYAN REAVES

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