Anaheim, Carolina, Nashville and Pittsburgh are teams that made multiple bargain selections in the 2020 NHL draft according to scouts who evaluated prospects for The Hockey News Future Watch 2021 issue.
Those four teams each had two picks who would have made moves upward were the 2020 to be held again today. That’s the consensus opinion of a panel of nine scouts who evaluated the top 310 NHL-affiliated prospects in the game. A byproduct of the Future Watch project is when distilling the top 100 prospect results you can look back at recent drafts to see how they might unfold in the present day. The most interesting is typically the most recent draft. But because the COVID-19 pandemic affected the schedules of developmental league to varying degrees, there aren’t as many big movers compared to previous post-draft recaps of earlier years.
How would the top 10 sort out? Which second-rounders would have moved up into the first? Which first-rounders would have slid down to the second? Did any teams get multiple bargains?
In doing this exercise, you do so with an open mind. Scouts are still projecting – they’re just doing so with additional games of information, most notably the 2021 world juniors. The intelligence given to us by our panel of nine scouts, directors of player personnel and GMs is a blended opinion of how these prospects have progressed in the limited action since the 2020 NHL draft. In many cases, the merged results won’t be the same thought processes as individual teams. For example, Buffalo drafted Ottawa 67’s right winger Jack Quinn eighth overall. Our panel thinks he would go No. 13 if the draft was held again today. Yet ask the Sabres and they might be content to take him again at No. 8, especially considering the only realy hockey he played were seven games at the WJC and 14 games as an underage in the AHL.
The point here isn’t to second-guess the selection of NHL teams at the time of the 2020 draft. It’s to show the progression of these draft prospects over the short term. How they ultimately develop, of course, is a long-term timeline.
For the Future Watch project, we asked these scouts to consult a list of 310 NHL prospects (the top 10 from each of the 31 teams) and to establish their own top 60 list, based on a five- to 10-year projection window of NHL upside. Most of the NHL-affiliated players on this list of 310 were from drafts prior to 2020 or free agents. But 81 of them – about 26 percent – were selected last October.
With this information culled from our scouting panel, we can redux the 2020 draft if it were to be held again today. Two players from the 2020 draft made the immediate jump to the NHL. Alexis Lafreniere of the New York Rangers and Tim Stutzle of the Ottawa Senators fast-tracked this Future Watch rating exercise. For the sake of argument, we’ll rank them Nos. 1 and 2 even though there’s a decent chance other 2020 draftees returned to junior, college or Europe may surpass one or more of them in coming seasons.
Here’s how the first round would play out, based on the scouting committee’s evaluation of their progression in this pandemic-altered season of 2020-21.
1. Alexis Lafreniere, LW (taken 1st by NY Rangers)
2. Tim Stutzle, C (taken 3rd by Ottawa)
3. Quinton Byfield, C (taken 2nd by Los Angeles)
4. Jamie Drysdale, D (taken 6th by Anaheim)
5. Lucas Raymond, LW (taken 4th by Detroit)
6. Jake Sanderson, D (taken 5th by Ottawa)
7. Yaroslav Askarov, G (taken 11th by Nashville)
8. Alexander Holtz, RW (taken 7th by New Jersey)
9. Anton Lundell, C (taken 12th by Florida)
10. Seth Jarvis, C (taken 13th by Carolina)
11. Cole Perfetti, C (taken 10th by Winnipeg)
12. Marco Rossi, C (taken 9th by Minnesota)
13. Jack Quinn, RW (taken 8th by Buffalo)
14. Rodion Amirov, LW (taken 15th by Toronto)
15. Dylan Holloway, C (taken 14th by Edmonton)
16. Lukas Reichel, LW (taken 17th by Chicago)
17. Kaiden Guhle, D (taken 16th by Montreal)
18. Braden Schneider, D (taken 19th by NY Rangers)
19. Dawson Mercer, C (taken 18th by New Jersey)
20. J-J Peterka, RW (taken 34th by Buffalo)
21. Connor Zary, C (taken 24th by Calgary)
22. Hendrix Lapierre, C (taken 22nd by Washington)
23. Jacob Perreault, RW (taken 27th by Anaheim)
24. Yegor Chinakhov, RW (taken 21st by Columbus)
25. Mavrik Bourque, C (taken 30th by Dallas)
26. Tyson Foerster, RW (taken 23rd by Philadelphia)
27. Justin Barron, D (taken 25th by Colorado)
28. Jake Neighbours, LW (taken 26th by St. Louis)
29. Brendan Brisson, C (taken 29th by Vegas)
30. Brock Faber, D (taken 45th by Los Angeles)
31. Thomas Bordeleau, C (taken 38th by San Jose)
Early second round:
32. Vasily Ponomarev, C (taken 53rd by Carolina)
33. Luke Evangelista, RW (taken 42nd by Nashville)
34. Shakir Mukhamadullin, D (taken 20th by New Jersey)
35. Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW (taken 31st by San Jose)
36. Theodor Niederbach, C (taken 51st by Detroit)
37. Calle Clang, G (taken 77th by Pittsburgh)
38. Ridly Greig, C (taken 28th by Ottawa)
39. Joel Blomqvist, G (taken 52nd by Pittsburgh)
Making a good impression is Nashville. The Predators nabbed Russian goalie Yaroslav Askarov 11th overall. He’d go four spots higher at No. 7 today. And the Preds’ mid-second-round pick of Luke Evangelista was astute as well. He’d go early in the second round, No. 33 today.
Carolina’s selection of Seth Jarvis at 13th was solid. He’d go No. 10 today. The Hurricanes essentially got another late-first-rounder in Vasily Ponomarev midway in the second round. He’d go No. 32 today.
Anaheim drafted Jamie Drysdale sixth overall. He’d go No. 4 today. And the Ducks’ pick of Jacob Perreault late in the first round at No. 27 looks smart. He’d go at No. 23 today.
Pittsburgh didn’t have a first round pick in 2020, but the Penguins stocked up on goalie prospects midway through the second and third rounds. Calle Clang and Joel Blomqvist would go early in the second round today.
In addition to Buffalo’s pick of Quinn at No. 8, the Sabres feel they unearthed a gem early in the second round in J-J Peterka. He would go 20th overall in the first round if the draft was held again today.
Other first-round selections from 2020 making notable jumps up the opening round include Anton Lundell (Florida), Connor Zary (Calgary) and Mavrik Bourque (Dallas). First-rounders slipping more than a few spots in the opening round include Marco Rossi (Minnesota), Yegor Chinakhov (Columbus) and Tyson Foerster (Philadelphia). For Rossi, his slip was understandable as he’s battled the effects of COVID-19 much of the playing season.
Just three actual first-rounders from 2020 wouldn’t go in the first round if it were re-done today: No. 20 Shakir Mukhamadullin, New Jersey; No. 28 Ridly Greig, Ottawa; No. 31 Ozzy Wiesblatt, San Jose. But they would go early in the second round.
And just to reiterate, this is the opinion of the Future Watch scouting panel. The teams that selected these prospects where they did, may do so again today, based on positional need or their own assessment being different.
Featured on the cover of this year’s Future Watch issue are the young stars of the Ottawa Senators – Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson. Colorado’s list of prospects and 21-and-under NHLers was graded the best in the NHL. It includes seven prospects with the game’s top 100 NHL-affiliated prospects.