An often forgotten part of the NHL Draft is that teams usually like to make their picks based on positional needs or continue their reputation of drafting players with similar traits. Montreal taking French-Canadians was one example of a reputation-based drafting style. More recently, Detroit selected Moritz Seider sixth overall in the 2019 draft, not because he was the best player available, but because he was arguably the best left-handed defenseman on the board. This happens every year with drafting, and often results in angered fans for ‘not picking the right player’. So as we move towards the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, which teams selections will be based on positional needs or reputations? Who just needs the best player available? Let’s go in-depth on the draft board. And please remember, general managers usually know what they’re doing, so put some trust in them to make the right calls.
Before we get into the list, just a quick thank you to @FSHockeyCenter on Twitter for the Mock Draft template. Note: Team order is based on NHL standings from January 29th, 2020 and does not account for the draft lottery. These are also not my actual draft rankings, just the selections I believe teams should make based on needs.
1. Detroit Red Wings – Alexis Lafrenière, LW
This pick is the obvious one. No team will pass on Lafrenière here, so no explanation is needed.
Other Potential Picks: Quinton Byfield (C)
2. Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Byfield, C
Byfield at second overall is basically a lock at this point as well. When it comes to Los Angeles, though, it may seem odd to take another center when they have the likes of Alex Turcotte, Akil Thomas, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Rasmus Kupari, etc. in the pool, but man would it be hard to pass on Byfield.
Other Potential Picks: Jamie Drysdale (RHD), Lucas Raymond (W)
3. New Jersey Devils – Jamie Drysdale, RHD
The Devils are one of the harder teams to pick what position they really need. Yaroslav Askarov at third overall is a potential option, but they have put a lot of faith in MacKenzie Blackwood to be their future number-one. As for their centers, they obviously selected Jack Hughes last year, as well as Nico Hischier and Jesper Boqvist, so there’s no need to draft another center yet. Another position to write-off would be a left-handed defenseman, as the Devils already have Ty Smith set up to be their future number-one LD. So that narrows it down to a right-handed defenseman or a winger. I believe the Devils should take Jamie Drysdale here because the gap from him to the next RHD is larger than the gap from Lucas Raymond to the next winger. The Devils also have another first from Arizona, where I do have them selecting a winger.
Other Potential Picks: Lucas Raymond (W), Yaroslav Askarov (G)
4. Anaheim Ducks – Lucas Raymond (W)
With the fourth choice in the draft, I think the Ducks are best off going for the best player available, which here is Lucas Raymond. They don’t really need a center, since they have the likes of Trevor Zegras, Sam Steel, among others on the team already. They also have John Gibson in net already, so Askarov is out of the question. So when narrowing it down, Raymond is just the smartest choice to get the most value for their pick.
Other Potential Picks: Tim Stützle (F), Alexander Holtz (W)
5/6. Ottawa Senators – Marco Rossi (C)/Tim Stützle (F)
As of right now, barring the lottery, Ottawa would have picks five and six. Pretty nice considering how strong the top of this draft is. These two picks are crucial for the future of the Senators organization, so landing on two definitive options is difficult. Although Marco Rossi and Tim Stützle are my two choices, I will still discuss more viable selections.
Marco Rossi (C) – A potential future 1C for the Senators, I’d argue this pick should be made if the Senators do end up with the fifth draft pick.
Tim Stützle (F) – Again, Stützle can project as a 1C, but from what I’ve seen, he looks like he could also become a winger in the NHL, which doesn’t make me want to lock him in for sixth overall.
Yaroslav Askarov (G) – Ottawa lack a future lock for their starting goalie, and Askarov would fill that spot right up. The gap from Askarov to the next best goalie is quite a big one, so if Ottawa are looking to fill that gap now, they should pick Askarov here. Alternatively, they could pass on a goalie this year and try to get a Jesper Wallstedt in the 2021 Draft.
Topi Niemelä (RHD) – If the Senators want to really solidify their future top-four, they can take a chance on Niemelä. Picking him at six is a stretch, I know, but he is, in my opinion, the best RHD available outside of Drysdale. This pick is very unlikely, but Niemelä pairing with one of Thomas Chabot or Erik Brannstrom could be deadly in the future.
Full 2020 Mock Draft, Based on Positional Needs or Draft Reputation: