Pete’s picks — 2020 NHL mock draft

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

The NHL Draft is less than a day away so what better way to prepare for potentially one of the deepest draft pools ever than through a mock draft?

1. New York Rangers: Alexis Lafreniere, left wing, Rimouski Oceanic Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)

Alexis Lafreniere (Photo from player Instagram)

Considered the most complete player in his draft class, Lafreniere has a lethal combination of size, talent and hockey IQ. Through 173 games in the QMJHL, he notched  297 points. He averaged 1.712 points per game, which is 10th amongst all skaters in the QMJHL born after 1979. He’s also the second player ever to be awarded the Dave Branch Player of the Year for being the most outstanding player across the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) in back-to-back years. The only other player to do it was Sidney Crosby. Do what you will with that information.

2. Los Angeles Kings: Quinton Byfield, center, Sudbury Wolves (Ontario Hockey League)

The unanimous best center in this draft class stands at a beastly 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds. Oh, and he just turned 18 in August. As a 16-to-17-year-old kid, Byfield produced 143 points in only 109 games. Normally, players this big at this age aren’t the most mobile, but Byfield uses his speed to his advantage as he combines power, speed and skill to dominate his opponents — every defenseman’s worst nightmare.  

3. Ottawa Senators: Tim Stützle, LW, Adler Mannheim Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL)

Welcome the newest member of the hand’s team, German native Tim Stützle. The skillset he possesses is unfathomable for an 18-year-old. The combination of speed, deking, ice vision, playmaking and scoring is exceptional for such a young player. His prospect package is purely highlights of him exposing defensemen on the rush, behind the net, around the dots and in every inch of the offensive zone. Comparing him to all-time great Pavel Datsyuk is no doubt bold, but Stützle has a plethora of dekes in his bag of tricks that he’s waiting to use at the professional level. 

4. Detroit Red Wings: Cole Perfetti, C, Saginaw Spirits (OHL)

Cole Perfetti (Photo from player Instagram)

This is where the mock starts to get crazy. Center depth is the most valuable thing for NHL teams. Perfetti provides an elite talent set that is rare for a lot of centers in the game. He is a playmaker that can do everything on offense. Perfetti can rack up goals like a sniper on the wing but also sets up his linemates like Nicklas Backstrom sets up Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie on the power play. 

5. Ottawa Senators: Yaroslav Askarov, goalie, SKA-St. Petersburg Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) 

For several weeks I had another player pegged to be picked by Ottawa, but upon hearing Craig Anderson was not going to be re-signed, I’d be shocked that Askarov isn’t Ottawa’s guy. Askarov has tremendous potential as he dominated his age group, posting a .920 save percentage and a 2.45 Goals against average (GAA) in 18 contests in the Vysshaya Liga (VHL) last season. His U-20 World Junior Championship performance was a little lackluster in terms of stats with a .877 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA through five games. But he was 17 in the tournament featuring 20-year-olds. This next season will be huge for his development.

6. Anaheim Ducks: Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda Swedish Hockey League (SHL)

Anaheim’s best forward, Rickard Rakell, got traded to Boston this season. Let the rebuild begin as Lucas Raymond will be the new centerpiece the Ducks will create a future around. Raymond is a coach’s dream as he prioritizes the 200-foot game. He has all the skills to produce at an elite level, containing a relentless style of play as well as the ability to create his own plays from seemingly nothing. 

7. New Jersey Devils: Jake Sanderson, defense, U.S. NTDP United States Hockey League (USHL)

Jake Sanderson (Photo from player Instagram)

New Jersey obtains a strong forward prospect group and a potentially elite goaltender in Mackenzie Blackwood. Therefore, the best option for New Jersey would be to target defensemen in this draft. The obvious choice in the for them is Sanderson, who embodies a superstar two-way defenseman. Not large in stature, but Sanderon plays a physical game, locking down attacking forwards in his own end. He has a high hockey IQ in the attacking end as he efficiently pinches in and prevents breakouts with ease. Not a noted point scorer but when he contributes, he’s at the top of his game.

8. Buffalo Sabres: Marco Rossi, C, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

If Rossi falls to Buffalo, it’ll be a gift from the hockey gods. For years, Buffalo has had prospects not pan out remotely close to what was expected. Now, with speculations that Jack Eichel may not be in Buffalo much longer, Rossi makes more and more sense for them. The 19-year-old Austrian can score at a terrifying rate. Undersized, Rossi showcases a similar play style to that of Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau. He has incredible offensive potential that should pan out for a successful career.

9. Minnesota Wild, Jamie Drysdale, D, Erie Otters (OHL)

If Rossi doesn’t fall to ninth, anticipate Minnesota to take Drysdale to replace Matt Dumba and his inevitable departure from the organization. Drysdale is a terrific offensive-minded defenseman that produces at five-on-five and quarterbacks the power play. If his defensive game is half as efficient as his offensive side, Wild fans will be cheering in the streets. 

10. Winnipeg Jets, Alexander Holtz, right wing, Djurgarden (SHL)

Alexander Holtz (Photo from player Instagram)

A stupendous goal-scorer with a deadly wrist shot. Wait, this sounds familiar. Oh right, Patrik Laine had a similar draft analysis. If this is the guy Winnipeg targets, the trade rumors for Laine will only crescendo. Holtz loves to shoot the puck and has proven that at every level he will score. He is going to be a power-play threat whenever the puck lands on his blade.

11. Nashville Predators: Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Another deadly goal scorer, Quinn has a rifle of shot that he showcased this previous season. After netting a remarkable 52 goals in 62 games, Quinn moved up in many draft rankings. Nashville desperately needs a pure goal scorer, especially after finishing the previous season with the seventh-worst power-play percentage. Nashville has playmaking forwards in Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg and a strong defensive game led by Roman Josi. Elite goal scoring has been the team’s downfall. 

12. Florida Panthers: Anton Lundell, C, Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna, Helsingfors (FIN.)

The Panthers are in an awkward predicament. Their defensive core is substantially poor, and their offensive production is impressive. However, top forward Alexsandar Barkov has a lot of trade speculations floating around his head. Regardless, Lundell would be a great fit for them as his defensive game is his most impactful aspect. He’s not a player that’s going to rack up points but instead provides exponential support as a second or third-line center that can produce occasionally and dominate on the penalty kill. 

13. Carolina Hurricanes: Seth Jarvis, C, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Jarvis poses as an interesting pick for Carolina. He didn’t struggle, but his point production was not near the level he wanted to begin last season. Something must have happened over Christmas break because he returned to play with a fire lit underneath him. In the 26 games coming back from break, he put up 63 points in 26 games and finished the season with 98 points in 58 games. Although Carolina has a front-loaded offense, he is a shifty skater that takes advantage of controlling the puck down low and in the corners and could take the Hurricanes to the next level. 

14. Edmonton Oilers: Dawson Mercer, C, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)

No doubt, skating is the best tool Mercer possesses. He plays bigger than his 6-foot frame and if he continues to improve his hands, he can become an efficient power forward. He’s produced in the QMJHL even at 16-years-old, but has not been consistent enough to sustain a top-10 pick. His World Juniors tournament leaves doubt in a lot of scouts’ eyes when he didn’t record a point in seven games. Flashes of playmaking and goal scoring keeps his ceiling high, but nothing screams all-star potential as of right now. He would be a good piece to add to the trio of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. 

15. Toronto Maple Leafs: William Wallinder, D, MoDo U-20 (Sweden)

William Wallinder (Photo from player Instagram)

For several years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have desperately needed a stronger defensive core. Now, Helge Grans may be a higher ranked defensive prospect, but his lack of defensive tools make Wallinder the better option for Toronto. Wallinder can produce on offense, is a strong skater, has smooth hands and a booming shot, but his defensive game provides much more. He plays with an edge, is a physical presence and his size allows him to shut down opponents in tight areas. 

16. Montreal Canadiens: Dylan Halloway LW, Wisconsin (NCAA)

17. Chicago Blackhawks: Rodion Amirov, LW, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

18. New Jersey Devils: Maverick Bourque, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

19. Calgary Flames: Helge Grans, D, Malmo (Allsvenskan)

20. New Jersey Devils: Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL)

21. Columbus Blue Jackets: Conor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL)

22. New York Rangers: Jan Mysak, C, Hamilton (OHL)

23. Philadelphia Flyers: Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL)

24. Washington Capitals: Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

25. Colorado Avalanche: Ryan O’Rourke, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

26. St. Louis Blues: Jacob Perrault, RW, Sarnia (OHL)

27. Anaheim Ducks: Noel Gunler, RW, Luleå HF (SHL)

28. Ottawa Senators: J.J. Peterka, RW, Salzburg (Austrian)

29. Vegas Golden Knights: Brisson, C, Chicago (USHL)

30. Dallas Stars: Tyson Foerster, RW, Barrie (OHL) 

31. San Jose Sharks: Ty Smilinac, C, US-Under-18 (USAH-NTDP)