NHL draft difficult to predict beyond top-three selections

With three picks in the first round of the NHL draft on Tuesday, New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald faces a bit of a dilemma.

Though the prospect pool is considered deep, Fitzgerald is having difficulty sorting in which order the selections might fall.

“There’s a lot of talent, especially in the top 10, top 12,” Fitzgerald said last week. “I guess the hardest thing is they’re all different — very good, but very different.”

That leaves the Devils, who pick seventh, 18th and 20th, and other teams outside of the top three selections with plenty of decisions to make.

Quebec-born forward Alexis Lafreniere is projected to go first, followed by either German forward Tim Stuetzle and Ontario center Quinton Byfield.

Beyond that is when the guessing begins, with Detroit picking fourth.

Though the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the NHL’s annual pre-draft scouting combine and forced teams to meet prospects via video calls as opposed to face to face, scouting staffs benefited from having additional time to pore over film with the draft pushed back from the final weekend of June.

“Every organization is in the same boat. We all have the same information so we’re comfortable that we have enough information to make good decisions,” Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said. “As far as the draft order, I have no idea what is going to happen before us. We can assume. At the fourth pick, we’re pretty excited regardless of how it plays out.”

The following is a capsule look at seven top prospects:

Alexis Lafreniere (Rimouski, QMJHL), left wing, 6-foot-1, 193 pounds.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 North American skater

Last season: Led QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in becoming first to win consecutive league MVP honors since Sidney Crosby in 2004 and ’05. Member of Canada’s gold-medal-winning world junior championship team, and named tournament MVP.

Central Scouting Report: “Exceptionally smart player with top-end speed and pull-away gear. … Executes under pressure and has great vision and anticipation.”

Compared to: Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida.

Could go: 1st (New York Rangers) or 2nd (Los Angeles). From suburban Montreal, has chance to become first Quebec-born player selected No. 1 since Pittsburgh drafted goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003.

They said it: “They have a lot of good young players,” Lafreniere said on possibility of being drafted by Rangers. “For sure it’s exciting and we’ll see what happens.”


Tim Stuetzle (Manheim, Germany), center/left wing, 6-foot-1, 187 pounds.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 international skater.

Last season: German pro league rookie of the year with seven goals and 27 assists in 41 games.

Central Scouting Report: “A playmaking hockey artist with a great set of tools including speed, dekes, stickhandling, shot and hockey IQ. Creates something positive on every shift.”

Compared to: Patrick Kane, Chicago.

Could go: 2nd (Los Angeles) or 3rd (Ottawa), with opportunity to become third German-born and -trained player drafted in top 10.

They said it: “Yeah, my teammates always said that to me,” Stuetzle said, on being compared to Kane. “I think it’s a big honor to me to be compared to those guys. I think I’m still far away from them. So there’s a lot of work coming on.”


Quinton Byfield (Sudbury, OHL), center, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 North American skater

Last season: Led Sudbury and finished 14th in OHL with 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games.

Central Scouting Report: “Powerful skater with breakaway speed. Excellent puck possession player with superior vision, creativity and playmaking ability. Heavy, accurate shot that can overpower goaltenders. Physically ready for the pro game.”

Compared to: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh.

Could go: 2nd or 3rd.

They said it: “I wouldn’t say he’s an expert. I still don’t know if he knows what’s really happening,” Byfield said of his father, who is from Jamaica before moving to Canada. “He’s just a huge fan of me and a huge fan of hockey.”


Jamie Drysdale (Erie, OHL), defenseman, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 3 North American skater

Last season: Ranked 13th among OHL defensemen with 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) in 49 games. Became just ninth 17-year-old defenseman since 1991 to represent Canada at World Junior championships, where he had a goal and two assists in seven games.

Central Scouting Report: “Exceptional skater with an excellent transition game that can drive the play and push the pace from the back end. A two-way defenseman with excellent offensive ability.”

Compared to: Cale Makar, Colorado.

Could go: Shouldn’t fall below No. 6 (Anaheim).

They said it: “Having that opportunity to be put in a good position in the semifinals where I got to play a good amount of minutes was really big for me,” Drysdale said of playing at world juniors.


Jake Sanderson (USA U-18, National Team Development Program), defenseman, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 4, North American skater

Last season: Captained U-18 team, and led blue-liners with 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 47 games.

Central Scouting Report: “Excellent skater who plays all parts of the game at a quick pace. Elite hockey sense allows him to be effective on the attack and while defending.”

Compared to: Charlie McAvoy, Boston.

Could go: Anywhere from No. 7 (New Jersey) and No. 13 (Carolina). Son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson, and committed to playing at North Dakota.

They said it: “Obviously, we’re well aware of who’s being paired with who especially when it comes to our prospects,” Senators GM Pierre Dorion, on Sanderson joining a North Dakota blue line that features Ottawa prospect Jacob Bernard-Docker. “Where ever he may fall in the draft, we know he’ll be a good NHL players down the road.”


Cole Perfetti (Saginaw, OHL), center, 5-foot-10, 177 pounds.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 North American skater

Last season: Finished second in OHL with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 61 games. Scored both goals and added three more in shootout in Canada’s 3-2 win over Sweden in semifinal of 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Central Scouting Report: “Puck skills, vision and execution are on another level.”

Compared to: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton.

Could go: Anywhere between No. 4 (Detroit) to No. 8 (Buffalo).

They said it: “It’s big for me because I want to give back,” Perfetti said about being involved in charitable causes in Saginaw. “Without the community behind us and supporting us, we wouldn’t be able to be a team in Saginaw. … So it’s the least I can do to give back in the areas that I can.”


Marco Rossi (Ottawa, OHL), center, 5-foot-9, 183 pounds.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 6 North American skater.

Last season: OHL’s outstanding player of the year with 39 goals and leading Canadian Hockey League with 81 assists and 120 points in 56 games.

Central Scouting Report: “Highly skilled offensive player. An excellent skater that plays at a high pace. High-end goal scoring and playmaking ability. … A huge asset on both special teams.”

Compared to: Brad Marchand, Boston.

Could go: Anywhere between picks No. 4 (Detroit) and No. 12 (Florida). Chance to become fifth Austrian-born player chosen in first round.

They said it: “My dad lost two jobs in that time,” Rossi said of father, Michael, who would make 90-minute drive to Zurich over four-year period for his son to attend practice. “My dad, everything he did for me, I fear I wouldn’t be here especially without my family.”

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    Flyers chairman Scott to retire; Hilferty becomes successor

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — Dave Scott will retire as chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers’ parent company Comcast Spectacor and be replaced by Dan Hilferty.

    Hilferty, who was recently named CEO of Comcast Spectacor, will succeed Scott as chairman of the company on April 17 and as the team’s governor on July 1.

    Scott joined Comcast Spectacor in December 2013 and the Flyers have struggled under his reign. They will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

    “Our number one goal for the Flyers will be to consistently compete for the Stanley Cup,” Hilferty said. “It is going to be a process that will take time to get on that path, but I’m confident we are headed in the right direction with Danny Briere as interim GM, Coach Tortorella, and our hiring of a President of Hockey Operations soon. Our leadership team will be fully focused to deliver on this for our fans while also continuing to make the sports complex the best location for sports and entertainment in the nation.”

    As Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, Hilferty will lead the company’s entire portfolio, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Spectacor Sports and Entertainment CEO Valerie Camillo will continue to work directly with Hilferty, overseeing the Wells Fargo Center, including its continued transformation, and lead the Flyers’ business operations.

    Pastrnak scores twice, Bruins top Hurricanes 4-3 in shootout

    bruins hurricanes
    James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports

    RALEIGH, N.C. — David Pastrnak’s milestone performance with the Boston Bruins came with additional responsibility.

    Minus a couple of key players, Pastrnak moved to the forefront and eclipsed the 50-goal mark by scoring twice and the Bruins won their seventh game in a row by defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in a shootout Sunday.

    Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand didn’t make the trip with the NHL-leading Bruins, so Pastrnak boosted his contributions.

    “I’ve been learning from those guys,” Pastrnak said. “You recognize when they’re not here that you have to take a step forward.”

    Pastrnak posted the 12th 50-goal season in Bruins history.

    “With Bergeron and Marchand back at home, you can see his leadership skills really come out,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “I think he put the team on his back and played the right way.”

    Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk scored in the shootout in a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders.

    Jakub Lauko also scored for the Bruins, who earned their 57th victory and are five wins shy of matching the all-time NHL record with nine regular-season games to play. Charlie McAvoy had two assists and Jeremy Swayman made 34 saves.

    “We’ve had a lot of character wins in a lot of different fashions,” Montgomery said.

    Boston tied the franchise record for wins in a season. That’s special in Montgomery’s opinion.

    “Especially when you think about all the great Bruins teams,” he said.

    Jack Drury, Brady Skjei and Sebastian Aho scored for the Hurricanes, who won three of their previous four games. Brett Pesce had two assists and Frederik Andersen stopped 35 shots.

    Carolina wiped out a two-goal deficit to secure a team point.

    “It wasn’t our best game, but I thought the third period we certainly came on,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s one of those games where you say it’s probably a good point to get considering how it was looking.”

    Pastrnak’s 50th goal of the season came 4:43 into the game. He received a pass from McAvoy and skated half the length of the ice on a breakaway, though lost full control of the puck and still beat Andersen.

    Pastrnak was on track for 50 goals in March 2020, but he ended up with 48 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused an early end to the regular season.

    “You never know what can happen,” Pastrnak said.

    Drury, set up in the slot, scored his second goal of the season off a pass from Jalen Chatfield at 7:44 of the second.

    Just 1:28 later, Pastrnak’s second goal came on a power play when he blasted a shot from the left side just inside the post. Lauko’s fourth goal extended the lead at 11:46 of the second.

    Carolina pulled even at 3-3 when Skjei and Aho scored in the first four minutes of the third period.

    “We knew that was coming,” Montgomery said. “There’s no need to panic. We knew they were going to come with a push.”


    Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm was scratched along with Bergeron and Marchand with what Montgomery referred to as nagging injuries. The trio has accounted for 57 goals this season.

    “It shows the depth that we have,” Swayman said. “I think all of us thrive on the energy in a building like this.”

    Carolina’s only significant lineup adjustment came with center Paul Stastny in the lineup in place of Jesse Puljuharvi, who had played in eight straight games since making his debut with the Hurricanes. Puljuharvi arrived in a trade from Edmonton in late February.

    NOTES: The Bruins won two of three meetings with the Hurricanes, securing the first victory in overtime. Carolina eliminated Boston in last spring’s playoffs in seven games. … The Hurricanes maintained their string of securing a point in all seven games across different seasons while wearing green Hartford Whalers-inspired jerseys. The franchise began as the Whalers before relocation in 1997.


    Bruins: Host Nashville on Tuesday.

    Hurricanes: Host Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

    Malkin’s late goal lifts Penguins past Ovechkin, Capitals 4-3

    penguins capitals
    Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin remains a live wire. Even now, 17 seasons into a career that is likely destined for the Hall of Fame, there’s an unpredictability the Pittsburgh Penguins star plays with that can be both endearing and exasperating to teammates and coaches alike.

    The latest proof came against Washington on Saturday.

    An untimely roughing penalty in the third period helped spark a Capitals’ rally from a three-goal deficit. Malkin made up for it by burying a breakaway with 1:20 left in regulation that lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory.

    “His care factor and his compete level for me is off the charts and that’s what I love about him and usually when the stakes are high that’s when he’s at his best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He gets a huge goal for us tonight at a key time.”

    Malkin’s 25th goal of the season – a low wrist shot to the far post – helped the Penguins avoid a potentially messy collapse. Pittsburgh appeared to be ready to cruise to victory after Jake Guentzel‘s power-play goal 27 seconds into the third period made it 3-0.

    Washington instead stormed back, with Alex Ovechkin right in the middle of it. Ovechkin scored his 42nd goal of the season and 822nd of his career from his favorite spot in the left circle with 6:42 to go in regulation. Washington drew even when Dylan Strome flipped the puck into an open net with 2:44 to go in regulation.

    Yet instead of sagging, the Penguins surged. Malkin stripped Washington’s Anthony Mantha near center ice and broke in alone on Kuemper. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and Malkin was on one knee celebrating while pumping his fists, the kind of display of raw emotion that’s become one of his trademarks.

    “It’s a huge goal for me, and two points for the team,” Malkin said.

    Pittsburgh moved three points clear of Florida after the Panthers lost to the earlier Saturday. Both teams have nine regular-season games left.

    Ryan Poehling and Chad Ruhwedel scored a little over two minutes apart in the second period for Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel added his team-high 32nd goal early in the third before Washington scrambled back. Casey DeSmith played spectacularly at times while finishing with 31 saves.

    Tom Wilson started the Capitals’ comeback with his ninth goal of the season 5:19 into the third. Kuemper stopped 36 shots, but was outplayed by DeSmith as Washington’s hopes of making a late push for a playoff berth took a serious hit. The Capitals are six points behind Pittsburgh with only eight games remaining.

    “It’s a tough one,” Washington center T.J. Oshie said. “I don’t think that last play was the only thing that lost the game for us. I know that (Mantha) feels terrible about it, but we trust him with the puck. It just wasn’t a good enough 60 minutes against a good hockey team over there.”

    It felt like old times for much of the night for teams that usually enter late March battling for a spot near the top of the Metropolitan Division.

    Not this season.

    While the 35-year-old Crosby is averaging over a point a game as usual and the 37-year-old Ovechkin is steadily making inroads on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record, their teams have spent most of the year skating in place.

    Pittsburgh has been wildly uneven thanks in part to goaltending that has fluctuated between solid and shaky, the main reason a 17th straight playoff appearance is hardly assured. Washington, meanwhile, appears to be pointing toward the future after injuries and a small sell-off at the trade deadline.

    Pittsburgh put itself on slightly firmer footing with DeSmith making a compelling case that he should supplant Tristan Jarry as Pittsburgh’s top goaltender down the stretch.

    DeSmith was spectacular at times, including stoning Ovechkin on a breakaway near the end of the second period in which Ovechkin deked DeSmith to his knees, only to see DeSmith extend his left leg just enough to knock the puck out of harm’s way.

    “I’m not very tall,” the 6-foot DeSmith said. “But I had that one inch that I needed.”


    Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

    Penguins: Visit Detroit on Tuesday.

    Devils defeat Senators 5-3, clinch playoff berth

    devils senators
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    NEWARK, N.J. — Jack Hughes had a goal and an assist, Mackenzie Blackwood had 25 saves and the New Jersey Devils defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-3 and clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night.

    “It means everything to the group. I went into the dressing room after the game and just said that I was proud of the work that was put in, proud of where we got to clinch tonight to be one of three teams that have an X next to their name,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “All the work that’s been put in, the adversity they face during the year. The adversity they face right at the start of the season to where we’ve got to now.”

    New Jersey could have clinched its first postseason berth since 2018 with a win, but it happened before their first intermission when the Florida Panthers lost to the New York Rangers in regulation.

    “I had a lesser role then,” said Jesper Bratt, who was a rookie for the Devils in 2017-18. “I would say at a younger age, it’s kind of like you think that just because it happened your first year that it might happen every year. And then it goes pretty fast with reality that was not the case and you got to work extremely hard for it.

    “It’s a really tough league. So this feels really good. It’s been a lot of years with struggle, not winning, and it’s just awesome coming out now playing these kinds of games and getting that.”

    Bratt, Dawson Mercer and Dougie Hamilton scored for the Devils and Tomas Tatar scored an empty netter with 42.3 seconds left to put things away.

    Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and Mark Kastelic scored for the Senators and Dylan Ferguson had 30 saves.

    Tkachuk scored his 33rd goal of the season to give the Senators the 1-0 lead 3:14 into the first period. The Devils responded midway through the first period with Hughes’ 40th goal of the season on a breakaway, going five-hole to tie it.

    Nick Holden gave the puck away and Bratt scored his 31st goal of the season on the breakaway 2:24 into the second period to give New Jersey the 2-1 lead. Mercer’s 23rd of the season came just over a minute later.

    The Senators answered midway through the second period when Thomas Chabot scored his 11th goal of the year to cut the deficit to 3-2. They knotted things up 16:03 into the second when Kastelic scored his fifth of the season.

    “We were confident going into the third period. We felt like the game was there for our taking,” Travis Hamonic said. “They score on their chance, and that’s game.”

    Hamilton scored 3:34 into the third period to give the Devils the lead. His 19th goal breaks the franchise record for goals in a season by a defenseman, surpassing Scott Stevens – the Devils great whose number is hanging in the rafters – record of 18 in 1993-94.

    NOTES: This was the first game for the Devils backup Blackwood since Feb. 19. … Nico Hischier has a six-game point streak after recording two assists.


    Senators: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

    Devils: Play at New York Islanders on Monday night.