Jamie Drysdale

Los Angeles Kings at 2020 NHL Draft: Byfield or Stutzle with second pick?

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Thanks to the very zany (and very NHL) draft lottery, we don’t know which team will get to draft Alexis Lafreniere first overall. What about picks 2-8, though? PHT will break down those picks one by one, aside from the Senators and their two selections. Let’s start with the second pick, then: what should the Kings do with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft?

For many, the debate boils down to Quinton Byfield or Tim Stutzle. Let’s break down, and also ponder more elaborate ideas (that are probably pretty unlikely).

Kings head into 2020 NHL Draft with a top system already — and some quality centers

Before we dive into Byfield vs. Stutzle, it’s worth noting that they’ll be adding to the foundation of the Kings’ rebuild, rather than starting it.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler calls this an embarrassment of riches for the Kings (sub required). Wheeler noted that some ranked Los Angeles’ farm system first overall before they traded for Tyler Madden, let alone before they can add Byfield or Stutzle.

There are some concerned that the Kings might compile too much of a good thing, as they’re center-heavy among their top prospects. Kings GM Rob Blake didn’t seem concerned about adding a center to a group that includes Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari, and Gabriel Vilardi, though.

“No,” Blake told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. “You mention those three, we’ll take four centers like that.”

Frankly, much of the “too many centers” talk seems silly to me.

For one thing, the game is trending more toward players rotating positioning. Even to the point where defensemen and forwards might swap spots depending upon certain circumstances.

Beyond that, we see prospects involved in so many trades that it often seems silly to overthink going for anyone but the “best player available.” That said, we’ll touch on some alternative ideas if the Kings want to avoid too many cooks/centers.

Case for Kings taking Byfield over Stutzle with No. 2 pick of 2020 NHL Draft

After observing how NHL teams fawn over size for years, the reflex might be to roll your eyes about Byfield. Until you realize that Byfield isn’t just a Huge Hockey Human; he’s also put up fantastic numbers during his hockey career.

Byfield produced 82 points (including 32 goals) in 45 games in the OHL last season. That 1.82 PPG pace matches not just fellow top prospect Cole Perfetti, it’s also not far behind the likes of Matthew Tkachuk (1.88 PPG in 2015-16).

Byfield isn’t just big, he’s also fast and skilled. Combining those types of factors inspire lofty comparisons to the likes of Evgeni Malkin or his possible Kings teammate Anze Kopitar.

But most of all, it’s a projection based on potential. Not only his Byfield huge (listed at times at 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5), he might get a little bigger. The 17-year-old won’t turn 18 until Aug. 19. Several months might not seem like much, but this is the age range where players can make big leaps.

If for some reason Byfield couldn’t adapt to playing wing if needed … is that really that big of a concern? My guess is others will be trying to earn spots as his wingers, not the other way around.

The closest thing to a consensus I’ve found calls for the Kings to select Byfield at No. 2, rather than Stutzle.

Colin Cudmore compiled an expected range of mock drafts that generally favored Byfield at No. 2, as did PHT’s collection of mock drafts from before the lottery.

The case for Stutzle over Byfield for the Kings at No. 2

But it sounds like things are pretty close. You could joke that Stutzle is closing in on Byfield as if he was in a race, but scouting reports indicate that Byfield can put on the burners, too.

In a great Byfield vs. Stutzle comparison, Prospect Report’s Ben Misfeldt stated that while he believes Byfield reaches a faster “top speed,” Stutzle sets him apart from others with his agility and ability to accelerate.

Stutzle might be more NHL-ready than Byfield. The 18-year-old showed that he could keep up in DEL (Germany’s top hockey league), generating 34 points in 41 games for the Mannheim Eagles.

“They are both skilled,” An anonymous executive said of Byfield and Stutzle, according to Lisa Dillman of The Athletic (sub required). “Stutzle is just more polished at this point but it’s also hard to find 6-foot-5, 230-pound centermen that can produce.”

In a league shifting more toward skating and speed, could Stutzle be the better pick for the Kings than Byfield? Some lean that way.

Unlikely, but should Kings trade the No. 2 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft?

As stated, it doesn’t seem like the Kings would trade the second overall pick. You can certainly rule out the rebuilding Kings from trading the No. 2 pick for an immediate roster player.

While Alexis Lafreniere seems like a more seamless addition as a winger, it’s also tough to imagine the Kings trading up to get the top selection.

But what about trading down?

As Wheeler and others have noted, the Kings’ biggest prospect needs revolve around defense. Theoretically, the Kings could move that No. 2 pick to slide a little lower, get another pick, and get the player they actually want. What if they view someone like Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson as the player they need? Mock drafts and prospect rankings come in all over the place for those two, so the Kings could view it as feasible to get one or both of them later.

Granted, it’s unlikely for the Kings to land, say, the sixth pick from the Ducks. But what if the Red Wings (fourth overall) or someone else would pay fairly big for the No. 2 pick? It’s at least worth considering.

Not that I’d do it, mind you.

So, what should the Kings do with No. 2?

The Kings have a long time to make this decision. Maybe too much time.

That gives them opportunities to study tape and stats on Byfield and Stutzle. Perhaps they’d even soul search about that unlikely trading down idea, too.

But, if I were running the show? I’d probably try to keep it simple and just take Byfield. Luckily for the fans of all 31 NHL teams, I’m not making those calls, though. What do you think the Kings should do with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft?

More 2020 NHL Draft coverage from PHT

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Mock Draft: Projecting top picks for the 2020 NHL Draft after part one of draft lottery

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So, uh, we still don’t know which team will (almost certainly) pick Alexis Lafreniere first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. On the bright side, the zany draft lottery did determine picks two through eight of the 2020 NHL Draft. With that in mind, let’s ponder which players will represent the top eight picks by way of PHT’s mock draft.

Actually, perhaps you should consider this a mock draft of mock drafts. Maybe call it a consensus of consensuses?

PHT compiled the top 10 rankings from 11 different mock drafts/prospect rankings/big boards to put together a mock draft medley for the 2020 NHL Draft. If that doesn’t provide enough of a “consensus of consensuses,” consider how some of those mock drafts were compiled.

As a prominent example, TSN’s Bob McKenzie surveyed 10 scouts and presented that consensus. So this is a riddle wrapped in an enigma cooked with bacon, but for mock drafts for the 2020 NHL Draft. Or something like that.

For more insight on the process behind this mock draft for the 2020 NHL Draft, check the bottom of this post. You’ll find links to each of those 11 lists, too. What value!

Note: These rankings were compiled before the draft lottery, so yes, this leans toward “best player available” logic.

Lafreniere the near-unanimous top pick of 2020 NHL Draft

1. MYSTERY PLACEHOLDER TEAM — Alexis Lafreniere

Give credit to Cam Robinson of Dobber Hockey for being the one brave soul who didn’t rank Lafreniere first. Before you gather torches and pitchforks, realize that Robinson merely ranked the winger second, and praised Lafreniere effusively.

The Athletic’s Corey Pronman projects Lafreniere to be a “foundational player.” Others waffle between calling him a franchise player or, more modestly, a first-line winger. Maybe right off the bat.

So, will Lafreniere be special, or just really good? A team in the Qualifying Round will be glad to find out.

(Pauses for inevitable tanking jokes.)

[Click here for more on the NHL Draft Lottery.]

Second pick debates could be interesting

2. Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Byfield

Once you move beyond Lafreniere, Byfield stands tallest among top 2020 NHL Draft prospects — literally and figuratively. Robinson ranked Byfield ahead of Lafreniere, believing that Byfield has potential to eventually surpass the probable top pick.

Now, not everyone ranks Byfield second among prospects. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler wonders (sub required) if some dipping opinions boil down to overexposure. Wheeler praised many aspects of Byfield’s game:

He’s huge, his skating has become enough of a strength that he can really push the pace through the middle of the ice, he’s got excellent puck skill for a player his size and he’s surprisingly creative for his size. He’s also one of the younger players in the draft, so he’s got time to figure out the rest.

At times, NHL teams overvalue Huge Hockey Humans.

That said, it’s different when that Huge Hockey Human boasts discernible hockey skill. If Byfield puts it together, who knows what his ceiling can be? He also plays center, so Byfield could conceivably make the Kings really tough down the middle alongside (an admittedly aging but still effective) Anze Kopitar.

(Or someone else will get a potentially fantastic center.)

3. Ottawa Senators – Tim Stutzle

Let’s move from size to speed.

In the eyes of a healthy number of scouts, Stutzle is the second most enticing prospect.

“If there’s someone in this draft who could go by Lafreniere in the years to come, it’s this kid,” An anonymous NHL scout told TSN’s Bob McKenzie about Stutzle. “It’s because of the skating.”

It’s possible that Stutzle could go as high as second, yet there are some experts who barely squeeze the speedy German into the top seven. We’ll have to see how the Senators view the speedster. For all we know, Ottawa might try something bold with its two high first-rounders.

Room for movement after top three prospects in 2020 NHL Draft mocks

4. Detroit Red Wings – Jamie Drysdale

Largely believed to be the best defenseman in the 2020 NHL Draft, Drysdale should draw plenty of attention. Experts praise Drysdale’s skating — not just speed, but strong edge work — as one of his best qualities. Experts diverge, however, on how much of an impact Drysdale can make.

The Red Wings selected Moritz Seider during the 2019 NHL Draft, so maybe they’d prefer a forward. But … honestly, they need a bit of everything after a profoundly disastrous season. The Red Wings simply need to pick who they believe is the best player available.

5. Ottawa Senators – Marco Rossi

From Cole Caufield to Alex DeBrincat, it feels like each draft sports at least one polarizing, undersized forward prospect. Rossi looks to fit that bill for the 2020 NHL Draft. The 5-foot-9 forward inspires a range of rankings, with some picking Rossi as high as third.

Count Rossi as one of those smaller forwards you might describe as feisty. Even so, Pronman and others are concerned that Rossi might not be speedy relative to his size.

Will we see another smaller, skillful player slip? That hinges on how the Senators and other teams (above/below them?) view Rossi’s potential. Ottawa might end up only being willing to (slightly) gamble on one of Stutzle or Rossi, also. We’ll see.

(Also, the gap between Drysdale and Rossi was small, even though they’re quite different players.)

6. Anaheim Ducks – Lucas Raymond

More than one expert ranked Raymond as high as fourth. Among those, Robinson praises Raymond as  “an explosive winger who is equally dangerous with his shot or pass” who boasts rare “escapability.”

The Ducks need all the offensive punch they can get, so Raymond — or another forward — would make total sense.

7. New Jersey Devils – Cole Perfetti

Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino describes Perfetti as “a magician in the offensive zone with his ability to change pace and find teammates.”

That said, Perfetti inspires a range of rankings, as some are concerned about his skating (at least for a 5-foot-11 player slightly on the smaller side).

Personally, I believe Perfetti should get bumped up a letter grade for having a tremendous name.

8. Buffalo Sabres – Alexander Holtz

McKenzie made an interesting comparison between Holtz and fellow Swedish prospect Lucas Raymond:

Holtz, who plays both the left and right sides, has one of the best shots in the draft and is among the best natural goal-scorers. If Raymond sometimes gets questioned for being on the perimeter, Holtz gets high marks for getting to the inside and playing a harder game.

The Devils have locked down some high-end forward talent, but Holtz might be the sniper who really boosts a playmaker like, say, Jack Hughes. That said, the Devils also really need defense (and lots of other things), so it may come down to whether or not they believe Holtz is a potential 40-goal scorer (as Robinson believes).

(As a side note … there were some close results from this experiment, but Perfetti and Holtz finished in a dead heat.)

Honorable mock draft mentions for 2020 NHL Draft

  • Yaroslav Askarov (sometimes spelled Iaroslav) – Goalies don’t go in the first round very often. Despite that trend, Askarov has a chance to crack the top 10. Hey, if a goalie looks about as can’t-miss as goalie prospects can look, then it could be worth the risk, right?
  • Jake Sanderson – A team looking for a defenseman might prefer Sanderson to Drysdale. He’s generally considered the second-best blueliner by mock drafters, but that can vary.
  • Anton Lundell – The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy describes this center as “practically plug-and-play.” Lundell accounted well against older hockey players. Still, some wonder about his upside. When he showed well in rankings, Lundell generally peaked in the No. 9 or No. 10 spots.
  • Jack Quinn – In ranking Quinn 10th, Cosentino described Quinn as one of the “best-in-class goal-scorers.” Selfishly, I’m pulling for Jack Quinn to join Jack or Quinn Hughes during his career. In an ideal world of chaos (we’re living in a less-than-ideal world of chaos)? Team up all three.

Method for mock draft for 2020 NHL Draft, and further reading

To reiterate, PHT collected the top 10 rankings from 11 mock drafts/draft boards. Every list came out in April at the earliest, while several were published this week.

You can see the results in this clunky spreadsheet. Here are the staffs and/or writers who produced such lists (note: some articles may require subscriptions):

MORE: Lafreniere head of the 2020 prospect class

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wayne Gretzky’s advice to top NHL prospects: ‘Embrace every moment of it’

There will be an 2020 NHL Draft at some point, but for now the top hockey prospects will have to wait. As they continue training at home, five of the potential early-round picks joined Wayne Gretzky for a conversation during the latest #HockeyAtHome episode.

Alexis Lafreniere, Jamie Drysdale, Jake Sanderson, Quinton Byfield, and Tim Stutzle took part in a video call with The Great One and were given this advice as they prepare to take the next step in their hockey careers.

“My advice to you is embrace every moment of it,” Gretzky said. “It’s the greatest game in world. To play in the National Hockey League is a thrill, it’s a pleasure, and it’s an honor. And when you think you’ve worked hard, you work that much harder because there’s nothing like being an NHL player. And if you get that early on in your mind how great the game is and everything that goes with it — the practices, the travel, the media — you’ll embrace it that much quicker.”

The 2020 draft was supposed to be in Montreal on June 26-27, but was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whenever it is rescheduled it will be held virtually. The next step is the NHL figuring out if It should take place before or after the resumption of the 2019-20 season.

The prospects then flipped the tables on Gretzky and got to ask him a question. Drysdale wanted to know if No. 99 played today who would be his most-desired linemates.

“There’s so many good players, that’s a tough question because you guys like [Sidney] Crosby and [Auston] Matthews and [Mitch] Marner and [Alex] Ovechkin, Connor [McDavid], and [Leon] Draisaitl” Gretzky said. “For me, probably Connor because of his speed, he would open up the ice, and Ovechkin because if we get him the puck you know he’s going to hit the net or at least have a chance to score, so, those two guys would be fun to play with.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.