On Tuesday, Oct. 6, 25 teams drafted highly-prospected players who they hope to be the future of their franchises, if not another franchise. After an intriguing first round that saw trades, steals and consensus picks, here are my thoughts about each pick in the draft, described in no more than one paragraph. Included in parentheses is if the pick was traded and for who.
New York Rangers: Alexis Lafreniere (LW)
The consensus No. 1 overall pick went where everyone thought he was headed after the draft lottery. The first player from Rimouski taken with the top pick since Sidney Crosby, Lafreniere will be a nice addition to the Rangers’ first line if not their second. On the first line, he can complement Mika Zibinejad and Artemi Panarin to create one of the deadliest first lines in the league. His 112 points last season already make him scary for opposing blueliners, and he could easily become the next face of Manhattan unless other players like Igor Shesterkin and Kaapo Kakko beat him to it. Rangers fans are going to like his style of play for a long time.
Los Angeles Kings: Quinton Byfield (C)
The highest drafted Black player in NHL history, Byfield is a faceoff winner and point producer that brings necessary production to the Kings. As Anze Kopitar ages, Byfield could take his place and become the next face of the franchise at the center position. Also, of note, this outstanding skater has been compared to Joe Thornton, who became a presence with the Bruins then Sharks as time went on. Look for him to start as either a top-nine center on the third or fourth lines or top line in Ontario, California.
Ottawa Senators (from Sharks, Erik Karlsson): Tim Stuetzle (LW)
Germany is developing some excellent hockey players, including Hart trophy winner Leon Draisaitl. Stuetzle, who can also play center, has been compared to Patrick Kane in his scoring abilities and incredible shots on goal (he had 132 over 41 games in the DEL). Look for Stuetzle to hit the ice skating for this young Senators team already stacked with Brady Tkachuk amongst others on the wings. And if he can play center, I fully expect him to crack the top nine at the start of the new season.
Detroit Red Wings: Lucas Raymond (LW)
What Raymond lacked in scoring he made up for on the special teams. Looking at his skill set, I can see him either starting as a bottom six forward or top six in Grand Rapids, where he will continue to develop his skills. Either way, when the time comes, Raymond will improve a Red Wings’ special teams that scored 32 power play goals and gave up 58 last season. Already compared to Mitch Marner, Raymond will look to take his chances when he is given the puck and score. I like where his future is heading.
Ottawa Senators: Jake Sanderson (D)
The first defenseman and first second-generation player taken in the draft, Sanderson focuses solely on defense, but is increasing his offensive abilities too. If he does not play right away in Ottawa, it is because he has committed to North Dakota, but that will not stop him from bolstering a Senators defense and being paired potentially with Thomas Chabot, if not with other first-round picks Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker. The Montana native could be a Norris contender a few years down the line.
Anaheim Ducks: Jamie Drysdale (D)
47 points as a defenseman last season makes him look like a forward, but he is really a blueliner. Drysdale can take charge in the power play and is working on his offensive game just like Sanderson. Drysdale is just part of a continuing trend in Anaheim of building a young core that can contend down the line. His offensive prowess will boost a blueline that only provided 117 points last year, his skillset compared to Brent Burns’ dominating offense. Look for him to be a second line defenseman behind Cam Fowler’s line with a plethora of pairing options at the disposal of the coaches and ownership.
New Jersey Devils: Alexander Holtz (RW)
The highest drafted Swedish right winger in 27 years, Holtz brings right production to the developing Devils’ core. His skills on the ice such as his vision are going to propel Holtz to become a first line right winger down the line. As he develops his skill, he can collect passes and send the puck to either Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes to set up incredible scoring opportunities near the crease. I like his chances in the league as long as he scores more than the 16 points (nine goals and seven assists) he provided in the SHL for 35 games.
Buffalo Sabres: Jack Quinn (RW)
Jack Quinn took advantage of the quarantining in the offseason to develop his game, grabbing the attention of many scouts across the league. Ultimately, the Sabres liked his explosiveness and offensive mindset and took him ahead of other prospects. This pick also fills a need as Buffalo needed a solid right winger that could complement Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner. Even if not this season, Quinn has the making of a first line right winger and could be the necessary piece in a deadly first line in Buffalo. Look for him to score as well as he did in the OHL, when he recorded 89 points, 52 of which were goals, in 62 games.
Minnesota Wild: Marco Rossi (C)
In just 56 games, Rossi put up more points than anyone in the NHL last season with an outstanding 120-point performance (39 goals and 81 assists). Only Lafreniere had more points per game in the QMJHL, but he was still drafted this low due to his size. But do not let his size fool you, Rossi can score points like crazy at times. With these kinds of performances, he could easily join the 100-point club in a few seasons. Having been compared to Claude Giroux, Rossi looks to be the No. 1 center of the franchise following the departure of Mikko Koivu. He has the possibility of doing just that within the next three years.
Winnipeg Jets: Cole Perfetti (C)
I will always have a biased appreciation for anyone named Cole, and this specific Cole will be appreciated in Winnipeg. Perfetti was ranked by coaches in the OHL as the “smartest player, best playmaker, best puck-handler and best shootout shooter.” Perfetti is a home run pick as he brings depth to Manitoba’s proud centers and could easily be a No. 2 guy behind Mark Scheifele. He has a lot of promise and I look forward to seeing him put up 100-point seasons for Winnipeg down the line. Who knows, there might be days where he is paired up with Blake Wheeler on the forward lines. There’s a lot to look forward to with this guy.
Nashville Predators: Yaroslav Askarov (G)
The Predators have a passion for European goalies. Currently, they have Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Now with Askarov, they have a backup of the future once Saros goes full time behind the crease. The first Russian and goalie taken in the draft, Askarov has been compared to Carey Price in terms of his skills and incredible save ethics (.920 save percentage and 2.45 goals against in the Russian minor leagues). Askarov will develop his skills in Russia, but when the time comes, the right gloved Askarov will be ready. He easily will vie for the Vezina trophy within the decade.
Florida Panthers: Anton Lundell (C)
I see this more as a depth pick, especially with the likes of countryman Aleksander Barkov on the first line. Nonetheless, Lundell is a durable player who protects the puck and attacks on offense. His style of play is so special, Lundell could be the No. 2 center behind Barkov down in Sunrise, a mixture of developing and veteran players. His experience is going to be the biggest factor here that propels him up the depth charts as he can take on big men and take shots while doing so. A 1-2 punch is in the making in Florida and I can feel it.
Carolina Hurricanes (from Maple Leafs, Patrick Marleau): Seth Jarvis (C)
Seth Jarvis had an impressive second half last year that propelled him up the charts, and his scoring will fit well with the Hurricanes’ mold. Jarvis’ ability to develop an offense will meld him into a depth position alongside Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho amongst others. Jarvis’ ability to play all three forward positions gives him the opportunity to lead a second or third line whenever he debuts in the NHL, but that really comes down to how his offensive game develops in the minors or WHL before he debuts. I like this man’s future, and Carolina made a great pick here.
Edmonton Oilers: Dylan Holloway (C)
I see this as another depth pick mainly because of Draisaitl and McDavid already being the top two guys at the center of the ice. Still, the first true college player selected in the draft produced 17 points on eight goals and nine assists in 35 games for the Badgers, and more importantly, he competes with a winning mindset. While he waits to make a splash in Edmonton, Holloway will play another season for the Badgers, but that will not stop him from developing his potential into pure NHL-level talent. All eyes are on how he performs this season as a sign of what is to come for the Oilers.
Toronto Maple Leafs (from Penguins, Kasperi Kapanen): Rodion Amirov (LW)
Amirov is an interesting choice here by the Maple Leafs, but one they might like. For someone who models their game after Auston Matthews and Nikita Kucherov, Amirov can adapt to all situations given to him, as he is a fast skater just like McDavid amongst others. Being able to create his game after two successful scorers in the league gives Amirov a great chance at scoring 100 points in a season down the line. Until then, Amirov will continue to develop in the KHL until the time comes where he fills a second line or third line position at the wing. I’m excited to see how his skills play out in the big league.
Montreal Canadiens: Kaiden Guhle (D)
Like the Ducks, Montreal is adding and building their next young core of defensemen. The younger brother of Brendan Guhle, Kaiden’s six-foot two frame will intimidate opposing forwards while he finds ways to earn points on the ice. As his skating develops, so will the rest of his skills such as scoring and passing. Regardless, the adaptive skating abilities of Guhle are going to serve him well in the NHL as he could be part of a second defensive line when the time comes to make the transition to the winning culture of Montreal. With his skills, he can make passes to Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Nick Suzuki one day.
Chicago Blackhawks: Lukas Reichel (LW)
When I watched the Blackhawks in the playoffs last season, they were building a first line for the future. Now, they have another left wing to create a devastating second line. The nephew of Robert Reichel, Lukas’ breakout season of 24 points will not be seen as a fluke, but as the beginning of a development. His skating and forecheck abilities will have him working alongside either the line of Toews and Kane or Dach and Kubalik down the line. When people mention German hockey, Reichel’s name will be in that conversation one day alongside Leon Draisaitl.
New Jersey Devils (from Coyotes, Taylor Hall): Dawson Mercer (C)
Even after being traded within the QMJHL, Mercer became a reliable asset to the team. 16of his 60 points last year came with Chicoutimi, and he can lead a special team’s unit in every possible scenario. This might be a depth pick, but this continues to build the forwards of the future for the Devils. They like his talents on all three positions and should make an immediate impact on the power play whenever he makes his debut in Newark, whether that be next season or the season after that.
New York Rangers (from Calgary Flames draft day): Braden Schneider (D)
This is not the first time the Flames traded their pick this year. The Rangers were able to trade up and take a physically aggressive blueliner that can make a dominant special teams for the Blueshirts. As his American football style of defense shows incredible strength, his offense is on the rise as well. Out of the 42 points he scored last season, almost half of them (20) were on the power play. With this mixture of size and skill, Schneider will look to make the second line of defense that slows down remarkable goal scorers at forward. He is going to be a huge impact player.
New Jersey Devils (from Lightning via Canucks, JT Miller then Blake Coleman): Shakir Mukhamadullin (D)
I have got to be honest here, this name is going to be hard to say. This does not mean that Mukhamadullin is a bad pick though. He has been compared to Jay Bouwmeester and his offensive abilities make him a nice addition to the prospect pool of defenseman in New Jersey that includes Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl. His 13:03 of ice time in the KHL will only improve once he heads over to New Jersey, but until then, he will spend his time with UFA in the KHL while people in New Jersey learn to pronounce his name and take interest in his skills. New Jersey went on the offensive in this draft, and Mukhamadullin fits that mold well.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Yegor Chinakhov (RW)
Yegor sounds like and plays the same position as Jagr, so he has a really good chance to be successful already. Having been passed over last year, Chinakhov immediately scored 69 points in the Russian junior league on 27 goals and 42 assists. With his surging offense, Chinakhov has a chance to go farther in the league than his dad, Vitali. In addition to trading for Max Domi, Columbus added offensive depth over one day that will work alongside talents such as Pierre-Luc Dubois amongst others. Chinakhov’s seven points in 12 games already in the KHL gives him a great chance to make the move to the NHL over the next few years as a bottom six forward.
Washington Capitals (from Hurricanes, Brady Skjei, from Rangers and Flames draft day): Hendrix Lapierre (C)
Washington traded up to get a star that has had injury issues in the past. Despite being limited due to CCTI amongst other head and neck injuries, Lapierre is an incredible offensive player who adds nice depth to the Washington Capitals. While playing in this QMJHL season, Lapierre already has five points over two games, making his ceiling incredibly high. His speed will be the biggest factor that propels him from the QMJHL until the NHL. I am going to enjoy Lapierre’s development in the league as time progresses.
Philadelphia Flyers: Tyson Foerster (RW)
The Flyers’ young core just got a little bit younger. Foerster has been given the opportunities to score goals in his own style and could score instantly once given the opportunity. His scoring abilities are what is going to propel him forward into the NHL, but the Flyers have enough young guys now to not have to rush Foerster. When the time is right and his skills have matured for the next level, Foerster will be an elite player in the league for a team on the rise. Foerster could be a top-six forward when the time comes, working alongside Travis Konecky, Jakob Voracek and Claude Giroux amongst others. Look for incredible production from this young man.
Calgary Flames (from Capitals draft day trade): Connor Zary (C)
Connor Zary has a variety of skills that will help him break into the NHL within the next few years. Having been compared to Bo Horvat, Zary has a specialty of being able to produce on any situation from five-on-five to the special teams. The fact that he never went more than two games without a point makes him a consistent point scorer who should not disappoint the Flames and their firepower offense. Look for Zary to become a top-six forward alongside Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and more. He is definitely going to anchor a line, so this is a great pick by the Flames.
Colorado Avalanche: Justin Barron (D)
Despite being out indefinitely, Justin Barron has a really good chance to be Cale Makar’s partner on a young defensive line. Barron can work the defensive and offensive zones and has the right-handed shot that makes him look dangerous on the ice. Despite garnering just 19 points in 34 games, his numbers are consistent, and he will look to be a productive member of the blue line for years to come. Even if not paired with Cale Makar, look for Barron to become a second line defenseman who can work alongside Sam Girard and Bowen Byram on a young and talented defensive core.
St. Louis Blues: Jake Neighbours (LW)
He might not be everyone’s next door neighbor, but Neighbours brings the skills to call St. Louis his neighborhood. Neighbours had 70 points in the WHL last season and can make plays all over the ice, a necessity in the Blues’ talented offense. He can be seen more as a second or third-line left winger working alongside the likes of Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn amongst other talented forwards. Expect him to find multiple ways past defenders and multiple ways to put the puck into the net.
Anaheim Ducks (from Bruins, Nick Ritchie): Jacob Perreault (RW)
Is it safe to call Perreault the next Corey Perry in Anaheim? Perreault, the son of Yanic, was a leader in Sarnia and has a skill set almost similar to the one Corey Perry has. The first line for the Ducks is building as Perreault can work alongside Trevor Zegras to create a future dominant first line in the NHL. Until then, Perreault will look to develop his creativity and strong shooting mentality with the puck. The future is bright for this young man as he looks to produce in Orange County within the next few years.
Ottawa Senators (from Islanders, Jean-Gabriel Pageau): Ridly Grieg (LW)
Ridly has joined the competition, but honestly, he is a great pick. This young man is the son of Mark Grieg, who was drafted by the Whalers 30 years ago. The main purpose of trading Pageau away to a contending team was to basically replace him with this man. Both have a skill that would agitate some but delight others. Grieg will be a middle six forward on the five-on-five, but could easily become a huge aspect of the power play and penalty kill. Ridly has a unique style of play that is sure to interest Senators fans as he develops in Brandon and then Belville. This could be a name to look out for a few years down the line.
Vegas Golden Knights: Brendan Brisson (C)
The USHL rookie of the year and his 59 points will have to wait a few years while Brisson plays his freshman year at the University of Michigan. Despite all of that wait, that college experience will give Brisson the time to develop into a potential superstar center amongst the top nine forwards. The best experience Brisson has comes from his dad, Pat, an agent of multiple superstars from Nathan MacKinnon to John Tavares to Patrick Kane. In a sense, Brisson has developed his game to relate to No. 1 overall picks (and Jonathan Toews too), so Brisson should have no problem breaking out when he does debut in Vegas.
Dallas Stars: Mavrik Bourque (C)
Look out Dallas, there are now two Mavericks in town. The Stars continue a trend of getting younger with this selection as Joe Pavelski cannot play forever. Borque’s 71 points in the QMJHL is of note because he can turn that production into something special when he does debut in the Lone Star State. Because of some of the young depth such as Denis Guriarnov, Roope Hintz and more, Bourque is seen as a middle six center, possibly third line, who will only contribute to a Stars team more remembered for their defense. Bourque is ready to dominate in Dallas, but how long the world waits for his debut will come down to ownership.
San Jose Sharks (from Lightning, Barclay Goodrow): Ozzy Wiesblatt (RW)
This pick is seen as a steal in the eyes of many. Wiesblatt made an outstanding transition from center to right wing, thus giving him the chance to play all three forward positions. This man has incredible intelligence, can score with confidence and has a great eye for the goal. People are going to like the performances he put up, such as last season’s 70-point campaign. Wiesblatt also adds to the pipeline of future Sharks as San Jose looks to build for winning now and down the line. One more note, this is going to be a lasting memory for Wiesblatt’s mother, who is deaf, to see her son be drafted into the NHL.
So, there are the 31 picks made in the first round. Whether this draft class will be remembered or not will come down to talent and time. Again, these are my initial thoughts of each player, but anything can change. Nonetheless, these were the picks 25 different teams scouted and selected. I look forward to seeing these young men playing in the NHL one day, even if it takes five years as they develop in their respective leagues and perhaps the AHL.
Rounds two through seven were completed yesterday throughout the entire day.