The 2020 NHL Draft wrapped up yesterday, and a total of 217 selections were made during the two-day virtual event. The COVID-19 saga continues to create problems for all sports organizations, and all sports drafts have been held virtually this year as a result. Along with the selections, 27 trades were made, which is a relatively low amount, given the number of players in the league.
Now, it’s time for NHL teams to get busy working on new goals for the upcoming season. Provided the coronavirus doesn’t body check the league, that season will start on January 1 next year.
Quinton Byfield Makes History
Quinton Byfield now has his name in the history books. He was drafted by the LA Kings as the second overall pick, and is the highest-drafted Black player ever in the NHL. Not only is he expected to do awesome things for the Kings, but the 18-year-old Canadian player is going to help the entire league create a new environment.
Holding a virtual draft allowed for a certain level of creativity and flare not typically seen in the events. In this case, the Ottawa Senators were ready to announce their pick, the third overall pick in the draft, and rewrote the script on how the choice was broadcast to the world. Enter Alex Trebek, who, taking a cue from his work on Jeopardy, announced Tim Stutzle as the newest Senator.
The Senators added a total of nine players during the draft, which means the team has a lot of fresh energy to build it up. Among the newest additions are defensemen Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven, and forward Egor Sokolov. At the same time, Ottawa traded Jonathan Gruden to the Pittsburgh Penguins in favor of Matt Murray, a restricted free agent who already has one Stanley Cup win to his credit.
The Rangers Luck Out
This year’s draft found the New York Rangers being able to make the first pick of everyone available. They didn’t disappoint, either, choosing Alexis Lafreniere to help the team make it to the postseason two years in a row. The Rangers made it in this past season, thanks to an expanded lineup, and Lafreniere is seen as a player who has the potential to knock in at least 60 pucks in his rookie season.
The Nashville Predators have high hopes for goalie Yaroslav Askarov, selected in the first round of the draft. Jeff Kealty, the team’s GM, said of the Russian prospect, “We compare his athleticism to that of Pekka Rinne or Jonathan Quick, and he’s mature beyond his years in terms of his compete level and mental makeup. Even at such a young age, he’s proven himself in a men’s league by playing in the KHL over in Russia. We believe he was the best player available, and if you have a franchise goaltender on your hands, which we do believe he will be, you’re in a very good situation.”
Not Everyone Enjoyed The Draft
While several teams were able to make key moves during the draft, there were a few franchises that had to settle for taking the runt of the litter. The Arizona Coyotes didn’t have their first draft pick until all the way down to number 111, but that’s what happens when you break the rules. The NHL slammed the team for illegal prospect testing that took place while John Chayka was the GM. It’s part of the reason Chayka was extricated from the team this past summer, leading the way for Bill Armstrong to come in and pick up the pieces.
Last year, the first round of the NHL Draft saw seven of the first 15 players selected coming from US hockey organizations. However, this year, that changed drastically. In the entire first round, only two US players – Jake Sanderson and Brendan Brisson – were chosen. Sanderson is on his way to Ottawa, and Brisson is going to the Vegas Golden Knights.