The 2020 NHL Draft provides an opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of young talent.
The first round of the draft, which will be held virtually, is Oct. 6 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS), and rounds 2-7 will be Oct. 7 (11:30 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN). The draft was originally scheduled for June 26-27 at Bell Centre in Montreal but was postponed on March 25 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Here is what each Central Division team could be looking to do in the draft (teams listed in alphabetical order):
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Top priority: Forward depth
First pick: No. 17
The situation: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain elite players, but they are 31 and 32 years old, respectively, so Chicago needs to start developing young talent to complement them and eventually take over their leadership role. Kirby Dach, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, had a decent rookie season with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 64 regular-season games and six points (one goal, five assists) in nine postseason games, and there’s some more forward talent in the pipeline, including Evan Barratt (No. 90, 2017), Philipp Kurashev (No. 120, 2018) and Michal Teply (No. 105, 2019). With the No. 17 pick, the Blackhawks should be able to add another talented playmaker to that mix.
Possible fits: Connor Zary, C, Kamloops (WHL); Dylan Holloway, C, Wisconsin (Big Ten); Hendrix Lapierre, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Top priority: Goal-scorer
First pick: No. 25
The situation: The Avalanche’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog is among the best in the NHL, but they still need support, and the ideal way to obtain that is to draft and develop young forwards. Martin Kaut (No. 16, 2018) had three points (two goals, one assist) in nine NHL games and 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 34 games with Colorado of the American Hockey League this season, and Alex Newhook (No. 16, 2019) had a strong freshman season at Boston College with 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists) in 34 games. Shane Bowers (trade, Ottawa Senators, Nov. 5, 2017), Logan O’Connor (free agent, July 23, 2018) and Sampo Ranta (No. 78, 2018) have also shown promise, and with a deep draft at forward, Colorado will have a chance to add another solid prospect.
Possible fits: Jacob Perreault, RW, Sarnia (OHL); Brendan Brisson, C, Chicago (USHL); Jake Neighbors, LW, Edmonton (WHL)
Top priority: Defenseman depth
First pick: No. 30
The situation: Two of the bigger standouts for Dallas during its run to the Stanley Cup Final were defensemen Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg, and its top prospect, defenseman Thomas Harley (No. 18, 2019), made his NHL debut during the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. However, having too many standout defensemen is a problem any team would love to have, so with the Stars selecting at the end of the first round, it’s likely they will select the best player available regardless of position, meaning another defenseman could be the choice.
Possible fits: Daemon Hunt, D, Moose Jaw (WHL); Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Ufa (RUS); Ridly Greig, C, Brandon (WHL)
Top priority: Center
First pick: No. 9
The situation: Wild general manager Bill Guerin has stressed that finding a No. 1 center is an offseason goal, and Minnesota has already made two trades for centers since its season ended, acquiring Nick Bjugstad from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional pick in the 2021 NHL Draft on Sept. 11, and Marcus Johansson from the Buffalo Sabres for Eric Staal on Sept. 16. However, drafting and developing a top center could provide the best long-term option. The Wild have needs in other places, including goalie, but taking the best center available with their first selection appears to be the designated path.
Possible fits: Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (FIN); Dawson Mercer, C, Chicoutimi (QMJHL); Iaroslav Askarov, G, Neva St. Petersburg (RUS-2)
Top priority: Defenseman depth
First pick: No. 11
The situation: The Predators for years were lauded for drafting and developing top-end defensemen, from Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis, to Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, who won the Norris Trophy as the League’s best defenseman this season. David Farrance (No. 92, 2017) could be the next defenseman to follow in their footsteps in Nashville after he led NCAA defensemen with 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 34 games with Boston University, but adding more to the pipeline could be the choice when the Predators make their first selection.
Possible fits: Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL); Braden Schneider, D, Brandon (WHL); Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Top Priority: Defenseman depth
First pick: No. 26
The situation: The future of captain Alex Pietrangelo, who can become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9, remains unclear, but the Blues have a few defensemen who could be ready to compete for an NHL spot next season. Scott Perunovich (No. 45, 2018) had 40 points (six goals, 34 assists) in 34 games with the University of Minnesota Duluth this season and won the Hobey Baker Award as the top men’s player in NCAA ice hockey. Niko Mikkola (No. 127, 2015) had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 48 games with San Antonio of the American Hockey League and made his NHL debut on Jan. 7. Mikkola had one assist and a plus-3 rating while averaging 14:22 of ice time in five regular-season games, and he was on the roster for the Stanley Cup Playoffs but did not play in a game. St. Louis will likely select the best player available with its first pick, but could lean toward a defenseman if all other things are equal.
Possible fits: Jeremie Poirier, D, Saint John (QMJHL); Thomas Bordeleau, C, USA U-18 (NTDP); Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Ufa (RUS)
Top priority: Defenseman depth
First pick: No. 10
The situation: The Jets played this season without four of their top five defensemen from 2018-19 after Jacob Trouba (traded to the New York Rangers), Tyler Myers (signed as a free agent with Vancouver Canucks) and Ben Chiarot (signed as a free agent with Montreal Canadiens) left in the offseason, and Dustin Byfuglien decided to sit out before having his contract terminated on April 17. However, Ville Heinola (No. 20 in 2019) made Winnipeg’s opening roster and played well (five points in eight games) before being returned to Lukko in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, and Dylan Samberg (No. 43 in 2017) is a promising prospect with great size (6-foot-3, 190 pounds). Adding to that prospect depth will likely be the focus for the Jets, especially in the first round.
Possible fits: Jake Sanderson, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Kaiden Guhle, D, Prince Albert (WHL); Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (FIN)
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