On a nice autumn day in NYC, the NHL Draft takes place remotely in October. Normally, Oct. 6 would be a hockey night that kicks off a new season. Such is quarantine life during a pandemic that saw a great Stanley Cup Playoffs conclude a week ago.
Tonight is the highly anticipated First Round of the 2020 Draft. One that features Alexis Lafreniere, who’ll become the first overall pick on a video conference call with the Rangers. They’ve never had this opportunity before. Sorry. I don’t count 1965 when the rules were very different. However, they did pick second last year by grabbing Finnish right wing Kaapo Kakko after the Devils took Jack Hughes.
With the Rangers making it official later, that means that all three area locals have won the Lottery and been rewarded with the top pick. The Islanders in 2009 with John Tavares. They also took Rick DiPietro number one in 2000 when Mike Milbury traded away Roberto Luongo in a blockbuster with the Panthers. The Devils with Nico Hischier in 2017 and Hughes on 2019. We’re just talking recent history due to the lottery.
The question is who goes following Lafreniere at number two. Do the Kings go with Canadian center Quinton Byfield or German scoring forward Tim Stuetzle? That will determine which player the Senators grab at three. Then come the Red Wings, who can go with either a scoring forward or defenseman. Then come the Senators again followed by the Ducks and then it’s the Devils’ turn at seven. Are they interested in Russian goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov? What about the Sabres at number eight? Or perhaps the goalie starved Oilers look to trade up from number 15.
This is a deep draft with plenty of talent. The Devils boast three picks in the first round. Maybe they swing a trade. The Rangers also have Carolina’s number 22 due to the Brady Skjei trade. They could use it and another player to move up and get someone else. Anton Lundell possibly? He’s well liked.
There is going to be a lot of stuff going on. We’ve already seen some moves. The Wild traded Devan Dubnyk to the Sharks for a fifth round pick and seventh round pick in 2022 while also moving Ryan Donato to San Jose for a 2021 third rounder. The Canadiens traded center Max Domi with a 2020 third round pick to the Blue Jackets for forward Josh Anderson. A gritty player who needed a change.
The rumors are rampant. They involve significant names including Patrik Laine and Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who’s available. I wouldn’t touch him if I’m the Rangers. That’s not what they need. It still is a rebuild. Even if they don’t intend to qualify center Ryan Strome by tomorrow’s 5 PM EST deadline, making him unrestricted, they need a legit number two center behind Mika Zibanejad. Who they target remains to be seen.
I also would not be crazy about moving key restricted free agent defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who supposedly the Flyers have interest in following Matt Niskanen stunning everyone by announcing his retirement due to COVID-19. He didn’t want to put himself through another ringer where he could be on the road again without family. Can you blame him? There could be more older players who decide that this is the best way to go. Niskanen was a solid top four defenseman who was only 33. The news shocked the Flyers.
There are sure to be more rumors and trade talk. On the first night of a two-day draft with Rounds 2-7 tomorrow, we’ll see what happens.
Enjoy the moment tonight Blueshirt fans. It will still be special.