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SB Nation NHL Mock Draft 2020: Picks 1-5

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We’re simulating the first round across our NHL sites and the first five picks are already unpredictable.

HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16: Alexis Lafreniere #11 of Team White and Quinton Byfield #55 of Team Red talk following the final whistle of the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada. Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is sneaking up on us, with Round 1 starting next Tuesday and Round 7 wrapping up on Wednesday. We had a tight turnaround, but SB Nation NHL came together for our annual mock draft, where our team sites play backseat general manager to our favorite franchises.

If the real first round plays out anything like our mock draft, it’s going to be plenty of content to debate over until whenever it’s safe to start next season.

The first five picks went up today. Here’s how it’s played out so far:

1. New York Rangers — Alexis Lafreniere

From Blueshirt Banter:

But it would be one of the most shocking moments in the history of the draft if the Rangers passed on the productive winger first overall on October 9.

The last first-overall pick to come from Rimouski Oceanic was Sidney Crosby in 2005. As such, comparisons between him and Lafreniere are inevitable. Any discussion of Lafreniere matching Crosby’s career should be brought to an immediate and screeching halt. Still, there are similarities in playing style worth referencing. [...]

Crosby’s strength is that everything is a strength and he has the brain to make the most of each. The same is generally true for Lafreniere. Some players are dominant because they have a few go-to moves that the opposition is powerless to stop. In the case of Lafreniere, it’s that he can beat you so many different ways. He controls the tempo of the game with the puck on his stick. He makes incredible plays in space, and if there is no space then he’ll find a way to create it. Once he moves the puck, he keeps his feet moving and finds the next spot to contribute. He’s never out of the play and he’s always a threat no matter the situation.

2. Los Angeles Kings — Quinton Byfield

From Jewels From The Crown:

But it’s also clear that Byfield’s skill is beyond the OHL. Does that make Byfield a disappointing pick if he takes one year before reaching the NHL? That’s where it starts to feel like we’re over-thinking it, especially when it comes to the Kings, who as far as I know will still be dragging around Jonathan Quick’s corpse in net, and though the rest of the prospect pool is exciting, they’re still seasoning, too. [...]

In the simplest terms: Byfield is a complete player. He’s young, and that’s fine — the Kings can let him bake for a little bit longer because all of the ingredients are already in him. Undercooking is an easy fix, but adding ingredients after the fact is a whole different thing.

While his offense steals the show, Byfield is the real deal as a two-way player, a focal point of Kings hockey. Anze Kopitar won’t be with the Kings forever, but I can imagine what Byfield would learn from him in the meantime. And if the Kings select Byfield, I have no doubt he’ll be just as beloved.

3. Ottawa Senators — Lucas Raymond

From Silver Seven Sens:

With Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield off the board, it was a tight vote from the staff deciding between Raymond and German forward Tim Stützle (the final tally was 6-3). The selection does go against the current consensus, but leaves us ecstatic with who we believe is the best player available.

The Gothenburg forward has captured our attention for well over a year now, dominating the SuperElit league with 48 points in 37 games. He was a key player for Sweden at various international events, including five goals in as many games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. [...]

You didn’t read that wrong, we passed on Tim Stützle — Bob McKenzie’s 2nd ranked prospect in the draft class — for a winger. While everyone on the staff had our fingers crossed that Jewels From The Crown would pass on Byfield, we didn’t have such luck which forced us to make a tough decision.

4. Detroit Red Wings — Tim Stützle

From Winging It In Motown:

While it’s entirely unclear what Steve Yzerman will actually do with the pick, there’s a good chance he could use another top pick on a German prospect. After selecting defenseman Mortiz Seider with the 6th overall pick in 2019, Yzerman finds himself in the unique position of drafting Stützle, a guy who has played with Seider for some time now. The two German prospects have headlined what has been a meteoric rise for German hockey.

There’s a lot to love about Tim Stützle’s game — and it personally wasn’t that difficult of a decision to choose him over players like Cole Perfetti, Jamie Drysdale, and Marco Rossi. Stützle wasn’t even considered an adult in the U.S. when he broke out in Germany’s top pro league. Throughout his debut season with Alder Mannheim, he played at a near-point-per-game pace — again, at only 17 years old. North American hockey fans got a first look at the flashy forward at the 2019 World Juniors, and his game has been all the hype ever since. [...]

The Red Wings are in dire need of jumpstarting this offense, and I see Stützle as the type of player that could mesh well with what the organization has in the pipeline — especially a guy like Mo Seider. Stützle may not be an immediate NHL player, but I give him another year of playing in Germany’s top league before jumping across the pond.

5. Ottawa Senators — Marco Rossi

From Silver Seven Sens:

Going with Lucas Raymond at No. 3 felt bold but there was simply too much to like about the solid, two-way right-winger to turn down even if it meant possibly missing out on Tim Stutzle. That being said, we wouldn’t be leaving the top-five without a bona fide centre, and while we couldn’t steal Byfield, we believe we got one hell of a consolation prize in Rossi. We ranked Rossi ahead of other centres such as Perfetti and Lundell, and while Jamie Drysdale (right defence), Holtz (right winger), and Yaroslav Askarov (goaltender) all play premium positions, we had to take the best player available. It’s an added bonus that the Senators need a top centre and Rossi fills that role.

Name a diminutive forward, a sneaky centre, or an NHLer with connections to Ottawa and odds are, Rossi has drawn comparisons. Different analysts have thrown around the names DeBrincat, Marner, Gaudreau, Point, and Giroux when talking about Rossi. And while he may not become the next Matin St. Louis, Rossi’s floor is at least Jean-Gabriel Pageau with more production. As Ary explained in the aforementioned scouting report, Rossi has done all of the right things to succeed in the NHL despite his smaller frame. He’s a student of the game and trains relentlessly to constantly improve his skating to compensate for his stature.