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Top 25 Draft Prospects of 2020: Picks 8 & 9

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Today’s topic: what will Buffalo do?

Buffalo Sabres v Boston Bruins

Last time I mock mock drafted the top seven in the 2020 NHL Draft. Today, I hit the harder part of the draft where the teams who need a good pick are starting to choose from the middle-ranked tier of available players.

I had New Jersey reach a little for Yaroslav Askarov, and now I have to figure out what the Sabres will do. This is legitimately difficult. They fired everyone, including their Director of Amateur Scouting, and they’ve had some big misses in the first round lately. Last year’s choice of Dylan Cozens at seventh overall likely will work out for them better than eighth overalls in 2017 and 2016, Casey Mittelstadt and Alex Nylander. No matter what they do on draft day, they need to ask themselves why they’re always drafting seventh or eighth.

I think they might take Marco Rossi if he’s available, what with that German-speaking coach of theirs, and they may well take Lucas Raymond if he’s still around because he comes from Rasmus Dahlin’s club. But I had the Ducks pick Raymond, and I don’t want to discount the Sabres choosing an American, an NCAA player they don’t have to sign to an ELC for a while, and a traditionally sized defender in Jake Sanderson. I also don’t want to discount that they might not like a small centre they don’t believe will be anything but a winger in the NHL. That issue is going to really trouble GMs over Rossi.

The Sabres need everything, even though their defence seems less dire than their forward depth. So if might come down to how much they believe in Rossi vs how much they’d like some defence depth. I’m giving them the more conservative choice in Sanderson largely because teams in chaos tend towards tradition not away from it.

Minnesota is up next, and they have a new GM since their last draft. I’ve set them up to be looking at a group of forwards with some similarities: Rossi, Alexander Holtz and Rossi’s teammate Jack Quinn. The next choice after on the Bob McKenzie list I’m using as a guide is Finnish centre Anton Lundell. The last Wild GM liked to see drafted players be taller than the guys drafting them. Bill Guerin spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh, so maybe he recognizes the value of goals. But I think he’ll reach past Rossi and Quinn both and take the big two-way centre in Lundell. The Wild will be saying goodbye to Mikko Koivu this offseason (it’s almost certain) so the temptation to see his image in Lundell will be irresistible, even for a new GM.

Rossi is the classic player to fall in the draft. Assumed to be getting points because he’s older, very small, all skill, no grit, European — and not from some normal European place like Sweden either. His boost by being a centre in the OHL is going to be washed away by not being Canadian and everyone will question if he’s going to ever be a centre in the NHL. He’s not going to drop to the second round like Alex DeBrincat, but he’s the most probable to drop out of the top 10, particularly if goalie fever raises up Askarov as I’ve predicted in this mock draft.

Next up is the Jets. If they had a worse pick, I’d say they’d go after Kaiden Guhle. A WHL defenceman named Kaiden? Sold. But he’s ranked 14th on McKenzie’s list, and no one else seems to have him any higher. He’s exactly the type of player I expect the Jets to overvalue, but that’s too much of a reach just to satisfy traditional hockey values for me to imagine. I hope they surprise me, though, because it’s fun to laugh at the Jets.

The Jets have some forwards they’ve drafted they aren’t happy with, and that includes Nikolaj Ehlers, a small Euro winger. It also includes Kristian Vesalainen, who they drafted in 2017, and who seems to be topping out at unhappy AHLer in their organization. Are they going to take another kick at that can in this draft, just because that seems to be the best player available, or will they do something strange?

Next time on the Worst Person Possible Does a Draft List, I’ll decide what I think about that.

Profiles

I don’t think the second-best defenceman in this draft will fall to 15, but Lundell is close enough to dream on, so how about some profiles of him?

2020 NHL Draft Profile: Anton Lundell - Silver Seven
The neutral zone commander from Finland is an NHL-ready centre that thrives on pushing play forward

Anton Lundell: 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile | A potentially elite all-around center out of Liiga - All About The Jersey
There are a lot of great prospects near the top of this draft with a varying range of styles. Anton Lundell represents the "elite two-way center" category with a game that features both scoring punch and great defensive instincts/positioning.

DRAFT: Anton Lundell Profile
As part of our Road to the Draft coverage, take a look at one of the top prospects Anton Lundell

2020 NHL Draft Profile: Can Anton Lundell be Mikko Koivu 2.0? - Hockey Wilderness
A Finnish centerman who’s great in the circle, plays a 200-foot game and is likely better than most give him credit for. Sound familiar?

The PPP mock mock draft list

  1. New York Rangers - Alexis Lafreniere
  2. Los Angeles Kings - Tim Stutzle
  3. Ottawa Senators - Quinton Byfield
  4. Detroit Red Wings - Cole Perfetti
  5. Ottawa Senators - Jamie Drysdale
  6. Anaheim Ducks - Lucas Raymond
  7. New Jersey Devils - Yaroslav Askarov
  8. Buffalo Sabres - Jake Sanderson
  9. Minnesota Wild - Anton Lundell
  10. Winnipeg Jets -???
  11. Nashville Predators
  12. Florida Panthers
  13. Carolina Hurricanes
  14. Edmonton Oilers
  15. Toronto Maple Leafs
  16. Montréal Canadiens
  17. Chicago Blackhawks
  18. New Jersey Devils
  19. Calgary Flames
  20. New Jersey Devils
  21. Columbus Blue Jackets
  22. New York Rangers
  23. Philadelphia Flyers
  24. Colorado Avalanche
  25. Washington Capitals

What will the Jets do? I think they are bound to be disappointed if they go with the sorts of forwards they’re likely to see, but also even more likely to come to rue this draft if they reach for a defender. I think the Sabres might feel the same way. This is what happens when you need a lottery pick, and you have something closer to 10th overall. You almost always feel like you missed something. Almost always.