Winners, steals and surprises of the NHL draft’s first round

NHL

The first round of the all-virtual 2020 NHL draft had a little bit of everything. It started out as expected with Alexis Lafreniere being selected No. 1 overall by the New York Rangers. Then the Los Angeles Kings made Quinton Byfield the highest-drafted Black player in NHL draft history. The rest of the top 10 picks went largely to plan, too. Then things got fun.

The Nashville Predators drafted a highly regarded goaltender prospect at No. 11. The Flames traded back twice. The New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets went off the board with reaches. It was a wild opening night of the two-day draft.

So which teams aced Day 1? Which picks were surprising? Let’s look at the biggest winners and losers of Round 1, and answer some of the biggest questions coming out of the first 31 picks. Then we will peek at Round 2 and beyond, with the best remaining talent still on the board.

Jump to:
Winners | Head-scratchers | Big questions
Best remaining | Pick-by-pick analysis


WINNERS

Picks: Alexis Lafreniere (No. 1) and Braden Schneider (No. 19)

It’s easy to walk away a winner when you have the first pick, but the Rangers have to feel especially excited because it is very rare to get a player this NHL-ready. Lafreniere is physically and mentally mature. He plays a physical brand of hockey that only adds to the immense skill set he has.

While future New York teammate Kaapo Kakko found the NHL transition difficult last year, the 2019 No. 2 overall pick has time to develop, and patience will be required. Conversely, I don’t think much patience is required for Lafreniere, who will enter the league fully formed and be an immediate impact player for a team that has legitimate playoff aspirations. He’s probably the final key piece the team needs to cap off their rebuild and start looking to contend.

Pick: Quinton Byfield (No. 2)

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