Final NHL mock draft: How the first round shakes out after Lafreniere

    Chris Peters is ESPN’s NHL draft and prospects analyst. The Chicago native previously covered the NHL for and founded the popular independent blog where he covered the game at all levels since 2010.

You’ve been hearing about the 2020 NHL draft class for more than a year. But now teams will finally get to make their first-round picks on Tuesday night. And that means one final mock draft projecting all 31 selections of Round 1.

The class features an excellent No. 1 prospect and a top 12 that is as good as any other class in recent memory. The top three picks will likely be Alexis Lafreniere first overall and then Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle in some order in the next two spots. After that, it’s a wide-open field with very little consensus.

Here is my prediction for the opening 31 picks of the 2020 draft, starting with the Rangers with that first pick.

1. New York Rangers

Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)

The choice is simple at No. 1. Lafreniere is the best player available and will make the Rangers better as early as next season. Even if the team has a Hart Trophy finalist at the same position, you can’t have too much skill and offense. And Lafreniere plays a different style and will improve New York’s forecheck with his physicality, competitiveness and skill down low.

2. Los Angeles Kings

Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)

There are whispers around the league that indicate that the Kings are going to take Tim Stutzle, who is most likely to play on the wing and provide some significant offensive pop. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he were the choice — and it would not be a bad one. But I can’t shake the idea that the Kings would be passing on the upside and superstar potential of Byfield. The center out of the OHL needs time to develop, but he has terrific speed, vision and instincts.

3. Ottawa Senators (via SJ)

Tim Stutzle, LW, Mannheim (Germany)

The Kings are essentially making the decision for the Senators. If Los Angeles takes Stutzle, it’ll be Byfield here. If Byfield goes to L.A., then Stutzle will be the pick. The Senators will be thrilled either way, as they should be. Stutzle is more likely to be a wing in the NHL than a center, but he’s an immense talent offensively with tremendous speed and skill. The German will be a cornerstone piece for Ottawa as it continues focusing on the future.

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