Saint-Eustache, QC native Alexis Lafreniere has been the projected top-pick for the 2020 NHL Draft since his rookie year in the QMJHL. Everything about Lafreniere’s track record screams franchise changing player. He eclipsed 297 points in only 173 games with the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL, he won the World Junior gold medal with Canada and was awarded the tournament MVP and he is only the second player to win back to back CHL Player of the Year awards (Sidney Crosby 2003-2004/2004-2005).
Lafreniere is the clear choice to be the next first-overall pick in this year's NHL Draft. Many see the young Canadian as the best draft prospect since Connor McDavid was taken first-overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015.
On June 26, 2020 the NHL held their annual Draft Lottery. Normally we would be watching the NHL Draft around this time, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHL had to shuffle the Draft Lottery, Playoffs and Draft. A new format had to be put into place to compensate for the teams who will be playing in the NHL qualifying-round.
The seven teams who didn’t qualify for the postseason had the best odds at winning the first-overall pick in the NHL Draft. However, Alexis Lafreniere didn’t find out which team will have the opportunity to select him with the top pick in the draft. In this lottery format, the eight qualifying-round teams who don’t move on to round one of the NHL Playoffs had a chance at winning one of the three lottery picks for the 2020 NHL Draft. When the ping pong balls were drawn, it was determined that “Team E” won the first-overall pick. “Team E” was just a placeholder for a qualifying-round team that wasn’t going to make the playoffs. With just a 2.5% chance at winning the first-pick, “Team E” won it, leaving the seven NHL teams who didn’t get a chance to play in the qualifying-round scratching their heads.
What does this mean?
So basically, the NHL won’t know who is picking first-overall until the qualifying round is completed. Once that happens, the eight teams who were eliminated from playoff contention will be put into another lottery. Each team will have a 12.5% chance at the first-overall pick, which means all teams have an equal chance.
There are currently 16 teams who could win the first pick as there are 16 teams in the qualifying-round. A few teams that could potentially have the opportunity to select the elite talent that is Alexis Lafreniere are the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s crazy to think that these teams could get another franchise changing player to add to their abundance of highly skilled players.
Here are the 16 teams that could possibly get to add Alexis Lafreniere to their roster.
They don't need him
There is no question that any team could use the likes of Alexis Lafreniere and should choose to select him if they have the opportunity to. Yet, these teams have already been gifted with generational players in recent years and don’t really need or deserve the first-pick.
The Oilers are the last team that should be allowed to get another first-overall pick. From 2010-2015, Edmonton had the first-pick four times in the NHL Draft. In 2015 they drafted Connor McDavid who is one of the best hockey players the league has ever seen. They also have Leon Draisaitl who has put up 215 points over the last two seasons with the team. If the Oilers win the lottery and get Alexis Lafreniere, they will be the scariest team in the NHL for the next decade. Draisaitl and McDavid are both under 25-years-old and are signed on long term deals. Lafreniere would hop right into the team and instantly make them one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup. Edmonton also has former first-overall pick Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, top-four defensemen Darnell Nurse, and defensive prospects Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg who could help the team make a run at the cup as early as next season. Edmonton already has the two highest scoring players this year in the NHL. It will not be fair to add another future 100 point player to the team.
Pittsburgh’s situation is kind of similar to Edmonton’s in that they don’t need another franchise player. The Penguins won the 2005 NHL Draft Lottery and took Sidney Corsby with the first-overall selection. It is safe to say that Crosby panned out. 3x Stanley Cup champion, 2x Olympic gold medalist, captain of Pittsburgh and Team Canada and 2x Hart trophy winner; just to name a few of his accomplishments over his career. Another Pen who has been dominating the league alongside Crosby is Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has put up over 1,000 points in his career and has been one of the most dominant players in the league since his rookie season. The Penguins have won three Stanley Cups since 2009 and were the fifth best team in the Eastern Conference this year. The Penguins will still be competitive for the foreseeable future as Crosby and Malkin are still tearing up the league. Lafreniere would slide right into the Penguins team and learn behind two of the greatest players of all-time. Penguins fans will not be disappointed as they would once again get a franchise changing player. From Lemieux to Crosby to Lafreniere, the Penguins franchise wouldn’t lack in the star player department. Pittsburgh really doesn’t need to get Lafreniere. They were close to getting a bye to the first-round of the playoffs and they have Sidney Crosby, the best player in the league for over a decade.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto fans would be jumping out of their seats if they won another Draft Lottery. In 2016, Toronto selected Auston Matthews with the first-overall pick in the draft. Today, Toronto boasts one of the best top-six forward cores in the league. With John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander, Toronto really would be put over the top with Alexis Lafreniere. Toronto would be able to put together undoubtedly the best top two forward lines in the NHL with Lafreniere. Toronto scored the second most goals this season with 237. It would be unfair to think about the amount of goals the team would put up if they added another elite forward. Toronto would probably consider trading either Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson for a defenseman if Lafreniere fell into their laps but that’s something that wouldn’t hurt Kyle Dubas too much. Toronto will be one of the best teams in the NHL in the future. With their young core signed long term, they don’t have to worry about not scoring goals. NHL fans would hate to see the Leafs get Lafreniere.
Could be interesting if they get Lafreniere
To be fair, none of the teams in this list should have had a shot at getting Lafreniere because they made the qualifying-round, but there is no going back now. If one of these teams get the first-pick, I think they could become a team to watch for in the future.
Florida is one of the most underrated teams in the NHL. They are finally back in the postseason and now their core players are more mature and ready to make a run for the cup. The Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is already one of the best two-way centres in the NHL at 24-years-old. Jonathan Huberdeau scored 239 points in his last three seasons and made his first All-Star game in 2020. Aaron Ekblad is blossoming into the number one defenseman he was projected to be when he was selected first-overall in 2014. Florida recently signed Sergei Bobrovsky and has elite prospects in Grigori Denisenko and Owen Tippett coming up in the system. If they can re-sign one of Mike Hoffman or Evgeni Dadonov and add Alexis Lafreniere, I believe that Florida will become one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup. Florida is one of those teams that needs one or two more pieces before they win it all and Lafreniere could be that piece.
Similar to Florida, Carolina’s young core is insane. Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas make this forward unit elite. The Canes recently acquired Vincent Trocheck, Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei at the NHL Trade Deadline. Jacob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton are leading the way on the blue line while Nino Niederreiter and Jordan Staal add additional scoring to the already stacked squad. The Hurricanes have never picked first-overall in their 23 years in Carolina. Their highest pick was when they picked Svechnikov second-overall in 2018. Carolina is built for the future and Lafreniere would fit right in along their young core. With Lafreniere and Svechnikov on Aho’s wings, the Canes offense will be filled with offensive firepower. Rod Brind’Amour has proven to be a really good coach in the NHL and has worked well with the young guys. Carolina has some of the most promising youngsters in the game and it would be fun to see this team add Lafreniere to their ranks. It could be possible that Lafreniere and Svechnikov could make a similar impact for the Canes as Draisaitl and McDavid have done with the Oilers.
Elias Pettersson is one of the most exciting young players in the NHL. Add in potential rookie of the year Quinn Hughes, NHL All-Star Brock Boeser, Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Gaudette, and top prospects Vasili Podkolzin and Nils Höglander; Vancouver has a very bright future. Canucks goaltender Jacob Markström had a career year, making his first All-Star game appearance which helped his team get into the qualifying-round for the NHL Playoffs. Vancouver is the Carolina of the West coast. They have an elite centre in Pettersson, a potential franchise defenseman in Hughes and lots of young talented players who can help make a difference. Bo Horvat is the team’s newest captain and Tyler Toffoli was recently brought in. Alexis Lafreniere would be in a Canadian market and would give McDavid and the Oilers a run for their money in the Western Canadian battles. It is always nice to see a Canadian star stay in Canada and Vancouver could be the ideal landing spot for the Quebec native. Lafreniere wouldn’t necessarily make the Canucks instant cup favourites, but the team would be fun to watch and will be a team for the future.
New York Islanders
Whether they admit it or not, Islanders fans were gutted when their captain John Tavares elected to leave during free agency and return home to Toronto. On the bright side, Matthew Barzal has already proven himself as a number one centre. He is still young but he will only continue to grow. The Isles have a good mix of youth and veterans on their team. Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey and Matt Martin have all spent a good amount of time in the league. Noah Dobson, Anthony Beauviller, Oliver Wahlstrom alongside Barzal will be the future of the team. The Islanders could make a run for the cup if they added Lafreniere’s elite scoring ability to the team. I don’t think the Islanders have the strongest team or the best prospect pool, but they seem to win games when they need to and Lafreniere should do pretty well with them. The team is getting a new arena and having Lafreniere and Barzal be the faces of the franchise will definitely help fill up the Islanders seats.
New York Rangers
The Rangers seem to be somewhere in the middle of a retool and a potential playoff contending team. The 2019 offseason was a big step in the right direction for New York. In the NHL Draft, Kaapo Kakko was selected second-overall by the Rangers. They also signed that summer’s top free agent, Artemi Panarin. A few months later Panarin would be tied for third in league scoring with 95 points. Mika Zibanejad put up 41 goals and the Rangers made the qualifying-round for the NHL Playoffs. If Lafreniere was to go to the Rangers, they would have some of the most promising wingers in the NHL with him, Kakko and Panarin. The team has a good crop of young players coming up the ranks like Filip Chytil. Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller and goaltender Igor Shesterkin. Picking second in 2019 and the first in 2020 seems a lot like something the Pittsburgh Penguins did over 15 years ago with Malkin and Crosby. New York is where the stars shine bright and Alexis Lafreniere can definitely become the next face of the Rangers.
Chicago won three Stanley Cups in the last decade, they have one of the greatest American hockey players of all-time in Patrick Kane and they recently got Kirby Dach third-overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. Chicago doesn’t necessarily deserve another star unlike some of the other teams on this list however, it wouldn’t be all bad if they did. Chicago’s core players who won them their three cups aren’t getting any younger. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook’s best days are behind them as they are on the backend of their careers. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are both 31-years-old but still lead the team in points. Chicago does have a promising future. Alongside Dach the Hawks have Alex Nylander, Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalík and Dylan Strome. Landing Lafreniere could see a quick turn around for Chicago and have them get back to their winning ways. Star athletes tend to shine in Chicago, can Lafreniere become the next player to dominate the Madhouse on Madison?
Lafreniere on the Flames would make the Battle of Alberta even more exciting than it already is. Edmonton has Connor McDavid, Calgary would have Alexis Lafreniere. Two of the best young Canadian’s in the NHL would also be playing on rival teams. Calgary is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league. Matthew Tkachuck is an energy bus on the ice and Johnny Gaudreau is an electrifying player. Pair them with Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano and Noah Hanifin, this team is already built for a deep playoff run. Lafreniere would hop right into the top-six and make this Flames team one of the favourites out in the Central Division. A potential line of Lafreniere and Tkachuck would cause havoc for Western conference defenseman. Calgary is already a playoff team, so no rebuilding would be needed once Lafreniere comes in. Having possibly the best Canadian draft prospect since McDavid going to the Oilers’ biggest rival is something that all NHL fans would be excited to see.
After losing their first team to Phoenix in 1996, the Jets finally came back to Manitoba in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers organization was sold to True North Sports & Entertainment. As Canada’s “newest” NHL franchise, the Jets have had an exciting group of players join the team. Captain Mark Schiefle was the team’s first draft pick back in 2011. Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor have already become difference makers for the Jets at an early time in their careers. Like the other Canadian teams in the running for Lafreniere, the 18-year-old Quebec phenom would thrive playing in a Canadian market. Pair him alongside Scheifle and Laine or Blake Wheeler and you have an extremely high scoring top line. The Jets deserve more limelight in Canada’s hockey world and getting Lafreniere will definitely make them a topic of discussion.
With the amount of success the Predators have had in recent years, you would be surprised to find out they’ve never had a first-overall pick in franchise history. Nashville has been great at turning diamonds in the rough into NHL stars. Team captain Roman Josi is one of the best defenseman in the NHL and is in the running for the Norris trophy. The team got an absolute steal when they traded for Filip Forsberg in 2013. The defensive core is set with Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro. Nashville made a huge signing in the offseason when they inked Matt Duchene to a seven-year, $56M deal. Lafreniere would most likely bump Colton Sissons off of the top line so he can play with Ryan Johansen. Another option for Nashville is to pair him up with Matt Duchene and play one of Lafreniere or Forsberg on an off wing. Nashville made the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals but lost to Pittsburgh in six games. Eeli Tolvanen, Egor Afanasyev and Philip Tomasino are Nashville's best prospects, but there isn’t much high level talent in the farm compared to some other organizations. Nashville has been successful with the cards they were dealt but Lafreniere would add another dimension to the team’s game.
Teams that deserve a star
The following teams haven't been gifted with star players like some of the other organizations that are in the running for the first-overall pick. If any team in the qualifying-round deserves Lafreniere, it is these teams.
Minnesota has never selected first-overall in an NHL Draft. The team really hasn’t had a good draft pick in years. In 2012, Mathew Dumba was taken at seventh-overall, that has been their best draft pick in years. Minnesota is never the worst team in the league but they are far from the best. The team hasn’t been lucky in the postseason or in the NHL Draft. Luckily they have some guys who could become really good. Kirill Kaprizov was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and he is the best prospect outside of North America. They recently acquired Kevin Fiala from Nashville who led the team in points during the 2019-2020 season. Alex Galchenyuk could get back to his form that he once had when he was in Montreal. Minnesota doesn’t seem like they can win the cup with the roster they have now but they don’t have a great prospect pool either. Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello and Zach Parise are all over 32-years-old. The Wild really deserve a high end player like Lafreniere. He won’t make them an amazing team in one year, but he is the guy you would want to start rebuilding your franchise with.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets had something special brewing in Columbus last season when they swept the top seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in round one of the NHL Playoffs. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they couldn’t get past Carolina in round two and ended up losing their three top players to free agency that summer. Columbus does have Pierre-Luc Dubois whose ceiling is probably a low-end number one centre. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski could very well be the best top-two defensive duo in the NHL. Columbus hasn’t picked first since getting Rick Nash back in 2002. They aren’t the flashiest team but they work well under head coach John Tortorella. Artemi Panarin left in free agency alongside Matt Duchene. With a lack of star forwards, Lafreniere could change the culture in Columbus.
When southern markets like Arizona have great NHL players on their teams, it leads to a future generation of stars being born. Shane Doan was Arizona’s most notable player in franchise history. Guess who grew up watching Doan and the Yotes, Auston Matthews. Arizona has a nice set of young guns in their lineup; Jakob Chycrun, Clayton Keller and Barret Hayton could be the future of Arizona hockey. The Coyotes have a nice team with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall (pending UFA). Lafreniere joining that team could possibly call for instant playoff success. Arizona doesn’t really have that franchise player yet, but they do have good pieces that could complement the likes of Alexis Lafreniere. Hockey in the dessert could be getting a lot more exciting if they get the first-overall pick.
This team is where I want to see Lafreniere go. It makes the most sense and will make a lot of hockey fans somewhat happy. This team was also the lowest ranked team to qualify for the postseason this year.
Every kid from Montreal dreams of playing for the Habs. Montreal has lacked a true franchise forward in decades. The team hasn’t won a cup since 1993 and the local kid could change that. Montreal’s goaltender has been the team’s franchise player for years. Price has been the best goalie in the NHL for years and still puts up impressive numbers despite the lack of help he has in front of him. Habs fans love to see a Montreal kid show out for the hometown team. Jonathan Drouin is the best Quebecer on the team and he is an extremely skilled forward. If Lafreniere came to the Habs, I could see him fitting alongside Drouin with Kotkaniemi, the 2018 third-overall selection down the middle. Kotkaniemi has had a slow start to his NHL career but he will still only be 20-years-old when next season starts. Montreal has a crazy prospect pool with Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov coming up to the NHL sooner than later. Nick Suzuki had a great rookie season and should continue to get better. Pair this alongside the veteran leadership from Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher and Carey Price, Lafreniere will fit in just fine playing under the light at the Centre Bell. Out of all the teams who could possibly get Lafreniere, Montreal could be the best fit. The local kid becomes a superstar and gets a historic franchise back to their winning ways would be a great story and a hockey mecca like Montreal deserves it.
Hockey fans won’t know who gets the opportunity to select Lafreniere in the NHL Draft for at least another month. You will have to wait until the qualifying-round is finished before that can happen. It is highly unlikely that Lafreniere won’t be the first player taken off the draft board in 2020, but crazier things have happened.