The Detroit Red Wings have needs at every position, and it’s on general manager Steve Yzerman to determine which top-ranked prospect will be his first choice next month.
That’s the topic of this mailbag, with reader Henry W., asking “should the Wings take a forward or defenseman with their first pick in the 2020 draft?”
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The Wings were bumped back as far as possible in the draft lottery. When the NHL paused the season on March 12 because of COVID-19, the Wings were ensured they’d finish in last place – but the lottery left them with the fourth overall selection.
The New York Rangers, who were part of the Stanley Cup playoffs, won the first overall pick. The Los Angeles Kings (who, like the Wings, were one of seven teams excluded from the “return to play” bubbles) hold the second pick, and the Ottawa Senators pick third. The Senators also own the fifth pick, making them the first team since the Islanders in 2000 (Nos. 1 and 5) to pick twice in the first five spots. The first round is scheduled to be held virtually on Oct. 6, followed by rounds 2-7 on Oct. 7
Left wing Alexis Lafreniere is the consensus No. 1 pick. The Kings are expected to select Quinton Byfield, the top-rated center in the draft. Then it gets interesting – will the Senators use the third pick on Tim Stutzle, a creative forward with high hockey IQ, or Jamie Drysdale, projected to be a No. 1 defenseman in the NHL? Senators GM Pierre Dorion might opt for Drysdale, knowing there’ll be a high-end forward available at fifth.
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If Dorion chooses a forward at third, Yzerman would be smart to jump on Drysdale. The Wings missed out on defenseman Quinn Hughes in 2018, thrilled to find forward Filip Zadina available at sixth. Zadina (currently nursing an upper-body injury while on loan to a club in his native Czech Republic) looks like he’ll be a top-six forward, but Hughes, 20, is a top-pair defenseman who finished as runner-up for rookie of the year this season. He led NHL rookies in assists (45), points (53) and power-play points (25) in 68 games.
Drysdale would shore up the Wings’ defense, headlining the depth chart next to Moritz Seider, Yzerman’s first-round pick from 2019. The Wings would have Drysdale, Seider and Filip Hronek to anchor the blue line for the next decade, complemented by prospects Antti Tuomisto, Jared McIsaac and Gustav Lindstrom.
Drysdale, 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, is an elite skater who is sound defensively and gifted offensively. Like Hughes, Drysdale isn’t a big guy, but he’s swift on his feet and capable with his stick.
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If Drysdale isn’t available, Yzerman’s choices will include either Stutzle or Byfield. Yzerman could also surprise – like he did last year with Seider – and draft Marco Rossi, an elite playmaking center and the first European scoring leader in OHL history, or Cole Perfetti, a creative forward who amends for his less-than-stellar speed with goal-scoring ability