NHL Draft Confidential: Thoughts on a deep pool of prospects

Jeff Marek, Sam Cosentino and Brian Burke take a look at the 2020 NHL Draft, why Alexis Lafreniere will likely go first overall, and why teams with multiple first round picks could shake up the first round with trades.

Ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft, Sportsnet prospect experts Sam Cosentino and Jeff Marek were asked questions about this year's collection of prospects, how deep the class is, and more.

1. At which pick does the draft really start and why?

Sam Cosentino: I think this draft starts with whatever position Yaroslav Askarov is selected. In my opinion, if a team is adamant about landing him, I think you have to get to five to guarantee it. I’m not so sure Ottawa needs to expend such a high pick to select a goalie, but there have been rumblings. I do think teams will start coming at Pierre Dorion to acquire that pick. All told, I would love to be sitting in the top 10 picks, so with that said, I think it starts to rock and roll at No. 11.

Jeff Marek: Look, we all know the first three picks are set, it’s just a matter of who goes second so for me the draft begins at four and it’s mainly because of Wings GM Steve Yzerman. As we’ve seen before, he’s not afraid to go off the board with his picks and doesn’t follow consensus. Case in point last years’ draft; how many of you had any team selecting Moritz Sieder at six? So, which way does Detroit go? Could they take the Russian goalie Yaroslav Askarov that high? How about smallish Austrian centre Marco Rossi? I know many of us are expecting Cole Perfetti to end up being Yzerman’s pick, but would anyone be surprised if he drops another bombshell like he did in Vancouver last year? I wouldn’t.

Who is the best skater and who is the best shooter available?

SC: I’ll cheat here and say the best skating defenceman is Jamie Drysdale, and the best skating forward is Tim Stuetzle. The best shooter available is Alexis Lafreniere. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for that part of his game. Check with his Team Canada teammates and see what they say.

JM: He’s worked with many high level skating coaches, most currently Dawn Braid. He already has the speed and agility of a pro. Jamie Drysdale is the top skater in the draft hands down.

Best shot? Jacob Perreault. As one person told me "he doesn’t know the meaning of a bad angle shot. He scores from everywhere."

It's not often we see a goalie selected in the first half of the first round, but after Spencer Knight was chosen 13th overall last season, Yaroslav Askarov could have his name called early in 2020. What makes Askarov so special and do you think he'll be worth a top-15 investment?

SC: I have many thoughts on this. First, I wouldn’t take a goalie in the first round. I wouldn’t be the GM by the time he played meaningful minutes for my team. The last three goalies taken in the first round, two of the GMs are no longer with the club. Case in point: George McPhee selected Ilya Samsonov and wasn’t the GM in Washington to watch him this year. Spencer Knight was taken 13th by Florida last year and Dale Tallon is no longer GM there. Jim Nill selected Jake Oettinger in the first round in 2017 and he is still the GM in Dallas.

I do believe Askarov will be a high-end No. 1, but it will likely take five years for that to happen. With the depth of players who I think can help me in a flat cap world in the next two years, I wouldn’t take Askarov inside of 10. Having said that, if you want to guarantee getting him you probably have to get as high as five. He’s a better fit for me from 11-15. He’s big, athletic, has winning pedigree, I like the fact he’s a right-catch guy and I also like his fast start in the KHL this season.

JM: Askarov is the latest in a growing line of great Russian goaltenders. First thing you notice is how quick he moves, it’s freakish. And then when you really drill down and watch him play you realize how he’s able to anticipate at an elite level and almost intimidate shooters with his positioning. For me he’s a top 15 selection easy and considering how valuable the position is I’d take him inside the top 10. He’s been lights out already this season in Russia, further cementing the belief that he should go high and that this young goalie isn’t any riskier than any other player in the top 10.

The 2020 NHL Draft is regarded as a deep group of players. What stands out about this year's group and how deep does it go in your opinion?

SC: Depth of 10 awesome players to get it started. It’s a CHL-heavy group unlike last year when the USNTDP stole the show. There’s plenty of high-end forwards and this draft class is a bit light on high-end D. I love Jake Sanderson, Jamie Drysdale, Kaiden Guhle and Braden Schneider, but I do believe it drops off after that for defencemen. I also like a few goalies who will be second round and beyond. Names like Nico Daws, Dylan Garand, Drew Commesso and a big sleeper for me is Amir Miftakhov. I also like that this class will be studied heavily based on having no playoffs, Memorial Cup, U18’s or Combine to complete the evaluation process.

JM: You want a forward?

This is your year.

This year's draft runs deep and it highlights a triumphant return of the high-end OHL forward crew. Quinton Byfield, Cole Perfetti, Marco Rossi, Jack Quinn, Jacob Perreault, Jan Mysak, Jean-Luc Foudy, Tyson Foerster and on and on. While we expect the first round to be littered with names from the OHL, the top 10 will probably see four names called from the O. Pretty impressive stuff.

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