Sam Cosentino's favourite pick from each round of the 2020 NHL Draft

Ailish & Dangle talk about their favourite moments from the 2020 NHL Draft, including Alex Trebek, Leafs awkwardness, San Jose's amazing gesture and more.

After eight hours of live TV on Wednesday, and three and a half the night before, I’m a little burned-out. Definitely not a complaint, as I truly enjoy my job and the amazing group of people we work with, on-set and behind the scenes. It truly takes an army to make it all come together, especially when faced with the challenges of the pandemic.

Congrats to the NHL for pulling off two days of draft coverage virtually and seamlessly. We didn’t walk away from our rehearsal feeling overly confident it would all work, but it turned out to be tremendous.

Now that we’ve had some time to unpack our thoughts, we'll take a deep dive into each of the seven rounds and extract an interesting pick from each one of them. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the best pick, but in my mind, maybe the most interesting story, the most heart-warming story, the funniest story or maybe it does involve the player I predict to come out of that round.

Round 1: Columbus, Pick 21, Yegor Chinakhov
Without a doubt, my favourite pick from Round 1 is Chinakhov, who went to Columbus with the 21st pick. Once he was selected, I admittedly began to sweat. This was one player I didn’t know a lot about. All told, I had extensive information on 52 players for 31 first-round spots, Chinakov was not one of them.

Believe it or not, he was deep in my notes, thanks to Lawrence Goldstein and his staff with the NHL Network. Because I was so rattled, I had a hard time accessing that info on my ipad, in such a short time. So, I took the honest route and said on our broadcast that basically I had no info on the player. I was hoping our guest panelist Mike Futa would, but he didn’t have access to his scouting reports from his time with LA. A short time later, he was reminded by a former colleague that he actually liked the player.

At the end of it we all had a good time with that one. Post-draft, I thought Jarmo Kekalainen could’ve moved down and acquired additional picks and still would’ve got the player. The only fly in the ointment would be Florida’s pick at 43. Surely Bill Zito would’ve been familiar with Chinakhov and known how high up he was on Columbus’ list. As an aside, LG’s note on him was that Yegor’s dad Vitali was an 11th round pick of the NY Rangers in 1991, but did not play a game for them.

Round 2: Ottawa, Pick 61, Egor Sokolov
I had plenty of favourites in Round 2, so it is worthy to mention Tristen Robins (SJ 56th), Jack Finley (TB 57th), and Gage Goncalves (TB 62nd). My pick, though, is Egor Sokolov of Cape Breton. Here’s a guy who played in the 2018 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. He’s scored 76 goals over the past two seasons, and attended two Columbus training camps, yet still couldn’t get a contract. That should change after Ottawa selected him with the 61st pick.

Sokolov has spent the past two summers in the Maritimes training and working on his skating, the only glaring deficiency in his game. He’s down to 217 pounds, he’s an awesome puck protector, possesses a wicked shot and he’s a great kid. He was a star for Russia’s world junior team and he even delivered groceries to people during the early stages of the pandemic. I bet he plays.

Round 3: New Jersey, Pick 84, Nico Daws
Two years ago at the Memorial Cup in Halifax, I asked Guelph goalie coach Ryan Daniels if he could explain to me what the reverse VH is in goaltending. With Anthony Popovich carrying the load, Nico Daws didn’t get into any games, but after the morning skate one day, he and Daniels brought a net close to the bench where they could explain this goaltending tactic.

Nico was patient, thoughtful and forthcoming in explaining how it worked. Good lesson for this goalie-clueless broadcaster. At any rate, he watched his team celebrate before losing in the championship game at the Memorial Cup as a back-up. Determined to make himself better and wanting to play a bigger role, Daws took to the gym, lost 25 pounds and changed his eating habits. He shone at the start of the year, earning an invite to the CIBC Canada-Russia series where he earned yet another invite to world junior camp. He made the team and was Team Canada’s starter before giving way to Joel Hofer en route to a gold medal. Despite giving up the net, it’s rare for a goalie never before in Hockey Canada’s program of excellence to excel the way he did. The hard work paid off, resulting in being selected by New Jersey.

Round 4: Philadelphia, Pick 94, Zayde Wisdom
Recently given the EJ McGuire Award for “commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism,” Wisdom’s style of play should fit right into Philadelphia’s plans. While he’s not likely to play in the NHL for at least two more years, Wisdom is an extremely hard worker with his eye on the prize. He’s from humble beginnings where it wasn’t always easy to get a meal or to live in a house with the power on. He and his family were supported by the community in minor hockey, and how he’s paying it back. He’s found a way to make it this far, and I’m confident he’ll find a way to make it to the next level. Playing with Shane Wright (2022 eligible) and Martin Chromiak (LAK 128th) under new Kingston coach Paul McFarland, should speed up the developmental process.

Round 5: Washington, Pick 148, Bear Hughes
If nothing else, he’s my favourite pick of the round for his name alone. In fact, his given name is Cassius, but he has been referred to as Bear for as long as he can remember. The story goes much deeper than that. Bear is one of 10 kids and one of five straight boys in the family. He was never drafted into the WHL, but Spokane listed him at 17 years old. Hughes grew up in Post Falls, Idaho, not far from Spokane. He was nowhere to be found on NHL Central Scouting’s pre-season ratings, but made the final list as North America’s 150th-rated skater. More or less on the outside, looking in. His story is that Tampa’s Tyler Johnson would skate at the arena Bear’s dad Vince ran (Frontier Ice Arena). That’s where the two struck up a relationship. So much so that Johnson suggested Spokane list him despite only playing mostly house league hockey growing up. Passed over in the 2019 draft, Hughes put up 47 points over 61 games during the 2019-20 shortened season.

Round 6: Philadelphia, Pick 178, Connor McClennon
Be it known, I do believe Amir Mifthakov is a steal (TB, 186) and deserves honourable mention here. When the Winnipeg Ice was the Kootenay Ice, McClennon’s legend was born. Small and skilled with a big heart, McClennon jumped on the page at the 2018 U17 World Challenge where he scored eight goals and 11 points to lead the tournament. He put up 14 goals and 29 points in his first season in Kootenay before the franchise relocated to Winnipeg before the start of last season. The 2019-20 season saw Connor produce 21 goals and 49 points while wearing a letter. At 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds, McClennon will have to will and skill his way to the show. One interesting note: while in Kootenay, he billeted with the Byrams. That’s right, Bowen’s mom and dad.

Round 7: Florida, Pick 212, Devon Levi
On our broadcast Wednesday, I mistakenly identified Levi as a member of Canada’s world junior summer virtual showcase. While he may get invited to the winter camp, he was not part of the summer program. Despite that mistake, Levi is deserved of recognition for his continued success. He’s been consistently stellar since his days in minor hockey with Lac St. Louis. Most recently he was named the CCHL Player of the Year, MVP, Top Goalie and Rookie of the Year. His 1.47 GAA is the best in CCHL history. He popped for me in the final of the 2019 WJAC where he turned aside 36 shots before getting beat by Shakir Mukhamadullin (NJ, 20th) in a 4-3 loss. Levi was named the tournament’s top goalie and is committed to Northeastern University. Only one other goalie (Colton Point, Dallas, 128th in 2016) has been drafted straight out of the CCHL. In the WJAC media guide, Levi is listed as 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, tiny by today’s NHL goalie standards. Regardless of size, the end game is to stop the puck and Levi has done that everywhere at every level.

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