After arguably the worst start to a season in franchise history, it’s looking like the Minnesota Wild could be in for a pretty long year. Yes, Minnesota earned its first win of the season on Monday, but that came against a comically awful Ottawa Senators team. Through six games, the Wild are averaging just 2.33 goals per game while allowing an average of 4.16 goals against. Which is quite bad! The season is still very young, but judging by what the Wild have exhibited in the early going, it’s looking like Minnesota could be a lottery team for the second consecutive season (barring a St. Louis Blues-like turnaround).
If the Wild do continue to flounder, they picked a damn good year to do it. The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will be loaded with elite prospects — a couple of whom may be potential franchise-altering talents. Perhaps the Wild, a team with a knee-deep prospect pool, could be lucky enough to nab one of them. And if not, there are still numerous other promising youngsters who could be available early in the draft.
Lafreniere is the crown jewel of the 2020 draft class. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound forward has been the consensus No. 1 pick of this class ever since he scored 42 goals as a 16-year-old rookie in the QMJHL. The last player to accomplish that feat was some guy named Sidney Crosby.
Lafreniere, now 18 (his birthday was on Friday), is unsurprisingly off to a fantastic start this season. In 10 games for the Rimouski Océanic — Crosby’s old junior club — Lafreniere has collected eight goals and 25 points, which leads the CHL.
While the comparisons to Crosby may be a bit overblown, Lafreniere is an exceptional talent capable of singlehandedly rescuing a suffering franchise. Perhaps a franchise like the Minnesota Wild.
The odds of anyone usurping Lafreniere in the draft rankings are very low. But if there’s one player capable of pulling it off, it’s Quinton Byfield.
Byfield, who won’t turn 18 until August of 2020, has been nothing short of dominant since being selected No. 1 overall by the Sudbury Wolves in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound behemoth averaged close to a point per game as a rookie (29 goals, 61 points in 64 games) and is on pace to average two points per game this season with eight goals and and 19 points in just nine games.
Byfield is very much in the running to be the No. 2 overall pick in this summer’s draft. And after watching him dominate the OHL, it’s not hard to see why.
Perhaps the best European prospect available in this year’s draft, Lucas Raymond continues to dazzle in Sweden. After collecting 13 goals and 48 points in 37 games for Frölunda HC J20 in the SuperElit league, Sweden’s top junior league, Raymond is off to bigger and better things this season as he’s earned more playing time in the SHL. Thus far, Raymond’s statistics don’t jump off the page (one goal and two assists in 10 games), but for a smaller forward playing against grown men, he seems to be holding his own.
Raymond was particularly impressive in this past summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament, netting five goals in as many games for a total of seven points. The 17-year-old is a wizard in the offensive zone, and while his shot can be lethal, his vision and relentless puck pursuit are what could really make him a star in the NHL.