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SaltWire Selects: Weekend picks
What you need to know about COVID-19: August 14, 2020
Dan Marr, NHL director of central scouting
Alexis Lafrenière is expected to be the first selection in the draft.
Quinton Byfield is among the high-end prospects for the 2020 draft.
One way or another, the Ottawa Senators could turn out to be big winners at the draft table.
While the date for the draft, which was supposed to be held at Montreal’s Bell Centre this weekend, won’t be set until the season is completed, the Senators will have a strong opportunity to bulk up on prospects.
Dan Marr, the NHL’s director of the Central Scouting Bureau, told this newspaper in an interview Friday morning the scouting staff in the Ottawa organization should be thrilled they have three selections in the first round, seven in the first two rounds, nine in the first three and 13 in total in this draft.
“They’re going to be able to set the table for years to come having that many picks in the first three rounds,” Marr said. “But you’re talking to a scout. The top three rounds, that’s where you want to have as many picks as possible. You’re always going to have late bloomers and surprises that come from the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
“But those top three rounds, these are guys that you can put your development people to work with, monitor them and really work with these kids. They have good chances to have a pro career. A scouting staff that has nine picks in the first three rounds, they love their general manager.”
When owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Pierre Dorion decided to start this rebuild in February 2019, they focused on getting high-end prospects. The Senators already have Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk to build around while the hope is Colin White will bounce back next season. The club has the likes of Erik Brannstrom, Josh Norris, Logan Brown, Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton in Belleville.
Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto are still taking the college route.
Nobody was sure where the lottery balls would fall Friday night, but this draft is deep on strong talent, and that’s why it’s a focus. Yes, Alexis Lafrenière has a chance to be a game-changer for an organization, but the likes of Tim Stutzle (Mannheim), Quinton Byfield (Sudbury) and Jamie Drysdale (Erie) all have the chance to get the job done down the road.
And the possibilities don’t stop there.
“Every year when you have a draft list put together, you can always pinpoint the top five or top 10 and different areas where you can break it off,” said Marr. “This year’s draft class has some players that are really going to be impact players. I really like our top 10 (in North America) and on the European side the top three or four players are really solid players, and they’ll find ways to impact.
“I really think the top few in North America are really going to be impactful. As you go later and a little deeper into this draft, the teams with multiple picks here, it’s going to be like a smorgasbord for them.”
Marr said that’s because there will be prospects on teams’ lists that they’re going to want to take because the possibility is there that they will develop into NHL players.
“There’s quite a few of them,” he said. “The first round this year has a lot of players that I think are going to have lengthy NHL careers. These are players that have been actually well scouted for two-plus years and they’re well-known commodities.”
Marr said the key for organizations is to look at the big picture when evaluating a player.
“If you just look past all the noise and the hype, if there’s some small issue to a player’s game now, he’s 18 years old,” Marr said. “You need to think through that because, three years from now, it might be an issue today, but with coaching, experience, it’s not going to be an issue down the road.
“You’re not going to know who you are able to pick until the team in front of you makes their selections. It’s going to be a smorgasbord in the first round. They’re going to have a lot of good options available. It might be a year where they follow their lists and it might be a year where they stray a little bit depending on the team.
“If they have multiple picks in the first three rounds, they may get to a point where they’ve drafted a player at a certain position, they may draft at another position where the player has a projection to play sooner in the league or less of a development curve. There’s some really good options there. The scouting staffs really work hard at their trade. The trick is not to overcomplicate it.”
There was no NHL Combine in Buffalo this year so teams could make final evaluations and most prospects had Zoom calls with teams. The fact the seasons were shortened across North America and Europe didn’t really have a whole lot of effect on the CSB’s lists.
“Our list always comes out, we have our meetings during the first round of playoffs and our list is always out before the Under-18 world championships,” Marr said. “Our list is timed with the lottery and then teams know where they’re picking. They’ve keyed their scouting resources on players that are in the range where they’re picking.
“Our list is just a tool and resource. There’s no sense in us continuing to scout in the playoffs.”
BOB MCKENZIE’S TOP 10 PROSPECTS
1 . Alexis Lafrenière, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
2. Tim Stutzle, C/LW, Mannheim (Germany)
3. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
4. Jamie Drysdale, RD, Erie (OHL)
5. Cole Perfetti, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
6. Lucas Raymond, RW, Frolunda (Sweden)
7. Marco Rossa, C, Ottawa (OHL)
8. Jake Sanderson, LD, USA (Under-18)
9. Alexander Holtz, LW/RW, Djurgardens (Sweden)
10. Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020