With the 2020 World Junior Championship now in the rearview and many NHL teams already looking down and out of the Stanley Cup playoff hunt -- Detroit Red Wings fans, you might want to read this -- the hockey-prospect world is slowly turning its attention to the 2020 NHL draft. At the center of that discussion is an intriguing battle for the No. 1 pick among a handful of top prospects.
You might have heard chatter about Alexis Lafreniere, who is projected by many to be that first selection in June. But is he the definite top pick? And who else is in the running? We answer all of your questions about the top of this draft class and a race for the top pick that is only accelerating six months out.
Is there a unanimous No. 1-ranked prospect right now?
You'd think so, after Lafreniere earned MVP honors at the World Junior Championship. But "unanimous" is the key word here. Lafreniere is absolutely the favorite to go No. 1, but the truth is more complicated. There are still scouts and perhaps entire staffs out there that can't help but look at Quinton Byfield, a 6-foot-4, 214-pound center and at least pause to consider the option.
Wasn't Lafreniere the guy a few months ago? Has the race closed a little?
Over the course of the season, Byfield has definitely closed the gap in a number of ways. It's so surprising because Lafreniere has been exceptional, but Byfield has performed at an exceptionally high level in the OHL and has tantalizing upside. That's the key. He's young and has shown tremendous year-to-year progression, which makes you wonder more about how he projects out. Lafreniere is better right now without question, but is he going to be the best long-term? That is the question scouts are asking.