While we wait months for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and potentially over a month for the second phase of the draft lottery to see who ultimately lands the first overall pick, now is a good time to take a closer look at the 16 potential landing spots for consensus number one prospect Alexis Lafrenière. Naturally these are all the teams taking part in the play-in round in the return to play plan and comprise middle of the road teams from inconsistent building organizations to vet laden squads slightly past their peak. Make no mistake Lafrenière will help these teams even if they aren’t desperate like the bottom tier franchises.
As a fan of the Colorado Avalanche naturally I have a bias toward central division teams and they won’t be at the top of my list but I am also a fan of Lafrenière and will also take into consideration where would be a good home for him and which teams I would enjoy watching him play with.
1. Montreal Canadiens
I know this isn’t a favorite scenario of many and whispers of either rigging or tanking would go on forever but there’s no doubt Lafrenière would be a unquestioned star in his home province. He has the maturity and disposition to handle the market plus he is a good fit for the Habs’ style of play. Montreal also has owned only two top five picks since selecting Carey Price in 2005 so they haven’t been the beneficiary of too many league hand-outs.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets
Perhaps because they went for it last year and lost a lot of asset and draft capital this would become the ultimate karma redemption for Columbus to get an unexpected windfall. Also, the potential of a French-Canadian superstar duo with Pierre-Luc Dubois is a very underplayed storyline.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
I like the Canes a lot so this is a personal pick. They did get a recent lotto gift which allowed them to land Andrei Svechnikov in 2018 so another stroke of good fortune might seem excessive. Still, if it’s going to happen to anyone Carolina is a great franchise for it.
4. Florida Panthers
Obtaining this first overall pick could finally pay back the lottery loss which took Nathan MacKinnon out of their hands. Florida tends to do things their own way out of sight for the most part but Lafrenière could add to an under the radar talented forward core and bring this franchise some spotlight.
5. Vancouver Canucks
If the Avalanche played in the pacific division I’d hate to see Vancouver win the lottery but since they don’t then I can enjoy another team building an impressive group of young players which would just be fun to watch as a hockey fan.
6. Calgary Flames
Similar to the Vancouver situation, a non-division rival getting stronger doesn’t have much impact on the Avalanche so I’m fine if Calgary wins the pick. They have other issues to sort through so Lafrenière wouldn’t be the savior but seeing him more often in the Western Conference is fine by me.
7. Arizona Coyotes
The “Taylor Hall prophecy” meme is a little worn out at this point but would be an incredible way to top off his stay in Arizona by bringing his sixth first overall pick to the franchise he’s involved with. Lafrenière is the type of talent Arizona has been desperate to add for many years without a first overall pick in their history and should elevate what they are building. I might slot the Coyotes a little higher if they weren’t due to join the central division as soon as the Seattle Rainclouds enter the league.
8. New York Rangers
No denying that the Rangers will always get special advantages as a franchise but it would be fun to see Lafrenière under the bright lights in a big American market. Their youth movement could be a fun watch and far enough away from the Avalanche to have no impact on them.
9. Winnipeg Jets
The earliest acceptable slot for a central division team partially because technically their pick as Team E won the lottery so it would be cosmic justice for them to win their pick back. Lafrenière would fit well into their style but doesn’t solve Winnipeg’s biggest question mark of defense.
10. New York Islanders
Lafrenière could compliment Mathew Barzal really well but I never get visual confirmation of this team’s existence and Lafrenière wouldn’t change that. So, cool for them if they win, I guess.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins
With only two first round picks in the last seven years much less anything approaching a top tier addition, it probably is time for the Penguins to get that player who can bridge the next generation to another dynasty. But what fun is that if it’s not the team you root for? Plus the Penguins were sixth in the league at the time of the pause and wouldn’t have a shot at Lafrenière otherwise.
12. Nashville Predators
Another team downgraded for division status because this is a sneaky great fit for Lafrenière and the team as the last piece they haven’t been able to obtain. A franchise that has built themselves for decades without the benefit of many high picks or a first overall, Nashville would be a completely different look for a first overall landing spot and has earned some good fortune. But that could cause the Avalanche some problems unfortunately.
13. Chicago Blackhawks
Same situation as Pittsburgh with the aging dynasty but a division foe who was gifted third overall by winning the lottery in 2019 is not the franchise who you want to see land Lafrenière. At least his offensive talents could shine in Chicago but no thanks.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs
The internet firestorm would lose its charm pretty quick even as people gather their popcorn to watch yet another salary cap hurdle that the Leafs will eventually find a way over. There is such a thing as too many good forwards and Lafrenière would get lost in the shuffle there.
15. Minnesota Wild
I wouldn’t wish the Wild upon anyone especially a player I’m a big fan of. I don’t think Lafrenière solves all their problems even if they do manage to land him. Let’s leave the Kirill Kaprizov saga as their ongoing storyline.
16. Edmonton Oilers
As fun as it would be to watch any elite talent play with Connor McDavid, enough is enough. Four other first overall picks plus two top five and three additional top 10 selections in a decade is ludicrous. Save the all-star squad for the Olympics and hope the Oilers can figure out how to build their franchise through other means. It’s best for everyone involved.