The weeks leading up to the NHL Entry Draft are remarkably busy for general managers. Depending on the state of their franchise, they are looking to improve their team’s future by acquiring draft picks and/or prospects – or trading their draft picks and/or prospects for NHL players who will provide more immediate help. Arguably, the best way to have long term success in the NHL is by drafting and developing young players. This puts a massive emphasis on Amateur Scouting to rank players appropriately.
The New York Rangers have two first round picks, including the No. 1 selection having won the draft lottery. The Rangers also hold Carolina’s first pick, 22nd overall, from a trade involving defenceman Brady Skjei. However, Ottawa and New Jersey highlight the 2020 draft with three first round picks. Senators general manager Pierre Dorion traded centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the New York Islanders in a package for their 2020 first round pick which is now 28th overall. Dorion also acquired San Jose’s 2020 first round pick as part of the Erik Karlsson trade which has turned into No. 3 overall and also has their own first round pick at No. 5 overall. Last time a team had two picks in the top 5 was the New York Islanders in 2000 selecting goalie Rick DiPietro and left winger Raffi Torres first and fifth overall, respectively. DiPietro’s NHL career was riddled with injuries with only four healthy seasons with the Islanders while Torres played 635 games for five different teams.
Last year, New Jersey drafted first overall and selected highly touted prospect Jack Hughes. Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald can now add supporting pieces to his young up-and-coming team having Arizona’s first round pick (18th overall), in a mid-season trade for Taylor Hall. He sent Blake Coleman to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline in another package for Vancouver’s first and the Devils also have their own 2020 first at No. 7 overall.
Looking back at the past two decades there has been a long list of first round busts: in 2005 Benoit Pouliot to the Wild at fourth overall, in 2008 Nitika Filatov to the Blue Jackets at sixth overall, and one of the most memorable in 2012 Nail Yakupov to the Oilers first overall, just to name a few. To be fair it can be hard to project how 18-year-old kids will develop but it these picks can make or break a teams future. Both Dorion and Fitzgerald have a good chance to solidify their teams for years to come with the three first round picks they each have.
Arizona and Pittsburgh only have four picks in this year’s draft (at this point). The Coyotes lost two picks – their 2020 second round and 2021 first round picks – as a result of violating scouting combine policy by conducting physical testing for draft-eligible players. This year they have their own picks in rounds 4-7 and Pittsburgh has their own picks in rounds 3-6. Those late round picks mean more than some people may think. This is where NHL franchises lean heavily on their Amateur Scout rankings of draft-eligible players.
Here are my top 10 impact skaters picked starting from Round 4:
Drafting goalies can be a complete crapshoot but some work out. For example, in 2003 the Penguins picked Marc-Andre Fluery first overall and in 2005 the Canadiens picked Carey Price fifth overall; both have gone to have great careers. Others have been complete disappointments, though, such as Brent Krahn drafted eighth overall by the Flames in 2000, and the aforementioned Rick DiPietro.
Here are the top goalies from the past two decades picked starting from Round 4:
No matter how many picks any given team has, the work of each Amateur Scouting department is imperative from round 1 all the way through round 7. You never know how important those late round picks could be…