With the NHL season well underway, the top draft picks have officially begun their professional careers in one of the craziest seasons the league has ever seen. In typical years, the NHL draft picks would be making their first appearances in NHL arenas all across the United States and Canada but, during this COVID-19 season, they are limited to playing in only the arenas in their division so many NHL fans might not have had the chance to watch the top draftees. So, let’s get caught up with the 2020 NHL entry level draft top 3 picks’ and see how their seasons are going so far.
The first pick in the virtual draft went to the New York Rangers who chose Rimouski’s Alexis Lafrenière. In the shortened 2019-20 season, he scored 35 goals and had 77 assists in only 52 games; to say that his season was outstanding would be an understatement.
While Lafrenière has not been putting up the points that he did in the QMJHL, the beginning of his career has been interesting. In 14 games, Lafrenière has 1 point, 2 penalty minutes, and is a -7 overall. The Quebecer scored his first NHL goal in his home arena, Madison Square Gardens, on January 28th when the Rangers were taking on the Buffalo Sabres. In his seventh NHL game, Lafrenière slipped one past Sabres’ goalie, Linus Ullmark, in overtime to win the game for the Rangers.
While the first overall draft pick has not had the start to the season that was expected, Lafrenière has not disappointed. So far, he has fit into the Rangers lineup perfectly and has been logging some serious minutes for NYR. There is no doubt that Alexis Lafrenière will have an impactful NHL career.
The Los Angeles Kings, with the second pick in the 2020 NHL draft, chose Sudbury Wolves’ Quinton Byfield. In the OHL, Byfield put up 32 goals and 50 assists in 45 games with the Wolves. Byfield being picked second overall was a no brainer; a 6’4 18 year old who commands the play with his impressive hands and explosive stride was a huge acquisition for the Kings.
Byfield did not crack the LA roster for the 2021 shortened COVID NHL season but he is still playing for the Kings’ AHL team, Ontario Reign. The AHL season started on February 5th and the Reign have only played 5 games so far but Byfield has not disappointed. In 5 games, number 55 has a goal and 2 assists.
Quinton Byfield scored his first professional goal this past weekend, on February 14th, against Tucson on a sweet rebound right in front of Tuscon’s net.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of Quinton Byfield’s first professional season goes and whether or not he gets called up to the LA roster where he will, no doubtely, make a major impact on the front end.
The Ottawa Senators had the third and fifth pick in the first round of the 2020 NHL draft and with the third pick, the Senators chose Tim Stützle, one of Germany’s most dynamic players. Tim, or Jimmy as he is now known as, caught the hockey world’s attention during the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton when he led Team Germany to the quarterfinals.
Tim was a perfect choice for the Senators who are currently during a rebuild and are putting together quite the group of young guns. Stützle is a fast, dynamic left winger who can easily deke the puck around any defender and that has, most certainly, showed in his first 14 games with Ottawa.
So far, Tim, or Jimmy, has put up 4 goals and 3 assists in 14 games and has became a mainstay with the Senators. Stützle scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on January 16th in only his second NHL game.
With the pace that Tim Stützle is on, he is, most definitely, in Calder contention. It will be interesting to see how well he continues to play for the struggling senators.
The 2021 season has been an unforgettable season so far and a season that these NHL rookies will never forget. We, at Unbenched, are looking forward to see how Lafrenière, Byfield, and Stützle continue to play.