Adding a player like Alexis Lafreniere would be a huge boost for the Detroit Red Wings’ rebuilding efforts.
To get him, they will need more draft lottery luck than they have had the past three years.
Lafreniere, a left wing from Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is the consensus favorite to be selected first in this year’s NHL draft.
The Red Wings will learn Friday whether they will land Lafreniere during the first of potentially two phases of the draft lottery (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network, NHL Network).
The date of the draft has not been set. If the NHL’s restart happens as planned, the draft likely would be in late September or early October.
The Red Wings have an 18.5 percent chance of winning the lottery after finishing with the worst record during the coronavirus-abbreviated regular season (17-49-5, 39 points). They have a 16.5 percent chance of drafting second, a 14.4 percent chance of selecting third and a 50.6 percent chance of dropping to fourth, the lowest they can go.
The Ottawa Senators have the best odds at landing the top pick at 25 percent – based on their own chances (13.5 percent) and owning San Jose’s pick (11.5 percent).
Lafreniere (6-1, 192) possesses an elite combination of scoring and passing ability, speed, and a willingness to play in traffic. He was the MVP on Canada’s 2020 World Junior Championship gold medal-winning team and tallied 35 goals and 77 assists in 52 games this season. He can also play center.
J-F Damphousse, NHL Central Scouting’s regional scout for Quebec and the Maritimes, praised Lafreniere’s all-around ability in April.
“I think you could consider every aspect as elite when you look at his skating, his puck skills,” Damphousse said. “One of his best assets in general is his vision, his playmaking skills. Every game I saw him play he makes plays that we don’t even think are possible.
“I think what separates him from the pack is his compete level. He’s willing to play physical. He battles every game and anytime the game is on the line you want him on the ice. He makes big plays and he responds under pressure.”
If the Red Wings wind up with the second pick, they are likely to select either center Quinton Byfield of Sudbury (OHL) or winger Tim Stuetzle of Mannheim (Germany).
Byfield (6-5, 214) collected 32 goals and 50 assists in 45 games. He skates well for a big man, has good hands and plays a 200-foot game. That combination of size and skill have drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.
Stuetzle (5-11, 178) is a flashy player with high-end offensive skills who plays for the same team that defenseman Moritz Seider, selected sixth by Detroit last year, did.
If the Red Wings drop to fourth, defenseman Jamie Drysdale of Erie (OHL) could be their selection. He shoots right and picked up nine goals and 38 assists in 47 games this season. He is not big (5-11, 174) but skates well and has high-end offensive ability.
Drysdale would eventually join a young defense corps that includes Filip Hronek, who established himself in the NHL this season, and Seider, who hopes to make the jump from Grand Rapids next season. Dennis Cholowski could be part of the mix if he improves defensively and Gustav Lindstrom as well if he earns a spot in training camp. Down the road, prospects Jared McIsaac, Albert Johansson and Antti Tuomisto could join this group.
The Red Wings need help offensively and defensively, as well as a goaltender of the future.
This is the fourth time the Red Wings have participated in the draft lottery. They have dropped in each of the previous three – from seventh (based on record) to ninth in 2017, from fifth to sixth in 2018 and from fourth to sixth in 2019.
Odds of winning the lottery for the four other clubs not taking part in the NHL’s restart are: Los Angeles (9.5 percent), Anaheim (8.5 percent), New Jersey (7.5 percent) and Buffalo (6.5 percent).
The remaining eight spots in the lottery will be placeholders for the teams that lose in the qualifying round. If any of the three draws Friday are won by teams taking part in the qualifying round, a second lottery phase involving the eight clubs that lose in the qualifying round will take place later this summer.
More: Draft analysts rank the top 2020 prospects
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