Picking winners and losers immediately after an entry draft is always a dangerous game. You can soak up all the game tape, pre-draft rankings and expert analysis your heart can handle, but there's no guarantee that things will go to plan. It often takes years to find out whether a player booms or busts ... sometimes it even takes years for us to see them at the pro level at all.
Of course, that never stops anyone from providing way-too-early takes and reactions, so who am I to turn down the opportunity to provide some totally unsubstantiated praise or criticism? With the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft going down on Tuesday night, here are some winners and losers that could wind up on Old Takes Exposed years down the line.
Winner: New York Rangers
They locked themselves in as winners as soon as they won the lottery earlier this summer. With the top pick they land Alexis Lafreniere, who is the unquestioned top overall prospect and a potential generational talent. The young winger is a dynamic, well-rounded playmaker who can beat you in a number of different ways. He's a great shooter, a great passer, has elite hands and isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas.
By taking Lafreniere at the top of the draft, the Rangers secured themselves another massive building block for the future and he should be a game-changer in New York for a long time to come.
Winner: Quinton Byfield
There was some question as to which center the Los Angeles Kings would take with the No. 2 overall pick, Byfield or Tim Stutzle, but they ultimately went with Byfield. That's a big deal for Byfield, and not just because he gets bragging rights over Stutzle or because he gets to live in Los Angeles instead of Ottawa. By going second overall, Byfield becomes the highest drafted Black player in NHL history. (Evander Kane and Seth Jones, who were both drafted fourth overall in their respective drafts, shared the record before Tuesday.)
Winner: Ottawa Senators
Yes, the Senators had a very solid first round that saw them take three promising prospects (Stutzle, Jake Sanderson and Ridly Greig) who should help them build for the future. But they also had the most notable draft announcement of the night when they enlisted Alex Trebek to make the third overall pick:
That was the coolest and most creative moment of the first round on Tuesday and the Senators deserve a lot of credit for thinking outside of the box in a weird draft year. It's also encouraging for the #brand considering the Senators have had one of the worst-run organizations in hockey (both on the ice and from a PR perspective) over the past few years.
Winner: Minnesota Wild
It seems like there's always at least one talented prospect who gets taken later than expected thanks to a lack of size, despite the fact that they've produced and excelled at almost every level leading up to the draft. Those players often enter the league with a chip on their shoulder and end up making teams look silly for doubting them.
That player in this year's draft could be Marco Rossi, who went to the Minnesota Wild with the ninth overall pick. As a 5-foot-9 center, he's lacking in height but his offensive ability is pretty remarkable and he's a beast in the weight room.
Rossi led the CHL with 120 points in 56 games last season and he might make the jump straight to the NHL and contribute right away for the Wild.
Loser: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Red Wings gave us a minor surprise by taking Lucas Raymond fourth overall, but the biggest stunner of the first round was undeniably provided by Columbus at No. 21. The Blue Jackets elected to choose Russian winger Yegor Chinakhov with that selection -- a pick so far off the board that it resulted in chaos that looked like this:
Columbus obviously saw something it loves in Chinakhov -- general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said CBJ had him in their top 10 prospects -- but they probably could have gotten him A LOT later. According to EliteProspects, Chinakhov was ranked 59th by Craig Button and 173rd by Mckeen's Hockey.
It might be too early to criticize a player but it's probably not too early to criticize the pick. I'm all for jumping on a player you really like early, but when he's that far off the board then it's probably smart to employ some savvy asset management by trading back or using that pick for someone else before getting the other guy later.
While it's always fun to see which prospects end up going where (and when), a big part of the drama and intensity of draft day surrounds the possibility of big trades. Teams often utilize their draft capital to make a big splash on the trade market and it seemed like there was plenty of potential for that to happen on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, no dice.
Four trades were made on draft night but all were pick swaps and all had relatively low "oomph" factor.
Winner: Nashville Predators
One of the more interesting storylines heading into the draft was where Yaroslav Askarov would end up. Goalies don't often go in the first round but scouts have raved about Askarov, with many calling him the best goaltending prospect since Carey Price. If that turns out to be remotely true, the Predators got themselves a massive difference-maker with the 11th overall pick.
If he can be ready to go within a few years, Askarov also fills a need for the Preds. Their franchise netminder Pekka Rinne is declining, with Juuse Saros taking over as starter between the pipes last season. Both of those guys have expiring contracts after this season, so Askarov could find himself with an opportunity sooner rather than later if he continues to impress.
Loser: Washington Capitals
The Caps took a big gamble on Tuesday night when they traded up in order to select Hendrix Lapierre with the 22nd overall pick. It's a move that has potential to pay big dividends, as Lapierre was seen by some as a top 10 or top 15 talent in this year's class. But he's got concerning health issues involving his head and neck. According to The Athletic, Lapierre was diagnosed with a twisted vertebrae that carried concussion-like symptoms.
Obviously, Washington felt comfortable enough rolling the dice for the Lapierre's high ceiling, and that's normally something I can get behind. It's a little tougher to swallow when they traded up (sending picks No. 24 and No. 80 to Calgary) in order to do so. It's not a massive price to pay to move up a few spots, but it means that the Caps' next pick won't be until the fourth round. Unless they trade into the next couple of rounds, they're essentially gambling their entire draft on the one guy who had the biggest red flag.
Loser: Production value
There are certain sacrifices you have to make when you're making an entire draft virtual, but the NHL probably should have spent some money on higher quality webcams or higher quality internet connections (looking at you, Winnipeg) in order to avoid some of the mess that we saw on Tuesday night.