New York Rangers Snag No. 1 Pick in 2020 NHL Draft
Wow! What can I say? As someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes Rangers hockey (and has for the last 14 years) I am ecstatic. What did you expect my reaction to be? As I watched the draft lottery live in my chair, my head in my hands and my fingers crossed, praying to the hockey Gods "please, please, please..." it happened! That little white ping-pong ball bounced up and changed the fate of a franchise forever.
There shouldn't be any questions as to who is going first overall this year. The highly coveted prospect has put the league and its fans on notice since he was drafted #1 overall by the Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 2017. The Canadian native, Alexis Lafrenière has been put in the same conversation as guys like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid as far as #1 picks go. He is one of the most hyped prospects of all time. You would be hard pressed to talk to any hockey fan this year without them mentioning Alexis Lafrenière. This guy is the real deal. His face is everywhere in the hockey world, and if he is what everyone is hyping him up to be, he is a once-in-a-generation talent.
If in-fact the Rangers draft Lafrenière with the No. 1 pick, he will be joining one of the stronger prospect pools in the league. The Rangers future was already bright, adding Lafrenière would make it glisten. New York had the second overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft, where they drafted right winger Kaapo Kakko.
In three seasons in the QMJHL, Lafrenière has posted 114 goals, (42 in 2017-18, 37 in 2018-19, 35 in 2019-20) 183 assists, (38 in 2017-18, 68 in 2018-19, 77 in 2019-20) and 297 points. Lafrenière is also a two-time World Junior Champion with Team Canada.
Be sure to tune into the 2020 NHL Draft, October 9-10.
Watch the full 2020 NHL Draft lottery here:
2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Update
The play-in round is over, the re-seeding is over... The (real) first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs commences on Tuesday, August 11th. Lets recap so far.
Philadelphia Flyers (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8)
Philadelphia did it. They managed to knock the Boston Bruins off the top of the mountain and take the 1 seed for themselves in the East. Philadelphia looks like the real deal this season. They are a dangerous team and not to be taken lightly. Since the NHL resume, the Flyers have been my pick as the top team coming out of the East. They just look faster and hungrier compared to the other round-robin contestants. (Lightning, Bruins, Capitals)
What a surprise coming out of Montreal! I'll be the first one to admit it... I was very, very sure that the Pittsburgh Penguins would knock off the Canadiens. After Montreal took game one, I said to myself "it's all good... Stay cool, there is still a whole series left." I was wrong. Pittsburgh was only able to salvage one game in the short play-in series, and the Montreal Canadiens took it 3 games to 1.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)
Here is it! Tampa Bay fans' WORST nightmare... This is a rematch of the 2019 first round playoff series between these two teams, where the Wild Card Columbus Blue Jackets swept the first seed Tampa Bay Lightning, resulting in one of the biggest upsets in Stanley Cup history.
Columbus has the history on their side. They've caused Tampa Bay more pain than you could cause in a sports series. Tampa Bay has something to prove, they cannot go out in the first round again if they ever want to be taken seriously anytime in the near future.
Columbus has already delivered one upset so far this year. They eliminated the heavily favored Toronto Maple Leafs 3 games to 2 in the play-in series. Leafs nation endures another year of suffering and heartbreak, now making it 53 years since their last Stanley Cup victory, and 15 years since their last playoff series win.
Tampa Bay played good hockey in their round-robin tournament. They managed to maintain their original 2 seed.
Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Islanders (6)
The New York Islanders eliminated the Florida Panthers 3 games to 1 on Friday, August 7th. The Islanders looked strong offensively throughout their short play-in series, and Seymon Varlamov was immaculate in goal for New York. Beauvillier, Bailey and Nelson are becoming a deadly weapon that head coach Barry Trotz can use to try and move onto the next round. From what I saw during the play-in series, the Islanders power-play was weak (4-for-16, 25% in power play opportunities) and their defense looked sleepy. the Islanders need to work on both of these if they have any hope of eliminating Washington. Other than that, New York's 5-on-5 play, and their penalty kill was spectacular.
New York heads into the first round facing off against a bitter division rival, the Washington Capitals. Alexander Ovechkin and co. are looking to add another Stanley Cup to their resumes. Their road to the Cup begins Wednesday, August 12th.
Boston Bruins (4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (5)
Boston fans... Are you panicking yet? When the season was postponed back in March, Boston held the 1 seed in the East, and looked unstoppable. They were my pick to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions in 2020. That was, until their abysmal performance in the round-robin tournament. The Bruins went 0-4 in the tournament, and fell from the 1st seed all the way down to the 4th seed. It also didn't help to calm Boston fans nerves' when it was announced by head coach Bruce Cassidy that both Tuukka Rask and David Pastrnak were "unfit to participate" in Monday's team practice.
The Carolina Hurricanes are on the exact opposite wave. They are coming off of a sweep of the New York Rangers, where Carolina looked dominant. Andrei Svechnikov scored a hat trick in game 2, Sebastian Aho looked like his normal All-Star self, Petr Mrázek and James Reimer both looked unstoppable in net, and now to make matters worse for Boston, the Hurricanes are most likely getting All-Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton back from injury just in time for game 1.
Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (8)
I said it from the beginning, all the way back in my predictions article I wrote a few weeks ago prior to the NHL resume, Vegas was my pick to come out of the west. And boy, did they not disappoint during their round-robin tournament. Vegas managed to catapult themselves from the 3rd seed to the 1st seed in the Western Conference.
Chicago really surprised me. I expected the Edmonton Oilers to run Chicago into the ground during the play-in series, but I was proven wrong. Three-time Stanley Cup Champions Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have shown that they still know how to turn it on in big moments. Chicago ousted Edmonton 3 games to 1.
Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Arizona Coyotes (7)
Although Colorado lost their 1 seed to Vegas, they are still a strong team and are still very capable of winning the West this year. Colorado has Calder Memorial finalist Cale Makar and top NHL talent Nathan MacKinnon. Do not sleep on Colorado. I think they will surprise a lot of people.
Arizona showed guts during their play-in series against the Nashville Predators, where they eliminated Nashville 3 games to 1. They showed that they are not to be taken lightly either. After years of being the laughing stock of the league, Arizona appears to have a bright future.
Dallas Stars (3) vs. Calgary Flames (6)
Dallas moved up! They managed to get themselves into the 3rd seed in the west, moving up one spot from their original 4th seed. Dallas went 1-3 in their round-robin series, and perhaps the only reason they moved up one seed was because St. Louis had an even worse showing than Dallas did. Dallas needs to step it up if they want to survive against Calgary.
The Calgary Flames defeated the Winnipeg Jets 3 games to 1. Much like Dallas, there was a caveat to the Flames' success. Winnipeg had to play much of their series against Calgary with two of their stars sitting out with injury. Both Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele were injured in game 1. In my opinion, if both guys managed to stay healthy, I see that series going to opposite way and the Jets taking the series victory.
However, here we are. Calgary vs Dallas. Calgary is a very big, physical team and Dallas has to be prepared for a fight if they have any hope of winning this series.
St. Louis Blues (4) vs. Vancouver Canucks (5)
Is this a pattern? Both Stanley Cup participants from last year have dropped their 1 seed this year. Much like the Boston Bruins in the East, the St. Louis Blues went 0-4 in their round-robin tournament, and dropped to the 4th seed.
The Vancouver Canucks eliminated the Minnesota Wild 3 games to 1. Vancouver looks to keep their hot-streak going and eliminate St. Louis, while St. Louis looks to shake their rough start and defend their Stanley Cup.
Folks, if your team managed to make it to the official first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, congrats to you! Us hockey fans know that nothing comes close to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's the best time of the year.
There can only be one winner, each one of these teams have a legitimate chance to take home the Cup, because as we know, ANYTHING can happen in the Playoffs. Nothing is certain. To those of you who's teams didn't make it to the promise land, and to those of you who's team has already been booted, my heart goes out to you.
Good luck to whomever your team may be!