| Special to USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Woodlief, the chief scout and publisher of Red Line Report, provides an analysis of the 31 players taken in the first round of the NHL draft Tuesday, which is being held virtually. The first round of the draft takes place at 7 p.m. (NBCSN) and Rounds 2-7 will be completed Wednesday (11:30 a.m. ET). Of note: the New York Rangers have the first overall pick, the Ottawa Senators have the most picks (12) in the draft and three teams have the fewest selections with four — the Arizona Coyotes, Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins. (USA TODAY also recapped all the day’s news and rumors, including those related to trades.)
1. New York Rangers — LW Alexis Lafrenière. The clear-cut top overall prospect in this year’s class. Cemented his standing with an outstanding world juniors performance, where he overcame a knee injury to have a huge impact every game he played. Instinctively makes the right play in every situation. Deadly finisher who scores in every conceivable fashion and, if possible, is an even better creator for his linemates. Sees the whole ice and knows where all teammates and opponents are positioned. Soft hands and makes fabulous, jaw-dropping passes that are so imaginative they even surprise his linemates. Can thread any needle, showing touch on delicate saucers or firing crisp feeds on the tape as needed. In addition to the finesse, grinds it out physically and finishes checks hard. Wins battles and is relentless on the forecheck. If he doesn’t have the puck, he’ll go get it. Plays like a mature 10-year NHL vet.
2. Los Angeles Kings — C Quinton Byfield. Rare hybrid combination of a power forward with the puck skill of a smaller, dynamic player. He’s the huge, highly skilled center every team is looking for. Has all the qualities needed to excel: size, strength, skill, skating, excellent vision and anticipation. Uses his wide body and long reach to protect the puck and is impossible to move off it. Extremely hard to handle down low – uses size/strength to bull his way through checks. Creates loads of room for linemates by drawing defenders to him, then hits the open man. Heads-up passing plays in traffic combining a finesse style with physical dominance. Excellent start-up from down low in his stance. Great glide for such a huge guy. Underrated as a goal scorer with a wicked release on a rocket wrister. Doesn’t need much space – gets dangerous shots away with men draped over his back. Can be overly critical and get down on himself.
3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose) — C/LW Tim Stützle. Blazing skater who always plays at a fast speed and makes plays at top gear. Can carry the puck around and over sticks; tough to stop when he is in full flight. World-class edges and acceleration. Can take over shifts and just loses opponents with quick twists and turns. Has the ability to make one-touch plays, making fast puck movement decisions before the puck even reaches him. Passes have both snap and touch. More of a passer than shooter right now, but his stick is always in position and ready to shoot when puck comes his way. Lacks bulk right now but has a good frame – doesn’t really matter because nobody can catch him. Plays on the wing with his club team; will likely be a center long-term, but struggles with the defensive responsibilities at center.
4. Detroit Red Wings — RW Lucas Raymond. Little puck-handling wizard with deft hands who rarely misses chances near the cage. Highly skilled winger with tremendous hockey sense and super soft/fast hands that control the puck well in tight areas. Highly imaginative playmaker and always looking to set up plays for linemates, but needs to shoot more as he’s a true sniper in his own right. Fantastic vision and opens up the ice with surprising passes. Looked dynamic and poised in flashes playing against men in the SHL, but never received great ice time. Still managed to create lots of offensive opportunities with quick skating, turns and sharp cuts; slippery and draws lots of penalties. Makes smart and quick decisions, and is lethal on the power play with gives-and-goes and clever passes. Reads and anticipates beautifully and is always on the puck in prime scoring position. Small frame and can be overpowered along the defensive boards.
5. Ottawa Senators — D Jake Sanderson. Imposes his will with a constantly attacking mindset from the back end. Plays a forceful game and can dominate play. Puts the other team on their heels when he has the puck. Has instant jets when he decides to take off, and accelerates powerfully through the neutral zone, forcing defenders to back off the blue line. Tremendous top-end gear, and moves very well laterally either carrying the puck or defending. Dynamic in the offensive zone. Scores from 45 feet out with unbelievable bar-down missiles. Has terrific accuracy. Deftly walks the line on the power play to open up shooting/passing lanes. Makes great outlets and hits long homerun stretch passes. Will jolt opposing forwards with big hits, and uses his great feet and long reach to defend. Bit of a high-risk/high-reward -type defenseman, but he’s got the highest upside of any blueliner this year.
6. Anaheim Ducks — D Jamie Drysdale. Dynamic skater and puck mover. Smallish, but an aggressive defender. His smarts with the puck, excellent footwork and stick placement help him against bigger players. Tough to gain the offensive zone on his side of the ice – keeps his shoulders squared up to puck carriers and closes gaps perfectly. Extremely dangerous when he has the puck. Calculated passer spreads wealth out to all areas in offensive zone. Utilizes pinpoint accurate snap shots from far out, aiming for areas where teammates can get deflections. Superb skater links together world-class moves in all four directions. Jumps down in the blink of an eye for deep pinches and then easily gets back into defensive position again. Terrific initial burst allows him to win short-area races to loose pucks. Smart and instinctive both with and without the puck.
7. New Jersey Devils — RW Alexander Holtz. A natural sniper with great hands and dynamic release. Pounces on loose pucks/rebounds; he is is quick and hard to catch around the crease and slot. A deceptively fast skater with excellent edges and the strength to cut in from the outside and charge the net. Maybe lacks a final gear in acceleration, but it’s a relatively minor issue. Has underrated vision and will fake a shot while instead passing to an open ‘mate in one motion. Deft hands for receiving passes smoothly and rarely misses chances near the cage – needs zero time to tee up powerful release. Can handle and create off both sides of the blade and easily maintains puck control in tight spaces. Offensive-minded, but accountable in his backchecking and positioning in own zone. Had a somewhat disappointing season, never really getting quality minutes playing in the senior league, and by late in the season didn’t look as eager.
8. Buffalo Sabres — RW Jack Quinn. Aggressive winger cuts and slashes his way through traffic and gets himself to net. He’s a pure sniper who was on pace for well over 50 goals. Has a knack for sifting through the wash and winding up in dangerous scoring territory without being noticed. Exceptionally dangerous on the power play with a great one-timer. Attacks the slot and can walk defenders down; has good speed, but doesn’t look to go outside all the time. Will drive straight through and try to split the defense to take direct route to crease. One of the best finishers in the draft with excellent scoring touch from the circles in. He isn’t just a one-dimensional offensive player. Doesn’t shy away from the tough areas and shows no hesitation to battle in the corners or front of the net. But was also a beneficiary of terrific linemates and a dominant play. Doesn’t drive play on his own often enough.
9. Minnesota Wild — C Marco Rossi. Not big, not strong, and not super fast. But is a supremely intelligent playmaking center. Has soft hands and phenomenal vision, and is able to thread the needle with imaginative set-ups. Makes touch saucer passes through traffic off both sides of the blade. Tremendous instincts around the offensive zone. Also crafty in the neutral zone; lifts sticks from behind for steals and anticipates opponents’ passing plays, stepping in almost as though he was the intended target. Smooth skater is more elusive and shifty than explosive, but has good cruising speed. Great east-west lateral movement with puck. On the small side, but willing to get his nose dirty. Deadly dangerous on the power play, where he runs things from the half-wall. He is both an outstanding distributor and a terrific finisher from the circles in. Physical tools may not be imposing, but he’s the most intelligent and instinctive player in this entire class.
10. Winnipeg Jets — LW/C Cole Perfetti. Plays a highly skilled game and is able to consistently create chances. When his team doesn’t have the puck, he hounds it relentlessly and uses great anticipation to get it back. Powerful quads and low center of gravity allow him to leverage larger players off balance. Has a quick change-of-pace that he uses to leave defenders flat-footed often. Always wants the puck and has tremendous vision and hockey IQ. The one knock is that he’s not fast for just an average-sized guy, but he’s able to beat defenders one-on-one consistently with east-west movement and great stick-handling. Able to hold off defenders while making crisp set-up passes in traffic. Also has a sniper’s mentality and touch in tight and buries his chances. Used getting cut from Canada’s world junior team as motivation, and found a new level, playing with faster pace and asserting himself in every aspect of the game.
11. Nashville Predators — G Yaroslav Askarov. The draft’s biggest enigma. Coming into the year he was the best goalie prospect since Andrei Vasilevskiy. At his best, he is a tremendously advanced, game-changing, dominant force. Great size and movement skills. Plays like he’s relaxing in a rocking chair — ultra calm and no wasted movement. Baits shooters, then closes off holes. Shows a great feel for positioning in his crease. Gets good push off either skate when sliding laterally. Reads angles well. Handles pucks well behind his net, stopping hard ring-arounds for defenders. Spreads out down low to see through traffic. Has lightning-fast reflexes and good upper body movement. But this season, he looked nothing like his calm, dominant self of previous years. Let in several questionable goals, including a couple at key moments. Constantly out of his net, trying to do too much puck-handling and was frequently burned, turning pucks over that produced goals. Way too “busy” around crease – needs to become quiet again.
12. Florida Panthers — C Anton Lundell. Smart, strong, two-way center plows through defenders and makes a straight beeline for the net. Combines power with skill. Plays a big man’s game, controlling the center of the ice and creating space for linemates. Powerful skating stride with great puck protection. Physically dominant down low; very strong on his stick and owns the puck on the cycle, but is not really an elusive stick-handler. Has a heavy shot that he can get away with defenders on his back. Makes power moves out of corners, and is then able to thread touch passes through traffic to hit wingers in good scoring areas. Pays attention to every detail; strong on faceoffs and responsible defensively. Compete level is high in all three zones. Played in Liiga against men all year on a team with a deep roster and became a difference-maker during the season’s second half.
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto) — C Seth Jarvis. Biggest second-half riser on our board was Western Hockey League’s best player after January. Terrific offensive instincts and is constantly dangerous. His skating, puck-handling, and vision are all top-notch, and he anticipates plays that others don’t see. Plays an uptempo game every second he’s on ice. Deft passing touch and drops perfect saucers through traffic off both sides of the blade. Also a sneaky-good sniper with a nose for the net. His shot isn’t the hardest, but it’s extremely accurate with a blurry fast release – a natural scorer. Outstanding speed causes defensemen to back in, giving him room to work. Has the hands and puck skills to work through traffic, and will take pucks to the net. Has worked hard on play away from the puck and is responsible defensively, but playing against bigger, stronger opponents will always present a challenge.
14. Edmonton Oilers — C/LW Dylan Holloway. Showed steady improvement as a true freshman, and the game slowed down for him in the second half, leading to a late-season uptick in scoring production with nine points in his final 10 games. Smart, strong two-way player who grinds in the corners and established a strong net-front presence. Handles the puck on a string, regularly beating opponents in tight. Superb offensive zone cycle – strong, sturdy build is perfect for deep corner work and the net-front grind. Uses sharp stop/starts in confined areas. Fantastic work ethic and contributes at both ends. A purposeful skater with great edges and elite lateral movement. Relentless in puck pursuit and wins it back regularly for his team. Hovers around the net and uses it as protection to set up plays.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh) — LW Rodion Amirov. Big winger is rangy and skilled with a powerful stride and fast hands and stickwork. He’s a terrific skater with a very good size/speed combination. He ha focused aggression. Does a good job consistently battling to keep pucks alive around the crease. Gets in quickly on the forecheck to create problems for defenders. Sets up goals with persistent forechecking pressure, causing mistakes and turnovers that he turns into offense. Attacks the slot and is an opportunist who does his best work around the crease, pouncing on loose pucks and showing very good scoring touch. For an offensive winger, also does great work on the penalty kill, disrupting plays with quickness and anticipation. Consistently dangerous; can create off the rush and drives hard to the net. Likes to use long reach on wrap-arounds coming out from behind net.
16. Montreal Canadiens — D Kaiden Guhle. Big and highly mobile blue-liner has superb range, cruising through open spaces with effortless glide. He’s a very smooth skater who controls gaps confidently. Sprints back quickly to retrieve dump-ins. Has the ability to jump up on the rush, but his decision-making about when to do so isn’t always the best. Turns pucks up ice in a hurry, showing a seamless regroup out of his own end. Shoots low against the grain to try to sneak his shots through holes. Has a good shot but needs to do a better job of getting it on net. Contains forwards with standout body leveraging. Sometimes gets himself out of position trying too hard to be physical. Strong neutral zone player who shows instincts and commitment in transition. Complementary offensive producer at next level due to limited vision and creativity in his passing.
17. Chicago Blackhawks — LW Lukas Reichel. After a season of stalled development last year, became quite a factor in the DEL this season, scoring regularly on a strong team. A fleet-footed skater with excellent feet – very quick off the mark, agile in close quarters and can get up ice in a hurry. Lugs the puck up ice and makes plays at top gear. Reacts quickly to scoring chances in traffic. Skinny build and not strong or physical, but does not shy away from going to the dirty areas. Gets too fancy at times, trying behind-the-back passes that often don’t connect. Is quite dangerous around the net, possesses a quick and hard wrist shot. Has to work on becoming more physical, but he’s good at cushioning and absorbing hits. Also very good at finding open ice against bigger and older players by keeping his feet moving. Needs to work on his 200-foot game – he struggles defensively.
18. New Jersey (from Arizona) — RW Dawson Mercer. This slick, edgy winger always makes the right play with the puck. Always hungry to score and has a real thirst to improve himself. Is a finisher first and foremost, but also makes plays and grinds down low – keeps his feet moving in traffic. A real puck hound who is relentless in pursuit – if he doesn’t have it, he’ll go get it. Has terrific offensive zone instincts and anticipation – goes where the puck will be two seconds from now. Keeps his stick on the ice around net and is always ready to receive a pass and shoot in one motion. Can get hard, accurate shots off from anywhere but is also effective driving the net. Superior hockey sense in all three zones. Understands game situations and is a complete player who can be used in every facet. Wants to be a go-to player in big moments.
19. New York Rangers (via Calgary Flames) — D Braden Schneider. Big D-man with good mobility. Steady defender significantly improved the offensive elements of his game. He’s an aggressive puck-mover now, and his instincts to join the offensive flow and create odd-man rushes are spot-on. Powerful skater with the ability to ditch forecheckers, then make plays at top speed. Smartly supports puck carriers and presents himself as an outlet. Disrupts passing lanes with an active stick. Demonstrates quick feet on his pivots. Strong in battles down low. Clears the front of the crease. Moves feet to get to loose pucks instead of reaching. Makes crisp, effective outlets, but also not afraid to chip pucks off glass – doesn’t force passes. Uses sturdy frame to ride forwards hard into the boards and deliver big hits. Solid positioning. Provides high value by making quick, simple plays out of the defensive end on retrievals, never getting hemmed in.
20. Devils (from Vancouver via Tampa Bay) — D Shakir Mukhamadullin. A really smooth, fluid athlete with a lean frame that will add much more mass. Puck-moving D-man who plays with confidence and is able to push the pace. Makes smart plays when hounded by pressure in the offensive zone – instinctively gets pucks to open ice, letting his wingers skate onto it. Great combination of size and skating ability. Elevates saucers off both sides of the blade and drops them softly right on the tape. Opens the hips and gets incredible torque on screaming one-timers. All his shots are lethal lasers – may have the hardest point blast of any D-man in this draft. Loves to step up in the neutral zone to break up plays and transition quickly to offense with sharp passes. Does not use his size at all or get involved physically, but is still effective defensively with good awareness and an active stick. We’d like to see more passion – tends to play at one speed the whole game.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets — RW Yegor Chinakhov. The 19-year-old Russian started the 2020-21 KHL season for Avangard Omsk with seven points, including five goals, in his first 12 games.
22. Washington Capitals (from Calgary via Rangers via Carolina) — C Hendrix Lapierre. We love everything about his game, but his breakout showing at last August’s Hlinka tournament was overshadowed by injury woes all season. With a clean bill of health, he’d be in our top 10. Only appeared in 19 games because of concussions, which have since been re-diagnosed as a neck problem. Outstanding playmaker with great vision and passing ability, especially when running the power play from the half-wall. Spreads out the ice as a high-end distributor. Makes pinpoint passes. Has extremely soft, fast hands and shows terrific puck control at top flight, regularly dangling through double or triple coverage. Cradles even the toughest passes and can shoot on the fly, getting great torque and wrist snap on his release. Great changes of direction – can stop on a dime and instantly cut in another direction. Exerts relentless puck pressure. Plays with intensity and not afraid to battle for pucks.
23. Philadelphia Flyers — RW Tyson Foerster. We love everything about his game. He’s got a prototypical power winger’s frame that is only going to get stronger. Has elite vision and hockey sense in all three zones, and is a highly imaginative playmaker. He does everything at a pro level. Has a wicked shot with a lightning release. Extremely smart and patient. Deadly sniper. Big, strong, and rugged. Plays a physical game and is strong in puck battles. Goes to all the right areas at the right times. Has excellent hands and fine playmaking skills. Strong work ethic. He simply cannot skate. Not even a little bit. Lacks both first-step quickness and a top-end gear. Struggles in transition and to keep his feet moving. And the problem is not a lack of leg strength. It’s a short, ugly, knock-kneed stride. We don’t know if that can be fixed. If it could, you’d be looking at a top-15 pick.
24. Calgary Flames (via Washington) — C Connor Zary. Making the correct play with the puck comes naturally for him and he shows poise beyond his years. One of best assets is his puck control – strong along the boards and maintains possession through traffic. Makes plays with his head up, has good vision and exploits holes in the defensive coverage by executing accurate passes, showing one-touch distribution. Has an impressive knack for bursting through holes into open ice at just the right moment to receive a pass, and buries his chances around the slot. Is not a player who tries fancy stuff; keeps it simple pursuing effective options of getting the puck to net. Very consistent effort without the puck. Keeps his feet moving in the defensive zone. Comes back deep to help his defensemen, and does a good job making himself available on tough exits. A high-energy competitor who does something to get your attention every viewing.
25. Colorado Avalanche — D Justin Barron. Has a long, powerful skating stride and good instincts on both sides of the puck to establish himself as a steady presence on the blueline. Was mildly disappointing early on, as he failed to take the next step offensively when given a boatload of minutes after a big chunk of the Halifax blueline moved on. Then in early December, things got worse as he was diagnosed with blood clots and shut down for nearly three months, but he did get a clean bill of health and got seven games in before the season was canceled. That being said, he remains a good prospect with a fine size/mobility combination, and the hockey sense to potentially become a second-pairing defenseman. Will rarely have any big brain cramps, and plays a steady game in his own end. Positionally sound and will get physical around the crease and in corner battles.
26. St. Louis Blues — LW Jake Neighbours. A wrecking ball on ice who uses square frame to bounce around traffic. Always makes us take notice, whether it’s scoring a key goal or getting under opponents’ skin as a super pest. Very tenacious and likes to take the puck straight to net. Uses sharp cutbacks in slot to get goalies to over-commit. Good forechecker and likes to finish his checks. No ego here – is a goal-scorer with a grinder mentality. Sneaks behind defenders at just the right moments and shows real touch in tight. Fights past contact on the walls to get the puck down low and finds prime passing lanes around the slot. A prototypical pro-style winger. An emerging leader with a big heart. Already far along in his development curve, so there may not be much upside left. Just an average skater; must get quicker, but we could see him becoming leaner and increasing speed as he matures.
27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston) — RW Jacob Perreault. Bright offensive light on a bad team was on track for a 40-goal season. Dynamic offensive player with a nose for the net is a cold-blooded sniper in scoring areas. Shows great hands and dynamic moves to get in alone, walking defenders down and showing patience to outwait goalies in tight. Can dangle between defenders in traffic. Jumps past coverage to pounce on rebounds. Powerful wrists give him an explosive shot with a quick release and takes every shot like he’s trying to put it through the net. Stocky build with powerful legs and core. Strong on his skates and tough to knock off the puck. He’s a deceptively quick skater who uses his edges effectively on sharp cuts. Needs to show a more well-rounded game – lacks attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck, and his effort level is inconsistent from shift-to-shift. Needs to ramp up the intensity of his game.
28. Ottawa Senators (from N.Y. Islanders) — LW Ridly Greig. One of RLR’s personal favorites struggled offensively in first half after missing time with an early suspension, but was on fire when the season was canceled, routinely picking up 2-3 points per game over the last dozen. Old-school throwback will search out the biggest opponents and get under their skin cleanly. Super pest extraordinaire constantly pokes and prods players when ref’s back is turned. Amazing strength on skates for his size, so much stronger than he appears. Finds space to shoot in traffic. Excellent change of direction, skillfully pivoting around defenders. Dynamic passer sends feeds off backhand a split-second after receiving them on forehand. Floats flawless seam passes at top flight on the go and can stickhandle through triple coverage. Loves the corner battles and deliberately jostles goalies at every conceivable turn. Will score dirty goals, and also snipe beauties.
29. Vegas Golden Knights — C Brendan Brisson. One of this year’s meteoric risers in our rankings. Gets pucks onto linemates’ tape for grade-A scoring chances or finishes plays off himself. Competes at a high level and is just as effective without the puck as he is with it – an asset in all three zones. Terrific skater with east-west agility, breakaway acceleration and a top-end separation gear. Processes the game quickly and always plays with a great up-tempo pace. Thinks a step ahead, anticipates developing plays and goes to where the puck will be two seconds from now. Versatile and shifty; can power down with the puck on his hip and make opponents miss with elusive hands and ability to maintain possession through traffic. Size isn’t ideal but plays a big game and doesn’t shy away from the hard areas.
30. Dallas Stars — C Mavrik Bourque. One of the season’s biggest risers is a wonderfully creative playmaker with hockey sense that is off the charts. Agile, athletic skater has really improved his first step acceleration. Pinpoint passer sees the whole ice beautifully and uses everyone around him – makes his wingers better. Works extremely smart passing plays on the rush trying to create seams to the net. Fast hands and reflexes often allow him to steal pucks and gain clean faceoff wins. Not big, but battles off checks to get free. Cycles quickly and instinctively around the offensive zone. Takes the puck straight to net. Plays a north-south game with lots of hard stop/starts – there’s no rounding corners in his game. Needs very little time or space to fire rocket wristers. Shows terrific leadership qualities and had really come into his own the last six weeks prior to the season ending – development curve was headed straight upward.
31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay) — RW Ozzy Wiesblatt. Has magical hands in tight, some of the best in the draft. Has tremendous confidence in his puck-handling and a high degree of patience around the net. Can easily thread passes through defenders’ skates. Brings speed and energy to the team and leads by example every night. Plays in all situations. Not afraid to get his nose dirty, and was born with attitude. Has a real “IT” factor about him. Shot is only average, but it’s sneaky-quick and he should use it more – he’s especially deadly on the power play. Short but stocky forward uses sharp cuts to delay, and then bursts to holes. Hits passes on the fly with creative placement. Tries hard when out-numbered in corners. Fires hard at teammates’ sticks for designed tip plays. Finds loose pucks in traffic and uses nimble edging to escape. Works the offensive zone cycle to perfection, creating extended offensive pressure.