Though it lacked the in-person hype that it has become known for, the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft created its fair share of memories, many of which with a focal point on several talented players from the QMJHL, who saw five of its players chosen.
The evening started predictably enough, with the New York Rangers choosing Rimouski Oceanic superstar Alexis Lafreniere first overall, capping off a moment several years in the making. The kid from Saint-Eustache, Quebec entered the “Q” as the first overall selection in 2017 and took it by storm from the very beginning. He caps off his major junior career with 297 points in 173 regular season games, including back-to-back 100-point campaigns. In 2019-20, the multi-dimensional winger earned the Jean-Beliveau Trophy as the league’s top scorer (112 points), his second straight CHL Player of the Year Award, second consecutive Paul-Dumont Trophy as QMJHL Personality of the Year while also leading Team Canada to a gold medal performance at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. He becomes the eleventh player in QMJHL history to be chosen first overall and the third in the past seven years after Nico Hischer (New Jersey, 2017) and Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado, 2013). He is also the third player chosen first overall in Oceanic franchise history, following in the steps of Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh, 2005) and Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay, 1998).
The second QMJHLer came off the board at pick number 18, when the New Jersey Devils chose Chicoutimi Sagueneens center Dawson Mercer. A three-year veteran of the league, Mercer began his major junior career with the Drummondville Voltigeurs after being chosen eighth overall at the 2017 QMJHL Draft. The past two seasons have seen the Bay Roberts, Newfoundland native steadily improve while also grabbing the attention of scouts around the NHL. After a point-per-game effort with a strong Volts squad in 2018-19, Mercer proceeded to lead the club to an impressive first half showing which helped put his rising stock into overdrive. Like Lafreniere, Mercer also captured gold with Team Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship while making his mark at the CIBC Canada-Russia series as well as with his new club in Chicoutimi, where he registered 18 points in 16 games last winter.
One of the most inspiring athletes from this year’s Draft class heard his name called when, with the 22nd selection, the Washington Capitals chose center Hendrix Lapierre. Though injuries limited the product of Gatineau, Quebec to just 19 games last season, the first overall selection form the 2018 QMJHL Draft has maintained nearly a point per game average since entering the league, including a hot start to the 2020-21 campaign, with five points in his first two games all the while continuing to hone his reliable two-way game. A standout with Team Canada at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Lapierre posted 11 points in five games during that tournament. With the picks of Mercer and Lapierre, the Sagueneens witnessed the selection of two players from their squad in the first round of the NHL Draft for the first time since 1981.
The blueline was a focus when the Colorado Avalanche took to the webcam at pick 25. That’s when Halifax Mooseheads defenseman Justin Barron heard his name called. The Halifax native put together a strong sophomore season with 41 points in 68 games plus 13 more in 23 postseason contests with a Mooseheads squad that punched its ticket to both the President and Memorial Cup Finals. A blood clot and a depleted roster in Halifax saw his third year in the “Q” reduced to 34 games and 19 points. A smooth skater and puckhandler, Barron, who was named captain of the Moose during their recently completed training camp, will be expected to bring leadership both on and off the ice for a team in transition in the Nova Scotia capital.
The defending Western Conference Champion Dallas Stars made Shawinigan Cataractes center Mavrik Bourque the 30th selection on the night. Entering his third year in the “Q”, the 18-year-old from Plessisville, Quebec has registered 126 points in 115 regular season games, including 71 points in 2019-20 with a Cataractes team that’s been rising through the league standings. A dynamic performer, particularly from the opposing blueline in, Bourque is expected to lead the charge with a Shawinigan club that will likely land in the upper echelons of the circuit this year. He also becomes the first Cataractes player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft since Francis Beauvillier was chosen 28th overall by the New York Islanders in 2015.
Rounds 2-7 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft will take place on Wednesday starting at 11:30AM ET (12:30PM AT).