The 2020 Draft Lottery is scheduled for this Friday, and we are several seasons removed from the 2017 NHL Draft. Thus far in that draft class there’ve been only three players really stand out in Elias Pettersson (VAN 5), Cale Makar (COL 4) and Nico Hischier (NJ 1). Otherwise, that particular group of 1st round picks still has a lot of work to distinguish themselves.
Lias Andersson, New York Rangers
The Rangers used their 1st round pick, 7th overall on Swedish C/W Lias Andersson while the Sabres chose center Casey Mittlestadt one pick later. At the time, many fans and experts alike were surprised by the selection of Andersson with the higher ranked Mittlestadt right there. Bob McKenzie’s first words when Lias was selected were, “Rangers go off the board here.”
Since the Blueshirts selected him, drama has seemed to follow. Everyone recalls the medal toss at the 2018 World Juniors, and how he was given a pass by then coach Alain Vigneault. The IIHF did suspend him for the incident but maybe more should’ve been made of the medal throw away. Flash forward to this season and Lias demanded a trade and bolted for Sweden overnight without telling the Rangers. As it stands, Andersson has played 66 games for the Rangers and only has 9 points to his name.
Casey Mittlestadt, Buffalo Sabres
While some will say Lias Andersson wasn’t given a fair shot, Casey Mittlestadt has played 114 games for Buffalo. For his career, the young center has amassed 39 points but can’t seem to stick in the woeful Sabres lineup. This season he was demoted to the AHL on December 10th after just 31 games and 9 points.
The Sabres are also in a massive state of flux after firing their GM, Jason Botterill and half their scouting staff. Many believe that the failed selection of Mittlestadt had a lot to do with it. This offseason, you can expect the Sabres to be very aggressive in free agency and trades as they need to surround Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin with talent. A goalie would help also.
The Rangers could use more centers in their system as it is the weakest position when it comes to prospects. On the flip, the Sabres could use some bottom 6 depth and a goalie. However, Buffalo shouldn’t expect to get much for Mittlestadt who has a below average shot. Same goes for the Rangers, as Lias Andersson’s skating ability has only gotten worse since being drafted. This would be a change of scenery trade that both sides would simply hope it works out. If it doesn’t, neither side really loses anything.
Of course the Rangers do have goaltending depth and Henrik Lundqvist with one more year on his contract. Should the Sabres want both Andersson and Alexandar Georgiev then Mittlestadt would simply be a sweetener to a much larger deal. Buffalo could also make a run at Braden Holtby on the UFA market, but he may be looking for a team that could see more immediate success when he picks a new home. So you can expect the Sabres to at least ask the Rangers if they’re willing to part with Georgiev who will be an RFA when the season concludes.
The 2020 NHL Draft will take place end of September or early October. When it is over, I expect both Andersson and Mittlestadt on different teams. There’s also a high possibility that the 7th and 8th overall selections may be exchanged for one another by the teams that chose them.