Although no date has yet been set the 2020 NHL Entry Draft will be rich in offensive talent and there could be an intriguing unpolished gem waiting for the Vegas Golden Knights.
With phenom forward Alexis Lafreniere an almost certain lock to go off the board with the No. 1 overall selection, there will still be a boatload of high-end offensive weapons for the Vegas Golden Knights and the rest of the NHL to bolster their rosters with.
While the 2020 Draft is currently postponed, reports out there suggests that the NHL still hopes to hold their flagship event in June.
It will be done virtually but, judging by the success of the WNBA and the NFL virtual drafts over the past couple of weeks, the NHL shouldn’t be sweating it too much when it comes to people tuning in or not.
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Again, as both the WNBA and the NFL proved, sports-starved hockey fans will tune into the NHL Draft in their droves.
Anyway, we digress.
This looks set to be a draft rich in offensive talent and the Golden Knights could look to use their First Round pick, currently projected to be the No. 24 overall selection, on a high-end winger or center.
You could make the argument, however, that the Knights should replenish their farm system with a stud winger and there could be an interesting project lurking on the board late in the First Round.
Remember the name.
An incredibly talented offensive winger with elite potential and a top-line upside, Gunler isn’t NHL ready yet but he would be a tremendous pick for a team that isn’t desperate for the finished product just yet.
Given that the Golden Knights are in the middle of their Stanley Cup window, coupled with the pool of elite wingers they already have at their disposal, Vegas could afford to use their First Round selection on an unpolished gem that needs shining up for a couple of years.
Gunler fits that profile given that he boasts an elite shot with a wicked release in his arsenal, but his skating ability isn’t at an all-world level while his play in the defensive zone can leave a lot to be desired.
Allowing the wing a couple of years to learn his craft and hone his skills in the AHL may well be beneficial, while playing against top-level opposition in a controlled environment would give Gunler the chance to iron out certain kinks in his game.
Despite a few obvious flaws, Gunler has tremendous upside and his ability to shoot the puck in a bevy of different ways while making creative passes for his teammates also makes him a superb playmaker.
According to DobberProspects.com, Gunler is a high-end goalscorer and a great playmaker who can execute a wrist shot, a snap shot or a one-time slap shot at an elite level while he doesn’t need much space in which to get his shot away.
Standing at 6’2″ and weighing in at 174 lbs, Gunler is a good size too and the right shot can play on either side.
He can find the open space and create opportunities for his teammates, and he recorded 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 45 games for Lulea HF in the SHL, the top league in Sweden, in 2019-20 with a plus/minus rating of +12.
Gunler could slot in on the power play eventually too but, as already mentioned, there’s plenty to work on for the prospect.
For staters, the 18-year-old could do with adding more muscle to his frame while he needs to work on his skating and his forechecking.
Currently ranked 19th overall by EliteProspects.com and 10th by HockeyProspect.com, Gunler is likely to go later in the First Round due to the fact that he’s more of a project and isn’t ready to jump straight into the National Hockey League.
That works perfectly for the Golden Knights given that they are in possession of the No. 24 overall pick, and they would be wise to take a gamble on Noel Gunler given his high upside.
In order to be successful you have to build through the Draft, after all, and Gunler could be a top-line wing if a team is willing to show some patience when it comes to developing and nurturing the talent.
The Vegas Golden Knights should be that team.