Much is still uncertain about how the NHL will conclude the 2019-20 season and postseason, if at all, but one piece of news which has piqued interest this week is the idea that the league may go ahead with the NHL draft in June. The event will certainly work and feel different regardless as a likely virtual draft, mirroring the NFL’s virtual draft. Like the National Football League, for the NHL to complete the draft as soon as possible is the right call.
As NFL Draft begins, some ideas for a (potential) early June draft in NHL: https://t.co/BrY9tUVFVe— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 24, 2020
The regular season largely sets the draft order, and with 85% of the scheduled games completed before the season pause, there isn’t much that will change to the order if the NHL can resume games. As it stands, the Colorado Avalanche likely projects to select 29th overall, depending how standings points are factored. The Stanley Cup playoff results only significantly alter the position of the final four teams and the difference in picking at the tail end of the first round just isn’t that meaningful. Even factoring in division winners will only move each team by a few positions. The draft lottery is the greatest game changer and Gary Bettman suggested reverting back to previous rules could help eliminate any massive changes to the order.
Sorting through issues of conditional picks is something the NHL will have to outline with either determinations on regular season conditionals or deferred picks to the 2021 draft. While the draft season brings much trade speculation, only four trades last year in the month of June leading up to the draft involved 2019 picks and two of them were fifth-round selections. It’s not quite the opportunity as it seems and not one that teams will significantly miss out on if they can’t use 2020 picks to trade for contracted players.
No doubt the league is interested in stealing some attention back during this period of sports hiatus and they would more than welcome the monetary benefits resulting from holding the draft. If the season doesn’t resume then the draft is a mark to start the offseason as usual. If there are games this summer, then kicking off the return to hockey with the draft is an attractive opportunity.
A draft much later in the summer, or perhaps in the fall, presents its own set of problems to contend with. Pushing off player evaluations even further from when the players last took the ice isn’t ideal, and some of the scouts and personnel who did the work may not remain with their organizations in the next league year — whenever that might begin. What if some leagues around the world resume in the fall and then some draft eligible players begin playing again while others do not, and how does that impact the competitive balance?
Speaking of those who the draft truly impacts — that is, the actual players themselves — a draft earlier rather than later benefits them much more than continuing on with a period of uncertainty for potentially several more months. Once their futures are known, the prospects can focus on what their particular organizations plan for them to take the next step in their development and will have the entire summer as a head start.
The window to complete the entire offseason with such goalposts like contracts, free agency and arbitration could end up a very tight turn around. With possibly every major sport running games in the fall, it won’t be the ideal time for the NHL to execute a cornerstone event. Nothing about this situation will satisfy every need as some compromises and concessions will need to happen to move the NHL forward but moving forward with the draft in June has more benefits than risks.
Should the NHL conduct the draft in June?
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