When news drops from a sports team or league on a Friday evening, it’s normally an attempt to shelter it from attention and scrutiny. That’s what the NHL tried to do when they announced their intentions to fast track the 2020 Entry Draft last week. Unfortunately, with everyone at home - and starved for any sort of sports news - there was no burying this news.
Late Friday afternoon, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that the NHL was set to hold a call with the Board of Governors early this week. During the call, they expect to push their idea to hold the draft early. We’re told that the target date is June 5th.
In order to try to mitigate the issues with holding the draft before the standings are finalized, the NHL says they will re-work the lottery - but not in a way most were expecting. Instead of making the odds better for all teams involved, the league is likely to revert to the old system where they only hold one draw (as opposed to three) and teams can only move up four spots. In this lottery, it becomes far more likely that the draft order follows along with the standings. This would mean the Detroit Red Wings are guaranteed to be picking in the top-2 and the Ottawa Senators would have two picks in the top-4. New Jersey, Montreal, Buffalo, Montreal and Chicago would fill out the rest of the first eight picks.
While this idea of holding the draft early is one that a lot of fans are keen on, it sounds as though most of the league’s general managers are strongly against holding the draft before the season is officially concluded.
Possibility of the 2020 NHL draft being held in early June is still on the table even without resolution of 2019-20 reg season and playoffs. NHL still pushing it in face of opposition from many clubs. Decision next week. Good thread here from @PierreVLeBrun: https://t.co/J1NiDHwM2M— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 2, 2020
Steve Yzerman has been the only GM to speak out publicly but behind the scenes, many others - along with most scouts - hate the idea of having the draft early.
“My thought is: Why would you do that? Why would you need to do that?” Yzerman said in an interview with Fox Sports Detroit late last week. “There’s a lot of things that are affected, obviously. The draft position hasn’t been established; we don’t know who’s in the playoffs, who’s out of the playoffs, in some cases … But at this time, my own opinion is, I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season, if we do conclude the season over the course of the summer.”
And this is coming from a general manager that is guaranteed to have one of the top-2 picks in the drafts re-worked format.
Friedman added, “Many of his managing brethren share the same sentiment, albeit privately.”
There is only one reason the NHL would move the draft up...for attention.
Scouting windows would be shortened, trades involving players would not be permitted and trades involving conditional picks would have to be re-worked. The league is willing to make things more difficult on their teams in order to grab extra eyes.
But it worth it?
Last month, the NFL held their draft and saw a 35% increase in viewers over last year. That’s huge. Unfortunately, this isn’t the NFL. We’re not talking about millions of viewers. The 35% increase represented an increase from averaging 6.1 million viewers in 2019 to averaging 8.2 million viewers this year. The NHL doesn’t come anywhere close to these numbers. Last year’s NHL Entry draft saw an average viewership of 325k. Even a 35% increase is a very small number of extra eyes for the league’s television partners. It’s hard to imagine that would be worth making things exponentially harder on the league’s GMs, but this is the NHL - they do a lot of things that are hard to explain.
Despite the opposition from the teams, it sounds as though the league is hell bent on making a draft happen in early June and we could get an official announcement as early as today. We’re all craving any sort of hockey content right now, so it will be fun for the fans and we will all be locked in, but that doesn’t make it any more logical to fast track the draft the way the NHL is going to.
Bob McKenzie points out that the odds to win the first pick will remain the same as the last year, but that (like in the old lottery) only teams in the bottom-5 have the potential to move up to the top pick.
Friday’s NHL memo said normal lottery odds would apply, but only for No. 1 pick. That would give worst team (DET) an 18.5% chance of winning the No. 1 pick but an additional 38.5% chance of retaining No. 1 if a team outside top 5 wins the lottery. So 57% chance of picking first.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 4, 2020