As the sports world prepares for the first major event in more than a month with the NFL Draft occurring virtually this Thursday through Saturday, it seems that the NHL could be using the event as a test run for their own entry draft. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun relayed word today from Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly that the league has considered a virtual format for their own draft. This could potentially allow them to keep the event in June as scheduled.
The league had initially postponed this year’s draft, as well as the NHL Combine, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the indefinite nature of the current league year left questions as to when and how the draft would occur and the impact that would have on the rookies, their NHL clubs, and their junior teams. Holding the draft in June as planned would solve some of these issues, but obviously raises a number of other questions.
First and foremost would be how this would impact the continuation of the 2019-20 season. LeBrun was quick to note that the draft being held in June, which ordinarily follows the end of the postseason, would not preclude the league year from continuing in July or August as many hope. This leads to other issues, such as how the draft lottery, draft order, and conditional picks will be sorted out if there are still games to be played. Abandoning the regular season in favor of jumping directly to the playoffs later this year would simplify these matters somewhat but would not entirely answer all questions.
Additionally, a continued season would also mean that teams remain prohibited from making trades, at least in the way that deals are normally made in the off-season. The lack of draft day trades would be another stark difference from how the NHL Draft operates and could frustrate a number of teams looking to leverage picks into players.
Given the lack of hockey during what would typically be the early stages of the postseason is certainly depressing for hockey fans and makes the idea of a June draft sound appealing. However, the league will need to respond to a number of major questions with satisfying answers to sign off on a virtual draft before making a decision on if and how the current season will continue.