One thing most hockey fans would have probably assumed since the NHL shut down operations amid the coronavirus pandemic was that if the draft was held in its regular June time slot, that what’s left of the season would have been wiped away clean.
Now we’re hearing that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Tuesday that the NHL is considering holding the draft in its normal time slot, potentially without the knowledge on whether or not the 2019-20 season would resume.
Now, on the surface this seems like a puzzling consideration. For one, the draft order is determined by the final seeding from the regular season and to lesser extent the result from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the conditions on the draft picks spent in trades would require some finality to the season as well.
In addition to that, the draft is one of, if not, the most critical period for the architects of the 31 NHL teams, and a main driver for transactions and roster manipulation. If held before the season played out, it would severely compromise a primary tool used by general managers to improve, flip and tweak their rosters. Opportunities to move up and down the draft board would be diminished as well.
So why would the NHL make these concessions?
For starters, there’s obviously a significant content and entertainment void with sports at a standstill right now. If staged in June, the NHL Draft would give the league an opportunity to generate some interest and inject some revenue into a starved system.
And, while certainly a lesser consideration for the league, it would also greatly benefit the amateur players currently filling out mock draft boards. Instead of learning of where they will land and potentially resume their hockey careers perhaps weeks before the 2020-21 season begins, they will have the normal amount of time to prepare and adjust to the changes that come with being an NHL draft pick.
What it might ultimately come down to is the question of how desperate the NHL is to stage some sort of event — even if done virtually. Surely the league office will keep tabs on the NFL Draft on Thursday, while continuing to mull options and listening to governments and global health authorities.
However if the NHL does choose to run the draft before making a decision on the remainder of the season, it will be doing so with knowledge that they are severely disadvantaging teams working to progress their programs, when the realities of a paused season have done so already.
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