With schedule delays being seen across all sports throughout the world, changes to regular routines are inevitable.
We, as fans, are no different from the players themselves at this point in time. We are awaiting further news on how the NHL regular season will resume, if it at all, or whether the Stanley Cup will be awarded after a revised playoff schedule.
Delays to the regular schedule will naturally impact the upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft as well and unfortunately this means there will be a tremendous impact on another group – the prospects. Not only were top players like Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, and Jamie Drysdale, among others, deprived of the remainder of their season, they may also be deprived of one of the greatest and most exciting moments of their lives.
Current rumors suggest that the NHL may move forward with their June draft date after all, but things will significantly change. The league will be able to see how the NFL draft plays out virtually, and use the NFL’s experience to their advantage. However, a virtual draft would mean no players walking up to the podium for photos and to throw on a jersey with their new team’s crest and a draft hat in front of family members and thousands of cheering fans. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that would be completely different for these kids.
The order of the 2020 NHL Draft will also undoubtedly be impacted by delays to the season’s regular schedule. While the Detroit Red Wings easily secured their spot as the worst team in the NHL this season, many others were vying for a playoff spot in a close race. Teams like the Islanders, Rangers, and Panthers were fighting to get a spot in the East, while Vancouver and Minnesota were just outside in the West. If the NHL expands the playoff pool to 24 teams, that would leave a much smaller group competing for the top pick in the lottery. If they minimize the number of teams to make the playoffs, an expanded lottery would have to take place.
Not only will the draft itself be different than years past, but each event leading up to the draft is likely to face changes too. For example, the Draft Combine where top prospects perform fitness tests and interview with teams will likely exist in a completely different format. Interviews may exist solely on a video platform such as Zoom, rather than in person. Fitness testing may be done by using some type of wearable device, held at different locations for a limited number of players, or perhaps skipped entirely. It’s hard to know exactly how it will play out at this time.
The impact of delays to the season’s regular schedule will likely be felt long after the 2020 NHL Draft as well. Younger players who are expected to be ready for the 2021 NHL Draft have missed plenty of time already and will likely miss out on a lot of development time overall. The trickledown effect will end up impacting scouts and their ability to judge the top talent. It will make the emergence of analytics and big data even more important for the NHL’s future top talent.
Even though the regular events of the season have been put on hold, there will be lots going on behind the scenes and it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months.