As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to impact hockey at all levels, the NHL and its member teams have begun to discuss what to do about the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. If the draft proceeds as scheduled in July, teams will be facing an unprecedented lack of information on the eligible prospects. With the OHL and WHL yet to play this season, QMJHL teams limited to about 20 games or less thus far, and delays or cancellations in the NCAA, USHL, and throughout Europe, hardly any NHL draft-eligible has played a normal season. Expecting NHL teams to make educated selections comparable to a normal draft year at this point seems impossible. As a result, it should not come as a surprise that TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the league is discussing moving the date of the draft back, with teams expected to support the change.
In particular, Dreger notes that there have been discussions about pushing the draft scheduled for this summer all the way back to the following summer. This would allow for 2021 prospects to get in the full season that they have been denied this year before being selected. In this scenario, two drafts would potentially be held back-to-back in July of 2022, with 2021-eligible prospects selected first with an order determined by the 2020-21 final standings and then the second draft of 2022-eligible prospects determined as usual by the preceding season’s final standings. Of course, the NHL’s three-year window of draft eligibility could provide some interesting strategic decisions and quirky selections in regards to players passed over in the “2021” draft only to be selected just days or weeks later in the 2022 draft.
Dreger notes that draft details are collectively bargained and any changes to the dates or structure of the 2021 NHL Draft would need to be approved by the NHLPA. While the players’ union does not represent the interests of undrafted prospects, one would believe that they would go along with a decision to postpone the draft, if only to appease future constituents. At the end of the day, there is mutual interest between the NHL’s teams and the 2021 prospects to hold off on the draft until a more accurate profile can be had of all eligible players. Whether that means a delay of an entire year or possibly just until the developmental leagues can return to action for a few months early next season, it appears as though there is considerable support to push it down the line.