March 16: Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet confirms that the draft will not be pushed back. The event will go on as scheduled near the end of July.
March 9: It had been trending this way for a while, but Darren Dreger of TSN reports that the 2021 NHL Entry Draft is not expected to be pushed back. Though there was considerable support from general managers all across the league, the substantial obstacles will make the league keep the event scheduled for this July. Concerns over service time, draft rights, and delaying the top prospects from an October NHL debut were all among the many complexities moving the draft would have created.
Of course, this decision will not come without ramifications. The OHL, one of the biggest sources of NHL draft picks every year, has not played a single game this season. Even if they do sneak in a shortened schedule later this spring, evaluation of the prospects will not be nearly as detailed as a normal year. Some top draft prospects from the league have taken their talents overseas in the interim, but for many prospective mid-round picks, it has been a full calendar year without any competitive action.
The WHL and QMJHL have also not played their full allotment of games, while the NCAA season was also truncated. Potential first-overall pick Owen Power played just 24 games with the University of Michigan during his freshman season. Compare that to someone like Quinn Hughes, who got 37 NCAA games with Michigan plus a World Junior tournament during his draft year. While the consensus is pretty clear on Power’s upside, what about some of the lesser-known college names like Dovar Tinling, who managed just 11 games with the University of Vermont. He was included in NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch as a second or third-round candidate, but it will be extremely difficult to evaluate his true potential at this point. Tinling only just turned 18 a few days ago.
There are names like Mason McTavish, who is still a potential first-round pick but had to play in Switzerland this season as he waited for the OHL to resume. Certainly, a dozen games in Europe won’t give scouts the same amount of information that a full season in the OHL would have.
With the draft staying put, it will be interesting to see how valuable picks are viewed at the upcoming deadline. There’s a chance that first-round talents slip through to the mid-rounds, but also an increased chance of completely whiffing with a player that hasn’t competed in a year.