Yesterday, the NHL postponed the 2020 NHL Draft, which had been set to take place in Montreal on June 26-27. The league did not however indicate what the plan was to make up the event, which must occur in some form or fashion prior to the 2020-21 season. However, Pierre LeBrun writes for The Athletic that there are three possible solutions for the draft make-up. The least likely would be that the draft is simply postponed to a later date and takes place in Montreal as initially planned. LeBrun does not believe that a full draft, complete with teams, prospects, and fans alike in attendance, is a realistic option. Slightly more likely would be a scaled-down version, which LeBrun compares to the post-lockout draft in 2005, that still takes place in Montreal but with far less fanfare, but even this seems unlikely. The outcome most see occurring, falling in line with what junior leagues have decided for their own drafts, would be a virtual NHL Draft, wherein teams make their picks live from their individual war rooms. LeBrun mentions the possibility of a centralized location, in Montreal or elsewhere, with team reps and top prospects in attendance to react to the virtual selections.
If the draft does move to a virtual format, LeBrun reports that the league has promised Montreal that they will receive either the 2021 or 2022 NHL Draft. He adds that the NHL may even consider combining the NHL Entry Draft and NHL Expansion Draft into one week-long event in Montreal next summer. Given the rabid fan base of the city, it would be as good a location as any – barring Seattle itself maybe – to hold the Expansion Draft. If Montreal were to lose the draft this year only to gain two drafts next year, that would be quite the consolation prize.
- Count arguably the two biggest names in hockey as supporters of calling the regular season and jumping right into the playoffs. On a conference call today among representatives of each of the Metropolitan Division teams, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin lobbied for the NHL to skip the remaining regular season games and resume play with the first round of the postseason, in whatever format they choose. Crosby opined that playing as many regular season games as possible would be best for the integrity of the season, but he “wouldn’t mind starting right at the playoffs.” Ovechkin was more direct, saying that he is “bored” with the league’s current pause and that his Capitals “don’t want to play those extra games” and would “rather start the playoffs right away.” Unsurprisingly, Carolina’s Jordan Staal, whose Hurricanes are safely in the postseason right now, agrees with Ovechkin and Crosby, while brother Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, who were hot before the league postponed its action, would rather resume the regular season in hopes of getting in. Curiously though, Columbus’ Nick Foligno, whose Blue Jackets would be in the standard playoff structure by total points but not by points percentage, the likely determinant of qualification, supported a jump right to the postseason, while the New York Islanders’ Anders Lee, whose team is in the opposite situation, preferred to finish the regular season. Opinions are sure to change based on the length of the league’s pause, the options for returning to action, and the potential format of postseason play, but for now there is major support behind surrendering the regular season in favor of an immediate postseason of some sort.
- There are few NHL stakeholders who are benefiting from the current indefinite break in action. One of the only exceptions is Crosby’s teammate, Jake Guentzel. Guentzel suffered a shoulder injury in late December and was given a four-to-six-month recovery window following surgery. In a normal league year, that likely meant that Guentzel would be lucky to play again this season, only able to return for the playoffs, and almost certainly wouldn’t be able to get back to full strength. However, given the delay of the current pause, the status quo has shifted. Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review relays word from GM Jim Rutherford that Guentzel’s rehab is going well and the team is optimistic that he will play again if the season resumes. Especially considering the strong likelihood that the NHL will need a mini training camp for teams to get back to game speed, Guentzel may even be back at full strength before a potential resumption of the regular season or start of the postseason in June or July. Guentzel recorded 43 points in 39 games playing with an injury-depleted forward corps prior to his own injury and would be a major asset for the Penguins, who would be the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division if the playoffs began based on the current standings.