The NHL general managers might not like it very much.
Certainly, it doesn’t make a ton of logical sense to hold an amateur player draft in June when the 2019-20 NHL regular season hasn’t yet been completed and nobody knows if the hockey season will get completed anytime soon.
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There are loose ends to tie up whether it’s the draft order for an incomplete season, the conditional draft picks dependent on how the rest of the 2019-20 season played out or just the general inconvenience of holding an NHL Draft where trades and free-agent signings aren’t really going to be a part of the process.
About the only thing that everybody could agree on is that the pathetic Detroit Red Wings have earned the No. 1 overall pick no matter when the regular season actually comes to an end.
Still, after watching the NFL create a “must-watch” television event with their virtual player draft last weekend, the NHL would be downright foolish if they didn’t take advantage of a golden opportunity to give sports viewers compelling hockey content to watch.
After taking in some admittedly awesome classic games on repeat and going through the NFL free agency period, there won't be a lot of sports out there for at least the next few months as social distancing and self-quarantining continue to take precedence.
The NHL should do everything it can to put on their own virtual player draft in the usual month of June at a time when its players might even be ramping it back up for the completion of the 2019-20 regular season. For a league that’s always competing with the other three pro leagues for media attention and their share of the sports fan pie, holding the draft when literally nothing else is happening could allow them a major sporting world coup.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reportedly sent a memo to all 31 NHL teams on Friday “enthusiastically in support of” still holding the draft in June with the league potentially looking to even move it up to a June 5 date.
"We think it's a great opportunity for fan engagement," Daly writes, per an ESPN.com report. "Fans have been missing NHL hockey for a month and a half. It'll be three months when we get to June."
There's already a major thirst for hockey in the first few days of June and it will feel like a dehydrated march through the Sahara desert by the time June hits the sports calendar.
Daly has also been clear in his opinion there may not be enough time between this season and the start of the 2020-21 season to properly execute the draft, so this would make sense from a practical standpoint as well.
It’s a move that will likely be unpopular with NHL GMs who logically want the draft to be held after the 2019-20 season is completed, but sometimes the tail needs to wag the dog.
This might be one of those instances for the NHL given the rave reviews and massive ratings for the NFL draft. It’s also something the Bruins are prepared for.
“We’ve done a lot of Microsoft teams work with our amateur staff and a lot of conference calls in that regard, so we’re well-prepared when the NHL makes that decision with regard to the June draft. It’s still to be determined,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney on a Saturday Zoom conference call with Bruins reporters. “I think they’re going to discuss it with the Board of Governors with which way they are going to go. I have my own preferences, but that being said the league has to make their decision about what’s best for everyone rather than any teams that have a personal preference.
“You have to respect that. It’s incumbent upon the league to make the best decision for themselves and we’ll be prepared for it. We’ve done a lot of extra video-work around the things that you’d usually be doing at the combine, so I appreciate all that extra work.”
The NHL Board of Governors is expected to meet at the beginning of next week to give a potential green light to the new draft concept.
Clearly, it would be an unorthodox move to host the draft before the season resumes, and hockey traditionalists will poo-poo it as something that should have been held between seasons.
But let’s have a little fun with this, people.
Sports fans are thirsting for entertainment and the NHL would be wise to fill that void with a draft that could be a massive win-win.