Inside The Box is Puck Prose’s daily news bulletin, covering all the latest news and providing unique analysis and insight, while highlighting the NHL content you need in your lives.
We’ve decided to provide you with bonus Inside The Box content today, mainly because I saw some comments from a top executive in the National Hockey League that piqued my interest and got me thinking about how the league will approach the 2021 NHL Entry Draft this year.
Given what is going on in the world right now, coupled with all the chaos caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, there have been discussions regarding this year’s Draft and there are some General Managers out there that want tweaks made to the Lottery Draft after the Detroit Red Wings endured a historically bad 2019-20 season but ended up with the No. 4 overall pick.
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However, a new debate has started recently and that is whether the NHL should even host a Draft in 2021 given that a lot of prospects have endured disruptions to their 2020-21 season, while some haven’t even taken to the ice yet.
Even some of the top-rated prospects slated to go high in the First Round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft have had to deal with a disrupted schedule, preventing them from adding to their body of work and driving up their Draft stock which could see them make that jump into the top five overall picks.
The Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League have yet to begin, while a boatload of European prospects haven’t been able to put as much on film as they would have hoped for, and scouts throughout the National Hockey League have been hindered from doing their job properly in preparing for this year’s Draft.
Delaying the 2021 NHL Entry Draft is complicated in more ways than one
That has led to some within the game proposing that the NHL hosts two separate Drafts in 2022, one for the players that were eligible this year and another one for the 2022 class, while other team executives have asked for the Draft to be pushed back to December or January.
Steve Yzerman, the General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings, was asked about his thoughts on moving the Draft by Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, and this was his response: “I would hope they push it back and give us a chance to watch these kids and give these kids a chance to play and put their best foot forward leading up to the draft.”
Yzerman raises a good point and the most important thing is that all prospects get a fair opportunity to prove their worth and impress scouts and teams, otherwise we could end up with a situation where some very, very talented players slip way down into the later rounds or even go undrafted because they’ve either not played at all or there isn’t enough tape on them.
Granted, the NHL Draft is a crapshoot at the best of times and those elite studs will still go pretty much where they should in the First Round, but even some of the top prospects haven’t been watched as much due to the lack of international tournaments over the last year, while scouting a player via video is very different to watching them in person, no matter what you say.
It is also important to note that players change and develop a lot at a young age, and a year can make a big difference between being a late First Round pick to going in the top ten. I mean, we saw it with Jack Quinn who was selected No. 8 overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and there are countless other examples too.
Drafting is important in a hard cap sport like the NHL and it will take on even more importance over the next few years because of the flat cap with a large chunk of teams probably looking to cut back, so delaying the Draft by a year or even another five or six months could allow for certain leagues to either start up or resume, big tournaments to be played and, therefore, it would allow scoutings departments to do their homework and get to see certain prospects in action live.
Also, as is the case in other major sports, it is common for a team to unearth an absolute gem in the later rounds of the Draft, so pushing this year’s event back and having two Drafts in 2022 would allow all prospects and players to get a fair look and at least put some more tape out there.
The flip side, of course, is that all 32 teams, yes the Seattle Kraken will now be taking their place at the table, will be in exactly the same boat and given the unpredictable nature of the Pandemic, you can’t say for sure that things will be completely back to normal in 2022.
Also, a large chunk of the prospects eligible for this year’s Draft have played and they’ve been scouted, and you can make the argument that if scouts are good at their job they should be able to work out the rest and spot a potential gem in the later rounds without having too much video or prior homework to go on.
One solution that has been floated out there is the possibility of having a tournament where prospects can play in the spring in front of scouts, and it would get some eyeballs on those players who haven’t played as much or even at all this year. There are also logistical issues like if the Draft is moved back will players still have to wait seven years until they hit unrestricted free agency? You also have to wait two years until you re-enter the Draft if you are drafted out of the CHL, so would that remain the same? There are so many issues to iron out and there are arguments to be made on both sides, so deciding what to do with the 2021 NHL Entry Draft isn’t going to be easy task for the National Hockey League over the coming weeks and months.
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