NHL officials watched the NFL draft closely because they will be holding a similar exercise, perhaps as early as June.
“I believe we can conduct an effective draft virtually,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email Sunday. “Maybe not the same as the NFL, but certainly along the same lines.”
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The NFL draft, many thought, was better for viewers than usual. Viewers got to see most of the top draftees and their relatives in their homes at the moment the players were chosen. The reactions of the family members were sometimes more priceless than the draftees’ responses.
Viewers also got to see general managers and coaches in their homes surrounded by family members, including, in some cases, their young children trying to climb on their laps as they studied their computers. It humanized an event that is usually sterile and contrived.
The NHL draft might be held earlier than its original dates — June 26-27 in Montreal.
“We are evaluating the possibility of moving the date of the draft up into June,” Daly said. “We have not reached a decision on that yet. Don’t have any more details than that.”
Daly said he didn’t know if the NHL would use its typical format, with Round 1 held the first night and Rounds 2-7 the next day. That, however, seems like the most logical setup.
The NHL suspended its season March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. It hopes to resume the season — or at least the Stanley Cup playoffs — at some point.
It seems likely the draft will be held before the season returns. If it does, teams would be ranked by points percentage. In that instance, the Flyers (.645 points percentage) would select 26th among 31 teams in the first round.
Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr recently called the prospects in this year’s draft “decent,” and said he and his scouting staff have been watching lots of video of the prospects, who had their seasons cut short by the pandemic.
“We’re confident we’re going to get a good player” in the first round, he said, adding that the Flyers would take the best prospect available, regardless of position.
A draft lottery would supposedly still be held. The lottery usually includes the 15 teams that miss the playoffs. This year, it figures to include the 15 teams with the lowest points percentage: Detroit, Ottawa, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Buffalo, New Jersey, Montreal, Chicago, Arizona, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Calgary, the New York Rangers, and Vancouver.
Holding the draft in June instead of after the season — which, if resumed, could drag into (gulp) September— would allow drafted European players to have their eligibility and roster spots sorted out for 2020-21. If the draft was held in, say, September, European players would have already started their camps or their seasons overseas, providing the coronavirus outbreak was controlled.
A June draft would also give fans a much-needed diversion. The NFL draft did just that, drawing a record 15.6 million viewers for the first round. An average of 8.2 million watched the second day of the draft, and over 4.2 million viewed the third and final day.
Eagles fans are still debating their team’s surprising selections, especially in the first two rounds.