How an NHL draft could work in June amid COVID-19 pandemic


NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a news conference. (John Locher/AP)

One of the more interesting things about Gary Bettman’s conversation with Ron MacLean on Wednesday night was the commish referring to the possibility of a June draft as “a trial balloon.”

That didn’t sound like a guarantee, but several NHL general managers have resigned themselves to it happening — even if they’re not thrilled (one in particular made his feelings quite clear). They know the end result if Bettman supports an idea. The early betting line is June 5.

So, we’ll see. I’m going under the assumption that, if this does occur, points percentage will be used to figure out the lottery odds. Some other ideas:

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The first round — held on a separate day — takes the longest, but teams whip through two-to-seven like Kyle Bukauskas and hair product.

Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert proposed extending the NFL Draft by three rounds, a sentiment that was ignored. I thought it made sense, because teams will have less information than normal. Why not give them wiggle room?

It’s also a nice gesture to eligible players during a difficult time. Why not give 93 more of them (and their friends/families) the great feeling of getting drafted?


The NHL is hopeful that, sometime before the draft, teams will be able to open their training facilities to small groups. Should that occur, they could invite prospects living nearby to come during low-event hours to test. This is trickier for players who don’t live near NHL facilities, especially Europeans. Obviously, you’re hoping these tests could occur at a rink or workout area near them. All NHL clubs would watch at the same time on Zoom. Then, the footage would be released to the public.

This idea becomes a lot trickier if facilities don’t open. Not everyone has a treadmill or Peloton. But teams are getting smarter and smarter every year with their ability to measure physical ability. You could create a test with input from all the teams, and ask prospects to do them while teams watched.

Again, the video could be made public later. Not perfect, but we’re trying to make chicken salad out of chicken “you know.”


Vancouver knows that it owes a first-rounder to New Jersey this season or next. The Canucks also owe Los Angeles a fourth if they re-sign Tyler Toffoli. If Washington wins the Stanley Cup this season, the 2021 third-rounder they sent to San Jose moves to 2020. The Islanders owe Ottawa a third-rounder if they win it all.

The last two are easy to defer. Unless the Canucks re-sign Toffoli before the draft, you can defer that one as well.

As for the first-rounder, see if Vancouver and the Devils agree on what to do with this year’s choice. Maybe the Canucks want to give it up and New Jersey agrees. Maybe the Canucks want to give the Devils their 2021 pick and the Devils agree. End of story.

But if they can’t come to a consensus, Vancouver keeps the pick — and the years in question become 2021 and 2022.

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During my weekly appearance on The Instigators radio show in Buffalo, co-host Andrew Peters suggested doing the lottery and the draft at the same time. Basically, announce who has the pick and tell them to go.

Okay, let’s wait for the GMs to recover…

I don’t think you can do that. Some prep time is needed. But I don’t think it’s a bad idea to tighten the gap. Let’s say the draft is June 5-6, a Friday/Saturday. Do the lottery one week before. If the NHL wants buzz, that will be an intense week of buzz.

To make it easier for the teams to handle, this year only you limit who can win (I don’t want to see tankathons destroying hockey like they are destroying baseball — that’s why everyone should be able to win next year). Decide how many teams really deserve a shot at the highest pick. Detroit? Absolutely. Ottawa (both picks)? For sure. Los Angeles? Yes. Anaheim? I think so. If the NHL is considering 24-team playoffs, Buffalo and New Jersey could still make it.

So that makes your five-lowest teams eligible for the top selection. The most anyone would be able to move up then, is four spots.

The kicker is, everyone in the lottery gets the same chance. For example, Boston, at No. 1 overall, gets the ability to move up four spots, too. If they or St. Louis were upset in the first round, they’d drop eight, so this is a bit of a cookie for them, too.


The pre-playoff draft limits trades, because playoff-contending clubs won’t want to weaken themselves. One interesting idea was suggested.

Let me just introduce it by saying I don’t think there’s any chance it will happen, but figured I’d throw it out there.

Let’s just say a team wants to move up, and, in theory, if the draft was held in normal circumstances, could trade a player for the opportunity to do so. The teams involved and the league could work out a trade to be finalized after both clubs are finished in 2019-20 (or should it be necessary, the season is cancelled). It would be privately filed with the league. The only way for it to be rescinded is injury.

It’s interesting, but seems far-fetched.


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