The 2020 NHL Draft is an important one for the Ottawa Senators, which is why owner Eugene Melnyk would prefer to hold the event in June, despite concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just hope that we can have some events happen in June to keep people interested. And if that’s just a draft lottery, that would be great. If it’s a draft as a draft lottery that’s even better,” Melnyk said in an interview on the Fan 590 Sunday. “The sooner we can get to play the better because there is nothing wrong watching hockey in June, July and August, it’d be nice to be barbecuing outside watching a hockey game on a Sunday afternoon.”
The Senators have nine picks in the first three rounds including three in the first round. Melnyk admits that the team probably won’t use all of the picks they have accumulated and expects the team to maybe package some to either move up in the draft or make other additions.
Beyond the draft, prospects already in the Senators’ system were impacted by the pandemic when the AHL season was cancelled last week. Melnyk believes that the organization suffered a big blow from this as the Belleville Senators were one of the top contenders for the Calder Cup. But he still was impressed with the strides the players made in their development and expects some to be able to make an impact in the NHL sooner rather than later.
“That proof is down there and a lot of times it will translate into a better team at the NHL level and it should because a lot of those players are going to be coming up to the NHL this year,” Melnyk said. “We know for a fact that at least five or six will, and it’s a great experience for them to be on a winning team and to come into our organization very young. I think we’re gonna have one of the youngest teams in the league this coming year, depending on who we draft and who can play right away if they can.
“I think we’re in a really good spot to become very competitive again, and I think it’s more of a long term strategy. We hope to be already competitive and a playoff team this coming year.”
Melnyk admits that patience will be important because the last thing the NHL wants is to return too quickly and see things go wrong. He says that the goal is to award the Stanley Cup this year but he expects a different playoff format, which could also impact how next season plays out.
You can listen to the full interview with Melnyk below.