Whether it's pushed back or kept as scheduled, the 2021 NHL Draft brings with it countless challenges for hopeful prospects and the clubs looking to claim them.
"It's certainly not perfect. I understand that completely," Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving told Hockey Central Tuesday, when asked whether he'd like to see the draft pushed even further from its current dates of July 23 and 24. "Having the draft in July isn't a perfect scenario. We haven't been able to see a lot of these players [in] live viewings."
Reports first surfaced earlier this year about a desire to move back the draft date, and those rumblings have continued since as a number of teams are pushing for a date change. Up to this point, no official announcement has been made to indicate that will actually happen.
Treliving said that, from the point of view of an NHL GM and considering the inability to see players live, it would be "most advantageous" to push back the draft to allow more time to evaluate, but understands also the further complications such a move would cause.
"If it was my decision, yes, you'd like to push it back. But I recognize that that's sometimes easier said than done," he said, indicating the appeal of setting up the NHL to return to a more regular timeline for 2021-22. "We've all been dealing with the events of COVID and the other school of thought here is we need to, as a league, get back to normal business."
The 2020 draft, which was held last October following the conclusion of the NHL's playoffs, held its share of issues in terms of access to prospects, the ability to hold a normal combine, and a lack of face-to-face meetings. Those players were still able to complete almost a full season before the pandemic forced leagues to press pause last March, however, which meant draft reports for many were more complete than not.
This year, on the other hand, has painted an entirely different story for NHL hopefuls. In addition to those ongoing issues of not being able to hold important in-person meetings, junior leagues have seen heavy restrictions on the ability to play while the OHL is still completely sidelined due to widespread government restrictions with players unable to hit the ice at all.
"It's a difficult spot for everybody, but ultimately the job is to be prepared for whatever way we end up going, and we will be," said Treliving. "It's been a challenge. Our guys have been creative. There's been lots of video work, there's been lots of Zoom calls, there's been lots of interaction to try to get as much information as you can but everybody's in the same boat. It'll make for an interesting draft if it does move forward."