Interest growing in moving NHL Draft date back, exploring new format

Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman break down the latest news from around the NHL, touching on the blockbuster trade between the Blue Jackets and Canadiens, the Maple Leafs looking for help, and the NHL Draft date.

Fresh off seeing the 2020 NHL Draft undergo a series of significant changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears the 2021 iteration of the draft could see changes as well.

With the 2021 NHL Draft tentatively scheduled for July 23–24, a number of residual issues must be dealt with before draft day arrives. First and foremost, the circumstances brought on by the pandemic has meant the crop of incoming talent hasn't been scouted as the previous years' draft classes have.

One solution being looked at to remedy the situation is a tournament to showcase some of the 2021 draft's prospects for prospective NHL clubs.

"They're looking for ideas for what you do with all these draft-eligible players, many of whom haven't played at all this season anywhere that NHL teams can see," Sportsnet's Chris Johnston said Saturday during Hockey Night in Canada's Headlines segment. "One thing that has been discussed is a tournament, a series of games, what have you, at some point in the spring, in which those players could play.

"Obviously you could invite scouts or have them watch from a safe distance through video, but it might be a way to get some eyeballs on these guys, because it's been a tough year on those teenagers, too."

Beyond preparations for said draft, plans are being considered to once again push back the date of the draft as well. The 2020 draft ultimately took place in early October after being moved from its originally scheduled date in late June. A number of teams have asked the league if this year's draft could similarly be moved back, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

"I think there are teams out there that would be interested in seeing the draft moved back to December or January instead of this July," Friedman said during Saturday's segment. "And I think there's also a couple of teams ... [discussing] the possibility of doing two drafts next June — a late '02 and an '03 draft on one day, and then maybe a few days later, an '03 and an '04 draft.

"I don't know what the decision is going to be, but these are some of the ideas that are coming back to the league."

While plans are still being conceived and considered, nothing has been decided at this time. Any decisions regarding changes to the NHL Draft would require approval from the NHLPA as well, per Friedman.

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