According to a memo released to all teams on Friday, the National Hockey League is pushing the idea of holding the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in a little over a month, perhaps as early as June 5. The June draft plan submitted by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly acknowledges that “there is no way, under these most unusual circumstances, for us to maintain the ‘status quo,” which apparently includes waiting until the 2019-20 season is resumed and concluded (or outright canceled).
The decision itself is complicated and controversial, and reportedly not all general managers are on board — Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman was the loudest in voicing his opposition. But the NHL is reportedly putting a lot of pressure on teams to adopt the June draft plan, so much so that they have apparently already gotten the broadcasters on board. And many GMs, while anywhere from hesitant to outright against the idea of holding a draft before the Stanley Cup is awarded, are showing signs of being resigned to the eventuality of the NHL getting their way.
The June Draft Plan
The memo submitted by the league took into consideration many factors when it comes to holding what is ostensibly a mid-season draft, and suggests some significant changes to the draft lottery and selection order process:
- The 15 lottery teams would be decided by percentage of points per the number of games each team had completed when the season was paused.
- Instead of awarding the top three selections as the draft has done since 2016, the NHL will use the lottery method that was in effect from 1995-2012, with only one team winning the lottery, limited to moving up a maximum of four spots. The draft lottery would use a similar odds chart to the one used in previous seasons, illustrated here by Micah Blake McCurdy:
I've taken the liberty of computing what the eventual pick probabilities would be if that were to happen, using the same probabilities for the lottery that have been used in previous years. pic.twitter.com/6MbYJeQMlf— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) May 4, 2020
- Trades for draft picks that were conditional on factors that would require a full season (playoff vs. non-playoff teams, rounds of playoffs achieved, goals scored, etc.) would be resolved by the NHL making a suggestion as to how the teams can come to terms on a solution. The impacted teams would have seven days to either come to their own agreement or accept the terms set forth by the league.
- Players who were part of active rosters (and would resume playing the 2019-20 season if/when the season continues) would not be eligible to be traded prior to or during the draft.
The Minnesota Wild and the Draft Lottery
What do these new rules mean for the Wild’s first-round selection? Based on points percentage, Minnesota would miss the 16-team “playoff” cut, and would be ranked 11th overall in terms of draft order prior to the lottery. This means that 10 potential winners would have no effect on the Wild’s selection, and they would remain where they are. At 90 percent, this is by far the most likely scenario. Should one of the four teams behind them in the standings (the Jets, Panthers, Rangers or Blue Jackets) win the lottery, they would move past the Wild, dropping Minnesota to the 12th spot — and there’s a 7 percent chance of that happening. Of course, the Wild also have a 3 percent chance of winning the lottery themselves. Should that happen, Minnesota would select seventh, bumping down the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and the New Jersey Devils, who received Arizona’s first-round selection in the Taylor Hall trade.
The Jason Zucker Trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins
While the NHL did not give any details on specific trade resolutions in their May 1 memo, one can speculate that the Penguins would be considered a playoff (i.e., non-lottery) team for the purposes of determining the draft order. In all likelihood, that means the NHL would suggest the Wild would receive the Penguins’ No. 24 overall selection in the 2020 draft, as agreed to in the trade that sent Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh for Alex Galchenyuk and Calen Addison, instead of the Penguins having the option to defer until 2021. Considering how deep the 2020 draft is considered to be by most scouts and prognosticators, the Wild would likely agree to that deal, should the NHL suggest it. The Penguins, on the other hand, would have to decide whether or not to bet on themselves. The 24th overall pick would be commensurate with making the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Do the Penguins think their 2020-21 team would go to the conference finals or farther? If they don’t, would they be able to entice the Wild to wait with some additional compensation?
There is much that is still unknown about the NHL’s draft plans and if/when/how they will resume the 2019-20 season in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. But it seems that we get more information day by day, so we might find out sooner rather than later.