The 2020-21 NHL season is already filled with many changes and surprises including new divisions, a shortened season, and more. But another change we could be seeing this offseason could relate to the 2021 NHL Draft. This year was very difficult for scouts as many leagues were canceled/postponed due to the pandemic. Additionally, this year’s draft is completely wide open, with no consensus no. 1 pick, unlike years prior. There are many talks on how the NHL will change the draft lottery and the draft this year to make it fair for every team.
Changing Draft Lottery
Since the update of the draft lottery during the 2012-13 NHL offseason, only two teams that have finished in last place, were given the first overall picks. Those two were the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016 and the Buffalo Sabres in 2018. However, other than those two instances, the team with the worst record, always loses out on the lottery. Just last season, the Detroit Red Wings had one of the worst seasons in recent memory, and on top of that, they lost out on the lottery and picked fourth overall. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers who have one of the brightest futures in the league and almost made the playoffs were given the first pick in the draft. A lot of people are starting to believe that the draft lottery system is broken. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly speculated that the NHL may be looking to change the draft lottery system to give the worst teams a higher chance at the no.1 pick.
Pushing back the Draft
Another big thing that could happen is pushing back the draft altogether. As mentioned before, scouts were put in a difficult situation this year, assessing players’ values and potentials in a year when no one is playing. The league is considering possibly pushing the draft to a later date. This could affect many events such as the arrival of the Seattle Kraken and free agency. However, thus far the league has kept quiet about the 2021 Draft so we will have to wait and see what unfolds.
Combining 2021 & 2022 Draft
The last and most insane scenario would be if the NHL combined the 2021 and 2022 Draft. There have been a few rumors speculating this, however, there are some positives and negatives to this scenario. Looking at the positives, it would help teams and scouts by giving them a better outlook on prospects. On top of that, the 2022 draft class looks much better compared to the draft class, which would make the 2021/22 draft very stacked and very important. However, some negatives to this unprecedented draft would include fewer players coming into the league. Instead of the regular (including Seattle) 448 players coming into the league through the draft in two years, that number would be cut in half to 224. On top of that, teams would be hesitant to give up picks in this draft which would destroy the trade market.
There is still so much uncertainty regarding the 2021 and 2022 Draft, but until then, stay tuned for more news and updates.