March 29, 2020

Top prospects understanding of draft uncertainty

All they can do, for now, is wait.

Those top prospects with June 26 circled on their calendar will have to white it out and wait, when the National Hockey League officially postponed the 2020 NHL Draft and Lottery on Wednesday in response to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus.

No date, understandably, has been rescheduled.

No certainty around the situation, either.

“I do (wonder),” said Lucas Raymond, No. 4 in Future Considerations Spring ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft, from his home in Sweden. “It’s a lot of talking. I haven’t heard any of the decisions yet. I don’t know if it’s online or when it’s even going to happen.

“Of course it’s a bit nervous, but it’s wait-and-see.

“I mean, I have thought about it. You’ve watched it since you were a little kid. If you get drafted in the first round you get to go up on the stage and stuff like that. It would be sad not to be able to do it, but we’ll just have to wait and see and hopefully it will happen.

“It’s such a huge, huge thing with the Coronavirus right now. You have to think about the health of people all around the world. It’s bigger than all sports.”

Answers are scarce.

With the fate of the NHL’s season still undetermined, the what, when, where are far from sorted.

It’s questionable whether the draft will move forward at Bell Centre, its original home, in front of what would’ve surely been a capacity crowd of over 21,000. It’s more expected the day will either be a heavily modified version like the league saw in 2005.

Another option tossed about is to hold the 2020 draft completely online.

Disappointing for those who have waited for their moment, but reasonable nonetheless.

“I really live it day-by-day and try to control what I can control. If the Draft is online, it will be different for us, but we’ll still enjoy our time and be happy.” Alexis Lafreniere, the top-ranked prospect for the draft, said via conference call Wednesday. “The most important thing is that everyone stays healthy.

“It’d be so nice to get drafted, and nicer to get drafted in front of fans in a big arena, but you can’t do anything about it right now. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Uncertainty has moved quickly through the hockey, sporting, and life landscape.

The draft’s postponement came two days after the NHL had announced no decisions regarding the status of the event had been determined.

It was the latest news following a run of cancellations and postponements in the hockey world.

The NHL paused its season March 12, and the Canadian Hockey League, including the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, cancelled the remainder of its regular season the same day.

The 2020 World Under-18 Championship, one of the biggest scouting showcases of the season featuring draft eligible prospects from Canada, United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus and Latvia, was cancelled on March 13.

The CHL cancelled individual league playoffs, including the 2020 Memorial Cup, on March 23.

Seasons in Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Switzerland were halted. The NCAA playoffs were also nixed, as was the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia on March 25.

Hockey came to a standstill.

“It was pretty crazy,” Connor Zary, Future Considerations’ top-ranked prospect from the WHL, said from Saskatchewan. “It was our day off and we were chilling upstairs at my billet house…there’s three of us in the billet house. We’re watching TV and all the stuff came up about the NBA being cancelled and (Rudy Gobert) testing positive. We heard rumours about the NHL and the next morning we got a text to not come in and we had a phone conference.

“Five hours later the league’s on pause and then two days later we get another phone call to say to go home and from there, got home and five days later the playoffs are cancelled. Pretty short time period but there’s not much you can do.

“There’s no cure for what’s going on right now.”

In that lies understanding.

And an acceptance, from top prospects, that their draft day may eventually unfold a little different than imaged.

“We can’t change it now but it’s good for everyone’s health,” Tim Stutzle, the No. 3 ranked prospect, said from his home in Germany. “It’s a good decision. We can’t change it.

“It’s tough times, but I think everybody needs to stay at home. Everybody needs to help.”

“It’d be so nice to get drafted, and nicer to get drafted in front of fans in a big arena, but you can’t do anything about it right now.

“We’ll just have to see what happens.”

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