As the United States of America and Canada have flattened the curve of COVID-19, the NHL looks to how it will proceed with its regular season. Make no mistake, we are far from being out of the woods with COVID-19, but based on recent data trends, it is reasonable to begin planning a possible resumption to the 2019-20 season.
The Current Situation
As of 2:53pm ET on Monday May 4, 2020, the United States has 1.2 million cases, while our friends north of the border sit at a little over 60,000 cases. The NHL allowed players to return to their home countries for the outbreak. However, this has been seen as problematic.
Countries such as Sweden have allowed players to skate, and Sweden’s response has been largely criticized by the media. Allowing Swedish players to skate gives the Swedes an advantage over their North American counterparts. Sweden has about 23,000 cases. Now of course, not all of the Swedes went home. Some opted to stay in North America.
The 2020 NHL Draft was supposed to be held June 26-27 in Montreal. Like the NFL Draft, the NHL Draft will now be held online. Headlined by Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzle, the draft is supposed to be a pretty deep one. It is interesting to wonder if the NHL will use the same tactic the NFL draft did- which was set up cameras in the homes of team personnel and draftees. It’d be cool to see Steve Yzerman’s trophy case or Dale Tallon’s golf clubs. The biggest question on everyone’s mind. Will Gary Bettman employ virtual boos like Roger Goodell? Bettman like the NFL commissioner has seemingly embraced his role as the NHL villain, whether fairly earned or not, and it would be a refreshing change of pace for a sport that is often so serious. Bettman wants to hold the draft in early June according to reports. Some GMs such as Steve Yzerman want Bettman to wait until the end of the regular season.
Why are some GMs opposed?
A large part of the opposition to the draft being held before the end of the season is because of conditional picks. With 6 conditional picks in the first round alone, GMs want to ensure they can collect the maximum amount of picks possible. If the draft is held before the regular season ends, a complex is faced. The pick situations are in a Schrodinger situation where they have been fulfilled, haven’t been fulfilled or haven’t been fulfilled but still have the chance to be fulfilled. A draft before the end of the regular season would cause the last of the three categories to become part of the second category, which could hurt some teams. There are 14 unresolved conditional picks currently.
What I Would Do
With the NHL intent on finishing the regular season and playoffs, the 2020-21 season will be delayed. In all likelihood, the NHL offseason will be forced to be shortened. I would end the regular season before hosting the draft. However, if possible, I would want the draft to be held prior to the playoffs. This will give teams a much better chance to evaluate themselves heading into free agency.
How Does this Effect the Panthers?
Currently in limbo, the Panthers stand a chance to win the Alexis Lafrieniere sweepstakes, but a slim one. 3 points outside of the playoffs, a Win-win scenario would see the draft held before the end of the season, the Panthers move up to get a higher pick. The Panthers have a few big holes. A legitimate 2nd line center and a top 4 defensive defenseman. Henrik Borgstrom still has the potential to be the 2nd line center, but his chances are fading rapidly. Borgstrom’s tale is sad as his development was completely screwed over. In hindsight, Borgstrom should have undergone his Junior year at Denver, before making the jump. After a gross mismanagement under Bob Boughner, Borgstrom is back in the minors and is struggling. The Panthers constant failure to develop prospects that didn’t make the jump right away has been a thorn in their side. Failure to develop European players other than Aleksander Barkov has sent many prospects back to Europe. Borgstrom’s defense has been improving according to reports, but at the expense of his offensive game. Aleksander Barkov cannot carry the center core forever. Barkov, no longer underrated, is now recieving special attention. Barkov is a stud, but he is one that thrives on his ability to fly under the radar. With the league seeing him as a legit threat, the Finnish stud has been shadowed all over the ice this year. Vincent Trocheck’s unfortunate injury left Barkov alone as a center to carry the team. I don’t think Borgstrom is going to be that center. With the emergence of John Ludvig, as well as a promising showing from Riley Stillman, the Panthers need to pick a center to help ease the burden off of Barkov. They need a new Vincent Trocheck, pre-ankle injury.
Assuming the draft is before the season and the Panthers don’t move up, they’ll pick 14th.
Best Case Scenario- Anton Lundell
Lundell has been ranked in the 8-13 caveat, but if he drops, the 6’1 Finnish center would be a nice fit in Florida. A nice shooter, Lundell is a complete two-way player like Barkov before him. He’s projected to be a reliable 2nd line center that can play a checking role. This is key as it takes pressure off of Barkov in the defensive zone. Lundell is my ideal pick for Florida. In the last three years, the Panthers picked my ideal guy twice (Tippett and Knight). However, I don’t know if he’ll still be on the board when it’s our turn to pick.
Dylan Holloway, C
Hendrix Lapierre, C
Mavrik Borque, C