NHL Power Rankings: Ways to spice up early, virtual draft

The debate about whether holding the 2020 Draft in early June is a good idea continues. Even as some general managers, like Steve Yzerman and Brian MacLellan, publicly express their objection, the possibility is not going away.

From all indications, it appears as if the league is really pushing the idea to put the draft on before the resumption of the 2019-20 season. That would certainly be weird and, as we’ve gone over, there would be plenty to figure out. But if the NHL does indeed get its way, it’s a good opportunity to go all out in making it as entertaining as possible.

In this week’s Power Rankings, we offer five ways the NHL could make an early, virtual draft a successful endeavor.

1. Make it a second trade deadline

My pals at the Puck Soup podcast discussed this last week and it is a wild and fun idea. Trades are one of the biggest reasons to tune into draft weekend. You have 31 GMs all in one place walking around and drumming up proposals. Right now, if the draft takes place before the season is completed, it sounds like only deals involving picks will happen. That’s boring. Here’s a second chance for a team to add Taylor Hall or Joe Thornton for a playoff push or Cup run.

A highlight of the weekend is Commissioner Gary Bettman stepping to the podium and uttering, “We have a trade to announce!” That statement, followed only by a shift in draft positions, would not have the same impact.

2. Let the top 10 picks announce their own selections

Usually, the league commissioner, GM, current or former player, or even a scouting head announces a team’s first round pick. This draft needs to be more entertaining than previous years, so the top 10 picks will make their own announcements. Here’s how we do it: As the NFL did, each of the top 31 prospects will receive a numbered hat and jersey package from every NHL team. Once a team confirms its selection, the player or their agent will be told what package to open up.

In order to not ruin the surprise, the selections and reactions of the top 10 picks will be pre-recorded. Imagine Alexis Lafreniere ripping open the package to reveal he’s going to be a Red Wing or Senator or Shark or King. We might even get a “McDavid learns he’s going to Oilers” moment.

3. Have NHL Seattle finally reveal its nickname, color scheme and logo

If the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t put the entire world on hold we may have already learned the name of the newest expansion team. NHL Seattle, which will begin play with the 2021-22 season, was expected to announce the nickname in the first quarter of 2020. Well, we’re into May and still waiting.

But if the NHL is looking to grab headlines, why not use the draft to introduce its newest team? The league might as well capitalize while the attention is there. Let’s pause midway through Round 1 and have the Zoomed faces of Jerry Bruckheimer and Tod Leiweke pop up on our televisions to reveal the name, colors and logo. (Go Kraken!)

4. Just let the Red Wings have the No. 1 pick

Detroit was historically bad this season. They were so bad that even with 11 games to go they clinched dead last. Let them have Alexi Lafreniere. They certainly earned it and Steve Yzerman could use a centerpiece for his rebuild. 

As for the rest of the draft order? Use the lottery to decide picks Nos. 2-31 and make the odds for each team equal. (If you really want to get wild, hold the lottery the night before Round 1.) There’s no fair way to determine everything, especially if we’re not going to get a full 82 games from each team. A unique time calls for a unique solution. Yeah, you might have a team end up with the second pick and later win the Stanley Cup, but why do we reward ineptitude to begin with? 

5. Mic up everything

Some teams record behind-the-scenes draft footage every year featuring their staff discussing potential picks, trades and other business. Let’s make that an across-the-board order. Give the broadcasters access to the conversations of every GM. We want to hear what they’re discussing with their staffs and other teams if they’re talking trade. Give us some insight into their pre-draft chats with prospects. Bring the fans inside the process and it could help them understand a little more why certain decisions were made.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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