NHL prospects prepared for ‘unique’ 2020 draft experience

The 2020 NHL draft class will have a different experience this year thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no NHL Combine, no visit to the Stanley Cup Final to meet the Lightning and Stars, and no draft weekend trip to Montreal with their friends and family. Dreams of hearing their names called and walking up on stage to throw on the team jersey and hat will not come true.

The reality is that the 2020 NHL draft class will be in their homes, watching on television awaiting the moment they will become part of the NHL. 

“Definitely a huge bummer,” said Sudbury (OHL) center Quinton Byfield, the No. 2-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

Like the WNBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball before, the 2020 NHL Draft will be done virtually. Round 1 will take place Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app (livestream). Rounds 2-7 will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7 beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET on NHL Network.

[PHT/RotoWorld NHL Mock Draft]

“It’s going to be unique,” said Saginaw center (OHL) Cole Perfetti, the No. 5-ranked North American skater. “And even though it’s not the traditional way and the way I dreamed of it, it’s going to be great to be able to spend the day with my family and all my close friends that were there for me through all these years and supported me. So it’s going to be a fun night, and I’m really grateful for that.”

When the No. 1 pick is announced, it will be the New York Rangers taking Rimouski (QMJHL) winger Alexis Lafreniere. It would have been a dream night inside Bell Centre for the St-Eustache, Quebec City native. But he’ll have to settle for a celebration at home with friends and family a little over three months after the originally scheduled date.

“It’s been a pretty long wait, a couple of months waiting,” Lafreniere said.

The prospects have had extra time to continue working out and improving their games before they find out which NHL franchise will draft them. Some have aimed to get stronger, while others wanted to fine tune their skating or shooting or stick-handling. 

It’s been a long journey for the prospects and their families to this point. The amount of work put in and sacrifices made in order for dreams to be realized will soon pay off.

“Definitely thinking about it quite a bit,” said Byfield. “The day that you’ve been waiting for all your life is finally here.”

MORE: Alexis Lafreniere’s wait is almost over

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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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