Leon Draisaitl

2020 NHL Draft postponed Combine Awards
via NHL

2020 NHL Draft, Combine, Awards have been postponed

While the 2019-20 season remains on “pause,” the NHL announced that the 2020 NHL Draft, Combine, and Awards have all been postponed.

The league explains that the “location, timing, and format” of the 2020 NHL Draft (and corresponding lottery) will be announced once details have been finalized. This makes sense, as The Athletic’s Craig Custance reports that the league and team executives are battering around different ideas about how to handle the lottery (sub required).

(Sadly, Custance’s report also mostly shoots down the most-fun ideas, like a tournament among cellar dwellers to decide who gets the top pick. Perhaps that would be too exciting?)

The Combine was originally set for June 1-6 in Buffalo, the awards ceremony was going to take place in Las Vegas once again on June 18, while the 2020 NHL Draft was originally set for June 26-27 in Montreal.

If the NHL parallels other sports leagues, these events will likely be handled mostly online and in scaled-down formats, but we’ll wait and see.

Lamenting the Draft, Combine, Awards being postponed

Those looking for the biggest losers of this announcement will focus on:

  • Scouts, and other people who want to know if someone can or cannot do pull-ups.
  • People who love to laugh at awkward Combine photos, assuming that sweaty event doesn’t happen at all.

Actually, quick question. Which genre of Combine photo is more amusing? Do you rate the various funny faces while lifting shots the highest?

NHL Draft Lottery postponed no Combine lifting faces Lias Andersson
Sorry, Lias Andersson. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

… Or those V02 tests from earlier Combines, where the shenanigans went from cheeky to cruel once they got rid of those masks? (Waits for bad Bane impressions.)

NHL Draft Lottery postponed no Combine Bane Leon Draisaitl
Sorry, too, to Leon Draisaitl (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Actually, the answer is probably c) wild hockey hair photos.

NHL Draft Lottery postponed no Combine Timothy Liljegren
Timothy Liljegren somehow not touching one of those static energy machines at a science museum (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
  • Also losing: anyone wondering if Kenan Thompson would be back for another strong Awards performance. Would his rivalry with the Lightning have continued? We may never know.

Anyway, we still await bigger announcements regarding the 2019-20 NHL season, but now we know that the Draft, Combine, and Awards will be postponed. (Again, it’s fair to wonder how the Combine can really function. Rigorous workouts on Skype or Zoom? I’m running out of streaming platforms here, gang.)

Let’s be honest, shutting down the Awards in Vegas was kind of a no-brainer for public health, if nothing else. Trust me on that one.

MORE:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL pushes back timeline on potential resumption of season

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Don’t count on hockey being played any time soon.

The NHL significantly pushed back its timeline of when it can potentially resume playing by several weeks, if not a month or more, as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The league and NHL Players’ Association told players Monday they can go home – even outside of North America – and must self-isolate through March 27 while the season is on hold. But the NHL also cautioned that it will not be able to even provide guidance on the potential reopening of team practices for another 45 days, which could push any potential return to play into May.

The new directives come on the heels of the CDC’s recommendation against gatherings of 50 or more people in the U.S. for the next eight weeks. The NHL said ”depending on world developments,” consideration will be given to reopening facilities after the self-quarantine period ends in late March but practices for the 31 teams would not happen late April – at the earliest.

”I think in light of the CDC recommendations, it’s hard to foresee that we’re looking at much happening here in March or even April, in my opinion,” NHL player agent Jay Grossman said.

That’s a major switch from Friday, when the league held out the possibility of players being able to return to team facilities and working out and skating in small groups.

The latest decision leaves open questions as to whether the NHL can complete its regular season, which was suspended Thursday with 189 games remaining, and whether it might have to alter its playoff format to avoid the postseason from pushing into the summer months.

Last week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he remained optimistic about resuming play and still awarding the Stanley Cup, which has been handed out every year since 1893 except for 1919 because of the Spanish flu outbreak, and 2005 when a lockout wiped out the entire season.

Though the NHL followed the NBA’s lead in suspending its season, Bettman declined to place a time frame on how long the ”pause” would last. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last week said his league’s hiatus would likely last at least a month.

”The pause will be until it’s appropriate and prudent and safe to start back up,” Bettman had said. ”Nobody knows how long the hiatus may be. Nobody, even the medical community, can predict it with certainty.”

Bettman and NHL and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr each said Friday he was not aware of any player testing positive for coronavirus.

On Monday, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Aaron Ness became the first NHL player publicly known to have been tested for COVID-19. Ness’ agent, Neil Sheehy, said results came back negative after his client followed NHL guidelines to seek out testing for flu-like symptoms.

”He never thought he had it to begin with, to be quite honest,” Sheehy said. ”What happened is the league was saying if you have a sore throat, if you have a runny nose, if you have a cough, call the trainer and don’t come to the rink, and so he did that.”

The NHL’s new directive in allowing players to return home led to players and coaches scrambling to make travel plans.

In Buffalo, New York, Sabres forward Marcus Johansson initially hoped to travel home to Sweden on a flight out of nearby Toronto. Those plans changed when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the country was shutting its borders except to Canadians and Americans, while also imposing a 14-day self-quarantine to those entering the country.

Johansson was instead attempting to book a flight home through New York City.

In an email to The AP, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there was little the league could do regarding travel restrictions.

”It’s a consequence of where we find ourselves. Nobody’s fault,” Daly wrote.

The U.S. government has imposed a travel ban from Europe for non-citizens that extends until mid-April. There are currently 233 European players on NHL rosters, including leading scorer Leon Draisaitl from Germany, and there are under contract in the minors. How many might return home is unknown.

”I’ve spoken to some players who are doing their best to obviously scramble to return to the safest, most comfortable environment that they can get to at this point,” Grossman said.

In the meantime, the American Hockey League followed the NHL in a decision reached by its executive committee on Monday. The 31-team league announced the indefinite suspension of its regular season won’t be lifted before May, and was also recommending its teams work on returning players to their primary homes.

Overseas, the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League took a one-week pause during its playoffs to determine a a new format and schedule for its six remaining teams. The decision came after Finland-based Jokerit and Kazakhstan-based Barys Nur-Sultan pulled out of the playoffs amid the pandemic.

NHL Power Rankings: Where every team stands right now

NHL Power Rankings
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Even though there is no hockey at the moment but we will keep the NHL Power Rankings rolling along every Monday.

In future weeks during the NHL’s hiatus this will take a more off-beat approach, but for now, we are going to take another look at where every team in the NHL stood before the season was put on hold.

Here is where we are for right now.

1. Boston Bruins. The Bruins were well on their way to winning the Presidents’ Trophy and potentially finishing with one of the best records in franchise history. They have it all this season.

2. St. Louis Blues. The defending Stanley Cup champions were looking even better than a year ago and starting to hit their stride in the stretch run. There is also that possibility of a Vladimir Tarasenko return lurking in the background.

3. Colorado Avalanche. Even as the injuries mounted they kept winning. A lot. A truly scary team in both the short-and long-term.

4. Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers finally find a franchise goalie and then a global pandemic brings everything to a stop.

5. Vegas Golden Knights. They were starting to go on a roll at just the right time, have two great goalies, and were still going to get Mark Stone back.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning. They won just three out of 10 after their 11-game winning streak came to an end. Losing Steven Stamkos, and more recently, Victor Hedman, were two big injuries to deal with.

7. Washington Capitals. John Carlson was on pace for a 90-point season, which is still pretty absurd to think about it in today’s NHL for a defenseman.

8. Edmonton Oilers. If nothing else, Leon Draisaitl has shown this season he can not only carry his own line, he can dominate while doing so.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins. Their big question going into the playoffs would be whether or not one of Tristan Jarry or Matt Murray could step up and run with the goaltending job. Lately, neither one had done that.

10. Minnesota Wild. Truly one of the strangest teams in the league this season. At so many different points they seemed finished, only to keep coming back and staying in the race. They are 15-7-1 in their past 23 games and looking like a playoff team.

11. Carolina Hurricanes. The injuries on defense were going to be a lot to overcome, but getting Petr Mrazek back (and hopefully James Reimer) would have been a huge lift.

12. Nashville Predators. Once one of their goalies (in this case Juuse Saros) started making some saves they magically started winning again.

13. Toronto Maple Leafs. There is no team in the NHL that has a wider range of possible outcomes than this one. They could win it all. They could lose in Round 1 in five games. They could keep everyone together. They could trade a core piece this summer. Who knows?

14. Winnipeg Jets. Not only should Connor Hellebuyck get serious Vezina Trophy consideration, he should get a few top-five MVP votes for what he has done for this team.

15. Calgary Flames. I feel like this team should be better than it has been, and at the same time, isn’t as bad as I thought it has been.

16. Dallas Stars. The offense would hold them back and be a concern. The goaltending would give them a chance.

17. New York Rangers. There is a foundation in place for this team to be very good, very fast, and for a very long time,.

18. Vancouver Canucks. They were set to get Brock Boeser back, which would have been huge, but the Jacob Markstrom injury was going to be a problem.

19. Florida Panthers. Back-to-back wins against Montreal and St. Louis (an extremely impressive win) helped them stay in it, but this season has mostly been a disappointment.

20. New York Islanders. Speaking of disappointments, after last year’s surprising performance and that 15-game point streak earlier this season the bottom completely fell out on this team. It was not getting any better down the stretch.

21. Chicago Blackhawks. The story of the 2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks was going to be “too little, too late.”

22. Los Angeles Kings. Say this for the Kings: The players still there never quit on this season. One of the hottest teams in the league going into the hiatus and beating playoff teams regularly.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets. It would have been interesting to see what this team was capable of with better injury luck.

24. Montreal Canadiens. He probably will not get many votes because he is very overlooked, but Philip Danault would be a good Selke Trophy sleeper.

25. Arizona Coyotes. They made a lot of the right moves, things just did not work out. Losing their two goalies definitely hurt. While Adin Hill did find in place of them, a healthy Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta were difference makers.

26. New Jersey Devils. One of the bright spots here was the late season resurgence of Cory Schneider. He has had such a great career it would have been a shame to see him just suddenly lose it all.

27. Anaheim Ducks. They desperately need an influx of offensive talent for next season and beyond.

28. San Jose Sharks. Get them healthy and give them better goaltending and let’s see what this core can do next season.

29. Buffalo Sabres. In a different year on a better team we would be talking about Jack Eichel as an MVP contender.

30. Ottawa Senators. With a little draft lottery luck they could have two top-five picks this year (their pick and San Jose’s pick). That could be franchise changing.

31. Detroit Red Wings. But no team needs the No. 1 overall pick more than the Red Wings.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Where the NHL left off with 2019-20 season in limbo

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Here we are, into the unknown…

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the NHL to put the 2019-20 season on “pause.” When will see hockey again? How will the rest of the season play out? Will the Stanley Cup be awarded? Those are questions that will remain unanswered for the moment.

As we wait for hockey’s return, let’s remember where we left off after Wednesday night’s NHL action.

The standings

The Capitals, Bruins, Blues, and Golden Knights are your four division leaders and the Flyers, Penguins, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Avalanche, Stars, Oilers, and Flames are your No. 2 and No. 3 divisional seeds. Rounding out the playoff picture we have the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Jets, and Predators as the four wild cards.

Eager to find their way into a playoff spot, the Islanders, Rangers, Panthers, Canucks, Wild, and Coyotes are just a few points out.

The NHL could contemplate several options if there’s a timely return to playing games again. 

• The remainder of the season could be played with the beginning of the playoffs being pushed back beyond the original April 8 start date. 

• Cut down from 82 games to something in the 70’s and go from there. 

• End the regular season and use points percentage to determine the 16 playoff teams and seeds.

• Remember all that talk about “play-in” games like the NCAA basketball tournament? If there will not be a resumption of the regular season, teams can play a mini tournament to determine the final two playoff spots in each conference.

This situation is obviously very fluid and the NHL is contemplating a range of situations as they hope for a green light to play again.

There is the sense, though, that if the season extends into summer, it won’t affect the start of the 2020-21 schedule. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Sportsnet that he expects 2020-21 to be a “normal season.”

[RELATED: NHL decides to ‘pause’ regular season due to coronavirus]

That Brendan Lemieux hearing

The Rangers forward was scheduled to have a Friday hearing with the Department of Player Safety for his hit on Joonas Donskoi of the Avs.

Will we hear that announcement on Friday? Or will Lemieux have a long wait to not only learn his fate?

UPDATE:

The scoring races

Leon Draisaitl holds a 13-point lead over Oilers teammate Connor McDavid for the Art Ross Trophy:

Leon Draisaitl – 110 points
Connor McDavid – 97
David Pastrnak – 95 
Artemi Panarin – 95
Nathan MacKinnon – 93

Draisaitl is also in the mix for the Rocket Richard Trophy, but is five goals behind David Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin, who each have scored 48 this season:

David Pastrnak – 48 goals
Alex Ovechkin – 48
Auston Matthews – 47
Leon Draisaitl – 43
Mika Zibanejad – 41

If there was a Gretzky Award for most assists, Draisaitl would have an edge there with 67, four more than McDavid and Artemi Panarin.

Leon Draisaitl – 67 assists
Artemi Panarin – 63
Connor McDavid – 63
John Carlson – 60
Brad Marchand – 59

The draft lottery picture

Here’s where the race to draft Alexis Lafreniere No. 1 overall stands:

Detroit Red Wings — 18.5 percent
Ottawa Senators  — 13.5 percent
Ottawa Senators* — 11.5 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 7.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 6.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 6 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 5 percent
New Jersey Devils** — 3.5 percent
Minnesota Wild  — 3 percent
Vancouver Canucks — 2.5 percent
Nashville Predators — 2 percent
Florida Panthers — 1.5 percent
Calgary Flames — 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Pierre LeBrun on Friday that a decision on the draft and scouting combine has not been made at this point. He did add, “The only thought to conducting an on-line draft (or one conducted telephonically/technologically) would be if there would be a need to do so.”

The post-lockout 2005 NHL Draft was held in an Ottawa ballroom and featured no fans and only the top 20 prospects in attendance.

Bettman said on Thursday that he “expects” the league to resume at some point and he wants to award the Stanley Cup this season. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported on Thursday that the league has reached out to teams to get arena availabilities through the end of July as part of preparing for what could happen next.

Then you also have the questions about what to do about free agency and when player contracts expire if the season goes beyond July 1? How is the 2020-21 salary cap, which was expected to rise, affected by this potential hit on revenue?

So many questions, and we don’t know when we’ll have any answers.

MORE:
Hockey leagues following NHL’s lead
Uncertainty awaits as NHL puts season on ice — for now
How grassroots hockey has been affected by COVID-19

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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.

Push for the Playoffs: In the event the push doesn’t go on pause

Push for the Playoffs if NHL does not pause regular season
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(Update: The NHL decided to “pause” the 2019-20 season, so Thursday’s games have been canceled. Read more.)

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 NHL season, barring a pause. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

As discussed in Thursday’s Morning Skate, it’s difficult to ignore the elephant in the room. While the NHL pushed the decision back on Wednesday, they’ll need to make the call soon. Will they put the season (and thus the Push for the Playoffs) on pause because of the coronavirus, much like the NBA, or will there be another solution? Could we see each team play multiple games in empty arenas?

A lot is unknown as of this writing.

Frankly, there’s also a lot to settle when it comes to various playoff races. If Thursday’s 10 games do take place, they will have serious implications for the standings.

Teams in dogfights for playoff spots cannot allow distractions to disrupt their games. That’s easier said than done, but teams like the Hurricanes, Panthers, Predators, Islanders, Coyotes, and others have little choice but to battle until the league blows the whistle to pause the Push for the Playoffs … you know, or not.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Bruins vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Blues vs. Predators
Golden Knights vs. Jets
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Games canceled, season put on hold.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Bruins – 100 percent
Lightning – 100 percent
Capitals – 99.9
Flyers – 99.4
Penguins – 95.5
Hurricanes – 79.3
Maple Leafs – 73.9
Islanders – 53.2
Panthers – 43.6
Blue Jackets – 33
Rangers – 22.2
Canadiens – 0
Sabres – 0
Senators – 0
Devils – 0
Red Wings – OUT

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Blues – 100 percent
Avalanche – 100
Golden Knights – 99
Stars – 95.6
Oilers – 93.3
Canucks – 67.9
Flames – 65
Jets – 56.8
Predators – 54.7
Wild – 49.6
Coyotes – 15.5
Blackhawks – 2.6
Ducks – 0
Kings – 0
Sharks – 0

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

Detroit Red Wings — 18.5 percent
Ottawa Senators  — 13.5 percent
Ottawa Senators* — 11.5 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 7.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 6.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 6 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 5 percent
New Jersey Devils** — 3.5 percent
Minnesota Wild  — 3 percent
Winnipeg Jets — 2.5 percent
New York Rangers — 2 percent
Florida Panthers — 1.5 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 110 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 97 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 95 points
Artemi Panarin, Rangers – 95 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 93 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

David Pastrnak, Bruins – 48 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 48 goals
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 47 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Mika Zibanejad, Rangers – 41 goals

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.