PHT Morning Skate: Time to make changes to NHL Draft Lottery?

2 Comments

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Changes for NHL Draft Lottery, CBA, return to play links

• Travis Yost goes deep on possible structural changes to the NHL Draft Lottery after the controversial placeholder results. Could there be some big changes, either weighing odds differently, or something like “The Gold Plan” for the NHL Draft Lottery in the future. I wouldn’t hate the idea of, say, a team only being able to win the top pick every X number of years, or something of that nature. Here’s one thing I’m sure of: people will always complain. Death, taxes, griping. [TSN]

• Depending upon whom you ask, the NHL Draft Lottery is part of the league’s larger “pursuit of mediocrity.” In all honesty, it’s tough to argue with that stance after seeing 24 of 31 teams involved in the potential return-to-play plan. [Faceoff Circle]

As noted recently on PHT, reports indicate that a CBA extension could be brewing. Lyle Richardson breaks down how that might end up looking. [Full Press Coverage]

Other hockey links, including something on EA Sports’ “NHL 95”

• While many players choose jersey numbers for trivial reasons, Canucks forward Zack McEwen has a legit reason to fight for number 71. [Sportsnet]

• The PHWA announced that Tony Gallagher won the 2020 Elmer Ferguson Award for excellence in hockey journalism. PHWA president Frank Seravalli said Gallagher “was never afraid to break a few eggs in writing his daily omelette” while covering the Vancouver hockey market. [PHWA]

• We often focus on how many goals a player scores, but it can be fascinating to dig deeper. It turns out that Max Pacioretty wasn’t just one of three players with 300+ SOG this season. He also topped all players with 192 wrist shots. [Sin Bin Vegas]

• Did the Lightning pay too big of a price in the Blake Coleman trade? The pandemic pause certainly heightens the chances of the answer being “Yes.” [Raw Charge]

• To be clear, it’s been a bumpy first Stars season for Joe Pavelski. In the grand scheme of things, Pavelski ultimately got what he was looking for when he signed with Dallas. [The Hockey News]

• Dan Saraceni provides some wonderful memories of “NHL 95” on Sega Genesis. Saraceni goes into the greatest detail on the game’s GM mode, a truly rare feature for the era.

EA Sports NHL 95 GM PHT Morning Skate Draft Lottery changes
via EA Sports/Lighthouse Hockey

The post is a lot of fun to read, especially if you enjoy PHT’s video game series. [Lighthouse Hockey]

• In case you missed it, Chris Thorburn retired from the NHL after winning a Stanley Cup with the Blues. What’s next? He’d like to mentor other players. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

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: 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began (June 8)

NHL announces 26 players tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NHL announced that 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the Phase 2 process began on June 8.

To be more specific, the NHL split up the positive COVID-19 test results this way:

  • 15 players involved in Phase 2 (skating in small groups at team facilities) tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL notes that at least 250 players reported to team facilities during Phase 2. During that process, the league administered at least 1,450 COVID-19 tests on those players.
  • Of course, there are also players who haven’t reported to team facilities. The NHL revealed that it is aware of 11 additional players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 since June 8, the beginning of Phase 2. Note that players outside of Phase 2 aren’t subjected to the same level of oversight as those voluntarily reporting to teams.

The NHL added that all players who tested positive have self-isolated and are following CDC/Health Canada protocols.

Here’s the full NHL release on 26 players testing positive for COVID-19:

 

On June 19, the Lightning shut down their team facilities after three players and multiple staff members tested positive for COVID-19. That only represented a brief pause, though, as the Lightning jumped back into Phase 2 on June 24. Around that time, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun also reported that Auston Matthews tested positive for COVID-19. The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t confirm or deny that report.

Pondering what’s next after 26 NHL players test positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2

The Athletic’s Joe Smith recently took a look at the Lightning resuming Phase 2 (sub required). That article conveys the self-quarantine process. Yet, at the same time, Smith also captures the lack of certainty amid this pandemic.

In other NHL return-to-play news, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the league is unlikely to make hub city announcements on Monday:

Various reports indicate that the NHL hopes to transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3 (formal training camps) in mid-July. Earlier, it was indicated that the target date was July 10. That might change thanks to recent events, however. In the latest edition of “31 Thoughts,” Elliotte Friedman reported that the date could be moved by “three to five days, max.”

To get even more hopeful, the aim is for a full NHL return (Phase 4) in late July or early August. Obviously, that’s a work in progress. The NHL would need to clear hurdles to get there, especially if more players test positive for COVID-19.

Positive tests for COVID-19, hub city issues, and more NHL return stories:

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 announces return-to-play plans: 24-team playoff format, two hub cities

4 Comments

While there are still details to work out, the NHL made key return-to-play announcements on Tuesday. The highlights include: how the 24-team playoff format works, potential choices for two “hub cities,” and information on the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.

This post revolves around the 24-team playoff format and hub cities. Click here for more on the NHL’s return-to-play procedures for Phase 2.

One of the most important bits of new information is that NHL aims for formal training camps “no earlier than the first half of July.” We’ll get to that, and more, below.

NHL shares basic timeline to get through return-to-play phases; two hub cities details

Shortly after the pandemic pause, the NHL entered “Phase 1” of a return-to-play plan: players and staff practicing self-quarantining. The NHL shared the framework for the other return-to-play phases:

Phase 1: Pause and self-quarantineRegular season considered over. The NHL instituted the pandemic pause on March 12, with the regular season marked as ending as of March 11. The top 12 teams from each conference enter the 24-team playoff format, with positioning based on points percentage.

Phase 2: Noncontact skating for players in small groups at team facilities. The hopeful starting date for Phase 2 is early June. Again, this post covers the key points; if you want to read the 22-page NHL document, have at it.

Phase 3: Formal training camps starting “no earlier than the first half of July.”

Phase 4: 24-team playoff (including seeding games, play-in rounds) must still be determined.

The NHL also shared details on the two “hub cities” setup, including potential host cities:

• Chicago, IL
• Columbus, OH
• Dallas, TX
• Edmonton, AB
• Las Vegas, NV
• Los Angeles, CA
• Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
• Pittsburgh, PA
• Toronto, ON
• Vancouver, BC

* Each Conference is assigned a “hub” city with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation.

* Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in the “hub” city with only a small number of support staff permitted to enter the event areas.

* Timing and sites will be determined at a future date and will be dependent on COVID-19 conditions, testing ability and government regulations.

How the 24-team playoff format works

The NHL shared the “competitive format” for the 24-team playoff setup in its return-to-play announcement. As you can see, “the round robin” pertains to the seeding for the top four teams in each conference. The “qualifying round” has previously been referred to as a “play-in” round. City 1 represents Eastern Conference teams, while City 2 will include the West.

Competitive Format

In each Conference, teams seeded by points percentage.

Round Robin: The top 4 teams play for First Round seeding (regular-season overtime rules in effect)

Qualifying Round: The remaining 8 teams play best-of-5 series to advance to the First Round (playoff overtime rules in effect)

First Round and Second Round: Format (seeding vs. bracket) and series lengths to be determined

Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final: Best-of-7 series

* The winners from the Qualifying Round play the top 4 seeds in the First Round. Individual First Round series matchups remain to be determined.

City 1 (Eastern Conference)

NHL return-to-play East top 12

City 1 – Round Robin for Seeding in First Round

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. Philadelphia Flyers

City 1 – Best-of-5 Qualifying Round

#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens
#6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers
#7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers
#8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets

City 2 (Western Conference)

NHL return-to-play West top 12

City 2 – Round Robin for Seeding in First Round

  1. St. Louis Blues
  2. Colorado Avalanche
  3. Vegas Golden Knights
  4. Dallas Stars

City 2 – Best-of-5 Qualifying Round
#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago Blackhawks
#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes
#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild
#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets

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.

Mock Draft: Projecting top picks for the 2020 NHL Draft after part one of draft lottery

1 Comment

So, uh, we still don’t know which team will (almost certainly) pick Alexis Lafreniere first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. On the bright side, the zany draft lottery did determine picks two through eight of the 2020 NHL Draft. With that in mind, let’s ponder which players will represent the top eight picks by way of PHT’s mock draft.

Actually, perhaps you should consider this a mock draft of mock drafts. Maybe call it a consensus of consensuses?

PHT compiled the top 10 rankings from 11 different mock drafts/prospect rankings/big boards to put together a mock draft medley for the 2020 NHL Draft. If that doesn’t provide enough of a “consensus of consensuses,” consider how some of those mock drafts were compiled.

As a prominent example, TSN’s Bob McKenzie surveyed 10 scouts and presented that consensus. So this is a riddle wrapped in an enigma cooked with bacon, but for mock drafts for the 2020 NHL Draft. Or something like that.

For more insight on the process behind this mock draft for the 2020 NHL Draft, check the bottom of this post. You’ll find links to each of those 11 lists, too. What value!

Note: These rankings were compiled before the draft lottery, so yes, this leans toward “best player available” logic.

Lafreniere the near-unanimous top pick of 2020 NHL Draft

1. MYSTERY PLACEHOLDER TEAM — Alexis Lafreniere

Give credit to Cam Robinson of Dobber Hockey for being the one brave soul who didn’t rank Lafreniere first. Before you gather torches and pitchforks, realize that Robinson merely ranked the winger second, and praised Lafreniere effusively.

The Athletic’s Corey Pronman projects Lafreniere to be a “foundational player.” Others waffle between calling him a franchise player or, more modestly, a first-line winger. Maybe right off the bat.

So, will Lafreniere be special, or just really good? A team in the Qualifying Round will be glad to find out.

(Pauses for inevitable tanking jokes.)

[Click here for more on the NHL Draft Lottery.]

Second pick debates could be interesting

2. Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Byfield

Once you move beyond Lafreniere, Byfield stands tallest among top 2020 NHL Draft prospects — literally and figuratively. Robinson ranked Byfield ahead of Lafreniere, believing that Byfield has potential to eventually surpass the probable top pick.

Now, not everyone ranks Byfield second among prospects. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler wonders (sub required) if some dipping opinions boil down to overexposure. Wheeler praised many aspects of Byfield’s game:

He’s huge, his skating has become enough of a strength that he can really push the pace through the middle of the ice, he’s got excellent puck skill for a player his size and he’s surprisingly creative for his size. He’s also one of the younger players in the draft, so he’s got time to figure out the rest.

At times, NHL teams overvalue Huge Hockey Humans.

That said, it’s different when that Huge Hockey Human boasts discernible hockey skill. If Byfield puts it together, who knows what his ceiling can be? He also plays center, so Byfield could conceivably make the Kings really tough down the middle alongside (an admittedly aging but still effective) Anze Kopitar.

(Or someone else will get a potentially fantastic center.)

3. Ottawa Senators – Tim Stutzle

Let’s move from size to speed.

In the eyes of a healthy number of scouts, Stutzle is the second most enticing prospect.

“If there’s someone in this draft who could go by Lafreniere in the years to come, it’s this kid,” An anonymous NHL scout told TSN’s Bob McKenzie about Stutzle. “It’s because of the skating.”

It’s possible that Stutzle could go as high as second, yet there are some experts who barely squeeze the speedy German into the top seven. We’ll have to see how the Senators view the speedster. For all we know, Ottawa might try something bold with its two high first-rounders.

Room for movement after top three prospects in 2020 NHL Draft mocks

4. Detroit Red Wings – Jamie Drysdale

Largely believed to be the best defenseman in the 2020 NHL Draft, Drysdale should draw plenty of attention. Experts praise Drysdale’s skating — not just speed, but strong edge work — as one of his best qualities. Experts diverge, however, on how much of an impact Drysdale can make.

The Red Wings selected Moritz Seider during the 2019 NHL Draft, so maybe they’d prefer a forward. But … honestly, they need a bit of everything after a profoundly disastrous season. The Red Wings simply need to pick who they believe is the best player available.

5. Ottawa Senators – Marco Rossi

From Cole Caufield to Alex DeBrincat, it feels like each draft sports at least one polarizing, undersized forward prospect. Rossi looks to fit that bill for the 2020 NHL Draft. The 5-foot-9 forward inspires a range of rankings, with some picking Rossi as high as third.

Count Rossi as one of those smaller forwards you might describe as feisty. Even so, Pronman and others are concerned that Rossi might not be speedy relative to his size.

Will we see another smaller, skillful player slip? That hinges on how the Senators and other teams (above/below them?) view Rossi’s potential. Ottawa might end up only being willing to (slightly) gamble on one of Stutzle or Rossi, also. We’ll see.

(Also, the gap between Drysdale and Rossi was small, even though they’re quite different players.)

6. Anaheim Ducks – Lucas Raymond

More than one expert ranked Raymond as high as fourth. Among those, Robinson praises Raymond as  “an explosive winger who is equally dangerous with his shot or pass” who boasts rare “escapability.”

The Ducks need all the offensive punch they can get, so Raymond — or another forward — would make total sense.

7. New Jersey Devils – Cole Perfetti

Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino describes Perfetti as “a magician in the offensive zone with his ability to change pace and find teammates.”

That said, Perfetti inspires a range of rankings, as some are concerned about his skating (at least for a 5-foot-11 player slightly on the smaller side).

Personally, I believe Perfetti should get bumped up a letter grade for having a tremendous name.

8. Buffalo Sabres – Alexander Holtz

McKenzie made an interesting comparison between Holtz and fellow Swedish prospect Lucas Raymond:

Holtz, who plays both the left and right sides, has one of the best shots in the draft and is among the best natural goal-scorers. If Raymond sometimes gets questioned for being on the perimeter, Holtz gets high marks for getting to the inside and playing a harder game.

The Devils have locked down some high-end forward talent, but Holtz might be the sniper who really boosts a playmaker like, say, Jack Hughes. That said, the Devils also really need defense (and lots of other things), so it may come down to whether or not they believe Holtz is a potential 40-goal scorer (as Robinson believes).

(As a side note … there were some close results from this experiment, but Perfetti and Holtz finished in a dead heat.)

Honorable mock draft mentions for 2020 NHL Draft

  • Yaroslav Askarov (sometimes spelled Iaroslav) – Goalies don’t go in the first round very often. Despite that trend, Askarov has a chance to crack the top 10. Hey, if a goalie looks about as can’t-miss as goalie prospects can look, then it could be worth the risk, right?
  • Jake Sanderson – A team looking for a defenseman might prefer Sanderson to Drysdale. He’s generally considered the second-best blueliner by mock drafters, but that can vary.
  • Anton Lundell – The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy describes this center as “practically plug-and-play.” Lundell accounted well against older hockey players. Still, some wonder about his upside. When he showed well in rankings, Lundell generally peaked in the No. 9 or No. 10 spots.
  • Jack Quinn – In ranking Quinn 10th, Cosentino described Quinn as one of the “best-in-class goal-scorers.” Selfishly, I’m pulling for Jack Quinn to join Jack or Quinn Hughes during his career. In an ideal world of chaos (we’re living in a less-than-ideal world of chaos)? Team up all three.

Method for mock draft for 2020 NHL Draft, and further reading

To reiterate, PHT collected the top 10 rankings from 11 mock drafts/draft boards. Every list came out in April at the earliest, while several were published this week.

You can see the results in this clunky spreadsheet. Here are the staffs and/or writers who produced such lists (note: some articles may require subscriptions):

MORE: Lafreniere head of the 2020 prospect class

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.

Report: NHLPA to vote on return to play, CBA extension, $83M salary cap

Leave a comment

The entire membership of the NHLPA will vote on an NHL return-to-play plan, which could also include extending the CBA, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.

CBA extension could involve flat cap of $83M for “at least three seasons”

A possible CBA extension could have wide-reaching implications. Brooks reports that there could be a flat $83M salary cap for “at least” three seasons. The upside for the NHLPA is significant, though. Such a setup would also mean a cap for escrow, an unpredictable element loathed by players.

Naturally, plenty is subject to change. Brooks points out that even the $83M salary cap could be tweaked. But it would be a huge decision if a flat cap was introduced. As Brooks notes, this move would mean that the salary cap would no longer be linked to a 50-50 split in revenue.

Earlier today, Rangers star Artemi Panarin released a candid statement. Along with wishing that the Rangers could train in the MSG area, Panarin railed on escrow:

It sounds like the CBA extension proposal might soothe some of that tension? Maybe?

Entire NHLPA voting on NHL return to play plan also key

It’s pretty noteworthy, too, that the entire membership of the NHLPA might vote on a return-to-play plan.

Previously, there were rumblings that a return-to-play vote would be limited to an NHLPA executive board. An anonymous veteran player recently expressed displeasure regarding that idea to Michael Russo and James Mirtle of The Athletic (sub required).

“Guys are not happy,” The veteran player said. “This is why we better have a full player vote and not just an executive board vote. But I’m not convinced (NHLPA executive director) Don (Fehr) is going to allow that because he knows there’s so many of us on the fence. That’s why I think the league was trying to be hush-hush on these positive tests.

“In my opinion, no way we play.”

Players haven’t just expressed their concerns about COVID-19 privately, either.

That goes beyond a role player with possible risk factors such as Anton Stralman. Canadiens goalie Carey Price expressed concerns about the process on Thursday.

Some believe that it’s not necessarily a slam dunk (tap-in goal?) that a majority of players would approve a return to play. An anonymous agent noted to Russo and Mirtle that playing in the setup wouldn’t even translate to a full paycheck for some players. That’s a lot of risk for little return.

However, if the NHLPA and NHL hammered out some pretty favorable concessions for both sides in that CBA extension? Now that might be something that could make plenty of sense for the players (and league).

Of course, with just about every part of this process, a lot is subject to change. As we’ve seen, there are twists and turns in merely determining the two NHL hub cities.

If this vote comes to pass, it would create some long-term clarity during these very unclear times.

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.