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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL Is Pushing For An Early June Draft, Which Could Work Out Well For The Jets

News broke on Friday afternoon that the NHL is looking to have it’s 2020 Entry Draft and have it sooner rather than later. Teams received a notice from the league that a possible date of June 5 is being looked at and thus there would need to be a quick discussion and final decision made as early as next week – likely when the league has a Board Of Governors call on Monday.

And from the sounds of things, this seems like it’s going to be more of a “here’s what we’re going to do” rather than a “here’s an idea for you all to vote on” type call.

Of course the 2019-20 season isn’t over yet, it’s paused due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the league is still very much looking to complete that by almost any means necessary even if it means playing through July and August and starting the next season in December.

A draft taking place before the actual season ends would be odd to say the least and one might wonder why there seems to be such a rush to have a draft a month from now. Originally the draft was set to take place on June 26 and 27, so why move it up?

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One very possible answer? T.V. Networks. A note in the memo made it very clear that the NHL’s TV partners – both Sportsnet here in Canada and NBC in the US – are looking for more live sports content (much like we just had with the NFL Draft which had a huge ratings boost) and are ready to give the NHL more attention than they have ever received.

One could hardly blame the league for wanting to jump on an opportunity for more exposure – especially in the United States – but putting it together without an actual season having been completed poses some challenges which the league tried to address in the memo.

  • The draft lottery would revert back to the rules it had back in 2012, when just one winner picked and the winner would be limited to a move-up to a maximum of four spots.
  • For trades that have been made that have conditions related to the 2020 draft (the Milan Lucic / James Neal trade between Edmonton and Calgary being a really good example of one), the league would propose solutions. The teams would have seven days to either reform the deal on terms acceptable to both, or accept the NHL’s idea.
  • The draft order would be determined by points percentage, and teams not a playoff spot would be included in the lottery.

That last point is in bold, because this could directly affect the Leafs Jets.

The Winnipeg Jets currently hold down a playoff spot in the NHL standings, two points ahead of the Nashville Predators and the Vancouver Canucks for the first wild card spot, albeit with more games played than both of those teams. Points percentage wise however, the Jets (.563) would be on the outside of the playoff picture, having been passed by not just Nashville (.565) and Vancouver (.565), but by the Calgary Flames (.564) as well.

Meaning the Jets would be slotted to pick 12th overall, and would be added to the draft lottery with a chance to move up four spots in the draft to the 8th pick.

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Oh, and there would be a chance that the Jets could still be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, either via earning their way in through a completed regular season later in the summer, or through an expanded NHL playoff format. There is also a chance the Jets could win a round or two in the playoffs and since the draft will have already happened, they won’t have to deal with a lower round pick the further they go like teams would under regular circumstances.

There is a chance the NHL could alter some of the details of this plan between now and the BoG call on Monday, but it seems the bigger issue for NHL GM’s might be the lack of all teams in a draft lottery having a chance at the first overall pick like they have had the last handful of seasons, and not so much that teams like the Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, or Florida Panthers would be included when they have a better than average chance as also being involved in some form of NHL post-season play.

In a Winnipeg Jets season that has had multiple “strange, but true” occurrences, the idea the Jets could be both a draft lottery and playoff bound team in the same season seems almost perfect.