After months of trying to get on the ice for a shortened 2020-21 season, the Ontario Hockey League officially canceled its season on Tuesday.
“We have worked tirelessly with the Province and the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the past year on different scenarios and different windows of opportunity but the reality is the conditions in Ontario have never been right to start and complete an uninterrupted, safe opportunity for players to showcase their skills,” OHL commissioner David Branch said in a statement released by the league. “We owe it to our players and their families to be definitive. We were committed to return and play this season, but our hopes and desires have been dashed by the cruel realities of COVID-19.”
The league’s 17-teams are comprised of about 450 players, many with serious NHL aspirations, so the lack of opportunity for NHL teams to view those players will have a serious impact on the 2021 NHL Draft, and beyond. What does this mean for the NHL Draft? Which players are most impacted? How are teams responding? Let’s dig in.
What happens to the players?
It’s been a season of improvising for the OHL players. The players who were already drafted by NHL teams have typically found their way onto AHL rosters.
The draft-eligible players have had to be more creative, often ending up in Europe, sometimes in the United States, some not playing at all and the ones who did go to Europe often didn’t end up in the most high-quality leagues.
Most of the top OHL draft-eligible players are going to Dallas for the Under-18 World Championship, which begins on April 26. Players like Brandt Clarke and Mason McTavish were able to play in Europe this season, so this will be one of the last looks NHL teams get at them. For players like Wyatt Johnston and Benjamin Gaudreau, this tournament will be the beginning of their season.