The global pandemic has wreaked havoc on the NHL's best-laid plans throughout the last year. And it's not about to stop.
The 2019-20 regular season was cut short, the Stanley Cup Playoffs were played exclusively inside two bubbles, and multiple teams' activities have been suspended for long periods during this truncated season.
Will the 2021 draft be next? Officials from the league and its players' association have reportedly discussed the possibility of pushing the July 23-24 event to late 2021, early 2022, or mid 2022 - and everyone has an opinion.
"In a perfect world, what should we do? We should move the draft," one NHL scout said. Consensus is difficult to find, though: "I haven't found one scout who wants it delayed," said another scout who spoke to theScore.
While the wind seems to be blowing towards maintaining the status quo and going ahead with a virtual draft in July, the NHL and NHLPA have been fairly quiet on the topic. (Requests for comment for this story from the league and PA went unfulfilled.)
To better understand both sides of the debate, we checked in with more than a dozen hockey people, most notably NHL managers and scouts, as well as NHLPA agents. Below is a summation of their unfiltered takes on the topic:
The case for delaying
The idea of delaying the draft has gained steam of late because - as expected - the 2020-21 scouting season has been a one-of-a-kind adventure.
Not only are most talent evaluators stuck scouting draft-eligible prospects through video because of travel and arena restrictions, there's virtually no new video from a few key North American leagues.
Among the continent's five most prominent junior loops, the USHL is the only one that cobbled together something resembling a normal schedule, with all 14 of its teams playing at least 32 games through Sunday. The top leagues in Ontario and B.C. haven't started their respective seasons and they may be forced to cancel them outright if teams don't return to action soon. The WHL recently started its season but 17 of 22 teams have yet to play. The QMJHL's been on and off for six months, with teams playing between 13 and 34 games.