The people who earn a living assessing talent for NHL teams admit that this season is proving to be unique in terms of doing their job and that means it’s entirely possibly that some future NHL stars might slip through the cracks into the later rounds of the NHL entry draft.
“That’s exactly what may happen in some instances,” Detroit Red Wings director of amateur scoring Kris Draper said.
COVID-19 wiped out the entire OHL season. The virus shortened the WHL season and impacted both the NCAA and QMJHL campaigns. Several young prospects headed to Europe just to get a chance to get some action on the ice.
With the NHL Draft tonight I've been thinking about expected pick value in a year with so much uncertainty from COVID.
Everyone has assumed all 2021 picks are less valuable, but I wonder if some of the early value is going to be distributed among later picks, something like this pic.twitter.com/gl8mS2DhHb
— Chace McCallum (@CMhockey66) July 23, 2021
Others didn’t play at all this season, including Wyatt Johnston, who was selected 23rd overall in the first round of the Dallas Stars.
In today’s game, no stone goes unturned in the pursuit of hockey talent. The days of someone like Pavel Datsyuk slipping to 171st overall on draft day are long gone. Well, they were until COVID-19 entered the discussion.
Harder to Gauge Talent
As the draft resumes with Round 2 at 11am ET on Saturday, Draper acknowledged that picking players into the later rounds will be somewhat more of a challenge this year.
“For the most part, we’ve seen the majority of the players but there’s certainly some players that we have to rely on our area scouts and the belief that they have in the prospects on some of the names that are going to be called,” Draper said. “We have a body of work on them for sure. Is it as much as a normal draft? Absolutely not.
“Especially some of the Ontario players. They didn’t play nearly as much. Even going to the Western Hockey League, some only played 25 games.”
Preparation for the draft was different this year, but McCrimmon is confident in his staff.
"The more uncertainty or the more chaos there is around the NHL draft the better I feel because I have that much confidence in the experience of our staff to sort that out." #VegasBorn
— Ben Gotz (@BenSGotz) July 22, 2021
Scouts will be required in some instances to rely upon reports filed on players from their underage seasons. Draper admitted that many of those players have undergone significant physical changes over the past year.
“Obviously on some of them you have to go back on video to watch how they played last year,” Draper said. “I’ve got to be honest. There’s some prospects we talked to that didn’t play this year that put on anywhere from 16 to 22 to 23 pounds. All they’ve done is train. They’ve been home, they’re eating properly, they’re getting to the gym.
“It’s intriguing when you start talking to these prospects. You see how they were in their underage year as 16-year-old players. Now all of a sudden they’re 18, putting on that much weight and getting that much stronger.”