The First Pick in the N.H.L. Draft Goes to … TBD

The First Pick in the N.H.L. Draft Goes to … TBD

The First Pick in the N.H.L. Draft Goes to … TBD

The First Pick in the N.H.L. Draft Goes to … TBD

“If I got drafted that high, being the highest player drafted with black heritage, that would definitely be special, making a mark in history like that,” Byfield said.

Beyond the dizzying format changes and unforeseen delays to the N.H.L. season, the process of evaluating prospects was thrown into flux after the N.C.A.A., amateur leagues in North America and professional leagues in Europe canceled their seasons. The Under-18 World Junior Championships, which had been scheduled for April 16-26 were also canceled, a loss that Blake, the Kings general manager, particularly lamented.

“That’s where the collection of these players get to play peer versus peer and you get to watch it,” he said, “and see the difference from the beginning of the year to the end of the year what they’d done.”

Martin Madden, the assistant general manager for the Anaheim Ducks, said that his staff members tried hard to keep their number of viewings for each prospect at the same level it would have been for a full season. That meant deep video dives and conducting remote interviews with players as his scouts prepared as if the original June draft date would be kept.

Around the league, interviews with prospects are being conducted by videoconference, a departure from the rigid schedule at the annual combine, where interviews are usually timed to last around 15 minutes or can include many players in groups. Without a standardized length and with an unlimited number of participants — including executives, coaches and scouts — the process this year is allowing both team officials and players to get more profound looks at one another.

“The whole process of teams doing Zoom interviews with prospects was an opportunity for teams to really get to know players beyond what they’ve been able to do in the past,” said player agent Allan Walsh.

Some felt that the unusual circumstances would have a distinct impact on evaluating players and, ultimately, where prospects were selected. Walsh said the steep development curve of prospects meant they may have made serious strides between the suspension of play in March and the draft this fall. How fast a player may develop is just one of the many unknowns the N.H.L. is facing in a year that’s cloudier than usual.


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