I love the NHL draft. With the exception of the COVID years, the entire National Hockey League has come together in one place for the draft since the early 1960s. Since 1980, the draft has (mostly) been conducted in a home arena or at a convention center with tables for every team on the floor with their name plates and signs.
Guys will get up to grab a cup of coffee or visit the little boys’ room and, if someone else from a different team just happens to pick the same time to do the same thing, OMG TRADE COMING! The buzz around front office executives maybe simply saying hi to each other is always fun. But having everyone in the same room does lead to a lot of action during the draft, which makes for great theater as well.
The NHL recently floated the idea of changing its draft to look more like the NFL’s, with team front offices staying home in their “war rooms” to do business instead of what we’ve traditionally seen. They put it to a vote to determine if teams collectively were open to/wanted to make that change at some point in the future. And, on Wednesday, we learned teams overwhelmingly voted in favor of decentralizing the draft.
And, according to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, “The league left open the possibility that the changes will be implemented as soon as June’s 2024 NHL Draft. ‘We are still in the planning/negotiation stages for the 2024 NHL Draft and will determine shortly which format we will use for the 2024 Draft,’ the memo read.”
Previously, Seravalli pointed to a conversation with former Blackhawks assistant GM Jeff Greenberg about some of the frustrations teams have with the format. Apparently not every front office exec loves the drama created by needing something to drink.
I love the draft. It’s amazing to watch. The photos like the one above of young players hearing their name called by the general manager making the selection and then joining the entire front office on stage with the team’s jersey on are hallmarks of the draft.
Are we going to now only have a picture of… Macklin Celebrini shaking hands with Gary Bettman? Maybe a chest bump like they do in the NFL?
Yeah, that sucks. And I’m not a fan of it, just because I’m a draft nerd and love the drama that comes with having the entire league in a fishbowl with cameras on everything.
But I understand the reasons why front offices would want to be able to stay home for the draft.
First, there is a considerable amount of attention on every table, and there’s pressure on the individuals around said table to make potentially franchise-changing decisions. That isn’t easy or comfortable.
It’s deeper than just “I don’t want my phone calls to be televised.” When you step back and consider the league schedule, most of these front offices are working on extending qualifying offers around the time of the draft and free agency usually begins within days of the draft.
Example: last year, after the Blackhawks traded into having three picks in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft, Kyle Davidson didn’t show up at development camp until almost the end of the week. When asked how he thought his new draft choices looked on the ice, he chuckled and said he hadn’t see much of them because he was busy signing Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou.
There’s a LOT going on in the business of hockey right around the time of the draft, so being able to get up and go for a walk or pour yourself a drink or, heaven forbid, work on a significant transaction while the draft is taking place might lead to more action. It would also help front offices appropriately delegate responsibilities to the timeline that’s in front of them easier than feeling the need to have their entire pro and amateur scouting departments at the table in case someone offers them a pick for a prospect, or vice versa.
The host city for the 2024 NHL Draft has not yet been finalized. And, now, the format hasn’t been finalized either.
I’ll miss the pictures of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews with Dale Tallon and Kevin Korchinski, Connor Bedard and Oliver Moore with Kyle Davidson. But I get it.