NHL Central Scouting could turn to video conferencing for the first time in its 44-year history to produce its final rankings of the top North American skaters and goalies eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.
The annual meetings to help determine the top 217 North American skaters and 31 North American goalies eligible for the 2020 draft were scheduled to be held at NHL-Toronto headquarters beginning March 24 but were postponed in response to the restrictions and concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
"Central Scouting was deprived of the last couple weeks of scouting as we immediately followed the NHL directive to cancel all planned or ongoing scouting trips and restricted travel until further notice," director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "Unfortunately, this included having to postpone our final ranking meetings. Our plan now, and barring any on-the-fly modification, is to push our meetings a week later and conduct them via video conferencing.
"Our intent is to be able to produce our 2020 final ranking by mid-April."
The concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NHL to pause its season March 12. Additionally, the remainder of the regular season in the Canadian Hockey League (Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) was cancelled, as were the NCAA ice hockey playoffs, and seasons in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. The Kontinental Hockey League in Russia and Russia junior league will suspend competition through April 10 before determining the next step.
Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting Services, will provide the ranking of the top International skaters and goalies.
"The opportunity to focus scouting on players of interest based on a club's potential draft position has been lost," Marr said. "In particular, the cancellation of the IIHF World Under-18 Championship eliminated the chance of many NHL general managers being able to live scout some of the top prospects in the world."
The World U-18 Championship, which was scheduled to be played in Plymouth, Michigan, from April 16-26, would have given scouts and GMs a final opportunity to evaluate potential 2020 draft prospects from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus and Latvia.
"At this point, until further information comes from the NHL, all clubs are in the same position for draft preparation," Marr said. "Many are focused on reviewing game reports and video of draft prospects and free agents, as well as conducting interviews via calls and video conferencing."
Marr would chair the video conference of the final meetings with input from eight full-time scouts. He said he hasn't received any update on any future NHL draft-related events, including the NHL Scouting Combine, which is scheduled for May 31-June 6 at KeyBank Center and Harborcenter in Buffalo, New York.
"The NHL Scouting Combine, like all NHL activity and events, has been paused until further information and direction is received from the NHL Commissioner [Gary Bettman]," Marr said. "The COVID-19 pandemic, which cancelled or suspended hockey and playoff competition worldwide, has drastically affected the scouting group just as it has affected all aspects of global life."