How will NHL Draft picks work in 2020? Explaining the format changes for ‘fully virtual’ draft

It took some time but the 2020 NHL Draft is officially here.

Originally scheduled to take place in Montreal not long after the Stanley Cup was handed out in June, it’s now happening not long after the Stanley Cup was awarded … in October … virtually.

Things are different yet the same when it comes to this year’s two-day soiree. The entire NHL world will not descend onto one city this year. Instead, it’ll all be done virtually. Thee NHL’s 31 teams in their own city — and many without their full scouting staffs in person— alongw with players at home and media and fans alike watching from their couch. 

Sporting News spoke exclusively to a league source to get all the info you need to know about how the virtual 2020 NHL draft will go down.

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How the NHL Draft will work in 2020?

Everything is the same in regards to the rounds (seven) and the number of picks — well, technically. There are 217 slots for the 2020 NHL Draft but only 216 names will be called. The Coyotes had to forfeit their pick after violating the NHL’s rule on pre-combine fitness testing.

The lone difference is, everyone is logging in virtually or watching on television.

NHL Draft 2020: Why did the Coyotes have to forfeit their pick?

Round 1 is Tuesday night starting at 7 p.m. ET with Rounds 2-7 on Wednesday beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Each team will be given the usual five minutes in the first round to make their selection and three minutes per pick on Wednesday. 

Where will the NHL Draft be held in 2020?

Originally, the 2020 NHL Draft was scheduled to be held in Montreal at Bell Centre. Teams will now be logging in virtually.

According to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika:

“NHL Network partnered with Bitfire, a company with an internet protocol video transport system and concierge-level support. In short, it allows two-way communication with little latency for as many people as needed. Teams received special servers. The prospects expected to be on the broadcast received a link; all they have to do is click on it on their smartphone or computer.”

How will teams make picks in the 2020 NHL Draft?

There won’t be a draft floor this year. General managers won’t be schmoozing around the tables and making head spin with what trade they could be concocting. Instead, they’ll be in their draft command centers with members of their coaching and scouting staff — sorry no Lane Kiffin sitting by his fire pit here.

Teams will still have to enter their pick selection in the computer system and Central Scouting will then confirm that the player is eligible to be selected. When the pick is confirmed, the team will announce its newest member of the franchise.

“We’ll move to operating out of the dressing room actually here at Scotiabank Arena,” Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said on a call with reporters Monday. “But we’re not going to have too many of us here which will be very, very different. We usually have our whole scouting staff. This season we only have John Lilley, our director of amateur scouting who’s traveled in from Boston. Everyone else has been on Zoom.”

In case there are issues with the technology, there is a bunch of fail-safes including a dedicated phone line all the teams will be on. If a team cannot make the announcement themselves, commissioner Gary Bettman will.

How much time will teams get to make NFL Draft picks in 2020?

Just like usual, the time frame is expected to last five minutes per pick in the first round and three minutes on Day 2.

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NHL Draft 2020 TV schedule

The draft will be aired live from, and thru, the NHL Network’s studio in Secaucus, N.J., on NBCSN Tuesday night and NHL Network on Wednesday. Sportsnet will have all the coverage in Canada both days. Round 1 is expected to take about 2.5 hours. 

Who will announce picks for the 2020 NHL Draft?

As in previous years, the general managers — or whomever they tap to handle the honor — will announce the draft picks.

On Tuesday night, commissioner Gary Bettman will be running the show as a “Master of Ceremonies,” and maybe, just maybe, he’ll have a chance to utter his now famous, “We have a trade to announce.”

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly will serve in this capacity on Wednesday.

Are NHL players still invited to “attend” the NHL Draft in 2020?

Normally, the team walks up the podium and announces the player’s name. The player gets up, hugs and kisses their family, shakes hands with agents and coaches and then heads down to ice level. They take off their suit jacket, hand it to the PR person and head to the podium to don their new jersey and meet their new bosses.

Obviously, 2020 will be different. But about fifty players were sent a camera set-up and hats of the NHL’s 31 teams to put on when they’re name is called. 

And don’t expect to see a live shot of a player getting a phone call from the GM to welcome them to the team, a la the NFL. They’ll find out at the same time as everyone watching at home where they’ll be living out their NHL dreams.

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