After an unprecedented season and Stanley Cup playoffs, the National Hockey League held a never-before-seen draft on Tuesday night.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to throw a wrench into the plans of every sports league on the planet, the NHL held its annual entry draft virtually.
NHL general managers and their front office and scouting staff assembled across North America while dozens of players were at their home base with their family and friends as the picks were made.
Overall, the technical aspects of the draft went off without a hitch so kudos go out to the league and all the teams and players involved.
There were a few highlights throughout the night, starting with the biggest news item off the top when commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league was aiming to start the 2020-21 season on January 1.
Predictably, the New York Rangers selected two-time CHL player of the year Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 overall pick after they won the NHL Draft Lottery just before the league resumed its season in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles.
It’s too bad, however, that the pandemic denied Lafreniere from enjoying the experience of being paraded to the stage at Montreal’s Bell Centre (where the draft was going to be held) as the top pick.
We didn’t have to wait long for the next highlight because the Los Angeles Kings took Sudbury Wolves star centre Quinton Byfield at No. 2 overall, making him the highest drafted Black player in NHL history — a notable accomplishment given the amplified conversation surrounding social justice issues.
Another great moment came when the Winnipeg Jets selected 10th overall, when the club invited Crystal Hawerchuk, the wife of Hockey Hall of Famer and Jets icon Dale Hawerchuk — who died of stomach cancer in August — to make the selection.
The best moment in Tuesday night’s opening round came at No. 3 overall when the Ottawa Senators brought in Jeopardy host Alex Trebek to make their pick in a video from the game show’s studio.
While the virtual draft was a unique event and fun to watch, but I think hockey fans, and most importantly the players and the teams, would like to hold next year’s draft as they have all others in the past.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.