Blues push ahead with draft preparations amid postponement of NHL events

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The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a bite out of the NHL calendar. The league announced Wednesday afternoon that it is postponing the NHL draft, the scouting combine, the draft lottery and the NHL awards show.

The 2020 draft had been scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal; the scouting combine was scheduled for June 1-6 in Buffalo; and the awards show for June 18 in Las Vegas. The draft lottery, which determines the selection order for the 15 teams that don’t make the playoffs, was scheduled for April 9.

“The location, timing and format of the 2020 NHL Draft (and draft lottery) will be announced when details are finalized,” the NHL said in a statement.

But it looks like there will be no “makeup date” for the awards show, a fun night but one that obviously ranks low on the league’s priority list.

“With respect to the Bridgestone NHL Awards, the league looks forward to returning to Las Vegas in the future,” was all the NHL said about that event.

Las Vegas has been home for the awards show since 2009.

Meanwhile, the status of the scouting combine is murkier, with no mention from the NHL of possibly rescheduling the event.

“I assume it will be subject to when/if we play again in the 2019-20 season and what the general rules are for travel and gatherings of people,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch. “The league isn’t making any long-term plans at this time.”

Things are less complicated with the draft and the draft lottery, because those events can easily be done via phone. The draft lottery won’t affect the Blues since they had the best record in the Western Conference entering the suspension of play two weeks ago.

With or without any more games, there will be a draft this season. And the Blues have a first-rounder after waiting until the very end of Round 2 a year ago to make their first selection (Nikita Alexandrov).

The Blues had been expecting the draft to become a phone affair, and have adjusted to recent coronavirus-related travel restrictions in terms of their scouting and draft preparation.

“We have enough information,” Armstrong said. “Where it hurts is we want to see these guys playing (in high-pressure situations). It’s one thing to see a kid playing Tuesday night in Owen Sound. You’d like to see ‘em in a seven-game (playoff) series. No one’s getting that opportunity.”

Armstrong has used top draft picks as currency in recent years as he’s tried to build the Blues into Stanley Cup contenders, and after last year’s success, keep them there.

As a result, they only have two first-rounders left in their organization over the past four drafts in Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin — both taken in 2017.

Buffalo got the Blues’ first-rounder in 2019 as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade; 2016 first-rounder Tage Thompson also went to Buffalo as part of that deal.

Philadelphia received a first-rounder from the Blues in both the 2017 and 2018 drafts as part of the Brayden Schenn trade.

And a Blues’ first-rounder in 2018, Dominik Bokk, went to Carolina as part of the Justin Faulk trade.

The Blues did add a fifth-rounder in this year’s draft as part of the Faulk trade, but lost their 2020 second-rounder in the Marco Scandella trade; lost a 2020 sixth-rounder in the Jakub Jerabek trade made prior to the 2018-19 season, and lost a 2020 seventh-rounder in moving up for Russian goalie prospect Vadim Zherenko in last year’s draft.

You could make the case that expert information is even more important when it comes to hitting on those mid- to late-round picks that the Blues have been successful at in recent years. (See: Colton Parayko, Sammy Blais.)

“It is what it is and we’ll have to go off the information that we have,” said Blues assistant GM Bill (no relation) Armstrong. “What we’ve done is a little bit of everything to try and get ahead of the curve. Just trying as a staff to make sure we keep progressing with what tools of the trade you have at your fingertips.”


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