The biggest difference and also the biggest problem for the Vegas Golden Knights at this year’s draft will now be the unknown.
Because, while their scouting team has been hard at work for months and even years when studying this year’s crop of prospects, the coronavirus crisis has made their job ten times harder.
For instance, a bevy of events that play a crucial role in determining final rankings and for teams to make their final decisions on players they like on their draft board were all cancelled.
The CHL Playoffs and the NCAA Tournament to the IIHF Under 18 World Championship all fell victim to COVID-19, meaning that scouts will now have their work cut out for them.
While most of the top 10, including projected First overall pick Alexis Lafrenière and bluechip center Quinton Byfield will be home run picks for some lucky teams, this year’s draft will be a battle of who has done the more detailed homework.
As a result, teams may be less inclined to make a gamble in the later rounds due to the fact that they will now have less information to arm themselves with due to COVID-19.
European prospects in particular will be more of a wildcard due to the IIHF Under-18 World Championships being postponed, and that could be reflected in the 2020 Draft.
So, how does this impact the Vegas Golden Knights?
Well, the NHL Entry Draft is already a gamble in the later rounds and Vegas will be doing most of their work in the deeper stages of the Draft.
Even their First Round pick will be at the end of the round and it promises to be more of a crapshoot this year outside of the top-15 picks.
Therefore, Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon and the rest of the front office may decide to play it safe with the sure thing, as opposed to picking prospects with higher ceilings but more question marks.
We could also see some risks being taken in Rounds six & seven as the Golden Knights and other teams try to pluck a diamond from the rough with very limited information to hand by that point.
Vegas’ scouting team will now need to really hit the tape ahead of the Draft, ensuring that they have every single base covered now that they have had a large chunk of their information-gathering process snatched away from them.
It is far from ideal but these are the times we now live in and the Vegas Golden Knights will need to hope that their scouting team have extensively done their homework and can unearth some unpolished gems in the later rounds without needing the knowledge that attending late-season events would normally harvest.