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Bits: Islanders a team of many limbos as NHL eyes Draft scenarios

Hockey news and notes for Islanders fans.

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2019 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

There’s a Board of Governors call today that could have a major impact on where the NHL goes next. Not just for the immediate (and still suspended) future, but for years to come.

At issue is what exactly to do with the 2020 Entry Draft. In a memo sent on Friday ahead of Monday’s call, the league seems to be pushing to have the draft in June, despite a lot of opposition from many member general managers.

Elliotte Friedman laid out the cases at Sportsnet and made it very clear that GMs generally favor finishing the full schedule before making their picks (Steve Yzerman, in particular, attacks the idea of a June draft the way he used to target all those poor Blues goaltenders over the years).

The cases against are pretty clear: the draft order and lottery odds haven’t fully been established, interviews haven’t been conducted with prospects - whose seasons were all abruptly halted - and many conditional picks haven’t had their various conditions met. It’s possible that the league would return to its old lottery rules, allowing teams to only move up a few slots if they win, just for this year.

There are pros to the idea, though, including for TV partners and scout contracts and general hockey enthusiasm, which is why the NHL wants the draft to happen soon. GMs want to keep to the status quo as much as possible, while the NHL says the status quo is down, down anyway.

How does all this affect the Islanders? Like everything else right now, their status is almost totally up in the air. When the season was paused, they were one point out of a playoff berth but were ahead of the eighth place Columbus Blue Jackets in points percentage thanks to two fewer games played. If the league chooses to restart the season (which is a huge IF right now), there are about 14 million scenarios that could see them either in the playoffs or left out altogether.

Which, of course, would affect their standing in the draft lottery. Which, of course, would also have implications for their first round pick, which was traded to the Ottawa Senators at the deadline for center Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Friedman and Pierre LeBrun both note that teams with conditional picks would be encouraged to work out amongst themselves how to handle those deals (like pushing picks to the 2021 draft if possible).

Lou Lamoriello told Newsday’s Andrew Gross on Friday that he would feel pretty confident about a June draft, and that even the full draft combine isn’t the personal experience that it used to be.

“Most of the seasons were done, all the visuals and all the reports for the most part,” Lamoriello said. “We have all the games online. It’s still not as good as in person, but it’s the same for everyone.

Lamoriello also told Gross that he thinks the season will resume and be finished out, possibly in empty arenas.

The league has considered starting the 2020-21 season as late as December after finishing this season later this summer, and cities have begun submitting to be centralized host cities, should the NHL decide to go that route (in that case, it’s the players that don’t like it). There’s no timetable for any kind of resumption at all as of now, but players returning to practice facilities in small groups by mid-May has been floated as well.

At the time of the shutdown, the Islanders were dealing with a number of important injuries to regulars like Johnny Boychuk (eye) and Casey Cizikas (leg laceration). Cal Clutterbuck missed 30 games earlier with a lacerated wrist, but came back just before the pause. Adam Pelech tore his ACL in early January and will remain out even if the regular season resumes. None have been able to practice on ice during the shutdown, although we assume that they all have been riding their brand new Pelotons into the ground.

So that’s where we’re at right now. In other words: who knows.

Maybe we’ll know a little more today.

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