I’ve lost track of how many days it’s been without hockey. At this point, I would do almost anything to feel the cool embrace of a hockey rink while watching two teams battle it out on the ice. Hopefully, rumors are true that some of it might come back soon. I prefer seats on the glass over watching from my couch, but I’ll take anything at this point.
Usually, as hockey season is winding down, baseball season begins. Now we don’t even have that for the time being. But it could be worse, not for now but for the future of the game. The NHL might have lucked out in one crucial aspect that baseball might find itself in major trouble with.
The Minor Leagues
A few weeks ago Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote a lengthy article detailing the plans for Major League Baseball to come back and the current state of where Major League Baseball was in during the midst of this ongoing situation. One of the things Passan reported is that minor league baseball seasons will most likely be canceled this season. No official announcement has been made, though.
That means two things. One, I won’t be able to attend my local minor league team’s Bruce Springsteen themed night. Two, young professional baseball players will have more or less lost a year of professional development.
Sure players can work out on their own, even with other players, but going through the in-game experiences in the minors is something nearly every single baseball player needs to do to gain experience.
What Does This Have to Do With the NHL?
Most junior leagues, educational leagues (NCAA and high school), and minor leagues have already canceled the rest of their seasons, but they were able to get most of their games done with. That leaves scouts with a big enough body of work to rank prospects for draft-eligible players. For minor league players, they still got a year of professional experience under their belt, even if it was shorter than usual.
Baseball doesn’t even have that luxury. Minor league players see not only a disruption of work but a stunt in their professional development. Add that to the growing financial concerns around their income if a minor league season is canceled.
What About Draft Rankings?
For draft-eligible prospects, the biggest stage to raise their own stock is the World Junior Championships. The World Junior Championships were completed earlier this year in full, so scouts from the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau have enough to work with for their midterm rankings. With nobody of work to follow up on, any differences in final rankings leading up to the virtual draft that may or may not happen are a shot in the dark.
Long story short, don’t expect prospect rankings to change much. This year wasn’t even a McDavid vs. Eichel or Hischier vs. Patrick type of year where there was a storyline to watch and every game counted for top prospects. The biggest losers are lower range prospects, who might have wanted to make a late-season push to make a name for themselves and potentially move up a round. Don’t worry, Alexis Lafreniere is still going first overall.