With the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery happening tonight, it’s impossible to talk about anything else in the hockey world. In a matter of hours, we should know who will be making the top-three picks at a loaded draft, barring a play-in team winning big.
While we all look towards the future, however, this is also a great time to reflect on the past. On June 24, the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) Class was announced, including Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson, Kim St-Pierre, and Ken Holland.
WHL Well Represented in 2020 Hall of Fame Class
While the announcement of any HHOF class is a time of great reverence and celebration, one interesting fact about the 2020 class was noted by WHL writer Lauren Zandee.
Three Western Hockey League alumni and one member of the Edmonton Oil Kings’ business operations staff have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2020.
So, of the six players announced, four had a direct tie to the WHL. Iginla, Hossa, and Holland all played for the league as they developed their game, where Lowe has been the Vice-Chairman and Governor of the Edmonton Oil-Kings since 2015.
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For a developmental league to get even two representatives in a single HHOF class is rare, let alone three players and a front-office staffer. That makes this year a special one for not only the players but the WHL as well.
Prospect of the Day: Quinton Byfield
With the Draft Lottery on everyone’s mind, let’s take a look at one of the projected top picks, Quinton Byfield. Heading into the 2019-20 season, many saw Byfield as the surefire number-two pick, with some even thinking that he could challenge Alexis Lafrenière for first-overall.
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However, due to a relatively slow start to the year and a sub-par showing at the World Junior Championship, Byfield slipped, ever so slightly, on some draft boards.
Even with this in mind, there’s little reason to believe that Byfield will fall past any of the eight hopeful teams in the Lottery. If he were to reach even the sixth pick, that would be an absolute steal for any franchise.
The reason behind this hype is simple; Byfield has franchise center potential, with some even comparing him to Evgeni Malkin. His toolkit is everything you want in a potential top-five pick, as said by Eddy Jones of THW:
For his size he is deceptively agile and possesses speed that you rarely see from a player of his stature. He’s dominant in transitioning the puck from his own zone to the offensive zone and has the playmaking ability to identify the open man and find him with a pinpoint pass.
For any franchise, a big-bodied center with top-line skill and ability like Byfield would be a dream selection. He has the size and physical maturity to start immediately in the NHL, which all combines to make him one of the best prospects in the entire 2020 draft.
ECHL Planning Return for 2020-21
As the ECHL held its Annual Board of Governors meetings this week, the league continued discussions about how they would prepare for the 2020-21 season. They were, after all, the first professional sports league to cancel their season due to the coronavirus pandemic in March, which has made starting on time in the Fall important for their future.
As said by the ECHL News:
The League determined the process, including scheduling Board Meetings throughout the summer of 2020 and developing protocols in conjunction with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association and local/federal health officials, to determine progress in ECHL markets for the return of safe play for Players, fans and employees.
Just how games look when the ECHL returns in the Fall is still unknown, as it seems unlikely that fans will be able to attend in any capacity. However, seeing professional hockey leagues in North America making plans for 2020-21 is encouraging, as the NHL and AHL will be able to learn from what they do.
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It is worth noting, of course, that these plans to restart in the Fall could change at any moment. For now, all we can do is hope that things are in a good enough place that the ECHL can start on time, maybe even with a few fans back in attendance.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.