The NHL is expected to announce a decision very soon on whether or not they will go ahead with preliminary plans to hold the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in June. And if the success of the NFL’s first virtual draft held this past weekend is any indication, the NHL will jump on the opportunity.
According to Front Office Sports, the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday averaged 15.6 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, and digital channels and platforms. That easily surpassed the previous high of 12.4 million viewers set in 2014, and was up 37% compared to the 2019 draft.
The second day of the draft continued that success. An average of 8.2 million viewers watched the Friday night coverage on those same networks, an increase of 40% compared to 2019.
All three days of the draft set a viewership record, with Thursday’s opening rounds averaging 15.6 million and Friday’s second and third rounds 8.2 million.
As we mentioned in a post from last week, the NHL is strongly considering holding the 2020 NHL Entry Draft prior to the completion of the 2019-2020 season, most likely sometime in June.
Bill Daly told me one of the reasons the NHL wants to move the draft to June is to give teams access to European players. He doesn’t feel it would be fair for the NHL to be trying to pluck players from Europe when their season begins if the draft is held in September. #NHL
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) April 23, 2020
“I think we and the clubs would need a fair amount of lead time, so I would think a decision would need to be made relatively quickly,” Daly said Wednesday in an email to Sportsnet.
There’s a strong marketing appeal to holding a draft in June — generating fan interest at a time when you have a captive sporting audience, with an eye toward helping revenues return when it’s safe to get the league up and running again.
There remains sizable issues to iron out prior to holding a draft before the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season:
- The draft lottery is weighted entirely on the results of the regular season. How will top picks be determined.
- There are some existing draft-pick conditions to wade through from previously completed trades — such as the J.T. Miller and Taylor Hall deals involving 2020 first-round picks that hinge on if Vancouver and Arizona, respectively, qualify for the playoffs
- Teams who know they are going to the playoffs will be unable to trade players they want to use for draft picks.
By Jon Sorensen