Instead mingling with his counterparts on the arena floor, Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams stayed in Buffalo on Tuesday and ran his first NHL Draft from KeyBank Center with his cellphone close by.
In regular times, the eyes of media members and spectators are often fixated on the floor, the hub of activity during the NHL Draft. The site of two GMs chatting can ignite intense speculation and sometimes means a trade is brewing.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman walks to the podium and announces a trade, the crowd usually buzzes with excitement.
None of that, of course, will be happen this year. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the NHL to postpone the draft, originally slated for June 26-27 in Montreal, and hold it virtually. The first round was held Tuesday. The final six rounds will be held today.
“This is my first draft as a general manager, so this is normal to me,” Adams, who was hired June 16, said on a Zoom call Monday.
Normally, all of the Sabres’ scouts would be gathered together for the draft. But with so many travel restrictions in place, Jeremiah Crowe, the Sabres’ new director of scouting, said the team has set up remote access for anyone who can’t make it to Buffalo.
“(We) have different ways to get in contact immediately at any point,” Crowe said a Zoom call Monday. “So our guys will be available, whether they’re physically here in Buffalo or they’re not.”
Adams said he has been having phone conversations with other GMs to prepare “because I can’t just walk over and tap someone on the shoulder.”
“I’ve heard a couple of the general manager say to me they miss being all together,” he said. “(Usually) everybody is in the same city, everybody is bumping into each other. Obviously, we know why we’re in this situation, but I think it’s going to be unique. … There is going to be a lot of phone sitting.”
Don’t expect the Sabres to draft based on need. Most draft prospects are 18, meaning if they make the NHL, they’re likely years away.
Right now, the Sabres have a dearth of forwards in organization. Still, they don’t plan go heavy on centers and wingers during the draft.
“Given the age of players in the NHL, you’re trying to draft the best players available,” Crowe said.
He added: “We’re looking for the guys that have the best potential to impact the game in the NHL and the guys that we believe in. To deviate from that on a need-based perspective could cause you to reach in certain cases and could cause for you to take a guy you believe in a little bit less sometimes.”
If the Sabres like two draft prospects, they could opt for the one who is playing games over another whose season is delayed or in question because of the pandemic.
Some European leagues have already started. In North America, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League started its regular season last weekend.
“It certainly plays a role in the decision making,” Crowe said. “You can’t bank again on what’s going to happen in the future. There’s a reality where we have a unique opportunity due to some of the hockey that has gone on in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or in Europe to get additional looks at players from last year’s draft class and in many cases guys that have taken a significant step, largely due to physical development.
“But one thing I’ve talked to our guys is it doesn’t mean that someone you haven’t seen hasn’t taken the same step, and that’s where the value of being able to look at last year’s work.”
The Sabres have five selections Wednesday during the final rounds of the draft: 38th overall, 100th, 131st, 193rd and 216th.