The Canucks' 1st-round pick, Judd Brackett, playoff points & new additions?
Let's talk today about a couple of issues that the Vancouver Canucks will be facing if and when the 24-team restart comes to pass later this summer.
The first is the status of that 2020 first-round draft pick, which is designated to go to the New Jersey Devils if the Canucks make the playoffs, as part of last summer's J.T. Miller trade.
On Saturday, the league officially issued the ruling which clarified the status of that draft pick as I expected.
"More specifically, for Trade condition purposes, a Club will not be deemed to have qualified for the Playoffs unless or until they have progressed into the Round of 16, and ‘Playoff Games/Rounds’ will only include the games/rounds played in the Round of 16 or later. We believe this interpretation will best reflect the intentions of the parties at the time of the Trade," TSN quoted the NHL memo as saying.
So — if the Canucks beat Minnesota and advance to the 16-team playoffs, then the pick will go to the Devils. If they lose to the Wild, then the Canucks will keep the pick and New Jersey will get Vancouver's not-lottery-protected pick in 2021.
A couple of details still have not been clarified, though:
• First — there's no word on what would happen if we don't get as far as seeing the play-in round completed before the draft is held. There's still lots of negotiating left to be done between the players and the league before that becomes a done deal — and nothing will go ahead unless the health authorities sign off.
• Second — this one's more fun. At this point, it seems like the stats from the play-in round are going to live in a world of their own. The regular season is now officially complete and the league has officially announced award winners, like Leon Draisaitl for the Art Ross with his 110 points and the Rocket Richard being shared by Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak with 48 goals apiece. So play-in points won't be added to the regular-season — but at this point, it looks like the league doesn't want to include them in playoff numbers, either.
On the surface, I can see that logic — five rounds instead of four is a whole different ballgame.
But — if the first two rounds of the 16-team tournament end up being best-of-five instead of the usual best-of-seven, then only 14 wins would be required in the regular four rounds instead of the usual 16. Adding the play-in would make it 17 wins, but then the playing field is uneven because the top teams, with the byes, will only play three games instead of playing up to five.
Because teams always end up playing different numbers of games in the playoffs due to the length of their respective series, playoff stats often end up being kind of a mixed bag, where the Stanley Cup winner doesn't necessarily deliver all the top scorers.
Last year, for example, 10 of the top 11 scorers were from the two teams that appeared in the Cup Final, including co-leaders Brad Marchand and Ryan O'Reilly with 23 points each. But tied for third with Jaden Schwartz with 20 points in 20 games — there's Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks, who got knocked out in the Western Conference Final.
Even more amazing — Mark Stone's 12 points earned him a spot in the top 20 in playoff scoring, despite the fact that Vegas only played one seven-game series before being eliminated.
So even though the Round of 24 is not officially a playoff round, I think the inherent inequity in the playoff structure would make me OK with the league counting those stats as part of the playoff numbers, however that might end up impacting bonuses and other trade conditions.
But maybe I'm only OK with that because I don't see a direct impact on the Canucks?
If the stats do end up being tallied in their own separate category? Well, I guess that would add fuel to the fire of the folks who have been lobbying for the league to expand the playoffs permanently, especially with Seattle still on tap to join as the 32nd team in the fall of 2021.
Also, of course, we still don't know when the 2020 draft will be held — but we do know that Judd Brackett won't be at the Canucks' table when it happens.
Now that Brackett's departure from the Canucks at the end of his contract has been made official, the Twitterverse has been on fire as all the amateur sleuths try to find shreds of evidence to build their case that either Brackett is the primary reason why the Canucks are in the midst of arguably the most successful drafting stretch in franchise history — or, that Jim Benning, with his well-documented scouting background, has been the chief architect of the draft and that Brackett's demands for more autonomy were a power-grab that backfired.
Ed Willes breaks down Benning's comments from Friday's press conference in the article above. Also, though his Twitter account is private, a number of reporters screenshotted the statement that Brackett issued on Friday.
For now, Jim Benning is not making any changes to the structure of his scouting department.
It'll be years before we start to see whether life after Brackett looks different from what has been happening since he was promoted from within to the position of Director of Amateur Scouting in 2015. But since his contract does expire before the next draft will be held, whenever that might be, the possibility does exist that he'll be sitting at another team's table at that time, armed with the knowledge of how the Canucks' list was shaping up over the course of this year.
As Willes mentioned, Brackett has been linked to NHL Seattle — and with former Canucks' COO Victor de Bonis on staff in the Emerald City, there's a logical connection point that goes beyond mere geography. If that does turn out to be the case, that would be relatively good news for the Canucks, as Brackett's 'institutional knowledge' from 2019-20 would become more of a moot point.
Finally — Larry Brooks of the New York Post digs in this week on the issue of whether or not newly signed players might be able to join their teams for the playoffs.
As Brooks explains, the league's position right now is that all signings that have taken place since the pause are on the books to start in the 2020-21 season, and that will continue to be the case. But that's not the way things normally work in the CBA, and the NHL Players' Associations has not only *not* signed off on that protocol, they're ready to fight to keep things the way they usually are, where late-season signings can join their NHL teams as soon as their obligations to their old clubs and leagues are complete.
If the PA is successful in making that argument, that has two implications for the Canucks:
• They could have the opportunity to add Nils Hoglander from Europe and/or Will Lockwood from the NCAA for the playoffs, after all.
• Their opponent, the Minnesota Wild, might be able to add Kirill Kaprisov from the KHL. The 23-year-old, who was originally drafted in the fifth round by the Wild back in 2015, has blossomed into a star in Russia, leading the KHL with 33 goals this season and finishing third with 62 points.
Brooks specifically mentions Kaprizov as one of the players in the mix in this discussion, as well as New York Islanders' goaltender Ilya Sorokin and NCAA defenseman Morgan Barron, a Rangers prospect.
None of those three has signed an entry-level contract yet, so they might have a better chance of inking a deal with a 2019-20 component than players like Hoglander, Lockwood and star defensive prospect Alexander Romanov, who has also already inked his ELC with the Montreal Canadiens, but who the Habs would love to get onto their roster.
If Brooks says the matter has not yet been resolved from the PA's point of view, then it's definitely still an issue to watch. The Wild's profile might change considerably if an older, veteran team suddenly adds in a dynamic young outsider for a best-of-five series.