The National Hockey League plans to stage the NHL Draft on July 23-24 despite ongoing talks with the players union about postponing the annual allocation of new talent.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday the league likely will stay with plans to have round one on July 23 and the final six rounds the following day.
Teams have faced challenges this year because the Covid-19 pandemic has kept teams from traveling to see prospects and in many cases has kept draft-eligible prospects from playing many games or taking the ice at all.
"It's a complicated issue," Daly said. "It implicates a lot of different provisions of our collective bargaining agreement and it's difficult to work through those issues.
"We hope to have a definitive answer that we can announce publicly in the next little while. I would say my view would be it's more likely than not that the 2021 draft would go forward as currently scheduled, which is in late July."
Some Canadian junior teams and US college squads have not played any games while others have have had limited or stop-and-start schedules.
"We've had different issues associated in Europe as well," Daly said, "Club scouts, who are charged and employed to scout these prospects, learn about them and advise their clubs on those prospects, haven't been able for the most part to travel or watch them in person."
The NHL season is set to conclude in May with the Stanley Cup Final set to go no later than July 9.
The NHL is looking at potential changes to NHL Draft Lottery rules and owners could announce them next week, Daly said, not detailing the nature of "a couple of tweaks" to the system.
The existing system gives the team that finishes last overall in the 31-team league an 18.5% chance to capture the top pick, the best of any club. But last year, the New York Rangers won the NHL Draft Lottery despite finishing 18th, the highest finish for any club since Florida was 16th and picked first in 1994.
"There are some clubs who think it's important the teams that are struggling the most get the most help," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Other teams, a number, think there's nothing wrong with the present system at all.
"In order to try to reconcile those competing views we thought maybe a little bit of a tweak. The system wasn't necessarily crying out for major change."