Even in a good year, there is an acknowledged level of uncertainty that accompanies the CHL Import Draft.
Throw a pandemic into the mix and you now increase that level of uncertainty several times over.
Such was the backdrop with which Sudbury Wolves' VP and General Manager Rob Papineau operated on Tuesday as he announced the selections of Finnish right winger Samu Tuomaala (1st rd - 31st overall) and Slovakian forward Dominik Jendek (2nd rd - 91st overall) in the 2020 draft.
Typically, the late June timing of this event falls just after the NHL has hosted their annual distribution of incoming talent, creating an ideal environment for discussions with player agents and team management at both the pro and junior ranks.
"It is a little bit different when you're having the import draft before the NHL draft," said Papineau. "We're hearing maybe the fall for the NHL draft, and that would run past some of the European dates to pursue other options."
"It probably increases the risk this year for the draft."
Understandably, given all of the outstanding questions, neither of the skilled attackers added to the Sudbury depth charts today were in a position to commit to the Wolves. Thankfully, Papineau and company have already witnessed the benefits of taking a more long-term approach.
"We were able to draft Freddie (goaltender Frederik Dichow) last year and we knew with him that it could be a year, when we selected him, because of the contractual obligations that he had," said Papineau.
In early April, the 19 year-old Dane and prospect of the Montreal Canadiens confirmed his intentions to join the Wolves for the 2020-2021 season, "which is great for him, great for us - and Montreal is happy," noted Papineau.
While he would dearly love to see both Tuomaala (17 yrs old) and Jendek (19) make their way to northern Ontario at some point in time, Papineau believes that on-going candid conversation is still the best pathway to success, in so many ways.
"When it comes right down to it, how you build your team, your program, all of the support that you build around it is not always the deciding factor for players," explained Papineau. "I think the thing that I have learned, and it's probably not even hockey related, but more life related, is just being open and honest with the players and their agents, and the teams that may have rights to them back in Europe."
"Being co-operative, I have found, always in life, is better than being confrontational. A lot of these players (CHL import draft picks) are elite players, and elite players will have options."
And a big part of that approach, at the moment, is acknowledging the uncertainty that exists, even to the point of not knowing if and/or when training camps are likely to open. "Once those dates get clarified, you can have the discussions with people, but right now, it is tough to ask someone to sign on the dotted line when there are things that are still not 100% clarified," Papineau added.
With both Frederik Dichow and overage possibility Matej Pekar still on the Wolves' frozen protected list, adding both Tuomaala and Jendek was made possible only via the release of defenceman Kalle Loponen, who has decided to return to Finland for the 2020-2021 campaign.