After an unprecedented year of preparation, Ontario Hockey League teams will be adding to their prospect pools this weekend at the OHL Priority Selection.
"Obviously been a super unique year with the impact has played on minor hockey," said Kitchener Rangers head coach and general manager Mike McKenzie.
"Definitely a little bit different but it's the draft and it's an exciting day for the kids, and all the teams and the families involved."
For the Rangers, they pick 17th overall in the first round, but will have to wait until the third round (51st overall) to pick again, after trading away their second round choice to Oshawa as part of the package to get Serron Noel before the trade deadline in 2020.
(Oshawa flipped that pick within 24 hours to Niagara to get Phil Tomasino).
McKenzie said there isn't any more pressure to make an impact at 17th than in other years, because of the lack of the second rounder, noting how the league is very cyclical and you're not making picks to establish a top line guy for the next decade.
There isn't exactly a position of need identified for the team, with most of that 2019-20 team ineligible to return.
Now, the old cliché goes "pick the best player available" in the opening round, and that will apply once again here.
But who is going to be the best available?
"It is a forward-heavy draft that I believe, and I think most of the other 19 teams would probably tell you the same," McKenzie said.
"I wouldn't expect to see a ton of defensemen taken early on, just the way the age group is formed this year."
With the pandemic, scouting has been limited to the rare in-person viewing, and a lot of video.
McKenzie admitted that's going to change their approach, compared to previous years.
"The reality of the situation is we're going to have to feel a little bit uncomfortable sometimes, when we're talking and discussing these guys," he said.
"In the past, we would kind of look at it and go 'well, we haven't seen him live, is that a road we want to go down,' and I think the reality this year is we're going to have to go down that road at some point. It may not be in the first round, it may not be in the third round, but eventually at some point."
Kitchener has 13 picks in the draft this year.
The first three rounds will go Friday night, starting at 7:00 p.m., and is available on the OHL's YouTube page.
On Saturday, things will pick up again at 9:00 a.m. for Rounds four to 15.
You can also follow the live draft board on the OHL website HERE.