UFHL Announces Upcoming Schedule
as NHL Nears Return

UFF Sports and the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League are ramping up with the NHL nearing a return for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The UFHL plans on hosting its inaugural Klein Cup playoffs this summer — mirroring the NHL format with 24 teams and a play-in round — and there are several other events of note on the calendar.

Here is a look at the upcoming schedule for the UFHL:

Redraft Lottery — Friday, June 26

This lottery determined the draft order for the 11 franchises participating in the UFHL Redraft. Those franchises had equal odds, with the names of their 11 owners drawn from a hat. The first name drawn was assigned 11th overall and the last name left in the hat won first overall — counting down as the NHL does with their draft lottery, which took place on the same night.

The UFHL Redraft Lottery was recorded and uploaded to the UFF Sports YouTube channel, providing suspense and excitement for those 11 owners as the results were revealed for their respective draft positions.

ICYMI, here is Andrea Ellis of UFF Sports conducting the UFHL Redraft Lottery:

Redraft — Saturday, July 11

This redraft featured 12 of the UFHL’s 31 franchises in a 23-round snake draft, selecting from a pool of 380 players. Those franchises filled out their 23-man active rosters (14F-7D-2G or 13F-8D-2G) while complying with the NHL salary cap. The UFHL uses actual NHL contracts (cap hit), with the same ceiling and floor. The current ceiling is $81.5 million and the floor is $60.2 million, allowing for $21.3 million in roster flexibility between contending and rebuilding franchises. The NHL salary cap will remain the same for next season (2020-21), so UFHL owners can plan accordingly.

The initial UFHL Draft took place in January but 14 of the 31 rosters were auto-picked prior to owners purchasing those franchises. Prospective owners were given their choice of the auto-picked rosters upon paying their expansion fee but several of them expressed a desire to pick their own rosters, which led to this redraft.

Three of the six owners who previously inherited auto-picked rosters opted into the redraft, along with the eight newest owners who purchased franchises with the incentive of a redraft. There was also a late entry to the redraft following a franchise sale on July 3. As part of that purchase agreement, the new owners were permitted to join the redraft on the condition of picking last (12th) since the lottery had already taken place.

The player pool for the UFHL Redraft featured star forwards such as Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Artemi Panarin, Elias Pettersson, Evgeni Malkin, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stone, Taylor Hall, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, with the stud defencemen including Roman Josi, Erik Karlsson, Mark Giordano, Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith, Seth Jones, Matt Dumba, Josh Morrissey, Noah Dobson and Adam Boqvist, while Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick and John Gibson highlight the available goaltenders.

Here are the results from the UFHL Redraft, which can be viewed below: https://uffsports.com/ufhl-redraft-recap/.

Wild-Card Draw — Saturday, July 18

This draw determined the three wild-card berths for the play-in round of the Klein Cup playoffs. The UFHL awarded playoff berths to the 21 franchises that competed in the UFHL regular season — including Duckman’s Domination and the Bandits, who both opted into the redraft but were exempt from this draw based on the UFHL regular-season standings.

The 10 newest owners — all of whom joined the UFHL following the NHL shutdown in March — had their names in a hat and three lucky winners were drawn as wild cards to round out the 24-team bracket for the Klein Cup playoffs. The first name drawn was WC1, the second was WC2 and the third was WC3, with WC3 facing the highest seed for the play-in round. Those draw winners will enter the playoffs with their rosters from the UFHL Redraft, as will Duckman’s Domination and the Bandits.

Congratulations to the winners — Aaron Bell & Brandon Kohinsky, Arlo Schulz, and Chericce Schulz — and be sure to watch the drama of the Wild Card Draw unfold as hosted by Andrea Ellis and Liz Jahnke of UFF Sports:

Playoff Draft — Following Play-In Round (August 10)

This non-snaking draft featured the 16 franchises competing in the first round of the Klein Cup playoffs. Those franchises filled out their 23-man active rosters, replacing players from non-playoff NHL teams. The draft order reflected the UFHL regular-season standings, with the highest seed picking first overall and the lone wild card advancing from the play-in round picking last. The eight franchises earning byes through the play-in round picked 1-8, followed by the eight franchises advancing from the play-in round based on their seeding (9-16). That order remained the same for every round.

This is a very unique concept with the draft pool comprised of players from NHL playoff teams who are loaned by the 15 UFHL franchises that failed to qualify for the first round of the Klein Cup playoffs. That included players from the eight franchises that lost in the play-in round as well as the seven franchises that weren’t drawn into the playoff bracket.

If those players were drafted by the franchise that wins prize money as the Klein Cup champion, the loaned players will take a small portion of that purse back to their original non-playoff franchise. This keeps everyone involved and interested in the UFHL playoffs — cheering on their team as well as their individual players. It also ensures the UFHL playoffs start on a level playing field, with every franchise rostering the same amount of players for the first round.

This playoff draft will be an annual event, with the UFHL playoffs always taking place at the same time as the NHL playoffs — unlike most fantasy leagues, where the playoffs occur during the NHL regular season. The UFHL regular season will run through the end of the NHL regular season, followed by the playoffs for both the NHL and the UFHL. In a normal, non-COVID year, the 16 UFHL franchises that qualify for the Klein Cup playoffs will be drafting players from the 15 non-playoff franchises following the UFHL regular season.

However, this is an abnormal year and the UFHL adapted their playoffs to accommodate the NHL’s play-in round. As a result, the UFHL play-in round also required franchises to have the same amount of players from NHL play-in round teams. To accomplish that, the franchises with more players dropped the necessary amount to match their opponent’s total. For example, if the Stallions had 20 active players and the Outlaws had 12 active players, the Stallions would have dropped eight players of their choosing to make it equal.

This only applied to the play-in round prior to the playoff draft. Following the first round of the Klein Cup playoffs, roster sizes will no longer be equal and UFHL franchises with more players advancing to the second round of the NHL playoffs will have an advantage over their second-round opponents in terms of roster size. Likewise for the third and fourth rounds. Therefore, the UFHL franchises with the most players advancing in the NHL playoffs will have the best chance of being crowned the Klein Cup champion based on roster size discrepancies with each passing round. That is similar to standard fantasy playoff drafts.

Entry Auction Lottery — Following Play-In Round (August 10)

This lottery determined the order for the Entry Auction, which is the UFHL’s equivalent to the NHL Entry Draft. This lottery featured the seven non-playoff franchises and the eight losers from the play-in round — mirroring the NHL lottery system. The UFHL lottery was weighted, with the play-in losers getting worse odds — two designated balls in the bingo machine to just one ball for the non-playoff franchises. This lottery was also counting down, from 15th to first overall, with the results live streaming on the UFF Sports YouTube channel.

However, the auction format works different than a standard draft. With the Entry Auction, five franchise owners will be in the auction room bidding on the same prospect. So the owners drawn first to fifth are all winners, essentially, and will all have a chance at Alexis Lafreniere — assuming he’ll be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. The winning bidder among those five owners will leave the auction room with Lafreniere and the franchise owner drawn sixth in this lottery will enter — joining the remaining four — to bid on Quinton Byfield or whoever is selected second in the NHL Entry Draft. Then that winner leaves and the franchise owner drawn seventh enters, with the process continuing until the top 62 prospects are auctioned off — all those selected in the top two rounds of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The UFHL Entry Auction will always take place on the same weekend as the NHL Entry Draft, which is tentatively scheduled for Friday, October 9 and Saturday, October 10 providing all goes well with the Stanley Cup playoffs. If the NHL stays on schedule, the UFHL Entry Auction would be slated for Saturday, October 10 following the second round of the NHL Entry Draft.

Futures Auction — Saturday, August 15 to Friday, August 21

The Futures Auction will be the first of two week-long auctions to officially launch fantasy scouting on the UFF Sports platform. This auction will feature the projected top prospects for the next three NHL draft years — 2021, 2022 and 2023. Those prospects will range in age from 15 to 17 — born between Sept. 16, 2002 and Sept. 15, 2005. The youngest prospects may still be 14 at the time of the Futures Auction — if their 2005 birthdates are between Aug. 16 and Sept. 15 — but they will be entering their 15-year-old season. That age group is the current WHL Bantam Draft class for those from Western Canada.

The Futures Auction will be highlighted by Aatu Raty, Kent Johnson and Dylan Guenther from the 2021 draft class, Shane Wright, Brad Lambert and Matthew Savoie for 2022, and Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov for 2023. All the big names will be available — and those are just the forwards, let alone the defencemen and goaltenders of interest for the years to come. The 2021 draft is especially loaded on defence with the likes of Owen Power, Brandt Clarke, Carson Lambos and Luke Hughes — all four of whom are contenders to be taken first overall next year.

This will become an annual event for scouts, with the 2024 NHL draft class eligible for the 2021 Futures Auction next summer. The NHL Entry Draft typically takes place in late June, with the UFHL Entry Auction and Futures Auction to follow on the same weekend prior to the open market resuming on July 1 — the same day as NHL free agency in a normal year. More on the latter momentarily, but that will be the plan going forward — starting in 2021, providing the NHL returns to normalcy.

Already Drafted Auction — Saturday, August 22 to Friday, August 28

The Already Drafted Auction will be a one-time event featuring top prospects from recent NHL draft classes, including several first-rounders and studs at every position. Both scouts and franchise owners can participate in this auction.

For those wanting a taste of that talent pool, the forwards will include Trevor Zegras, Dylan Cozens, Alex Turcotte, Alex Newhook, Peyton Krebs, Kirill Kaprizov, Grigori Denisenko, Vasily Podkolzin, Cole Caufield, Nick Robertson and Nils Hoglander, while Bowen Byram, Evan Bouchard, Nils Lundkvist, Philip Broberg, Victor Soderstrom, Ty Smith, Cam York and Alexander Romanov will be among the available defencemen, with Spencer Knight, Ilya Sorokin and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen highlighting the goaltenders.

Yes, that is just a taste. UFF Sports will be publishing those auction lists ahead of time — in the not-too-distant future — so scouts will soon know which prospects are available for both Futures and Already Drafted. The plan is to auction off the top 280 prospects — 140 in each auction, with 20 per night over two weeks — but those totals are subject to change, depending on how many scouts register in advance.

Worth noting, most of the UFHL franchises haven’t started filling out their 27-man protected lists, which will largely be comprised of prospects purchased from scouts in a variety of ways. The 31 UFHL franchises will be able to carry 50 contracts — 23 active, 27 protected — which again mirrors the NHL.

Open Market for Scouts — Tuesday, September 1

The open market is where the real action will occur for scouts, with the ability to register prospects on a first-come, first-serve basis following the annual auctions and throughout the year for a flat rate (1,000 score tokens each, equivalent to $20 USD). There will be a brief freeze on prospect registrations surrounding those annual events, but it will be finders keepers for any and all prospects available outside of the auctions — and there are thousands of prospects from all over the world that could warrant registering.

Those floodgates will open on Sept. 1 this year — and July 1 in future years — with UFF scouts scouring the hockey world to unearth steals and late-bloomers among under-the-radar prospects. That age range is from 15 to 25 years old, with the occasional 14-year-old as previously mentioned. The youngest prospects will always be three years out from their NHL draft. The oldest prospects must still be Calder eligible, which the NHL defines as being under 26 years old as of Sept. 15 for the season to come and having played less than 26 career NHL regular-season games. Applying those perimeters, any prospect born between Sept. 16, 1994 and Sept. 15, 2005 could be registered by a scout on the open market as of Sept. 1 — with the exception of that 2020 draft class, which will be reserved for the UFHL Entry Auction that is delayed, along with the NHL Entry Draft, due to COVID.

Even with the 2020 class off limits to scouts until after the Entry Auction in October (or whenever it takes place) and with as many as 280 prospects auctioned as Futures and Already Drafted, there will still be an abundance of legitimate prospects available on the open market — considering 217 prospects get drafted into the NHL every year and dozens of others are signed as undrafted free agents. Don’t forget all those prospects for the next three draft classes. It adds up to thousands and you can do the math with regards to protected lists for the UFHL franchises — 31 teams times 27 prospects is 837, plus another 27 next year is 864 once the UFHL expands to 32 franchises in mirroring the NHL’s expansion to Seattle.

Scouting with UFF Sports is going to be the future of fantasy. For more information on scouting for the UFHL, check out this article answering FAQs (frequently asked questions): https://uffsports.com/ufhl-scouting-launch-faq/