NHL commissioner Gary Bettman today explained how exactly the 24-team return to play format will work, a proposal that was submitted to and approved by the NHLPA executive board over the weekend.
First and foremost was the announcement that the 2019-20 regular season is officially over. There will be no more regular season games, meaning that Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is the 2020 Art Ross winner as leading scorer.
Should the league return this summer, there will be 24-team postseason held in two hub cities. In early June, the league hopes to move to Phase 2 of small group workouts. Phase 3, which is a three-week training camp, is expected to start in early July.
The hub locations that are still in consideration are Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver. The final determination will come later.
The top four teams in each conference will play a round-robin to determine seeding for the playoffs. The other teams in each conference will be matched up in a qualifying round. Neither of these rounds are technically considered the playoffs, but are also not the regular season. The qualifying matchups are as follows:
- 5. Pittsburgh vs. 12. Montreal
6. Carolina vs. 11. Rangers
7. Islanders vs. 10. Florida
8. Toronto vs. 9. Columbus
- 5. Edmonton vs. 12. Chicago
6. Nashville vs. 11. Arizona
7. Vancouver vs. 10. Minnesota
8. Calgary vs. 9. Winnipeg
The league has not yet determined whether or not they will reseed after each round or use a bracket system throughout the playoffs.
The NHL Draft Lottery will be held in one or two phases and is quite a bit more complicated than in year’s past. It will be held on June 26th and include the seven eliminated teams—Detroit, Ottawa, San Jose (owned by Ottawa), Los Angeles, Anaheim, New Jersey and Buffalo—along with eight placeholders for the teams who will be eliminated in the qualifying round. Those 15 slots will have the same odds as previous years.
Should one of the bottom seven teams win the first, second or third pick, they will be awarded it. If those any of those picks are won by a placeholder, there will be a second lottery held after the qualifying round is over to determine which eliminated team is awarded it. Once those two lotteries are completed, the remaining 12 spots will be assigned in inverse order of their regular season points percentage.
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will take place after the conclusion of the 2019-20 playoffs.
It is important to note that though this will be the format should the NHL resume, that is not yet a guarantee. As Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild explained recently to Michael Russo of The Athletic (subscription required), there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome just to get teams into their hub cities.