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NHL Announces Return-To-Play Plan

Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined the NHL’s plan to complete the 2020 Playoffs on Tuesday afternoon

The 2019/20 NHL regular season has been officially declared as completed.

The NHL has announced the outline of their plan to return to play for the 2020 Playoffs. Commissioner, Gary Bettman, confirmed that the top 12 teams based on points percentage in each conference will resume playing sometime in the summer.

The top four teams in each conference will engage in round-robin play with regular season overtime to determine first round seeding while the remaining 8 teams will compete in best of 5 series with playoff overtime.

The playoffs will take place in two hub cities, one located in the eastern conference and one located in the western conference. Those cities have not yet been decided but the commissioner did provide a list of 10 cities currently in the running. Edmonton was listed as a contestant for the western conference alongside Vancouver, Dallas, Chicago, Vegas and Minnesota.

As for a timeline, the league announced that they will be entering into Phase 2 of their plan in early June, which allows voluntary small-group on and off ice training. Phase 3, which includes the opening of formal training camps, is not expected to start until after July 1st. The league expects to play over the summer into early fall.

It is still being decided whether the first and second round of the playoffs will be played as a 5-game series or a 7-game series. It has been confirmed that the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will hold true to their 7-game series format.

This mirrors what a lot of us already knew would be happening. The format confirms that the Edmonton Oilers will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in a qualifying round series. What we didn’t know was that the losers in this qualifying round will be entered into the draft lottery...but not in the way you might expect.

There are two possible phases of this year’s draft lottery. Phase one will take place on June 26th and will include the 7 non-resuming teams (teams that didn’t make the cut) and eight placeholder spots for teams that will be eliminated in the qualifying round. If the top three spots of the draft are won by three of the seven non-resuming teams there will be no phase two and the rest of the draft order will be determined by points percentage. However, if one or more of the top three spots are won by a placeholder team, phase two will be held between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals. Each team will be given equal odds (12.5%) to win that placeholder spot. Confusing I know, but that is the best I can articulate the plan. The draft will not take place until after the 2020 Stanley Cup is awarded.

That is the extent of what we know right now. Obviously this is a fluid situation that can change at any point in time. The league acknowledged that the safety of players and staff is paramount and they will not proceed to play until they have gotten approval from the appropriate government and health-care officials.

Stay safe everyone and lets hope for the best!