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Gary Bettman Outlines “Return to Play” and Draft in Announcement

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced today the plan moving forward to conclude the 2019-20 season and the 2020 NHL Draft.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced today the plan moving forward to conclude the 2019-20 season and the 2020 NHL Draft.

Bettman began the announcement by stating, “…when we can resume play….” He made it clear that though the plan is in place, when and where play will resume is yet to be determined.

As previously reported, the NHL is looking for two hub cities to host the 24-team Playoff. Chicago was listed as a potential hub city.

The league is currently in Phase 1 of their “Return to Play” plan which includes all teams and players to be in isolation, with no off-ice or on-ice activities. Phase 2 is scheduled to begin sometime in early June, where players can begin voluntary training in small groups.

Once Phase 3 is initiated, the 24 participating teams will then begin formal training camp. Even though a date has yet to be determined, Bettman did say it will not be until after July 1st.

Playoff Format

Much of the 24-team playoff format has already been shared with the public. 12 teams from each conference will compete, while seeding is decided based on points percentage as of March 12th. The top four seeds in each conference will have a bye, while the fifth through 12th seeded teams will compete in a “qualifying round.”

The qualifying round and first round of the playoffs could be either a best-of-five or best-of-seven series while each conference final and the Stanley Cup Final will be a best-of-seven.

As anticipated, the Blackhawks will play the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-five series in the qualifying round.

2020 NHL Draft

The second part of Bettman’s announcement was to lay out the plan for the 2020 NHL Draft. Bettman began this plan by stating, “…this is a bit complicated.”

In Phase 1 of the draft, there will be 15 teams eligible to win a top-three pick in the draft; the seven teams that will not be competing in the 24-team playoff and the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round.

If the seven teams not competing wins each of the top-three picks, then the draft will go on with the actual draft taking place after the awarding of the Stanley Cup.

If a team involved in the qualifying round is awarded a top-three pick in the lottery, then they will hold another lottery after the conclusion of the qualifying round.

Bettman concluded the announcement by stating the league will, “…remain focused on safety…”

At this point the plan to finish the 2019-20 season and award the Stanley Cup is in place, but the league must wait for approval from government and health officials before confirming any dates to return to play.


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