NHL announces ‘return to play’ plan for 2019-2020 season


By @MichaelCaples –

On Tuesday afternoon, Gary Bettman gave a speech that was music to hockey fans’ ears.

The NHL has officially announced its plan for returning to play to conclude the 2019-2020 season. The regular season is over – bringing an end to the season for the Detroit Red Wings – but a 24-team playoff will finalize the campaign.

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association worked jointly to come to an agreement on how to resume play.

Yesterday, the league shared a lengthy memo detailing its plans and protocol for how things would work when the season resumes – you can read that here.

Bettman’s speech started with an emphasis on the importance of health and safety for all parties involved.

The top 12 teams in each conference as of the March 12 season pause will resume play in the new-look playoffs.

Each conference has been assigned a ‘Hub City’ with secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation. Those cities will be announced at a later date.

Each team will be limited to 50 personnel in the Hub City; there will be a comprehensive system of testing.


Phase 2

In early June, clubs can return to home facilities for voluntary, small-group group.

Phase 3

No earlier than July 1, formal training camps will open.

Phase 4

Clubs will report to two Hub Cities for conference-based round-robins, qualifying rounds and Stanley Cup Playoffs.


All of the playoffs are expected to be played in the Hub Cities.

Playoff Structure

Round Robin: Top four teams from each conference play for first-round seeding

Qualifying Round: Remaining eight teams play best-of-five series to advance to the first round

First and Second Round: Format and series length to be determined

Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final: Best-of-seven series


Best-of-Five Qualifying Rounds

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh vs. Montreal

Carolina vs. New York Rangers

New York Islanders vs. Florida

Toronto vs. Columbus


Western Conference

Edmonton vs. Chicago

Nashville vs. Arizona

Vancouver vs. Minnesota

Calgary vs. Winnipeg


NHL Draft Lottery

The draft lottery will determine who make the first three selections, and it will be conducted in one or two phases.

The 15 clubs eligible in the lottery are the seven teams who didn’t make the playoffs, and the eight teams eliminated in the qualifying round.

A Phase 1 draw will take place on June 26. First draw determines first overall pick, second draw determines second overall pick, third draw determines third overall pick.

The Red Wings have 18.5 percent odds for getting the first overall pick – the best chance of any team after finishing last in the league. Detroit is guaranteed a top-four pick.

“We’re hoping, obviously, to find a difference-maker,” Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman said in February, via NHL.com. “And looking at that group that’s there at the top, we think we’ll get a real good player whether we’re picking 1 or picking 4.”

It is a complicated process to decide if there is a Phase 2 draw between the qualifying round and the first round of the playoffs. From NHL.com:

The First Phase of the draft lottery will be held on June 26, prior to the qualifying rounds. It will consist of three drawings and be limited to the seven teams that did not qualify for the postseason.

The lottery odds for those seven teams were determined by their point percentage during the 2019-20 regular season, which was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and ended Tuesday with the Return to Play Plan announcement.

The eight potential losing teams from the Qualifying Round will be represented in the First Phase of the draft lottery as unassigned picks.

The first drawing of the First Phase will set the team selecting No. 1 in the draft, the second drawing will set the team selecting No. 2, and the third drawing will set the team selecting No. 3.

If a team not in the bottom seven wins any of the first three drawings, a Second Phase will be conducted among the eight teams eliminated in the Qualifying Round. That would take place between the end of the Qualifying Round and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.



The odds:

Detroit Red Wings — (.275) 18.5 percent chance for No. 1 pick

Ottawa Senators — (.437) 13.5 percent

Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks) — 11.5 percent

Los Angeles Kings — (.457) 9.5 percent

Anaheim Ducks — (.472) 8.5 percent

New Jersey Devils — (.493) 7.5 percent

Buffalo Sabres — (.493) 6.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team A — 6.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team B — 5.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team C — 3.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team D — 3.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team E — 2.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team F — 2.0 percent

Qualifying Round Team G — 1.5 percent

Qualifying Round Team H — 1.0 percent