NHL commissioner Gary Bettman broke down the league’s return to play formula and how they envision the draft playing out.

With the NHL having approved the 24-team format over the weekend, the league was able to move forward with the announcement.

Below, we’ll talk about how the playoffs will look and how the draft lottery, which is still very confusing, may work.


In the 24-team format, the top four teams in each conference will play a mini-tournament for seeding while 16 other teams will face off in a best-of-five series to set the playoff field.

The announcement Tuesday was the first of any major pro sports league in terms of their return to play plan. Bettman said that there will be two hub cities with 12 teams playing in each city.

Vancouver is listed as a finalist to host games along with other Canadian cities in Edmonton and Toronto. In the US, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, LA, Las Vegas, Minnesota and Pittsburgh are listed as the others.

Teams will only be able to bring a tight ship of 50 staff members.

In the west, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas will earn byes, but will compete in the round-robin seeding tournament. For the play-in rounds, the Canucks will square off against the Minnesota Wild while the Edmonton Oilers face the Chicago Blackhawks. The Nashville Predators will battle the Arizona coyotes, and lastly, Calgary deals with the Winnipeg Jets.

The play-in series will be a best-of-five with normal playoff-style rules, but the seeding tournament will see teams compete with regular-season rules. Why? Who knows.


Now this is chaos. Or fun. Or however you want to look at it. But to be blunt, it’s definitely on the confusing side. This league statement, however, provides some clarity:

The draft lottery will determine the first 15 picks in the 2020 NHL Draft based on 3-6 drawings over one or two phases. It will include the seven teams that did not qualify for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, plus eight teams that lose in the Qualifying Round.

The First Phase of the draft lottery will be held June 26, prior to the Qualifying Round. It will consist of three drawings and include the seven teams that did not qualify for the postseason and eight placeholder positions.

The lottery odds for the seven non-playoff 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 playoffs.

So what we know is that Vancouver faces Minnesota and has a chance to either make the playoffs playoffs, or enter into the draft lottery.

Time will tell as to when all of this can even get underway.

On Twitter: @zjlaing