NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday that the league has finalized its Return to Play plan for the 2019-20 season and has determined the structure of the 2020 NHL Draft lottery.
The league is moving forward with a 24-team playoff format that will see 12 teams from each conference compete in a modified postseason tournament. The 2019-20 regular season has been deemed complete through games played on March 11.
Players will be allowed to return to team facilities starting in “early June” for small-group activities while formal training camps are penciled in for “no earlier than the first half of July.” Timing of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is still to be determined, but the league is narrowing down two hub cities to host each conference. Though the NHL hasn’t announced which cities will host the postseason, Las Vegas was on a list of 10 cities being considered.
The top-four teams in each conference as decided by points percentage will play each other in round robin play to determine final seeding. Teams that occupy spots 5-12 in each conference will play each other in best-of-five series to round out a 16-team field. From there, the playoffs will proceed with best-of-seven series through the Stanley Cup Final. The first series after the round robin and play-in round will be considered the First Round.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, the news gives clarity on the team’s next steps for returning to play as well as how Vegas fits into the 24-team tournament. As the third-best team in the conference with 86 points and a points percentage of .606, the Golden Knights will participate in round-robin play against the rest of the top-four teams in the Western Conference to determine seeding in the First Round.
Vegas joins the St. Louis Blues (.662 points percentage), Colorado Avalanche (.657 points percentage) and Dallas Stars (.594 points percentage) in the top four as those teams will go head-to-head without risk of immediate elimination to decide the top-four spots in the conference. Below are the 12 teams that qualify from the Western Conference.
Las Vegas is one of the cities being considered as a host city when play resumes.