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NHL Entry Draft Lottery and Playoff Format Nearly Finalized

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In a fitting tribute to our times, this year’s lottery is also only half baked to go along with the playoff format which still isn’t actually finalized.

San Jose Sharks v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Today the NHL has announced the finalized 24-team playoff format for the 2019-2020 season as well as the draft lottery. What hasn’t been announced is the date of either event, and in a fitting tribute to our new “make it up on the fly” process for just about everything in life, the lottery won’t actually answer its central question: What order will all the non-playoffs teams pick in. Today’s announcement is a confirmation that the 2019-2020 regular season is over for statistical purposes as well as for seven teams who will play no more games.

Draft Lottery

The draft lottery will be held on June 26, which is long before the playoffs will begin (see below), so the lottery cannot decide the full order of the bottom 15 teams, it can only set the worst seven teams up for an extended period of draft prospect analysis.

Those seven teams, the seven not included in the playoffs, are:

  1. Detroit
  2. Ottawa
  3. San Jose
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Anaheim
  6. New Jersey
  7. Buffalo

The top three picks will be awarded, and the lottery will include fifteen teams, made up of the seven listed above plus eight placeholder spots for the losers of the qualifying round of the playoffs (see below). The placeholders will all have the same odds. There will be the usual three draws to assign the top three draft slots.

If one of the placeholder teams wins any lottery, there will be a second lottery to determine which losing team actually gets that pick. If all three picks are won by deserving bad teams, that second lottery won’t happen, and the rest of the top 15 draft picks will be assigned in standings order to the eight losing teams of the qualifying round. Go here for the thread with the best explanation:

Playoff Format

Most of the playoff format has been public for several days, and only a few final details needed to be sorted out after the NHLPA executive board voted to approve the NHL’s Return to Play Committee’s proposal.

The teams, matchups and basic structure are unchanged in today’s announcement, and in fact, several key decisions still have not been decided.

There will be two hub cities with 12 teams in each place. The places are not yet known, and will be decided when the actual timing of the playoffs is known. This is the list of potential hubs as confirmed by Gary Bettman today:

The top four teams will play three round-robin games each that could adjust their current seeding order, which is based on points percentage. These games will have regular season overtime and shootout formats. Ties in the subsequent standings, should they occur, will be broken by regular-season points percentage.

Meanwhile the bottom eight teams in each hub city are playing a best-of-five elimination round to cut their number in half. They’ll have regular playoff overtime format. The Maple Leafs will indeed be playing the Columbus Blue Jackets in this round.

Neither of those sets of games will count as regular season or playoff games for statistical purposes.

Once that’s done... well, we don’t know. One of the things they still haven’t decided yet is if the Conference-based playoffs that result out of that initial qualifying round will be a bracket style or reseeded based on outcomes of the qualifying round.

The first two rounds of the playoffs — to clarify this, that means the two rounds after the qualifying round — are expected to take a little over a month. The length of those rounds has not yet been decided. But the Conference and Stanley Cup Finals will be best of seven.

It is reasonable to assume that the NHL will shorten the length of rounds if they need to, to make this playoffs fit into the actual time allowed once they know what it is.

With no clarity either on how long a training camp is likely to be, we can only speculate based on the fact two weeks are needed in case of isolation requirements. That puts the start of the qualifying round portion of the playoffs at July 15 to July 30 or later. And the start of the month-long first two playoff rounds likely sometime in August. It’s clear this is going to run into September, one way or another.

For now, mark your calendars for June 26, where a lottery will be held that might award three draft pick slots, or might not. Seems fitting.

Updates

From the press conference after the initial presentation, some things have been added and clarified.

  1. The draft is definitely going to be after the Stanley Cup Final, date therefore unknown
  2. The second draft lottery if necessary will be after the qualifying round and before the playoffs
  3. The 2020-2021 season could start as late as January, but will be played in its entirety.

There is no further clarity at all on how that would work.
5. Clubs are not allowed to sign contracts for this season, which means prospects on reserve lists that are signing ELCs will not be allowed to play.
6.

7.

8. As of now, the qualifying losers will not be considered to be in the playoffs for trade condition purposes. The games are not considered playoff games.
9. Bill Daly is attempting to get an exemption from the Canadian rules on incoming travelers self-isolating. They do have assurances there won’t be any actual border problems in players coming into either country. Daly later says that without a solution to that, they can’t use Canada for a hub city.
10. Bettman won’t give any firm dates because he doesn’t think guessing is helpful, but he concedes the late July at the absolute earliest to start playing is plausible.
11. No actual plan on the NHL Awards, but it is in the planning stages.

Update of the unconfirmed kind:

and another: