NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has confirmed that the 2019-20 playoffs will take place through a 24-team format.
The announcement was made on Tuesday afternoon, along with news of potential hub cities and how this year’s draft lottery would work.
Bettman, in a livestreamed announcement, says a 24-team format is believed to be “fair to all teams” and the “best option under the circumstances.”
“It will enable the best playoffs in all of sports to honour our history and produce a champion worthy of claiming the most treasured trophy in all of sports,” he says.
Once the league has been given the go-ahead from health and government authorities, 24 of the 31 teams will resume play. The top 12 teams in each conference will be selected based on their points percentage as of March 12, when the league paused play.
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The top four teams of each conference will claim automatic berths to the first round of the usual 16-team playoffs. They will play intra-conference, round-robin games against the other three teams to determine seeding.
These games will be played with regular-season overtime and shootout rules. Any ties in the final standings of the round robin will be broken using regular season points percentage.
The remaining eight teams in each conference will then play in a best-of-five qualifying round series, with the four winners proceeding to the first round of the playoffs. These games will use playoff overtime rules.
The top 12 teams in each conference are as follows:
In the Eastern Conference, the top-four bracket for seeding and the qualifying series matchups are as follows:
In the Western Conference, the top-four bracket for seeding and the qualifying series matchups are as follows:
Once round robin and qualifying games are finished, conference-based playoffs will take place in two yet-to-be-named hub cities. The teams that proceed past the best-of-five qualifying round will play against one of the teams from the round robin.
The NHL has yet to decide, however, whether these matchups, as well as those in the second round, will be sorted by seeding or bracket.
The length of the first and second round of playoffs is also being decided on, with options for best-of-five or best-of-seven rounds. The Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals will be a best-of-seven.
Bettman notes that he believes the qualifying round, as well as the first two rounds of the playoffs, can be completed in just over a month.