NHL 2020 Playoff Format and Draft Lottery Explained

The NHL has a creative solution to finish the 2019-20 season.
The NHL has a creative solution to finish the 2019-20 season. / Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The NHL announced an exciting plan to finish the 2019-20 season by going straight to the postseason whenever play can return. The key point to know is that 24 teams will compete for the Stanley Cup in the expanded format.

Changes are also being made to the Draft Lottery to reflect the fact 24 teams are now in the postseason. This process is a bit complex, but the most important thing is the news that a plan is at least in place to finish the season.

NHL Playoff Format Explained

12 teams from each conference will qualify for the expanded playoffs and will be separated into two "hub" cities. The top four seeds in each conference, based on the current standings, will play a round-robin tournament to determine seeding in the traditional 16-team playoffs. Seeds 5-12 will play best-of-five series to advance to the next round.

This then sets up the traditional 16-team format where best-of-seven series will be played. Teams seeded 9-12 now have new life and could make a miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

NHL Draft Lottery Explained

The Lottery format is a bit more complex. The simple part is that the seven teams not in the expanded postseason are already in the lottery. Then the eight who are eliminated in the first round join to complete the 15-team field. The initial lottery will only determine the top-3 selections.

The confusion starts as the NHL will hold a first phase on June 26 featuring the seven teams not in the postseason. The eight teams that will then join the field are represented by placeholder spots and percentages.

The top three spots will be decided by three drawings. If any of the playoff teams win a top three spot then there will be a second phase later on. So basically it appears the NHL wants to give the bottom seven teams a second chance in case the lottery goes poorly the first time around.

Some confusion is present, but it is refreshing for the NHL to actually present a plan to return to play. This could lead to some major ratings and money if the league can get back before the NBA or MLB.