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NHL Return-to-Play: What it means for the Flyers

Gary Bettman laid out the basic details league's 24-team return-to-play and NHL Draft lottery plans during a televised announcement on Tuesday afternoon

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman laid out the basic details league's 24-team return-to-play and NHL Draft lottery plans during a televised announcement on Tuesday afternoon. Here is how the plan specifically affects the Philadelphia Flyers. Note that there is a structure in place but not a timetable.

1. The regular season is over. For statistical and record-keeping purposes, the 2019-20 regular season is finished according to commissioner Bettman. The Flyers finish with a 41-21-7 record and 89 points. Travis Konecny finishes as the team's top goal-scorer (24 goals) and point-getter (61 points). Konecny and Sean Couturier finish as co-leaders in assists with 37 helpers apiece. 

2. Flyers have clinched a playoff spot. As one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference during the 2019-20 regular season, the Flyers will be exempt from the eight-team qualification round that will be played before the start of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

3. Round-robin for seeding. The Flyers will not enter the playoffs any lower than as a fourth seed. They could finish higher. The seedings will be largely determined by a three-game round robin that will see the Flyers play each of the other top-three teams in the East (Boston, Washington, and Tampa Bay) once apiece. This was done in order for the pre-playoff games for the top four teams in each conference to have something at stake rather than being mere exhibition games before the start of the playoffs. 

4. Regular season rules. The round-robin games will be played under regular season rules; i.e., 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout are in effect. Conversely, the best-of-five qualification series games will be played under playoff rules, with 5-on-5 overtime(s) played until one team scores in sudden death.

5. Best-of-five series in rounds 1 and 2.  The Return To Play Committee will vote to determine if the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds will be played as best-of-five or best-of seven series. The Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final will be best-of-seven.

6. Two hub cities. There will two as-yet-to-decided "hub" cities where the round-robin, qualification, and Stanley Cup playoff games will be played: one in the East and one in the West. All games will be played with no fans in the stand, a maximum of 50 team-employed essential personnel and a very limited number of support staff personnel present. 

The league is currently considering numerous host city candidates. The candidates include Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/ St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.

The decision of the two "hub" cities, according to commissioner Bettman, will be based on a variety of factors and advice from medical experts: including the relative number of active Covid cases in each locale, the widespread availability of regular testing (without infringing upon testing availability to the general population in the area) and the ready availability of appropriate PPE. 

The decision on the host venues could come within the next three of four weeks. 

7. No timeline for Phase 3 or Phase 4 implementation:  No specific dates have been set for the implementation of Phase 2 (voluntary small-group on-ice workouts at team training facilities), Phase 3 (formal team training camps), or Phase 4 (resumption of games). However, the commission spelled out some generic goals. 

The eventual pinpointing of dates for each successive Phase will be based on when the league gets the go-ahead from medical experts and civic authorities that it is safe to proceed for all participating teams.

The hope for Phase 2 is start in the early part of June. Phase 3 is unlikely to start before July 1, with a rough goal of getting camps underway within the first half of the month. Thereafter, the round-robin, qualifying and playoff games will take place over the course of the summer.

8. Playoff run will determine Draft position. The NHL has altered its Entry Draft lottery procedure, with a one-phase or two-phase lottery. The Flyers will not be involved in either phase. 

The team's Draft position, as would be the case in a "normal" season will be determined first by how far the team advances in the playoffs and secondarily by regular season points percentage. Ideally, the Flyers would draft 31st (i.e., by virtue of being the Stanley Cup champion) or 30th (Eastern Conference champion).

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