Vegas Golden Knights: Main Takeaways from Bettman’s Conference

Get ready, Vegas Golden Knights hockey is on its way back.

Okay, so while there is still a long way to go until a puck can be dropped, the NHL has officially confirmed the 24-team Playoff format with the Vegas Golden Knights at the heart of it.

Speaking in a Press Conference earlier today, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined details of the 24-team Playoff format and also the 2020 NHL Lottery Draft.

A lot of nuggets of information were dropped and, while these are only tentative steps, hockey has inched closer to making a return this year.

There’s a lot of ramifications for the Golden Knights to delve into, so we’ve going to give our main takeaways from today’s Press Conference with a Vegas spin on each one.

Vegas are Pacific Division Champions

Champions baby!

Yes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced today that the 2019-20 NHL regular season is officially in the books.

That means the Vegas Golden Knights are Pacific Division Champions for the second time in their three-year history.

Not bad at all.

It also means that the record books are now closed and award winners can start to be selected, so Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes is likely to win the Calder Trophy and Washington Capitals blueliner John Carlson will win the Norris Trophy.

For the Golden Knights, they are unlikely to be featured in any individual awards but they will get to hang up a Pacific Division Champions Banner in T-Mobile Arena.

An aerial view shows T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights.

An aerial view shows T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Hub Cities

Gary Bettman also revealed that there will be two Hub Cities for the postseason – one to host the Eastern Conference and one to host the Western Conference.

Vegas is one of 10 cities currently being considered:

  • Chicago
  • Columbus
  • Dallas
  • Edmonton
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis
  • Pittsburgh
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver

Vegas would host the Western Conference if chosen as one of the NHL’s two Hub Cities, although any decisions won’t be made for a few weeks.

We’ve delved into this before but Vegas makes a lot of sense as a Hub City given the vast amount of hotels they have in close proximity to T-Mobile Arena.

24-Team Playoff Format

This is the juicy bit.

So, after the NHLPA gave the 24-team Playoff format the green light last week, the NHL will now march ahead with that idea.

Per Gary Bettman, the postseason will be 24 teams with the top 12 in each Conference based on points percentage at the pause of the NHL on Mar. 12.

While 16 teams are contesting Play-In games in order to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the top four teams in each Conference will battle it out in a three-game round-robin.

Playoff seeding will be at stake in the three-game tournament, so the Golden Knights could improve from a third-seed to the top seed if they win all three games.

Regular-season overtime rules will be in effect for the round-robin games, and ties in the standings will be broken by regular-season points percentage.

So, for Vegas, they will play the St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars in the round-robin games.

The Play-In games will be a best-of-five series while the NHL will determine if the First and Second Rounds will be best-of-five or a best-of-seven series.

Reilly Smith #19, Jonathan Marchessault #81 and Paul Stastny #26 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrate

Reilly Smith #19, Jonathan Marchessault #81 and Paul Stastny #26 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrate. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

However, the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final will be best-of-seven, which I believe is hugely important for the integrity of the Stanley Cup.

The NHL also needs to decide whether to seed or bracket the First Round Playoff matchups, with the players preferring seeding and the league keen on using a bracket.

If the First Round matchups were bracketed, the Golden Knights would face the Nashville Predators or the Arizona Coyotes as outlined here.

Personally, I would prefer seeding given that it would ensure fair matchups for those top seeds who have earned that right, but I understand this isn’t a perfect world we live in right now.

Also, just to make it clear, the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs will still be 16-teams. The league doesn’t consider the Play-In games or the round-robin games as part of the official postseason.

Phase 3 & Further Details

These were the other main nuggets in relation to the 24-team Playoff format:

  • Each Conference will be assigned a Hub City, as mentioned above, that will feature secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation.
  • Teams will be limited to 50 personnel in the Hub City with only a small group of support staff permitted to enter the arena.
  • Training Camps won’t be permitted to open until July. 1, at the earliest.
  • Timing and Hub Cities will be determined at a later date which is understandable given that Testing still needs to be thrashed out.
  • There is a chance that the Conference Finals and/or the Stanley Cup Final could be played at the home arenas of the participating teams with fans allowed to attend if the current pandemic been taken under control by then.

2020 NHL Lottery Draft

This is confusing, so bear with us.

Also, this doesn’t really impact the Golden Knights but it is information worth knowing anyway.

While there was no word on the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, we have been given detailed plans on the Lottery Draft.

It will take place on Friday, June 26 and will determine the order of the first 15 selections for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The picks will be awarded to the seven teams that do not resume play – Red Wings, Senators, Kings, Ducks, Sabres, Devils, Sharks – with the Senators guaranteed two top-six picks.

The eight teams that do not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs will also be entered into the Lottery.

The whole Draft Lottery concept is complicated, so we’ll leave it to the great Bob McKenzie to explain:

Again, we are not clever enough to dissect the full breakdown of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, but you can read a full breakdown here.

But, most importantly, the NHL 2020 Entry Draft won’t take place until after a 2019-20 Stanley Cup Champion is crowned, and that makes the most sense.

Next: Sizing up potential opponents in 24-team Playoff format

So, that’s a quick rundown of the breaking news from the National Hockey League today, and we’ll have more on Wednesday.

It is a huge step in the right direction, though, and we seem to be hurtling towards a return for the Vegas Golden Knights which is great news.