All You Need To Know Regarding The NHL’s ‘Return To Play’

Anaheim Ducks v Edmonton Oilers - Game Six

The NHL is roughly one month away from dropping the puck on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. According to a report from the New York Post, the NHL’s official timeline has been determined.

The league is currently in Phase 2, which allows small groups of players to take part in on-ice workouts. As of today, coaches and managers can be in the building. Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett and GM Ken Holland are not expected in town just yet, according to sources.

Phase 3, which is the official start of NHL training camps, is expected to begin on Friday, July 10th. Camps, according to Larry Brooks, will run roughly two weeks at team facilities. At that point, July 23rd and 24th, teams will be assigned to their hub city and report. Over the next week from that point, teams will play one exhibition in their respective hub city.

The expectation is that night one of the ‘play-in tournament’ will be Friday, July 30th. The ’round-robin’ for the top-four seeds will also take place during that time frame.

In addition to a timeline for games, the league has also reportedly decided on a few key elements. Teams will be allowed to carry unlimited goaltenders on their playoff roster. The Oilers will absolutely carry Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen and Stuart Skinner. Will they carry a fourth, say Shane Starrett? That remains to be seen. Odds are, teams will carry either three or four goaltenders.

Training camp rosters, per Brooks, will include 30 skaters. Rosters for the actual playoffs will be cut by two, as each team will be allowed to carry 28 skaters. Players who must be put on injured reserve will not count against a team’s roster.

The Oilers won’t have too many tough decisions with a roster of 28 players. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyler Ennis, Zack Kassian, Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan, Andreas Athanasiou, Jujhar Khaira, Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard, James Neal, Alex Chiasson and Patrick Russell are 15 likely locks among the forward group.

Defensively, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear, Kris Russell, Caleb Jones, Mike Green and Matt Benning will certainly be on the roster. That’s eight more players, already giving the club 23.

The Oilers will likely have top forward prospect Tyler Benson on the roster. He’s been working out as part of the Phase 2 workouts at Rogers Place, giving the team 24 skaters. Defenseman Evan Bouchard likely makes it 25, while guys like Cooper Marody, Brad Malone, Philip Broberg, Brandon Manning, Dmitri Samorukov, Markus Granlund and William Lagesson will fight for the final roster spots.

According to the report from Brooks, COVID-19 testing will be done “every other day for all people entering the facility.”

He also reports that it is unclear at this point whether the media will be granted access to the event. Media is not currently allowed to attend Phase 2 workouts.

As for hub cities, the NHL could make a decision as early as today. Hub cities are expected to be announced by the Draft Lottery, which takes place this Friday night.

The league reportedly cut down its potential list of hub cities. Edmonton, per sources and reports, remains in the running. Vancouver, according to reports, has gained momentum in regards to being one of the hub cities.

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Vegas has long been rumored as one of the two cities, but that is not a certainty anymore. The city has seen its COVID-19 cases rise as casinos continue to open up and many ignore the pleas to wear masks.

Edmonton, Toronto and Pittsburgh are potentials to join Vancouver.

The Oilers will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-five ‘play-in’ round. Expect them to get some prime time action. NBC will be trying to replace the lost Olympic coverage on the main network. What better series to showcase than Patrick Kane Vs. Connor McDavid?

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