The wheels are turning toward NHL hockey returning and the Stanley Cup Playoffs getting underway.
With an NHLPA call set for Thursday night where the players are set to weigh in on the NHL’s plan for a return to play with a 24-team tournament, the players around the league are getting ready to start things up.
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Bruins prospect Trent Frederic confirmed during a virtual town hall with Bruins season ticket holders that dates for a return to practice, training camp and perhaps more were getting tossed around on a Zoom call between Bruins players on Wednesday.
“We had a Zoom call yesterday with the group and there were some dates thrown. It sounds like there is going to be some hockey,” said Frederic, who said he’s been able to skate outside of St. Louis County in recent weeks. “I don’t know much. I’m more of a listener when it comes to what is going on with the NHLPA and stuff. But it sounds like there is going to be some playoff hockey for sure.”
Frederic is one of a number of young players — including 21-year-old center prospect Jack Studnicka — who are expected to join the Bruins when they begin working out, and could fill some kind of Black Aces reserve role if the NHL expands rosters given the circumstances.
The NHLPA would be voting on a 24-team playoff that would set seeds 5-12 in each conference playing each other in a bracketed play-in five-game playoff series, and the top four seeds in each conference would play in a round-robin tournament with final seeding on the line, per a hockey source.
The plan would give new potential playoff life to teams like the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers that might have otherwise thought their season was over when the regular season went on pause.
Based on the 12 Eastern Conference teams being ranked by points percentage, the top seed could play the winner of a Maple Leafs/Blue Jackets play-in series, and right now the Bruins would be No. 1 seed.
The NHL is then expected to go with a conventional best-of-seven series for each round once they have pared down to the normal 16 teams for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here’s how the Eastern Conference seeding would look:
|1. Boston Bruins||7. New York Islanders|
|2. Tampa Bay Lightning||8. Toronto Maple Leafs|
|3. Washington Capitals||9. Columbus Blue Jackets|
|4. Philadelphia Flyers||10. Florida Panthers|
|5. Pittsburgh Penguins||11. New York Rangers|
|6. Carolina Hurricanes||12. Montreal Canadiens|
The expectation is still that NHL games of any kind wouldn’t be played until sometime in July at the earliest given the weeks required for all NHL players to get back into skating shape.
Frederic mentioned that he’s already begun skating in the St. Louis area where he’s living with his parents, and the expectation is that NHL players could begin skating in small groups of 3-4 players within the next few weeks.
Obviously, there are still plenty of hurdles to get over including ample, rapid testing and a decision on cities where the games will be played over the next few weeks, but NHL and NHLPA agreement this week on a playoff format would be a massive step in the right direction toward hockey coming back in the next few months.