First-place finisher chooses its playoff opponent;

‘Gold Plan’ to award top pick, incentivize winning by non-playoff teams


TORONTO, ON (February 28, 2024) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) has announced the implementation of an innovative playoff format and ground-breaking process to determine the draft order of selection among non-playoff teams. The PWHL Playoffs will include the top four teams in the regular-season standings, with the first-place finisher being awarded the opportunity to select its semifinal opponent. The “Gold Plan” will assign the first pick in the 2024 PWHL Draft to the non-playoff team that accrues the most points following its elimination from playoff contention – assuring that the teams’ remaining games will be competitively meaningful.


“The perfect complement to the PWHL’s standings structure, in which a team earns three points for a regulation victory, is a process that rewards competitiveness, parity, and integrity across the league throughout the regular-season,” said Jayna Hefford, PWHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. “Winning is prioritized for playoff positioning — and non-playoff teams have to earn the first overall draft selection, rather than depend on a lottery or repeated losses to improve their chances of securing the top pick.”


2024 PWHL Playoffs

The top four teams in the PWHL regular-season standings qualify for the playoffs, which commence the week of May 6. The first-place team will have a 24-hour window to select its semifinal opponent – choosing between the third- or fourth-place teams. Playoff semifinals and championship will be played as best-of-five series. The higher seeds will have home-ice advantage for games one, two, and five in each series. Games requiring overtime will be decided by playing five-on-five periods until a winning goal is scored.


The Gold Plan


Proposed in the late-2000s by statistician Adam Gold, the ‘Gold Plan’ is also known as ‘Draft Order of Selection by Mathematical Elimination.’ The PWHL’s adaptation of the system rewards team success upon elimination from playoff contention.


Once a team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it begins earning ‘Draft Order Points’ in all subsequent games (including all regular-season games that begin following a team’s elimination), using the league’s standard points system that awards three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, one point for an overtime or shootout loss, and zero points for a regulation loss. The team with the most Draft Order Points at the conclusion of the regular season will earn the first selection in each round of the draft. The non-playoff team with the fewest Draft Order Points will select second in each round of the draft.


If the two non-playoff teams tie for the most Draft Order Points, the first pick in each round of the draft will be awarded to the team with the most regulation wins after elimination. If still tied, the team with the most combined overtime and shootout wins post-elimination will earn the top pick. If still tied, the team with the fewest overall regular-season standings points will earn the first selection in the draft (e.g. the sixth-place team). If the teams finish with identical point totals in the regular-season, the league’s regular tiebreaker rules will be utilized to determine the team in sixth place. The league’s standings page will begin displaying Draft Order Points once a team is eliminated from playoff contention.


PWHL Draft


The PWHL Draft will be held in June and will consist of seven rounds and 42 selections. While Draft Order Points using the Gold Plan will assign the first- and second-overall selections, picks three through six will be determined among the four playoff teams, based on the inverse order of the regular-season standings. The first-place team will pick sixth, the second-place team will pick fifth, the third-place team will pick fourth, and the fourth-place team will pick third overall. The draft will utilize a traditional format, in which once a round is completed, the following round will be conducted in the same order as the previous round. Following the completion of the season, there will be a window for teams to trade draft picks.


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