NHL Point System: How Does The NHL Standing Work?

How Do NHL Standings Work? Points System Guide

As a newbie to the NHL, it may be difficult to understand the meaning of team stats, NHL standings and how the NHL decides which team makes the playoffs. The NHL comprises about thirty-two teams, with only sixteen making the playoffs. 

The sole purpose of the standings in the NHL is to determine which teams make it up to the Stanley Cup playoffs. In this article, we will look at the meaning of the values in a team’s stats, how they are calculated, and how they affect a team’s playoff qualification. 

In the NHL, we have the Pre-season, the Regular season and the Off-season (shortened form of the Playoff Season). The regular season is the series of games and matches that determine the teams that qualify for the off-season. 

NHL Teams Stats

Before we begin explaining how teams are ranked in the NHL standings and how the qualification system of the playoffs works, we need to understand the meaning of some of the stats on the standing.

When analysing the information on the standings of an NHL season, the below shows the abbreviation and symbols you will find. These stats are used to represent the performance and ranking of the NHL standings.

Here are some of the important stats and what they mean.

Basic Stats

  1. GP – Games Played
    This shows the number of games a team has played. When it comes to the regular season, every team in the NHL plays 82 games.
  2. W – Wins
    These stats show the number of games a team has won during regular time, overtime or a shootout.
  3. L – Loss
    These are the number of games in regular time a team did not win.
  4. OT or OTL – Overtime Losses
    These are the number of games a team lost in overtime or shootout.
  5. PTS – Points
    This is the sum total of all the points by a team, either from wins or overtime losses. 
  6. P% – Point Percentage
    This is the percentage of points scored by a team to the highest possible point attainable. The highest possible point is obtained by multiplying the number of games played by two (assuming they win every game).
  7. RW – Regulation Wins
    This is the number of games a team wins during regulation time.
  8. ROW – Regulation plus Overtime Win
    This is the sum total of all the wins from regular time and overtime.

Meaning Of NHL Standings Symbols

Meaning Of NHL Standing Symbols

Apart from the regular stats, here are some letters that the NHL uses to differentiate teams.

  • Y – Clinched Division
    This refers to the teams that top their divisions.
  • X – Clinched Playoff spot
    This refers to teams that qualify for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • P – Presidents’ Trophy
    This refers to the team that is the number one team in the league. This means they had the highest points in the entire league standings. They are given the Presidents’ Trophy award.
  • Z – Clinched Conference
    This is next to teams that top their conference standing. 

What Do NHL Teams Records Mean?

What Do NHL Teams Records Mean?

NHL records tell the history of the number of wins and losses a team has had. Below are four records you will find in the NHL standings.


This is an NHL team record that shows a team’s performance for all the games played in its home arena. Of the 82 games an NHL team plays in the regular season, only 41 are played at home, with the other 41 games being played at the arena of other teams. 

So the record shows the number of wins, losses and overtime losses of a team in its home arena. It has the format of Win-Loss-Overtime Loss (W-L-OTL). Below is a list of the HOME record of some NHL teams in the 2022-23 season. 

NHL TeamHOME (Wins-Loss-Overtime Losses)
Boston Bruins 34-4-3
Carolina Hurricanes 28-10-3
New Jersey Devils24-13-4
Toronto Maple Leafs27-8-6
Vegas Golden Knight 25-15-1
Data From NHL.com


Just like with HOME records, AWAY records show each team’s wins, losses and overtime losses while they played over from their home arena during the regular season. 

NHL TeamAWAY (Wins-Loss-Overtime Losses)
Boston Bruins 31-8-2
Carolina Hurricanes 24-11-6
New Jersey Devils28-9-4
Toronto Maple Leafs23-13-5
Vegas Golden Knight 26-7-8
Data From NHL.com


This is the record of a team in games decided by a shootout. It is simply the win-loss record a team has attained for all the games that were decided in a shootout. 

NHL TeamS/O (Wins-Loss)
Boston Bruins 4-3
Carolina Hurricanes 4-3
New Jersey Devils2-4
Toronto Maple Leafs1-2
Vegas Golden Knight 5-4
Data From NHL.com


This is another NHL team’s record on the standings that shows the record of a team for the last ten games (L10). It is shown in the format Wins-Loss-Overtime Loss. 

NHL TeamL10 (Wins-Loss-Overtime Losses)
Boston Bruins 9-1-0
Carolina Hurricanes 5-5-0
New Jersey Devils7-3-0
Toronto Maple Leafs7-1-2
Vegas Golden Knight 6-1-3
Data From NHL.com

How To Calculate NHL Team Record

Calculating the total point of a team from its team record is simple. The basic thing you need to know is that a win counts as 2 points, an overtime loss or shootout loss counts as a point, and a loss has zero points. 

Below is an example of how to calculate the record of the Maple Leafs for the 2022-23 season. 

Toronto Maple Leafs
HOME (W-L-OTL) = 27-8-6

The Maple Leafs had:

  • 27 wins = 27 multiplied by 2 points per win = 54 points
  • 8 Losses = 8 multiplies by 0 points per loss = 0 points
  • 6 Overtime Losses = 6 multiplied by 1 point per OTL = 6 points
    Total points = 54 + 0 + 6 = 60 points

Toronto Maple Leafs
AWAY (W-L-OTL) = 23-13-5

The Maple Leafs had:

  • 23 wins = 23 multiplied by 2 points per win = 46 points
  • 13 Losses = 13 multiplies by 0 points per loss = 0 points
  • 5 Overtime Losses = 5 multiplied by 1 point per OTL = 5 points
    Total points = 46 + 0 + 5 = 51 points

NHL Point System (How Does The NHL Points Work?)

The NHL point system is the ranking of NHL teams based on the number of points accrued in a regular season. The point system is how the NHL awards point for wins and losses. This is how it works:

  • For every win a team records (during regular time, overtime or shootout), 2 points are allocated to the winning team
  • If a team losses during regular time, they are allocated 0 points.
  • Teams that lose during overtime or shootout are allocated 1 point. Since ties are no longer part of the NHL (since the introduction of shootouts), it is not part of team stats in the NHL.

NHL Standings Explained

NHL Standing

The regular season in the NHL comprises 82 games per team, and they determine the teams that make the Stanley Cup playoffs. Out of the 32 teams in the NHL, only 16 teams make the NHL playoffs. 

On the NHL standings, there are three groups in which the standings are categorised.


The league standings shows every team in the NHL and ranks them based on the number of points. The ranking is from the highest to the lowest. There are instances where ties occur, as two teams may have the same number of points. 

This is common; however, the methods used as tie-breakers when this occurs will be discussed later in this article. It is also utilised in determining which team gets the first draft pick.


The next class used to categorise teams in an NHL standing is based on the conference. The two conferences are the Western and Eastern conferences. Each of the 32 teams in the NHL is divided between the conferences, with sixteen NHL franchises in each. 

The team with the highest point in each conference wins the Conference Cup.


Finally, we have the division. The NHL is made up of four divisions. The division comes from the splitting of the conference into two. 

Simply, each conference in the NHL is made up of two divisions. In the Western Conference, we have the Central and Pacific divisions, while the Eastern Conference comprises the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions.

The teams in each conference are split evenly between the divisions they carry. This means division in the NHL holds eight teams.

Western Conference Eastern Conference 
Central Division Pacific Division Atlantic Division Metropolitan Division 
Arizona CoyotesAnaheim DucksBoston BruinsCarolina Hurricanes
Chicago BlackhawksCalgary FlamesBuffalo SabresColumbus Blue Jackets
Colorado AvalancheEdmonton OilersDetroit Red WingsNew Jersey Devils
Dallas StarsLos Angeles KingsFlorida PanthersNew York Islanders
Minnesota WildSan Jose SharksMontreal CanadiensNew York Rangers
Nashville PredatorsSeattle KrakenOttawa SenatorsPhiladelphia Flyers
St. Louis BluesVancouver CanucksTampa Bay LightningPittsburgh Penguins
Winnipeg JetsVegas Golden KnightsToronto Maple LeafsWashington Capitals

How Playoff Teams Are Determined From NHL Standings

The divisional standings of the NHL that categorise teams based on their division are very important in knowing teams that make the playoffs. So this is how the playoff spots are obtained:

  • There are 16 playoff spots in the NHL
  • Eight spots are given to both the Western and Eastern Conference
  • Of the eight spots given to each conference, four are split between each of the divisions. 

Even though four spots are allocated to each division, one of three spots is occupied. 

After the end of the regular season, the top three teams in each of the divisions (using the divisional standings) will take up the first, second and third spots of the four allocated to them.

So this means that based on the divisional standings alone, twelve teams will be picked for the playoffs.

So now, what happens to the final (fourth) spot allocated to each division? Is the fourth team on the divisional ranking picked, or what?

Well, when it comes to the fourth spot of each division, the NHL implements what is called the Wild Card.

NHL Wild Card 

NHL Wild Card 

The NHL wild card is a merit-based system determining which teams get the final playoff spots from each conference.

Since each of the divisions have one extra slot, each conference has two free spots, which use the wild card rule to determine the teams that get the spot.

For the wild card, the NHL makes use of the conference standings. After the top three teams have been chosen from the divisions, all the teams are ranked in the conference standings.

Then, the top two teams in each conference with the most point, apart from the top 3 in each division, take the two wild-card spots. Since the last two spots are picked based on conference standings, one division might have more teams than the other in the same conference. 

Even though both divisions have four slots each, they only have control over the first three. This means the last two slots can come from a division or can be split evenly between the two. However, this all depends on the team’s standing in the conference.

How Are Ties Settled In The NHL Standings?

How Are Ties Settled In The NHL Standing?

In the cases when two teams have the same number of points in the NHL standings, either in the league, conference or division, the NHL uses the values of other stats to settle the tie. 

The first tiebreaker is the RW (Regulation Wins). Recently the NHL introduced the RW to the stats. Before this, ROW was the main bases of a tiebreaker. Unlike ROW, RW does not include wins during overtime, giving it more relevance in the league. 

For the 2022-23 season, the Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals tied at 80 points for the 24th position in the league standings. Even though the Washington Capitals (31) had more ROW than the Detriot Red Wing (30), the Red Wings had more regulation Wins (the Red Wings had 28 RW while the Capitals had 27).

If the teams tie in RW, then ROW becomes the next tiebreaker. If the tie remains, then the team with the most wins (i.e. shootout wins becomes included). 

In NHL seasons where teams were not able to play the same number of games, point percentages are a great way to settle tiebreakers. 

Related Post: Understanding Ice Hockey Stats: Players & Teams


This brings us to the end of this exciting topic. Now that you have an idea of how the NHL standing works, you can now view the standings and understand the reason for the hierarchy.

NHL standings tells a lot about teams, and is even used in draft picks; therefore, you now have a better understanding of why and how draft picks/positions are allocated to teams!

Thanks for reading. 

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