SPRINGFIELD, Mass – The American Hockey League revealed its new playoff qualification rules and brackets for an expanded Calder Cup Playoffs starting in 2022. This season, 23 teams will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs, with five rounds of play leading to the trophy being awarded.
All but two teams in each of the league’s four divisions will now qualify for the postseason, creating a six-team field in the Atlantic Division, five teams in the North Division, five teams in the Central Division, and seven in the Pacific Division. As in the 2020-21 season, teams will still be ranked by points percentage for the 2021-22 season. However, this will likely be the final season for this ranking system as the league is working to get back to an equal schedule, as announced in their schedule unification plan.
2️⃣3️⃣ ➡ 1️⃣6️⃣ ➡ 8️⃣ ➡ 4️⃣ ➡ 2️⃣ ➡ 🏆
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) August 5, 2021
The first round will now be a play-in style format. The top two teams in the Atlantic Division, top three teams in the North and Central Divisions, and the top team in the Pacific Division will receive byes into the best-of-five Division Semifinals. Meanwhile, the remaining teams will battle it out in a best-of-three playoff series for the right to compete against the teams with byes.
To simplify it in comparison to a previous Calder Cup format, here’s how the Atlantic Division stacked up at the end of the 2018-19 season:
In the 2021-22 format, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins would also qualify for the playoffs, with the Hershey Bears taking on the Penguins in one bracket and the Providence Bruins facing off with the Phantoms on the other side of the bracket in a best-of-three format. The winners of each series would go on to face the Charlotte Checkers and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. This updated format allows more teams to get a playoff opportunity and expands the field for longer playing time.
The rest of the playoffs will take place in a familiar format, with the Division Semi-Finals taking place in a best-of-five series with the remaining rounds playing a best-of-seven format. The 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs are expected to finish no later than June 23.
“Our clubs and their National Hockey League partners recognize the importance of playoff races and postseason experience on overall player development,” said AHL President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Howson in the league’s release. “Expanding the Calder Cup Playoff field will allow some 150 additional players to play more meaningful games in pursuit of a championship.”
AHL play for the 2021-22 season will start on October 15, with six games taking place on opening night.
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