2021-22 season opens

Photo: Scott Paulus

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League is set to return to action today for its 86th season of play, with six games kicking things off.

All 31 AHL teams are active for the 2021-22 season, with the Charlotte Checkers, Milwaukee Admirals and Springfield Thunderbirds returning to the ice this fall after electing to opt out of the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign. Charlotte (Florida/Seattle), Springfield (St. Louis) and the Utica Comets (New Jersey) begin new affiliations this season, as all 32 National Hockey League clubs will develop their top prospects in the AHL. This season also marks the debut of the Abbotsford Canucks, the top development team for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.

A total of 23 teams will qualify for postseason play when the 2021-22 regular season ends on April 24, with five rounds of playoffs leading to the crowning of the 2022 Calder Cup champion. In each of the AHL’s four divisions, all but two teams will qualify for postseason play, creating a playoff field of six teams in the Atlantic Division, five in the North Division, five in the Central Division and seven in the Pacific Division. Teams will be ranked by points percentage in the regular-season standings.

During the 2020-21, 87.7 percent of all NHL players were graduates of the American Hockey League, including including 2021 Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury, Lady Byng Trophy recipient Jaccob Slavin and Bill Masterton Award winner Oskar Lindblom. The 2021 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning were again stocked with AHL graduates including Conn Smythe Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, and former Calder Cup champions Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson.

There were 193 former first- and second-round NHL draft picks who skated in the AHL last season, including standouts like Quinton Byfield, Jack Quinn, Cole Perfetti, Thomas Harley, Trevor Zegras, Martin Kaut and Nick Robertson. There were also 268 players who saw action in both the AHL and the NHL last season alone.

In 2021-22, 21 NHL teams are being led by former AHL head coaches, among them two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Colorado’s Jared Bednar, Washington’s Peter Laviolette, Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan, Nashville’s John Hynes, Toronto’s Sheldon Keefe, Vancouver’s Travis Green and the N.Y. Islanders’ Barry Trotz are also among the current NHL coaches who spent time in the American Hockey League before making the jump.

A Calder Cup winner in 2012, head coach Jon Cooper led the Lightning to their second consecutive Stanley Cup in 2021. (Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Around the AHL, nine head coaching changes have been made since the end of last season.

The promotions to NHL assistant coaching positions of Cail MacLean (Calgary), Spencer Carbery (Toronto), Pascal Vincent (Columbus) and Jay Leach (Seattle) opened the door for Mitch Love (Stockton Heat), Scott Allen (Hershey Bears), Mark Morrison (Manitoba Moose) and Ryan Mougenel (Providence Bruins) to take over as AHL head coaches.

Ian Laperriere takes over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after eight seasons as an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers, and Jay Varady, after serving as an assistant with the Arizona Coyotes in 2020-21, returns to Tucson where he led the Roadrunners to a Pacific Division title in 2019-20.

Kevin Dineen, with his 322 career victories as an AHL head coach, is the new head coach of the Utica Comets, while Joel Bouchard moves from Laval to the San Diego Gulls and former Bakersfield assistant coach J.F. Houle assumes the lead coaching role with the Laval Rocket.

The AHL All-Star Classic returns in 2022 as the Laval Rocket host the league’s best and brightest at Place Bell. The AHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Sunday, February 6, followed by the AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony on Monday, February 7 and the three-on-three, round-robin 2022 AHL All-Star Challenge that evening.

The 2022 AHL All-Star Classic will feature the top young talent in the American Hockey League: since 1995, more than 95 percent of All-Star Classic participants have gone on to compete in the National Hockey League, including Jake AllenCam AtkinsonPatrice BergeronBen BishopJohn CarlsonZdeno CharaLogan CoutureConnor HellebuyckBraden HoltbyTyler JohnsonAndreas JohnssonMartin JonesJonathan MarchessaultBrandon MontourKyle PalmieriZach PariseMikko RantanenJason SpezzaDylan StromeP.K. Subban and Mats Zuccarello.

AHLTV (AHLTV.com) features live streaming of every AHL game in high definition on desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices, as well as on over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as RokuApple TVAmazon Fire TV and Android TV. AHLTV is also available through the official AHL mobile app for iOS or Android.

Subscription packages range from $7.99 USD for a single day’s worth of games to just $104.99 USD for every game throughout the 2021-22 regular season and Calder Cup Playoffs.

The season on AHLTV officially kicks off with an Opening Weekend Freeview; all games from Oct. 15-17 are free to anyone with an AHLTV account (no purchase or subscription necessary).

The AHL’s positioning in social media also continues to grow, and the league’s feeds remain great sources for breaking AHL news, special offers, behind-the-scenes insights and fan interaction. The AHL has more than 100,000 fans on each of its Facebook (fb.com/theahl), Twitter (@TheAHL), and Instagram (theahl) feeds, and the AHL communications department also maintains a news feed on Twitter (@AHLPR).

The AHL’s digital properties are anchored by the league’s official website, theahl.com, which is fully compatible with desktop, mobile and tablet devices alike. In addition, the official AHL mobile app is available for free for iPhone and Android devices.

The 2021-22 AHL Guide & Record Book is available for viewing and download at theahl.com/mediaguide. The AHL Rule Book can be found at theahl.com/rules.

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives, broadcasters and staff of all 32 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers.