The American Hockey League will return to a more conventional divisional configuration this coming season, with the Utica Comets in a North Division that will include Canadian teams like in past years. The league also announced that more teams will qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs, which didn’t take place in the past two seasons due to COVID-19.
The North Division will have seven teams, including the Comets, which are now the affiliate of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. The other six are: Belleville Senators (Ottawa Senators), Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets), Laval Rocket (Montreal Canadiens), Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres), Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs).
The other Eastern Conference division, the Atlantic, will have eight teams: Bridgeport Islanders (New York Islanders), Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers), Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers), Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals), Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers), Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins), Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins).
The two Western Conference Divisions are the Central and Pacific.
The Central: Chicago Wolves (Carolina Hurricanes), Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings), Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild), Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets), Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators), Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) and Texas Stars (Dallas Stars).
The Pacific: Abbotsford (Vancouver Canucks), Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers), Colorado Eagles (Colorado Avalanche), Henderson Silver Knights (Vegas Golden Knights), Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings), San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks), San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks), Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames) and Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes).
Abbotsford is the new home for the affilate of the Canucks, who spent the last eight seasons calling the Adirondack Bank Center and the city of Utica home.
No name for the new Abbotsford team has been announced by the parent club.
In the upcoming season, 10 teams will play 76 games. Utica is among the 12 teams that will play 72. Nine will play 68.
The schedule and postseason format for the 2021-22 season, which begins Oct. 15, will be announced this summer.