The AHL playoffs are almost upon us, and for Stockton Heat fans or those of you just keeping up with Calgary Flames prospects, it looks like the Heat might have a long Calder Cup Playoffs ahead of them.
Since moving to Stockton in 2015 the Heat have only made the playoffs once in 2017, where they were eliminated in the first round as the fourth seed in the Pacific Division. Of course it is worth noting there were no playoffs in both 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic shifting things in the AHL quite significantly.
The lack of playoff success in Stockton could change this season. The Heat have been having one very impressive season, including clinching the Pacific Division and challenging for first overall in the AHL. Two of their rookie players made the AHL All Rookie team in Dustin Wolf and Jakob Pelletier.
So with many Flames fans tuning into the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time this season—as well as plenty of new rule changes having been implemented since the last time these playoffs ran in 2019—we wanted to give you all the info you need to have to follow along as the Heat battle it out with the AHL’s finest.
How many teams qualify for the AHL playoffs?
So the first big thing that differentiates the AHL Playoffs from the NHL Playoffs is how many teams qualify. Despite how it incorrectly works in NHL22 Franchise mode, the actual playoffs include a total of 23 out of 31 teams participate in the postseason. In each division, only the two teams with the worst records don’t qualify for the playoffs.
How does the AHL bracket work for each division?
Due to the imbalance in teams in each division of the AHL. Each division has its own bracketing system to fit the rule that only two teams miss the playoffs in each division.
The Atlantic Division
With the Atlantic Division having eight teams, that means six must make the playoffs. This works out to having the first round include the #3 to #6 seeds and it gives the #1 and #2 seeds a bye to the second round—the division semifinals.
The North and Central Divisions
Both the North and Central divisions consist of seven teams. So in the playoffs that means five teams make it through. Because there is only five teams, the #1 through #3 seeds all get a bye to the second round, while the #4 and #5 seeds fight for the final spot in division semifinals during the first round.
The Pacific Division
The Pacific Division is the largest in the league with nine teams, that of course means that seven of them must make the playoffs. So in this division it works out to have the first round include the #2 through #7 seeds and it gives only the first seed a bye to the second round.
Below is the most recent graphic explaining the entire bracket as provided by theahl.com
How does each round work?
It’s also worth pointing out that a different amount of games are played in each round. In the first round it is a best-of-three series, then it becomes a best-of-five series in the second and third round, and finally in the conference finals and Calder Cup Finals, it reaches a best-of-seven game series.
In case you also weren’t sure the conferences in the AHL are divided like this:
Eastern Conference: Atlantic Division, North Division
Western Conference: Central Division, Pacific Division
Like in the NHL, the winners of each conference (the victors of the fourth round) then face off in one final round to declare the winner of the Calder Cup.
When do the 2022 AHL playoffs start?
The AHL season ends on Saturday, April 30 and the playoffs will then begin shortly after that. The individual game to game schedule has not yet been announced but will hopefully be released in the coming days.
Let us know in the comments if you’re excited for the AHL playoffs and also who you think is gonna win the Calder Cup this season.