AHL president and CEO David Andrews expects that an upcoming Seattle NHL expansion squad will launch an AHL affiliate, which could begin play as early as 2021.
In December the NHL officially approved an expansion bid from Seattle, where the club will be backed by an ownership group led by billionaire David Bonderman and play at a dramatically overhauled KeyArena. The launch of Seattle will bring the NHL to 32 teams beginning with the 2021-2022 campaign, and it is expected that the AHL could make the jump from 31 to 32 clubs in that same season.
During an annual address on Monday, Andrews mentioned that Seattle’s ownership group is weighing potential locations for the club. No final decisions have been made, but a Seattle AHL affiliate could compete in the league’s Pacific Division. More from NHL.com:
The management for the Seattle team continues to do its due diligence on potential locations for an AHL affiliate, but Andrews said Monday he envisions the AHL team to be located on the West Coast.
With the AHL’s Pacific Division at seven teams, such a location would allow the league to put the new Seattle affiliate in that division, bringing it into alignment with the three eight-team divisions. Andrews also projects that an expansion franchise would start in 2021-22, as well.
“We don’t have anything to announce specifically, but I think that 2021 start is helpful to them and to us,” Andrews said.
The trend for many Western-based NHL squads has been to place their AHL affiliate in the Pacific Division, which currently features farm clubs of the Arizona Coyotes (Tucson Roadrunners), Anaheim Ducks (San Diego Gulls), Calgary Flames (Stockton Heat), Colorado Avalanche (Colorado Eagles), Edmonton Oilers (Bankersfield Condors), Los Angeles Kings (Ontario Reign), and San Jose Sharks (San Jose Barracuda). Where the Seattle AHL affiliate lands remains to be seen, but it would be a fitting addition to the Pacific Division and its launch will be part of the broader implications that the Seattle NHL expansion squad has on professional hockey.
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