I have noticed that on the NHL website, starting from this year, there are not only standings in league, conferences and divisions (which used to be there last year, too), but also some kind of ranking which is called wild card.

What are this standings for? How are teams divided there?

  • Did I answer your question Martin?
    – Zack
    Oct 18, 2013 at 14:47
  • 2
    Yes, you did. (I usually wait a few days before accepting an answer, just in case someone else would want to write something more about it. IF this is the reason you are asking.)
    – Martin
    Oct 18, 2013 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


After the realignment, the league now consists of 2 conferences with 2 divisions in each conference. NHL playoffs consist of 16 teams fighting for the last two spots to compete in the Stanley Cup Final

The way the new playoff structure works is as follows...

  • The top three teams in each division will make-up the first 12 teams in the playoffs.

  • The remaining 4 teams (Adding up to 16 teams) will be made up by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference. Two teams per conference.

This means that the the 2 wild card spots in the Eastern Conference can consist of one of the following:

  • Two teams from the Atlantic Division

  • Two teams from the Metropolitan Division

  • One team from the Atlantic and one team from the Metropolitan.

The way the seeding now works is...

  • The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points

  • The division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points.

Here's an example

In the picture below showing the current standings of the Eastern Conference, you can see that the top 2 rows consist of 3 teams for each division. If the season ended today, these 6 teams (3 from the Atlantic Division and 3 from the Metropolitan Division) will make the playoffs.

In the third row, you see a list of every other team in the conference. The top 2 teams in this list are "Wild Card" teams and will also make the playoffs.

The playoff seedings would look like this:

#1 Toronto vs. #8 Boston

(Boston is the wild card team with the least amount of points and will face the team with the most points in the conference which is Toronto)

#2 Pittsburg vs. #7 Tampa Bay

(Tampa Bay is the wild card team with the most amount of points and will face the team with the 2nd most points in the conference)

NHL Standings


  • Just to clarify: The remaining pairs in the play off would consist of 2nd team from one division and 3rd team from the other one? (In your example Detroit-Islanders, Carolina-Montreal.) Or are the rules different?
    – Martin
    Mar 4, 2014 at 10:00
  • Ok, so now I found this link, showing the pairings in the playoffs based on the table at the moment. I see that the second and third team from the same division play against each other.
    – Martin
    Mar 30, 2014 at 12:52
  • 1
    During the first and second round, teams play other teams in their divisions (Apart from the first round where wild card teams can play against teams in the other division).
    – Zack
    Mar 31, 2014 at 12:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.