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Golden Knights And Fort Wayne Komets Renew ECHL Partnership

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee announced the club has renewed its affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets. The Komets became the official ECHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 and are based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The organization was established as a hockey club in 1952 and open their 68th season on Saturday, Oct. 12. Under the terms of the affiliation arrangements, the Golden Knights will be able to transfer players to and from Fort Wayne during the 2019-20 season.

The Komets finished the 2018-19 season with a 36-26-4-6 overall record, the sixth straight season with at least 36 wins. The team finished third in the ECHL’s Central Division standings with 82 points and qualified for the Kelly Cup playoffs. In the playoffs, the Komets fell to the Toledo Walleye in the semifinals, 4-2.

I’m sure you remember seeing this beautiful save by former Komet and Golden Knights prospect Zach Fucale on your social media timeline.

https://twitter.com/ECHL/status/1151572275918974977?s=20

Since the franchise joined the ECHL in 2012 the Komets are the only team to advance to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of the last six seasons and look to qualify for the seventh time in the 2019-20 season.

Quad City Mallards Announced As ECHL Affiliate

It may have been premature when it leaked a week ago, but now it’s official, the Vegas Golden Knights have an ECHL affiliate.

The Quad City Mallards have entered into a multi-year agreement to serve as the ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights and the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, the Mallards announced today. –MyQCMallards.net

And with that, the Golden Knights’ minor league system is complete.

We believe that between the Mallards and our AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, our players will effectively develop in each of those systems. Quad City has a rich hockey history and we are pleased to have entered into an affiliation relationship with them in our first season. -George McPhee in Press Release

The Golden Knights will be able to transfer players to and from Quad City at any point during the 2017-18 season and beyond. The Mallards will retain control over hockey operations and will keep head coach Phil Axtell.

We’re looking forward to welcoming players from our affiliation with the Golden Knights and the Wolves to the Mallards and our community. The opportunity to help those players improve, develop, grow and take steps toward playing in the AHL and eventually the NHL is always exciting -Axtell

So there you have it.

NHL – Golden Knights
AHL – Chicago Wolves
ECHL – Quad City Mallards

Deleted Tweet May Have Just Revealed ECHL Affiliate

Just a few days after the Golden Knights announced the Chicago Wolves as their primary AHL affiliate, a tweet may have spilled the beans on Vegas’ plans for the ECHL.

The tweet was deleted shortly after it was posted and the story linked in the tweet is no longer on MyQCMallards.net.

It was premature, we do not have anything to announce a this time regarding our ECHL affiliation. -Eric Tosi, VP of Communications

The Quad City Mallards are an ECHL franchise located in Moline, Illinois. They have been the ECHL affiliate for the Minnesota Wild/Iowa Wild since 2013.

Phil Axtell has been serving as the team’s head coach since January 25th, 2017 when Terry Ruskowski was relieved of his duties. On April 27th it was announced via the team website Axtell will to retain the job heading into the 2017-18 season.

The Mallards were eliminated from the ECHL playoffs on April 22nd losing to the Fort Wayne Komets.

There is no information available on the length of the Wild’s agreement with the Mallards which means we are unsure if this will be a primary affiliation or if the Golden Knights will share with Minnesota. Vegas is not expected to have many players at the ECHL level in 2017-18 so it’s more likely to be an “association” (like the Blues to the Wolves) than a primary affiliate.

The team would not give any indication as to when they plan on making their ECHL plans official.

**UPDATE**

Through the glory of Twitter we have learned a few pieces of info pertinent to this story. First, according to TheSinBin.net (amazing name btw), the Wild’s contract with the Mallards ended at the conclusion of this season. Also, according to @HFnewsjunkie the ECHL no longer allows true dual-affiliations.

AHL/ECHL Affiliate News Roundup

The location of the Vegas Golden Knight AHL and ECHL affiliates is probably the next big piece of news on the horizon.

Back in August Murray Craven, joining the SinBin.vegas Podcast, identified Christmas as the target date to unveil the details on the Golden Knights’ minor league affiliations. Craven recently confirmed via email it will more likely come in January, and George McPhee agreed.

But as much as McPhee accomplished this summer, he still has additional off-ice tasks that have yet to be accomplished. He hopes to knock two of these off his list in the weeks just after the New Year, in January. “We’re going to be working on a couple of bigger items for our organization,” McPhee said. “We’ll be trying to get our physician group finalized, and working on an AHL affiliate opportunity.” -Dan Marrazza, VegasGoldenKnights.com

As for the AHL, The Creator mentioned on multiple occasions that the team will be an existing franchise. He also does not plan on owning the AHL franchise, at least for now.

McPhee’s plan isn’t to have many players at the AHL level anyway.

Most of our prospects will still be at the junior and college level, so there’s really no need to fill out an entire team. We’ll have six or eight guys that we can call up if we get banged up. But we’ll share for a couple years and then we’ll hone in on a place and see if we can have our own club. –George McPhee to NHL.com

Binghamton, NY, the former affiliate for the Ottawa Senators recently lost the team to Belleville, Ontario. The owner in Binghamton was quoted after losing the team saying “there will be an AHL team in Binghamton in 17-18.” Craven denied any involvement when we wrote about this in October, but it absolutely remains a possibility either via Vegas using Binghamton or an affiliation swap with another existing team.

Another organization that may make sense based on being under current ownership and not being affiliated is the Fort Wayne Komets (Indiana). They are the only team in either the ECHL or AHL who is currently unaffiliated.

As for the ECHL, Vegas is almost certainly going to jump on board with another team. Reno has been positioning itself recently to be the future home of an ECHL affiliate for Las Vegas, but they will not have anything in place by the time next season rolls around.

That’s all we’ve got. See ya in 2017 AHL/ECHL!

Las Vegas Will Have AHL Affiliate By Christmas, Share ECHL Team

Now that Murray Craven is on the staff for real we are starting to get a little more clarity on how the minor league system will look for the Las Vegas franchise.

The AHL affiliate will be announced relatively soon.

We’ll know by Christmas where we are going to be. It’s a process, it’s a little bit tricky. The AHL is such a good league now, probably the second best league in the world. It’s such a big part of what teams are now. -Murray Craven

Where? That’s still yet to be seen. The leading candidates are still probably Salt Lake City, Reno, and Fresno.

As for ECHL, Vegas won’t have a full affiliate straight out of the gate.

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Portland Maine Aligning Itself For ECHL Expansion

Before you stop me and say, there’s no way a Las Vegas minor league team is going to play nearly 3,000 miles away, just hear me out.

The assumption is correct, the Portland Pirates would not a perfect ECHL destination for Las Vegas, but Portland does offer an enviable location for the NHL’s second minor league to expand. The city has an arena, has an owner and general manager, had a team for 23 seasons up until their team moved at the conclusion of last season, and they want back in.

Portland lost their team, an AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, when they were moved to Springfield, Massachusetts and eventually sold and moved to Tucson to become an affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Now, with the NHL’s expansion to Las Vegas, the ECHL may be looking for a new franchise, and quick. We’ve talked about Reno, Southern Utah, Southern California as possibilities, but none of these places would be ready to go in 2017-18.

The Portland Pirates can. There are however two teams in the ECHL currently without an affiliate at the moment that may complicate the situation. Those two are the Colorado Eagles in Loveland, CO and the brand new Worcester Railers in Worcester, MA (set to begin play in 17-18). Colorado would love to align with the Avalanche and the Railers would like to pair up with someone in the northeast. Assuming Colorado joins up with the Avs, that would leave the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Comets without a pro club.

Las Vegas needs at least an AHL team and almost certainly an ECHL team come the end of June after the Expansion Draft and the Entry Draft. Based on the timeline we have in front of us, it pretty much has to be a current franchise in the league. In the early days of the Vegas franchise they’ll probably want to be shuffling players between the ECHL, AHL, and the NHL frequently. The problem is the locations just don’t exist at this point.

Who knows how this will all shake out, but I have a feeling when the puck drops in October 2017, the situation will not be ideal for Las Vegas. Whether it’s Portland, Maine, Loveland, Colorado, Fort Wayne, Indiana, or Worcester, Massachusetts the location won’t be great, but all four are better than nothing. This being said, shuffling of minor league affiliates is very common, so don’t freak out if the first ECHL affiliate is 3000 miles away, cause it actually kind of makes sense.

After The Announcement, What’s Next?

We’ve been telling you for a while now, but it appears the time is nearly here for the league to finally make it officially official. Las Vegas is about to be awarded an NHL franchise… but, then what?

There is a lot that needs to be done between June 22nd and October 2017 when the Las Vegas Black Knights, Knights, Rat Pack, Aces, etc hit the ice for real. Here’s an outline of what will happen and a guess or two at when each may occur. (Note: My guesses are just that, guesses. Unless I say specifically otherwise, it’s speculation)

  • Organization installs President/General Manager
    • We’ve thrown a few names around, but there really can’t be anything concrete on who it will be until after the team is formally announced.
    • Expect the GM to be named very quickly after the team is awarded. Nothing hockey related can happen before this person is put in place, so I’d guess this could happen before June is over.
  • Ground breaking on Practice Facility
    • Far Hills and the 215 is still the planned location on the practice facility.
    • It will likely break ground within days of the announcement.
    • The facility is expected to take approximately 18 months to complete.

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