What’s old is new again, and after two seasons apart (sort of), the Canucks have announced that they are once again forming an affiliation with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) July 12, 2017
I say “sort of” because during those two intervening seasons, the Canucks only had an ECHL affiliate for one of them – that would be last season when they were partnered with the Alaska Aces, who have since ceased operations. During the other season, the Canucks simply didn’t have an affiliate, which meant they had to set up loans with whoever had spots – and it just so happened that all the Canucks prospects that went to the ECHL that season (such as Evan McEneny, Mackenze Stewart and pseudo-prospect Curtis Valk), went to the Kalamazoo Wings.
Here are some comments from the respective organizations on the new partnership:
“We’re thrilled to be working with the Vancouver Canucks and Utica Comets organization once again,” said Nick Bootland, Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations, Kalamazoo Wings. “There’s a solid foundation in place already with the clubs, and the future is certainly bright. We’re very excited to get to work with some of their talented prospects and help them develop on their way to successful AHL and NHL careers.”
“On behalf of the entire Comets staff, I can say we’re very enthusiastic to continue to build our relationship with the Kalamazoo Wings,” said Comets President Robert Esche. “It has been a pleasure to work with head coach Nick Bootland in the past and we will continue to work together to build a cohesive path from the ECHL to the AHL and to the NHL in Vancouver.”
This is actually the third time that the two organizations have formed a partnership, first from 1984 to 1987 and again from 2011 to 2015.
The Canucks have had a total of 21 players debut for them after playing in the ECHL, the most recent being Evan McEneny, who played 36 games with Kalamazoo in 2015-16. Four other players played in Kalamazoo and then made NHL debuts with the Canucks (Alex Friesen, Alex Grenier, Darren Archibald and Yann Sauve), while three players projected to be on the Comets roster next year have had stints in Kalamazoo (Anton Cederholm, Mackenze Stewart, and, again, Darren Archibald).
As for who might get the pleasure of playing for Kalamazoo next season, Cederholm and Stewart and probably near the top of the list, as is Yan-Pavel Laplante, who spent a large chunk of last season in ECHL Alaska after being scratched more than being dressed during his time in Utica. Even if Canucks prospects Jonathan Dahlen and Petrus Palmu play in Europe next season, the Comets are likely to have a wealth of forwards to choose from, and that could potentially push some guys on AHL contracts like Wacey Hamilton or Alexis D’Aoust down a level. As usually, much of this will likely be decided by the organization’s injury situation in October.