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Photo Credit: Sarah Hobday

Canucks Announce ECHL Affiliation Deal With Kalamazoo (Again)

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.

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.

    • Kalamazoo operates as a standalone team for the most part. They will sign players to contracts and make their own roster considerations. The agreement between the Canucks, Comets, and K-Wings is such that either the NHL or AHL team can assign players to the ECHL at their leisure (ELC contracts in the Canucks’ case or AHL SPC’s in the Comets’ case).

      For the most part, this will mean that the K-Wings will fill out the majority of the roster and the Comets/Canucks will add a few players after the AHL training camp is over. Last season only three Canucks prospects spent time on the ECHL roster, as well as a few players on AHL contracts, like Marco Roy.

  • “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).”

    Whoa, whoa – Stewart and Cederholm aren’t actually projected to be in Utica this year, are they?

    • “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.”

      No, they’re not likely to stay there, I just meant Comets roster as in NHL contracts not on the Vancouver roster. They’d be subsequently loaned to the ECHL.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    Is the ECHL feature that was on this site a few years ago coming back? I can’t remember the name of the writer but she did a really good job giving us a taste of who was doing what down there.

    • It works as a farm team for both the NHL and the AHL. NHL teams can assign players on Entry Level Contracts to the ECHL, but not players on standard contracts (unless the player gives explicit permission). AHL teams can assign players on AHL standard contracts to the ECHL as they see fit.

  • wojohowitz

    Those roster moves the last couple of seasons by Travis Green might also give us a clue about how he handles his roster. Was Cederholm sent down because Green thought he was a little too soft and now with Green gone from Utica Cederholm thinks he can revitalize his career with a different coach and a fresh start? Was MacKenzie Stewart a little too opinionated for Green`s liking and is also happy to play for a new coach? Will Green run a tight ship and alienate his players leading to some high end talent wanting out?