Since our last update, a lot has happened in the hockey world. An update.
- The Fuel have filed plans to add player housing and a 3,000-square foot dressing room to the team-owned practice facility in Fishers. There is already a workout facility and a substantial amount of renovations that have been done to the Fuel Tank – the two-sheet facility formerly known as the Forum.
- The Chicago Blackhawks are hosting their annual prospect camp this week. The roster is linked here. Fuel coach Bernie John is at camp and will be scouting potential future players, and looking for players who will be pro-eligible. Of note, Dillon Fournier – who has split each of the last two seasons between the Fuel and Rockford – is on the camp roster. He missed much of last season with an injury. It’s rare for a third-year pro to be in a development camp – which is primarily for college and junior players to get acclimated to pro hockey life, and for some, to try out in an NHL environment – but it’s not unusual when a player is rehabbing from injury. A review of the first couple of days.
- The Rockford IceHogs have made a couple of recent signings – most notably forward Tyler Barnes. He had 24 goals and 61 points for Missouri in the ECHL last season. Jeremy Langlois has also played the last two seasons in the AHL with Worcester/San Jose.
- And, the IceHogs published a feature on the Fuel’s impact on the AHL roster. Eight players who had played in Indy skated with Rockford last season.
- New coaches have been named in Florida (Brad Ralph), Wheeling (Jeff Christian), South Carolina (Ryan Warsofsky), Missouri (John-Scott Dixon) and Toledo (Dan Watson). In addition, the Colorado Eagles will be looking for a new head coach, as Chris Stewart stepped down as coach but will remain as GM.
- The ECHL announced a return to a four-division alignment on Monday. The Fuel will be in the Central Division with Fort Wayne and Quad City – who had been in their division previously – but also Toledo, Kalamazoo, Tulsa and Wichita.
- Affiliation news
- The Ottawa Senators, who had been affiliated with the now-mothballed Evansville IceMen, have moved their ECHL affiliation to the Wichita Thunder. Wichita had previously been an independent in its two ECHL seasons.
- An unnamed source confirmed that the Colorado Avalanche will be ending their relationship with the Fort Wayne Komets one year early, but no announcement has been made beyond that. The two teams had been affiliated for the last two seasons. It has not been confirmed by the Avalanche, and therefore cannot be announced per ECHL policy.
- In addition, the Tulsa Oilers have extended their affiliation with the Winnipeg Jets for one year, and the Reading Royals and Philadelphia Flyers have extended theirs for “multiple” years.
- So, the affiliation changes for this year so far are: Alaska (Independent -> Vancouver Canucks); Fort Wayne (Colorado Avalance -> TBA, rumored); Kalamazoo (Columbus/Vancouver -> Tampa Bay Lightning); and Wichita (Independent -> Ottawa Senators).
Silly season news
- This is directly unrelated to the ECHL, but as we’ve seen in the past, franchise movement in the AHL usually means opportunities for the ECHL. So far, ECHL teams have moved into three markets that had been vacated by AHL teams, with at least one more (Worcester, Mass.) and likely two (Portland, Maine) coming in 2017. So, keep an eye on two AHL announcements. The first is that the Montreal Canadiens are moving the St. John’s IceCaps to the Montreal suburb of Laval in 2017, while the St. John’s mayor is seeking a replacement franchise. Much like Alaska in the ECHL, St. John’s is geographically isolated from much of the rest of the league, being on the Newfoundland coast, but the AHL or ECHL could be an option. One saving grace could be that the AHL will likely expand to 31 teams to mirror the NHL when the Las Vegas franchise begins play in 2017. Also, officials in Binghamton, NY have confirmed the Binghamton Senators will likely move to Bellville, Ontario in 2017. The lease requires another AHL team to be found to replace the Senators in Binghamton, which would possibly open another northeastern market as a possibility for the ECHL.
- A couple of interesting changes in the AHL – which is often a laboratory for rule changes that might be adopted in the NHL (and trickle to the ECHL). One – an automatic game misconduct for players who get into fights immediately after face-offs, an automatic suspension for players who get at least 10 fighting majors a season, and a team that ices the puck is no longer allowed to call timeout.
Other Indy hockey
- Some old friends have signed pro deals. Former Ice Ryan Obuchowski (Bridgeport), Casey DeSmith and Christian Hilbrich (both Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) have all signed AHL contracts. Former Fuel D Justin Holl has signed an NHL contract with Toronto.