GM Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks announced on Friday that both they and the AHL’s Utica Comets had extended their affiliation agreement with the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL.
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) July 26, 2019
The new two-year agreement will see the “K-Wings” serve as Vancouver’s official ECHL affiliate through both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons. Previously, the Kalamazoo franchise had fulfilled one-year agreements with the Canucks for both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. Kalamazoo also served as the Canucks’ ECHL affiliate from 2011 to 2015, and as their IHL affiliate from 1984 to 1987.
the kalamazoo wings have extended their partnership with the utica comets and vancouver canucks through the 2020-21 season. they've been operating on one-year partnerships for the last two seasons with the canucks organization.
— sasha chmelevski szn (@nowyousieme) July 26, 2019
In that time, ten players have moved on from Kalamazoo to Utica—with notables including Reid Gardiner, Anton Cederholm, and Ivan Kulbakov. In 2019/20, there’s a good chance that a number of legitimate Canucks prospects—including Mitch Eliot and one of Jake Kielly or Michael DiPietro—will see time with the K-Wings.
In the 2018/19 season, Kalamazoo finished fourth in the ECHL’s Central Division—just ahead of a team named, no lie, the Indy Fuel—before falling in the first round to the Cincinnati Cyclones. They were paced in scoring by Chris Collins, Tanner Sorenson, and former Penticton Young Stars standout Gardiner.
Former Toronto first rounder Tyler Biggs played 13 games for the Wings in 2018/19—putting up nine points
The extension indicates that Vancouver has been pleased with the results of the affiliation thus far, and it appears that the feeling is mutual.
Said Kalamazoo head coach and director of hockey ops Nick Bootland, “The relationship with Vancouver and Utica has been great. We’re looking forward to continuing to help develop their prospects, while bolstering our lineup. It’s exciting to continue to partner with an organization that values and supports the development of its players and the culture that we’ve established in Kalamazoo.”
For the record, the Canucks’ current affiliation with the Utica Comets was extended this past December for up to six seasons—encompassing the years 2019 to 2025. For the time being, the Canucks farm system appears to be set in stone.