The New Jersey Devils will not be looking for a new ECHL affiliate next season, as the team announced a one-year extension to their agreement with the Adirondack Thunder. The two franchises will be partnered with the Binghamton Devils to create a three-tiered organization for player development.
The Thunder had a champion last season in Ken Appleby, the 23-year old goaltender who spent time in the ECHL, AHL and NHL. Appleby actually recorded a .945 save percentage in his three NHL appearances, a shining achievement for a player who has bounced around in his professional career. The ECHL is an especially perfect place for teams to develop goaltenders, as there often isn’t enough minutes to go around at the AHL level. Appleby went undrafted out of the OHL, but has seemed to find his game in the low-pressure situation of the ECHL and is a legitimate goaltending prospect now (if perhaps not as a starting goaltender in the NHL).
Other teams around the league are beginning to realize the value of their ECHL organizations, and over the coming years we’re sure to see more and more interesting NHL prospects spend time in the low minors. For those players who may need work on specific areas of their game, or don’t have the size or strength to compete yet in the AHL, Adirondack and the rest of the ECHL are an easy place to stay in your organization’s view, without being overwhelmed.