The Vegas Golden Knights have a new ECHL affiliate, after announcing an agreement with the Savannah Ghost Pirates. The new franchise will begin play in the 2022-23 season after originally being announced in October 2021. In addition to the affiliation, the Ghost Pirates have also announced the first coach in franchise history, hiring Rick Bennett.
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon released a short statement:
This affiliation with Savannah gives us alignment from the ECHL level through Henderson and up to the NHL. We are excited to lead the hockey operations and have a proven developer of talent as a head coach in Rick Bennett.
Bennett, 54, had been the head coach of Union Collee for more than a decade before resigning earlier this year, and won a National Championship in 2014 with the program. He also took home the NCAA Coach of the Year award that season and even has some previous experience coaching in the ECHL. That came when he was a player-coach with the Jacksonville Lizard Kings in the late-nineties, as his playing career came close to an end. A veteran of more than 250 ECHL contests as a player, he also had a cup of coffee in the NHL with the New York Rangers.
While the Ghost Pirates won’t have a ton of real NHL prospects, the ECHL is often used as a goaltending development stop. Jiri Patera, for instance, played 15 games for the Fort Wayne Komets this season, between stints with the Henderson Silver Knights.