When the Vegas Golden Knights begin their inaugural NHL season later this year, the Wolves will have a direct link to developing talent for the league’s newest franchise.
The two clubs announced on Tuesday what sources indicate is a five-year affiliation deal. The Wolves’ season ended last week with a 4-1 series loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League’s Central Division finals. The Wolves have served as the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate for the previous three seasons.
Golden Knights officials, including general manager George McPhee, have made it clear that the expectation for the agreement is not only to prepare players for the NHL parent club, but for the Wolves to win at the AHL level. The Wolves have won four league championships in their franchise history, the most recent which came in 2008.
“If you look at George McPhee’s history, he has always been a general manager who believes that winning is an important part of developing players,” Wolves owner Don Levin said in a news release on Tuesday. “Professional playoffs are different than the regular season and he understands that and he wants his players to be ready to win.”
During the nine seasons when McPhee served as the Washington Capitals’ general manager and the Hershey Bears worked with the Capitals between 2005-14, Hershey captured three Calder Cup championships.
“American Hockey League affiliates play a significant role in the success of all NHL clubs and are we are proud to have the Chicago Wolves as our first in team history,” McPhee said the release. “Chicago is without question one of the strongest, most passionate hockey communities in North America. This is a relationship that we truly believe will be mutually beneficial.”
No announcement has been made as to who will coach the Wolves next season. Former Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube completed his first season with the team and helped guide the Wolves back to the playoffs and to a Central Division title. According to reports, Berube interviewed for the Vegas head coaching job before the Golden Knights hired former Florida Panthers coach Gerald Gallant.
The Wolves finished the regular season with 101 points, the most they had accumulated in any of the past seven seasons.
The Golden Knights have just two players under contract – rookie forward Reid Duke, who spent the final five weeks of this past season practicing with the Wolves, and Russian center Vadim Shipachyou. The Golden Knights roster will grow next month weeks through the NHL Expansion Draft, which will be held June 18-21, and the NHL Entry Draft, which will be conducted June 23-24 in Chicago.
“We’re starting from the ground up with a new franchise,” Wolves general manager Wendell Young said in the release. “It will be exciting to build both franchises together with the same philosophy.”
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