Since the Worcester Railers HC were first announced as the ECHL’s newest expansion franchise, the question has been brought up time and time again about which NHL team the franchise will be affiliated with. One week ago, Railers Head Coach and General Manager Jamie Russell talked about what the team is looking at when looking for an NHL affiliate. While the Railers are looking for a strong affiliation with a NHL team, location also plays another key role. This article aims to look at every NHL team and their situations with current affiliates.
We’ve gathered some information on every NHL team and their relations to the their most recent ECHL affiliates to get a good idea on which teams Worcester may affiliate with. All distances and information posted in this article are estimated and are by no means 100 percent accurate. We encourage the reader to view this as an early look as affiliations can change quickly and our predictions could end up entirely different than what actually happens. We will revisit this towards the end of the season.
31. Las Vegas “What’s My Name?” Organization
AHL Affiliate: None
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2500 Miles (T-28th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: –
Current ECHL Status: No affiliation.
Since the team is an expansion team like the Railers are, they do not have any players yet. When the Las Vegas team drafts players at the end of this season, they will have players, but not enough to need an ECHL or AHL affiliate. For at least the 17-18 season, they will be sharing their AHL affiliate with another NHL team. We do not expect them to have any ECHL team for the first few seasons that they’ll play.
30. Carolina Hurricanes Organization
AHL Affiliate: Charlotte Checkers
NHL Distance to Worcester: 600 miles (12th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 700 miles (16th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Florida Everblades.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been affiliated with the Florida Everblades since they were founded in 1998. With an affiliation and ownership lasting nearly 20 years, it isn’t going anywhere. The only chance Worcester will ever get to affiliate with Carolina is if the team gets sold and they sign a new affiliation agreement with another team.
28. Calgary Flames Organization
AHL Affiliate: Stockton Heat
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2000 miles (24th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 2500 miles (26th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Adirondack Thunder.
Like the Carolina Hurricanes, the Calgary Flames own their ECHL affiliate. Calgary has owned their ECHL affiliate since the AHL West Move. Since they own their ECHL affiliate, they are locked into their affiliation but that could end whenever the team decides to put the team up for sale. There isn’t a chance we’ll see an affiliation between Calgary and Worcester.
Chances are they’ll end up selling the Adirondack Thunder just like the Los Angeles Kings sold the Manchester Monarchs and the Edmonton Oilers sold the Norfolk Admirals.
28. Los Angeles Kings Organization
AHL Affiliate: Ontario Reign
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2750 miles (T-28th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 2750 miles (T-29th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with Manchester Monarchs.
Though the Monarchs are no longer owned by the Los Angeles Kings, we expect them to stick with their affiliation agreement until the agreement expires. Their affiliation dates back to 2001, when the Monarchs were first formed and have stuck together since. Los Angeles and their minor-league affiliates have always performed well and made the playoffs, we don’t think their affiliation will break unless that trend ends.
We rank the Los Angeles Kings at number 28. The distance between Worcester and Los Angeles is tied for last in the NHL, as well as the distance between Worcester and Ontario, CA which is last in the AHL. Though the LA Kings have their ECHL affiliate in New Hampshire, we believe they’re going to keep it because of how well it continues to do year after year by making the playoffs. However, when a team who is closer and is just as successful becomes available, they’ll jump on board with that affiliation. As with the last two teams, there’s a very small chance for affiliation.
27. Edmonton Oilers Organization
AHL Affiliate: Bakersfield Condors
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2300 (26th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 2750 (T-28th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Norfolk Admirals, length unknown.
The Norfolk Admirals were recently sold to the Mango Media Group and Edmonton kept the affiliation for this season. Since the team previously owned by Edmonton, the two teams did not have a set affiliation agreement. Chances are we’ll see the affiliation stick for at least another season or two before the Oilers opt for a closer ECHL team to affiliate.
26. San Jose Sharks Organization
AHL Affiliate: San Jose Barracuda
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2750 miles (T-29th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 2750 miles (T-28th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Allen Americans, expires at the end of the season.
San Jose was the former NHL affiliate of our Worcester Sharks. Though many feel betrayed that they left Worcester, it does not make financial or developmental sense to have your team on the other side of the country. Worcester was one of the few teams that did not receive an ECHL team in exchange for their AHL team moving out west. If San Jose did not want to buy an ECHL team and place them here, chances are they do not want another affiliation located so far away.
San Jose’s Current ECHL affiliate is the Allen Americans. A well established team known for winning championships, Allen is one of the hottest teams in the ECHL. Plenty of former Allen Americans such as Aaron Dell and Danil Tarasov have made it to the NHL, showing that Allen is one of the more talented teams in the league. San Jose would be giving up a lot by letting Allen walk away and affiliate with another NHL organization. San Jose is expected to renew their affiliation agreement with Allen.
25. Arizona Coyotes Organization
AHL Affiliate: Tucson Road Runners
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2300 miles (T-25th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 2300 miles (25th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with Rapid City Rush, expires at the end of this season.
Arizona’s affiliation with the Rapid City Rush expires at the end of this season, which means they will be reviewing their options for affiliations for next season. Since Worcester is one of the teams that will available, they will obviously be reviewing this option. We find it unlikely that they’ll affiliate with each other since both the NHL and AHL teams are located across the country, but it’s there. The cost of travel would be way too high to send players, which would take too long for them to get to their destination, and little to no chance they’ll play before getting sent back to where they’ve come from.
24. Dallas Stars Organization
AHL Affiliate: Texas Stars
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1600 miles (22nd in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 1750 miles (23rd in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with Idaho Steelheads, until the end of the 2017-18 season.
The Dallas Stars and the Idaho Steelheads have been affiliated with each other since the 2003-04 season and have signed extensions since. Dallas is another team that we don’t expect them to go out of their way and change affiliates over night for Worcester. Teams with good affiliations will stay with those affiliations until either side is no longer satisfied with the other.
23. Colorado Avalanche Organization
AHL Affiliate: San Antonio Rampage
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1800 miles (23rd in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 1800 miles (24th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Colorado Eagles, until the end of 2018-19.
The Colorado Avalanche are another organization fortunate enough to have their AHL and ECHL affiliates in a close distance from each other. The affiliation was announced last summer and is a Four-year deal. Due to the location between affiliates, this may last a while. It is possible that the Avalanche may try to acquire the Colorado Avalanche and do a switch with their AHL and ECHL affiliates. Worcester won’t be in any discussions for affiliations with this team unless things go wrong with the current affiliation.
22. Philadelphia Flyers Organization
AHL Affiliate: Lehigh Valley Phantoms
NHL Distance to Worcester: 250 miles (6th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 225 miles (7th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with Reading Royals, until 2018-19.
The Philadelphia Flyers have been affiliated with the Reading Royals since the 2014-15 season and recently signed an extension to keep them through the 2018-19 season. Extensions typically show that the affiliation is going well. Reading is fairly close to Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley, and is the closest ECHL team to the organization. Philadelphia will not need to look at Worcester to change affiliations unless things go south with Reading. If this organization was in need of an affiliation, Worcester wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
21. Pittsburgh Penguins Organization
AHL Affiliate: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
NHL Distance to Worcester: 475 miles
AHL Distance to Worcester: 250 miles
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Wheeling Nailers, until the end of 2017-18 season.
Wheeling is already the best possible location to have a minor league affiliate (besides Wilkes Barre) for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Having Wheeling affiliate with the Pittsburgh Penguins is like having the Railers affiliate with the Bruins. It just makes sense geographically and financially. We don’t expect Pittsburgh to break the affiliation agreement with Wheeling and if they do, it’s not likely that they’ll do it for Worcester.
20. Anaheim Ducks Organization
AHL Affiliate: San Diego Gulls
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2500 miles (T-27th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 2500 miles (T-26th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Utah Grizzlies, until the end of 2017-18 season.
The affiliation between the Anahiem Ducks and Utah Grizzlies is in their fourth season. The two signed an extension to their affiliation in February. The proximity between the NHL, AHL, and ECHL teams something they value along with player development. Having their ECHL team close allows them to keep an eye on players who are assigned there. Anahiem is another team that won’t have a good chance affiliating with Worcester.
19. Chicago Blackhawks Organization
AHL Affiliate: Rockford IceHogs
NHL Distance to Worcester: 900 miles (15th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 900 miles (18th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Indy Fuel, until the end of 18-19 season.
Since 2014, the Chicago Blackhawks have been affiliated with the Indy Fuel. The Blackhawks have a history with Indianapolis with previous AHL affiliations. With an affiliation agreement that was a 5 year agreement from the start, they seem to be dedicated to sticking with their affiliations for the entirety of the agreement. Chicago is another team we do not expect to be affiliated with Worcester in 2017.
18. Detroit Red Wings Organization
AHL Affiliate: Grand Rapids Griffins
NHL Distance to Worcester: 625 miles
AHL Distance to Worcester: 750 miles
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with Toledo Walleye, until the end of 2017-18 season.
Perhaps one of the last “least likely” NHL teams the Railers could affiliate with is the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit has been affiliated with the Toledo Walleye (and the previous Toledo Storm) since 2000. It will take a lot to break an affiliation that’s been together this long and Worcester’s first season will not break that.
17. Washington Capitals Organization
AHL Affiliate: Hershey Bears
NHL Distance to Worcester: 200 miles (4th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 320 miles (11th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with South Carolina Stingrays, expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.
After this season, the Captials have one season left with the South Carolina Stingrays. The distance between Washington, DC, Hershey, and South Carolina is fairly close compared to other affiliations which makes this affiliation work. The two were previously affiliated from 2004 until 2012, and after two seasons away they signed another affiliation agreement. We expect the teams to stick together and sign with each other again.
16. New York Rangers Organization
AHL Affiliate: Hartford Wolf Pack
NHL Distance to Worcester: 160 miles (T-2nd in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 60 miles (2nd in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with Greenville Swamp Rabbits, expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Unless the Rangers want to back out of their affiliation agreement with the Swamp Rabbits, it isn’t likely that we’ll be seeing them partner up with Worcester for an affiliation. Worcester is in a reasonable driving distance and time away from both New York City and Hartford. Since Worcester is a new team, they’ll likely wait another year or two if they have interest in affiliating.
The New York Rangers ranks 16 on our list. For next season, they still have an affiliation and it will expire at the end of that season. Had the affiliation expire at the end of this season, they would be second or third on our list. If they get out of their affiliation, we will revisit this and make adjustments to our list.
15. Minnesota Wild Organization
AHL Affiliate: Iowa Wild
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1250 miles
AHL Distance to Worcester: 1200 miles
Current ECHL Status: Quad City Mallards, expires at the end of this season.
The Minnesota Wild is ranked 15 on our list because it will have an open affiliation at the end of this season. Though the distance between the two teams isn’t close by any means, the Minnesota Wild will be looking at every option they have for affiliates. Worcester might not be high on that list because it’s a good distance away and is a new team, but our team is certainly something on their list.
14. Nashville Predators Organization
AHL Affiliate: Milwaukee Admirals
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1000 miles (16th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 900 miles (18th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Cincinnati Cyclones, until the end of this season.
Nashville and the Cincinnati Cyclones have been affiliated since 2007. With their affiliation expiring at the end of this season, Nashville could look for a fresh affiliation. It is too early to determine if their current affiliation could be extended but Worcester could be on their list.
13. St Louis Blues Organization
AHL Affiliate: Chicago Wolves
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1050 miles (17th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 900 miles (T-18th in League)
Current ECHL Status: None.
St. Louis did not sign an affiliation agreement with any ECHL team for this season. Though, they have sent players to the Missouri Mavericks this season. Even if this isn’t an official affiliation, there is still communication between the two teams. With the Missouri Mavericks being located so close (and in the same state) as the Blues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they tried an official affiliation next season. If St. Louis affiliated with Worcester (again) it would still take a day or two to transport the player to Chicago. St. Louis will definitely look into Worcester as an affiliate again, but don’t be surprise if they opt for a closer ECHL team to affiliate with.
12. Winnipeg Jets Organization
AHL Affiliate: Manitoba Moose
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1500 miles (21st in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 1500 miles (22nd in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Tulsa Oilers, expires at the end of this season.
Since this affiliation agreement between Winnipeg and Tulsa was only a one-year agreement to begin with, both sides did a short term agreement to see if this could work out for both sides. Tulsa, Oklahoma is roughly 1,000 miles from Winnipeg and would take a day to get a player situated after being transferred between teams. An affiliation agreement between teams like this isn’t as bad as some affiliations with teams across the country so this could work. We predict that while a switch to an affiliation is possible for Winnipeg and Worcester, Winnipeg will affiliate with Tulsa for another couple of years or will look for a closer affiliate. Rapid City Rush could also affiliate with Winnipeg.
11. New Jersey Devils Organization
AHL Affiliate: Albany Devils
NHL Distance to Worcester: 225 miles (5th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 115 miles (5th in League)
Current ECHL Status: No affiliation.
The last and only ECHL affiliation the New Jersey Devils had was the Trenton Titans / Devils. The Devils purchased the Trenton Titans in 2006 and re-named the team to the Trenton Devils. After 4 consecutive seasons of performance issues and financial losses, the team suspended operations in 2011. Since then, the Devils have not been affiliated with any ECHL franchise.
We rank the New Jersey Devils 11 on our list. Worcester isn’t far away from New Jersey and Albany, the transfer of players between these cities should not be a problem. The Railers should take note of the issues cities have had with the New Jersey Devils. have also been expressed in cities that have partnered with the organization, and that these are likely to continue.
10. Buffalo Sabres Organization
AHL Affiliate: Rochester Americans
NHL Distance to Worcester: 400 miles (9th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 350 miles (T-12th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Elmira Jackals for multiple years (length unknown).
There have been conflicting reports on how long the affiliation is between the Elmira Jackals and the Buffalo Sabres. Assuming that it is either up this year or the year after this, Worcester could be on the Sabres list. Being located in the center of where a ton of AHL and NHL hockey is played, the Sabres can use Worcester to its advantage for calling up players when they are playing their division rivals.
9. Vancouver Canucks Organization
AHL Affiliate: Utica Comets
NHL Distance to Worcester: 2750 miles (T-29th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 200 miles
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Alaska Aces, expires at the end of this season.
We expect the Vancouver Canucks to renew their affiliation agreement with Alaska or affiliate with another ECHL club that is closer to Vancouver. With Vancouver being almost 3,000 miles away from Worcester it seems unlikely that we’ll see them choose Worcester over Alaska, but Utica is close to Worcester so it won’t be impossible to transfer players from Utica and Worcester. The option is there and an affiliation with Vancouver is still possible.8. Toronto Maple Leafs Organization
AHL Affiliate: Toronto Marlies
NHL Distance to Worcester: 450 miles (10th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 450 miles (14th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Orlando Solar Bears, expires at the end of this season.
The distance between Toronto and Orlando is among the largest in the hockey in North America as far as hockey affiliations go. Toronto should be on Worcester’s list for affiliations, as Toronto had the most wins in the AHL last year. If that doesn’t show skill I don’t know what does. Toronto has plenty of players being developed in their system and they should pass through Worcester before making it to the big leagues
7. Montreal Canadiens Organization
AHL Affiliate: St. John’s IceCaps (to become Laval Rocket next season)
NHL Distance to Worcester: 275 miles (7th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 300 miles (10th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Brampton Beast, expires at the end of this season.
Like the Buffalo Sabres, the Montreal Canadiens could look into affiliating with Worcester to have an advantage to call up players when the NHL or AHL team is playing division rivals.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets Organization
AHL Affiliate: Cleveland Monsters
NHL Distance to Worcester: 650 miles
AHL Distance to Worcester: 550 miles
Current ECHL Status: No affiliation. Most recently affiliated with Kalamazoo Wings in 2015-16.
With no affiliation this year, Columbus is available for affiliations for next year. The Worcester Railers should jump aboard and try to affiliate as the Cleveland Monsters won the Calder Cup last year. There is talent on that team, and could serve use for the Railers when they have an influx of players that need to be sent to play elsewhere.
5. Ottawa Senators Organization
AHL Affiliate: Binghamton Senators (to become Belleville Senators next season)
NHL Distance to Worcester: 400 miles (8th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 400 miles (12th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Wichita Thunder, expires at the end of this season.
Another affiliation ending this season is the Ottawa Senators and the Wichita Thunder. Transporting a player after a call up would take a day or two from Belleville to Wichita or vice-versa. If the Senators affiliated with Worcester, it would take a few hours to drive or by plane. Worcester will definitely be on Ottawa’s list when they look for affiliations later this season.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning Organization
AHL Affiliate: Syracuse Crunch
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1175 miles (18th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 250 (8th in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Kalamazoo Wings, expires at the end of this season.
With the Kalamazoo affiliation ending this season, it is the perfect time for the Worcester Railers to come in and affiliate with Tampa Bay. With Syracuse being a few hour drive away and Tampa Bay being a flight out of the Worcester airport, this could work out. There’s a good chance the Syracuse Crunch pass through Worcester to get to Providence, Hartford, or Bridgeport, so calling up players from Worcester would serve use while on the road.
3. New York Islanders Organization
AHL Affiliate: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
NHL Distance to Worcester: 160 miles (T-2nd in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 110 miles (3rd in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Missouri Mavericks, expires at the end of this season.
We predict that the New York Islanders will end up leaving the Missouri Mavericks affiliation at the end of this season in search of looking for a closer ECHL affiliate. Worcester would work out for both the NHL and AHL teams as the drive to Long Island and Bridgeport isn’t a lengthy one and would only take a few hours. Worcester would still work fine in this affiliation if the Sound Tigers end up moving to the Nassau Arena in Long Island.
2. Florida Panthers Organization
AHL Affiliate: Springfield Thunderbirds
NHL Distance to Worcester: 1250 miles (19th in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 50 miles (T-1st in League)
Current ECHL Status: No affiliation.
As of the 2016-17 season, Florida does not have a ECHL affiliation which means there’s still a spot open for when the Railers start play in 2017. The affiliate formerly known as the Portland Pirates moved to Springfield at the beginning of this season. With Springfield being very close to Worcester, there should be no issue with moving players between the two cities. There are also plenty of flights going to Florida from the Worcester airport, so if there was any need to send players back to Florida, transportation should not be a big issue for either team.
Another thing to note for the Florida Panthers is Toby O’Brien. The original President and General Manager for the Worcester Railers left to become the head of amateur scouting and since he has ties to Worcester and New England, he could play a role in setting up an affiliation with the Florida Panthers.
1. Boston Bruins Organization
AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins
NHL Distance to Worcester: 50 Miles (1st in League)
AHL Distance to Worcester: 50 Miles (T-1st in League)
Current ECHL Status: Affiliated with the Atlanta Gladiators, expires at the end of this season.
No surprise here. As the Bruins’ affiliation with Atlanta expires after this season, there is a huge opportunity for Worcester to come in. Though Atlanta is a reasonable affiliate location for Boston, it still takes time for players to travel from Providence to Atlanta and vice-versa.
An affiliation with the Boston Bruins just makes sense and people have been making this argument since the IceCats days. Though there won’t be any call ups from Worcester to Boston, call ups from Worcester to Providence would only take an hour or two at most. With affiliates being this close, players can be called up or sent down and are able to play on that same day.