Could the ECHL and Central Hockey League merge some time in the future? Reports swirled yesterday of a possible merger between the two leagues as early as the 2015-16 season.
The report about the potential merger comes from hockey agent Darryl Wolski, who went on to say that four ECHL teams could then join the American Hockey League. Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Stockton and Ontario (California) were all teams that Wolski suggested could move to the AHL.
However, Fort Wayne Komets team president Michael Franke said he hasn’t heard anything to suggest those rumors may be true. Franke is also an executive board member for the ECHL and spoke with WANE-TV on Wednesday to address the rumor.
If a merger did happen and some teams moved to the AHL, that would be pretty significant on a number of levels. More teams in the AHL, the possibility for Western Conference NHL teams to shift some of their affiliations further west and closer to home, plus a lot of players moving around. If there is any truth to the report, I’m sure we’ll hear more about it soon, especially if it could happen as early as the 2015-2016 season.
Former Buffalo Sabres prospect Connor Knapp – who spent parts of last season in the ECHL with Greenville, Alaska and Florida – has signed with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL club of the Philadelphia Flyers. In addition to his time spent in the ECHL, Knapp appeared in three games with the Rochester Americans and two games with the Buffalo Sabres. He became a free agent in July and wasn’t given an offer by the Sabres, who already have a plethora of goalie prospects in the mix.
Rochester Americans defenseman Nick Tuzzolino has signed with the Elmira Jackals, the ECHL club affiliated with the Sabres.
Tuzzolino spent most of last season in Rochester, racking up 43 penalty minutes and three points in 36 games with the Amerks. He also appeared in 13 games with the Fort Wayne Komets and four games with the Jackals. Re-signing with the Jackals will potentially allow him to be called up to the Amerks if a spot on the blueline becomes open.
Rafalski spent 11 seasons in the NHL between 1999 and 2011. He began his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils and spent seven seasons there before finishing his career with the Detroit Red Wings. After a few years gap, he appeared in three games with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades last season.
Joining Rafalski in the 2014 class are former Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer, retired women’s hockey legend Karyn Bye Dietz and former NHL coach Lou Vairo.