The Colorado Avalanche officially have a new ECHL affiliation as they announced their partnership with the Utah Grizzlies to begin in the 2018-19 season. Terms of the agreement were not made available but both parties seemed excited at press conference and stressed that development is a priority moving forward.
No doubt the Grizzlies see the potential of working with an organization which just saw their ECHL affiliate win the Kelly Cup championship in back-to-back years. The Avalanche have supported their ECHL partners very well over the last few seasons with providing them top notch players signed to AHL contracts and a generous number of prospects on NHL contracts.
For the Avalanche, they see the partnership with the Grizzlies as furthering the vision to bring all of their hockey operations to the Rocky Mountain region. With such close ties now to Utah there may be the same type of prospect pipeline they had going to the Colorado Eagles when they were in the ECHL now funneling to their new ECHL affiliate. Avalanche Assistant General Manager and Colorado Eagles General Manager Craig Billington hinted as such to the Salt Lake Tribune:
A true three tier development system is an ideal worth working toward but will take a lot of steps to have the overall quality of the ECHL and complete rosters to be able to execute that vision. If the Avalanche plan to use the Grizzlies as a significant part of their development model then they still can’t neglect the massive amount of work that needs to be done to make their affiliations at the AHL level successful and ultimately graduate players to the NHL roster. It is critical the commitment to youth is carried through to all levels of the organization and their affiliates. Still, this is a positive step to creating that long-term chain of a successful development system.