NHL training camps have opened and not all of the players will get an NHL job. Not all of the players will get an AHL job either. This leaves the 3rd tier of professional hockey known as the ECHL.
In my previous article on Parent and Farm Team collective performance I noted that the Jets do not play very many players at the ECHL level. Typically NHL teams use the ECHL as a place for depth goalies and defencemen to get ice time if they can’t crack the AHL lineup. The Winnipeg Jets and their AHL Farm Teams (the Ice Caps and the Moose) have used their ECHL level affiliation in that capacity up until recently.
In the chart below you see the names and total numbers of players signed to a NHL or AHL contract that were sent to the ECHL affiliate. The Jets barely utilized their Colorado and Ontario affiliates in the first four years.
This changes in the 2015-16 with the Tulsa Oilers affiliation. In 2015-16 the Jets sent down 7 different players including 4 forwards, where previously they sent down four players (mostly Goalies and Defencemen) at most. Anecdotal reporting indicates that time spent in the ECHL has been helpful for players to build confidence and develop their skills. This has reaped some benefits for the Jets as two of the fifteen ECHL players (Ben Chiarot and Michael Hutchinson) have played NHL games for the Jets and continue to stick around in the lineup.
Will this practice continue? I am thinking it will since it is expected there will be lots of players competing for positions with the Jets and the Moose. There won’t be enough room for everyone and the Tulsa Oilers will likely become a training ground for a new round of Jets prospects.