The family of hockey teams affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche got a little bigger on Tuesday, as the Avalanche and the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets have announced a new affiliation agreement. Colorado now has affiliate teams in three minor leagues: The AHL's Lake Erie Monsters, the aforementioned Komets, and the CHL's Denver Cutthroats. The addition of the Komets to the group completes a line of affiliations through all levels of professional hockey, as they moved up from the CHL to the ECHL just two years ago, after having won the CHL Championship in their final year as a member of that league.
The Avalanche themselves represent the highest level of pro hockey, the NHL. The Lake Erie monsters are at the next level down, the AHL (American Hockey League). The level below that is the ECHL (formerly East Coast Hockey League, now the name is not an abbreviation of anything), and the Komets are at that level. The Denver Cutthroats are at the lowest level in the CHL (Central Hockey League).
The current NHL collective bargaining agreement allows for players to be moved up and down between the NHL, AHL, and ECHL. Similar to the various levels of professional baseball, players at one level can be called up or sent down a level based on performance, injuries, or other factors. Colorado has frequently needed to call up players from Lake Erie to fill in as injury replacements, and a few players who developed in the AHL are now Avalanche regulars, such as defenseman Tyson Barrie. Now, Lake Erie will have the ability to call up players from Fort Wayne as needed. The depth of the Colorado Avalanche professional development system is now complete.
It should be noted that it is unlikely, however not impossible, that a player from the Fort Wayne Komets will claw his way up to playing for the Avalanche. Although ECHL players making it to the NHL does occur, that kind of meteoric rise in a player's stock is incredibly rare. Going up one level is hard enough. Going up two levels is the stuff that television specials are made of. Most ECHL players are there because they simply don't have NHL ability. But once in a while, someone beats all the odds, and if that happens with someone from the Komets, it will be the first time anything like it has occurred within the Avalanche extended family.
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