WICHITA, Kan. – One of the final chairs in the ECHL’s ever-changing game of affiliate merry-go-round has been filled. Today, the Wichita Thunder announced they have entered into an affiliation with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. Wichita’s partnership as the San Jose Sharks ECHL affiliate has an initial duration of one season.
The move by to San Jose by Wichita comes just 29 days after the Thunder were dumped by the Edmonton Oilers, who quickly announced they were the NHL affiliate of the Fort Wayne Komets.
“We’re very excited to partner with San Jose for this coming season,” stated General Manager Joel T. Lomurno. “I want to thank Joe Will and John McCarthy for their willingness to work with us this year. We look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship for this and hopefully many seasons to come.”
“I’m very excited to be working with the San Jose Sharks and Barracuda,” commented Head Coach Bruce Ramsay. “I look forward to helping develop players for their organization that could potentially play in the NHL. The Sharks have a lot of excitement around them with the hiring of Mike Grier as their new GM and David Quinn as their new Head Coach. We look forward to helping assist in building a winning culture for all three organizations.”
San Jose Sharks ECHL Affiliate is Important to Player Development
San Jose returns to affiliated hockey after spending the last three-plus years having a “handshake” pact with the Orlando Solar Bears. For Wichita, this will be their third NHL affiliation; Ottawa for the 2016-17 season, and the last five seasons with the Edmonton Oilers (2017-22). This is their first time as the San Jose Sharks ECHL affiliate.
“We’re looking forward to working with the Wichita Thunder, including Head Coach Bruce Ramsay and General Manager Joel T. Lomurno,” said Sharks Assistant General Manager and San Jose Barracuda (AHL) General Manager Joe Will. “Having a solid affiliation in the ECHL is important to our player development plan and the ECHL has a solid track record with preparing prospects for their NHL and AHL careers.”
Joining the NHL in 1991, the Sharks have advanced to the Western Conference Final five times, which included them capturing the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009. San Jose has also earned five Pacific Division titles and made a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2016.
The Sharks have a rich history of developing players through their AHL team. Players who spent time with their AHL affiliate include captain Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, Alexander Barabanov, and Noah Gregor. Current Sharks players James Reimer (Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays) and Steven Lorentz (Florida Everblades) initially started their career in the ECHL before making their respective NHL debuts. Sharks Assistant Coach Scott Gordon (Johnstown Chiefs) was the first ECHL graduate to ever play in the NHL, while NHL Goaltending Coach Thomas Speer (Idaho Steelheads and Las Vegas Wranglers) also played in the ECHL.
Sharks Assistant Coach Ryan Warsofsky (South Carolina, 2016-18) and Gordon (Roanoke Express, 1998-00) have also served as head coaches in the ECHL, while Speer spent three seasons as a goaltending coach with the Allen Americans (2014-17) while they were affiliated with the Sharks.
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