On August 8th, 2017 the St. Louis Blues announced their affiliation with the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL for the 2017-18 season. The ECHL is a step down from the AHL, where the Blues did not previously have an affiliation for the upcoming season. These changes in the St. Louis Blues affiliations in the ECHL and AHL will affect the NHL club.
Changes in St. Louis Blues Affiliations
Having an affiliation with the Tulsa Oilers is the first time that the Blues will have an ECHL affiliate in two seasons. Last year, the Blues AHL affiliate was the Chicago Wolves, who are now the affiliate for the Vegas Golden Knights. This leaves the Blues without an AHL affiliate for the future.
The Blues will be able to send prospects to the Wolves next season, as well as other AHL teams including the San Antonio Rampage, who the Blues will have an affiliation with starting in the 2018-19 season.
How Blues Affiliation Changes Will Affect the Prospects
Here is the good news. The AHL clubs that the Blues lend their prospects to will not be able to call them up to their NHL clubs. The only NHL team that can call the Blues prospects up is the Blues.
Here is the bad news. The Blues have no control over how much ice time their prospects get with their respective AHL teams. It is going to be extremely competitive for them. This is especially problematic for the Blues AHL goaltenders Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso, and Pheonix Copley. The Wolves could make the Knights goaltending prospect the starting goaltender, making the Blues prospects ride the bench, making it harder for them to develop. Also, the Blues top prospects may be forced to only get third or fourth line minutes to make room for the Knights prospects.
The Blues ECHL affiliation will be a perfect fit for the prospects who are not yet ready for the AHL. These prospects will be able to develop without the pressure to make it onto the Blues club this season.
These affiliations are not a reason for fans to panic about the future of the St. Louis Blues. It is going to be a learning experience for everyone involved. The Blues affiliation with the Wolves is only going to last for one season before they take control of the San Antonio Rampage.