The Stockton Thunder became the ECHL affiliate of the New York Islanders on Wednesday. It’s a little surprising and makes sense at the same time.
It’s surprising only because of the distance between Stockton and Bridgeport, Conn., where the Islanders’ AHL franchise resides. But New York has never made a priority out of finding an East Coast ECHL affiliate, having partnered with Utah and Kalamazoo (Mich.) in the past.
Overall, this is a good marriage. The Thunder likes having an NHL parent club and developing players. The Islanders have been are vowing to send about five players to the Thunder, which is a nice number to supplement the free agent signees.
New York hasn’t had an ECHL connection in the past two seasons, and picked a team coming off a great season with a familiar face as its new coach. Rich Kromm’s eight-season relationship with the Islanders was a big part of this deal. He’s known in the organization and they trust him with their young players.
Besides Kromm, another Thunder-Islanders connection is Colin McDonald, the current New York forward who played three games for Stockton during the 2008-09 season.