WICHITA, Kan. – With the contract extension of head coach Malcolm Cameron now announced, the second major offseason task for the Wichita Thunder can be checked off the list. This afternoon, the team announced the Edmonton Oilers have extended their affiliation with the Wichita Thunder for at least next season.
“The Edmonton Oilers are proud to extend our affiliation agreement with the Wichita Thunder,” commented Bill Scott. “we believe that Wichita is the best place for our prospects to develop under Malcolm Cameron’s guidance. We are excited to continue our partnership which will produce a terrific on-ice product in Wichita while at the same time develop young players for the Oilers.”
The Thunder saw several Edmonton Oilers prospects come through Wichita this season; including forwards Kyle Platzer (ECHL player of the month for October,) Chad Butcher, Evan Polei and Greg Chase (traded to Springfield in December); plus goaltenders Shane Starrett (ECHL All-Star,) Nick Riopel, Nick Ellis, and Dylan Wells. Additionally, the Oilers signed Zach O’Brien to a two way AHL-ECHL contract for the 2017-18 season. O’Brien started the season in Wichita, before being recalled to the American Hockey League on November 16.
In a recent interview with The Sin Bin, Cameron shared his thoughts on how the affiliation went with Edmonton in year one:
“It was good in a lot of ways.” Cameron said. “The communication was outstanding; they gave us a lot of resources. The goaltending coach (sylvain Rodrigue) was here four or five times and he’ll be back at least a week per month if not more next season, and Bill Scott from management was here twice, too.”
Cameron also described how the affiliation might look a little different in year two and what effect it might have on the Thunder:
“They’ll have a much younger team in Bakersfield next season with a lot of guys coming out of college and juniors that are turning pro,” Cameron said. “So, my feeling is that there will be more shuttling between (Wichita) and Bakersfield where Player A comes down for a couple weeks to get some quality ice-time, then goes back and player B comes down to do the same thing. Of course, there will be guys who are ‘longer-term’ projects (i.e. goaltenders) that could be here for the whole season.”
There has also been some change at the AHL level within the Oilers organization. The top assistant to Todd McLellan last season, Jay Woodcroft, is now the new Condors’ coach, replacing Gerry Fleming who was at the helm for three seasons.