On Thursday, it was announced that the Brampton Beast are Montreal’s new ECHL affiliate. They replace the Wheeling Nailers, who the Canadiens shared an affiliation with Pittsburgh since 2010. The length of the affiliation was not disclosed but ECHL deals usually go on a year-to-year basis.
The Brampton franchise has only been in existence for the past two seasons after the OHL Battalion moved to North Bay following the 2012-13 campaign. They originally debuted in the now-defunct Central Hockey League as an affiliate of Tampa Bay before being one of seven teams absorbed into the ECHL before last year.
The Beast operated as an unaffiliated franchise in 2014-15 though they received one player on loan from the Canadiens last season, defenceman Dalton Thrower. The rookie blueliner suited up in 37 games for Brampton, collecting three goals and three assists with 29 shots, a -19 rating, and 107 penalty minutes.
Brampton is the lone Canadiens franchise in the ECHL and joining them allows the organization to continue to have an affiliate in Ontario despite the team moving their AHL team to St. John’s, Newfoundland for the next two seasons. Given the additional challenges related to travel, having an ECHL affiliate as close as possible was likely an important factor in the decision to partner with the Beast.
Although Montreal and their AHL affiliate don’t typically send too many players to the ECHL, a few names of note have spent some time with one of Montreal’s ECHL squads, including Michael Ryder, David Desharnais, and Francois Beauchemin. Last year, Morgan Ellis and Stefan Fournier were the Habs’ contracted prospects who suited up in Wheeling although neither player figures into the future plans of the organization; there’s a good chance that Fournier will spend some time with Brampton next year.
The Habs have had a variety of ECHL affiliates over the years and haven’t stayed in the same place for very long. Here is a quick look at their affiliation history:
1992-1996 – Wheeling Thunderbirds
1996-1997 – Wheeling Nailers
1997-1999 – New Orleans Brass
1999-2000 – No affiliate
2000-2001 – Tallahassee Tiger Sharks
2001-2002 – Mississippi Sea Wolves
2002-2003 – Columbus Cottonmouths
2004-2006 – Long Beach Ice Dogs
2006-2010 – Cincinnati Cyclones
2010-2015 – Wheeling Nailers
2015 – Brampton Beast