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Komets affiliate with Avs, Lake Erie

For the second time in three years, the Komets have partnered with an NHL team.

They just hope it’s more successful than the last time.

The Komets completed an affiliation Tuesday with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and its American Hockey League team, the Lake Erie Monsters.

The deal is for one year, but both sides will have opportunities to continue it after that.

“This will provide our players a direct line to the AHL,” Komets general manager David Franke said. “There will be player movement during the season between Fort Wayne and Lake Erie. That is what the ECHL is all about, developing players so they can reach the highest level possible. The opportunity to work with (Colorado director of player personnel) David Oliver and his scouting staff will be a huge asset to the Komet organization.”

The Komets had an affiliation with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals in 20012-13, but it wasn’t a successful partnership and lasted only one year. The Komets missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002, going 33-35-4.

There was disappointment from the Fort Wayne end, as it didn’t receive many players, after counting on them in the summer of 2012. That season was complicated, though, by NHL lockout, which wreaked havoc on the rosters at all minor-league levels.

Franke said the Komets will get three to five players from the Avalanche this season and he has great trust in Oliver, with whom he has exchanged players in the past.

Last season, Jace Coyle was called up to Lake Erie, which also had former Komets defenseman Daniel Maggio.

“I would say we would get anywhere from three to five guys. One of those will be a goalie,” Franke said, adding it was too early to predict potential players.

“It won’t be like we’re going to get nine or 10 guys and half the team will be from (the Avalanche). That won’t be the case. But there will be guys through the course of the year.

“The unique thing about this also is we’ll have direct access to David Oliver, who is the director of player personnel, and their scouting system. That’s not something we’ve had in the past. It was more like, ‘Here’s your guys. They’re going to play for you. And see you later.’

"They want to help us out, and they are the right people. I trust them and I know them.”

The Komets were one of the ECHL’s three independent teams last season and they went 36-24-12, the 10th-best record in the league, and then reached the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Avalanche is coming off a season in which it went 52-22-8, tying a franchise record for wins and capturing the Central Division title, but it lost in the first round of the playoffs to Minnesota. Lake Erie, which was 32-33-11, missed the playoffs last season.

“The Fort Wayne Komets are very excited about this new affiliation between the Colorado Avalanche and the Lake Erie Monsters,” Franke said. “As I have stated many times, if we could find the right NHL/AHL partner, we would become affiliated again.

"I feel with the director of player personnel, David Oliver, and assistant Avalanche general manager Craig Billington, we have found the right partners. Those gentleman, along with (president) Josh Kroenke, (executive vice president) Joe Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy, are focused on winning and developing from within the entire organization.”

This will be the Avalanche’s 19th season in Denver, in which time it’s won the 1996 and 2001 Stanley Cups.

“These guys are going to be big parts of our team, but we have to go out and get 15 or 16 guys on our own,” Franke said. “We have to make sure our team is set up in that way.”

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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