Capitals Renew Affiliation With ECHL's Stingrays

Allen PopelsCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2009

The Washington Capitals announced on Wednesday that they have renewed their minor league affiliation with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL for the upcoming 2009-10 season.

It will mark the fifth consecutive year that two teams have worked together and also includes an agreement between the Stingrays and the AHL's Hershey Bears.

The Capitals had the most successful minor league system out of all NHL teams last season.  The Stingrays won their 3rd Kelly Cup title in team history tying the record for the most in the history of the ECHL.  While the Hershey Bears won their 10th Calder Cup title in franchise history making them the most prolific team in the history of the AHL.

"We have a lot of pride in our affiliation with South Carolina, highlighted by the Stingrays' run to the Kelly Cup this spring," said Capitals Vice President and General Manager George McPhee.  "It has been an outstanding proving ground for our prospects."

Last season, the Stingrays received seven players who were under contract with the Capitals, including Michal Neuvirth, this year's Jack A. Butterfield winner as the Calder Cup Playoff Most Valuable Player. 

Neuvirth became the first player to see action with the Stingrays and Capitals in the same season.  Josh Godfrey, Washington's second round pick in the 2007 NHL draft and Stefan Della Rovere, a member of Team Canada's gold medal-winning club at the 2009 World Junior Championships, also spent time with South Carolina during the 2008-09 season.

"We are very excited to be affiliated with the Capitals again next season," said the Stingrays new head coach Cail MacLean.  "It's a great situation when you can work with an NHL team that believes in the value of development at the double-a level."

Since the Stingrays affiliation began with the Capitals during the 2004-05 season, seven players have gone on to play for the big club including Maxime Daigneault, Jonas Johansson, Daren Machesney, Joey Tenute, Sean Collins, Andrew Gordon, and Michal Neuvirth.  The latter three are still with the organization and finished up last season on the Hershey Bears roster.

The Capitals can only hope that the success of their minor league franchises translates to Stanley Cup success at the NHL level in the near future.

For more on the Washington Capitals, Hershey Bears, and the NHL follow Allen Pope on Twitter at http://twitter.com/allenpope

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