Jared Bednar always thought he'd be a head coach at the American Hockey League level.

He just didn't know it would be this soon.

After spending just one season as an assistant coach in the AHL, Bednar, the former South Carolina Stingrays head coach, was named the new head coach of the AHL's Peoria Rivermen on Tuesday. Peoria is affiliated in the National Hockey League with the St. Louis Blues.

Bednar spent this past season as an assistant coach with the Abottsford Heat, the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames.

"I knew I wanted to be a head coach in the American League, but I didn't have a time frame as to when I wanted that to happen," Bednar said. "I definitely saw myself being an assistant coach a little longer in the American League, but this was such a great opportunity with a young, up-and-coming organization that I didn't want to let it pass by.

"St. Louis has an impressive group of young, talented kids in their minor league system right now. So it's a great time to be involved with the organization."

Bednar spent more than a decade with the Stingrays organization as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

In two seasons as a head coach Bednar compiled an 89-45-9 mark and led the Stingrays to the franchise's third Kelly Cup title in 2009. Bednar was the first player in ECHL history to have his name on the Kelly Cup three times.

Bednar won Kelly Cup titles in 1997 and 2001 as a player. "I certainly wouldn't be where I am today without the Stingrays and the opportunity they gave me in my playing and coaching career," he said. "I owe the organization and the ownership group so much."

Bednar, 38, was among more than 30 candidates for the Rivermen position, according to the Peoria Journal-Star.

Bednar replaced interim coach Rick Wamsley, who took over the head coaching duties midway through this past season for Davis Payne. Payne, a former head coach of the Pee Dee Pride, replaced Andy Murray on Jan. 2 as St. Louis' head coach.

"If you look at the success we had with Davis Payne, you see that Jared Bednar mirrors a lot of that," Blues assistant general manager/Rivermen GM Kevin McDonald told the Peoria Journal-Star. "They both played and coached in the ECHL for an extended period of time, paid their dues."

Abbotsford went 39-29-12 in its first season in the AHL, finishing third in its division. The Heat was knocked out of the Calder Cup playoffs in the second round.

"My goal when I moved to Abbotsford was to better myself as a coach and I know I accomplished that," Bednar said.

Bednar sees his new job playing to one of his strongest suits.

"The Blues are an organization that believes in developing its prospects and also believes that winning at the American League level is important in a player's development," he said.