PRINCETON, N.J. – For the 27th year in a row the ECHL is represented on the American Hockey League champion as four of the 24 players who played for Lake Erie in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs played in the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League.
There have been 100 former ECHL players on the last 10 AHL winners and 118 former ECHL players on the last 12 champions.
The ECHL has had affiliations with 20 or more teams in the AHL the last 15 years.
Former ECHL players who captured the 2016 Calder Cup title are Ryan Craig (Pensacola, 2003-04), Brett Gallant (Elmria, 2009-11 and Reading, 2010-11), John Ramage (Alaska, 2013-14) and Trent Vogelhuber (Evansville, 2012-13).
Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar played 434 games over eight ECHL seasons with Huntington and South Carolina from 1993-2002 before becoming the Stingrays’ assistant coach from 2002-07 and the team’s head coach from 2008-09. He is one of just five individuals to have his named engraved on the Kelly Cup three times – winning as a player with the Stingrays in 1997 and 2001 and serving as the team’s head coach in 2009. Bednar joins Bruce Boudreau, who won a Kelly Cup title with Mississippi in 1999 before leading Hershey to the Calder Cup title in 2006, as the only coaches to lead a team to both an ECHL and an AHL title.
Other former ECHL personnel with the Monsters include assistant coach Nolan Pratt, who was a player with Richmond in 1995-96, and broadcaster/team communications manager Tony Brown, who held a similar position with Indy in 2014-15.
Eight of the 21 players on runner-up Hershey had ECHL experience with Erik Burgdoerfer (Bakersfield, 2009-14), Dan Ellis (Idaho, 2003-04), Dustin Gazley (Greenville, 2010-11, Elmira, 2011-13 and Reading, 2013-14), Tyler Lewington (South Carolina, 2015-16), Garrett Mitchell (South Carolina, 2011-12), Justin Peters (Florida, 2006-08), Zack Sill (Wheeling, 2009-10) and Nathan Walker (South Carolina, 2014-15). Hershey head coach Troy Mann captured a Kelly Cup title with Mississippi in 1999 and later served as head coach for Columbia (2006-08) and Bakersfield (2013-14) while Bears’ assistant coach played in the ECHL with Charlotte from 2007-09 and served as Mann’s assistant coach with Bakersfield.
During the 2015-16 season, 330 ECHL players were recalled to the American Hockey League for a total of 599 recalls. The Manchester Monarchs led the ECHL with 23 players recalled a total of 39 times.
Eight times in the last 16 years the winner of the AHL Coach of the Year award has been a former ECHL coach including former Trenton Devils’ coach Rick Kowalsky, who won the award this season. Kowalsky was named ECHL Coach of the Year in 2009 and joins Claude Noel as the only coaches to the win the award in both the ECHL and AHL. Former ECHL coaches Scott Gordon and Mike Haviland won the award in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007. Former ECHL coaches won the award four consecutive years from 2001-04 with Don Granato, Bruce Cassidy, Geoff Ward and Claude Noel. The first former ECHL coach to win the award was Peter Laviolette in 1999.
For the ninth season in a row at least seven former ECHL players were named CCM/AHL Player of the Week with former Stockton Thunder forward Mark Arcobello, former Toledo Walleye, Florida Everblades and Indy Fuel goaltender Mac Carruth, former Fort Wayne Komets’ goaltender Spencer Martin, former Stockton Thunder forward Colin McDonald, former Las Vegas Wranglers’ goaltender Mike McKenna, former Florida Everblades and Fort Wayne Komets’ goaltender John Muse, former Stockton Thunder forward Alan Quine, former Cincinnati Cyclones’ goaltender Jeremy Smith and Orlando Solar Bears’ goaltender Garret Sparks.
There were eight former ECHL players who participated in the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic.
Fourteen of the 30 head coaches in the American Hockey League during the 2015-16 season had an ECHL background with Albany’s Rick Kowalsky, Bakersfield’s Gerry Fleming, Bridgeport’s Brent Thompson, Hershey’s Troy Mann, Iowa’s David Cunniff, Lake Erie’s Jared Bednar, Lehigh Valley’s Scott Gordon, Manitoba’s Keith McCambridge, Portland’s Scott Allen, Providence’s Bruce Cassidy, Rockford’s Ted Dent, San Jose’s Roy Sommer, Texas’ Derek Laxdal and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Clark Donatelli.
Former ECHL broadcasters working in the American Hockey League during the 2015-16 season include Josh Heller of the Albany Devils, Kevin Bartl and Ryan Holt of the Bakersfield Condors, Grady Whittenburg of the Binghamton Senators, Jason Shaya of the Charlotte Checkers, Jason Shaver of the Chicago Wolves, Joe O’Donnell and Josh Fisher of the Iowa Wild, Tony Brown of the Lake Erie Monsters, Bob Rotruck of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Joseph Zakrzewski of the Ontario Reign, Bob Mills of the Rockford IceHogs, Dan Weiss of the San Antonio Rampage, Eric Lindquist of the San Jose Barrcuda, Andy Zilch of the Springfield Falcons, Brandon Kisker of the Stockton Heat, Dan D’Uva of the Syracuse Crunch, Brendan Burke of the Utica Comets and Mike O’Brien of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
About the ECHL
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 28 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province for its 28th season in 2015-16. There have been 599 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including 30 who have made their NHL debuts in the 2015-16 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 NHL teams in 2015-16, marking the 19th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.