NEW YORK – The National Hockey League announced that former Long Beach and current Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and San Jose Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo have been selected as the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Mar. 25.
Each Monday, the NHL recognizes three players who delivered the top performances over the past week. Former ECHL All-Star and current Dallas Stars goaltender Mike Smith was a “Three Stars” selection on Feb. 12 and Nov. 27 while Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, who began his professional career in the ECHL with Birmingham, was chosen on Nov. 20.
Halak was named Third Star after posting a 3-0-0 record and his first NHL shutout with a goals-against average of 1.33 and a save percentage of .957 to help the Canadiens remain in contention for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After making 30 saves to register his first NHL shutout with a 1-0 win against the Boston Bruins on Mar. 20, the 21-year-old turned aside 29 of 32 shots in a 6-3 win against the Bruins on Mar. 22 and stopped 30 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Mar. 24. He is 7-4-0 with a goals-against average of 2.84 and a save percentage of .907 in 11 games for Montreal.
Selected in the ninth round (271st overall) by Montreal in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the 5-foot-11 and 174-pound Halak was 11-4-2 with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.05 and a save percentage of .932 in 20 games with Long Beach as a rookie in 2005-06. He also played for Hamilton as a rookie and was 7-6-0 with three shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.29 and a save percentage of .927.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2006-07, marking the 10th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 328 players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL and 183 who have made their debut in the last five seasons. There were a record 47 former ECHL players who played their first NHL game in 2005-06 and 112 former ECHL players who played in the NHL a year ago, including five goaltenders who played in both the ECHL and the NHL.
There have been 25 ECHL players who have played their first NHL game this season: former Greenville and Richmond right wing Krys Barch (Dallas on Jan. 15), former Mississippi defenseman Sheldon Brookbank (Nashville on Feb. 6), former Reading goaltender Barry Brust (Los Angeles on Nov. 30), former Wheeling left wing Daniel Carcillo (Phoenix on Mar. 3), former Dayton left wing Riley Cote (Philadelphia on Mar. 24), former Toledo center Matt Ellis (Detroit on Dec. 18), former Wheeling defenseman Drew Fata (New York Islanders on Feb. 4), former Reading defenseman Jeff Finger (Colorado on Feb. 20), former Bakersfield and Reading goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji (Los Angeles on Jan. 13), former Charlotte defenseman Daniel Girardi (New York Rangers on Jan. 27), former Long Beach goaltender Jaroslav Halak (Montreal on Feb. 18), former Trenton goaltender Martin Houle (Philadelphia on Dec. 13), former Alaska left wing D.J. King (St. Louis on Oct. 5), former Wheeling defenseman David Koci (Chicago on Mar. 10), former Florida center Drew Larman (Florida on Nov. 13), former Florida defenseman Martin Lojek (Florida on Feb. 3), former Toledo goaltender Joey MacDonald (Detroit on Oct. 19), former Pensacola center Kris Newbury (Toronto on Dec. 23), former South Carolina and Reading center Rich Peverley (Nashville on Mar. 4), former Augusta right wing Pierre Parenteau (Chicago on Feb. 7), former Columbia right wing Jesse Schultz (Vancouver on Nov. 28), former ECHL All-Star goaltender Mike Smith (Dallas on Oct. 21), former Reading left wing Shay Stephenson (Los Angeles on Mar. 1), former Augusta goaltender Mike Wall (Anaheim on Nov. 26) and former Stockton defenseman Bryan Young (Edmonton on Mar. 9).
There are two NHL head coaches (Peter Laviolette and Jim Playfair) and nine NHL assistant coaches who have an ECHL background. The ECHL was represented for the sixth consecutive year on the Stanley Cup champion in 2006 by Laviolette, who is the first ECHL coach to hoist the coveted trophy, Chad LaRose, Andrew Hutchinson and assistant athletic trainer Chris Stewart.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion. The ECHL has had more players called up to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined each of the past four seasons with 1,646 call ups involving almost 1,000 players.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.