PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Florida Everblades center Drew Larman made his National Hockey League debut on Monday, winning five of eight faceoffs and skating 18 shifts for the Florida Panthers in a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Larman becomes the 306th player to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL and the third to play his first NHL game this season, joining former ECHL All-Star goaltender Mike Smith and former Toledo goaltender Joey MacDonald.
The 21-year-old began his professional career in 2005-06 with the Everblades and had four penalty minutes in six games before being called up to Rochester of the American Hockey League where he had 15 points (7g-8a) and 24 penalty minutes in 44 games. He returned to Florida for the Kelly Cup Playoffs and had six points (4g-2a) and four penalty minutes in eight games. Larman has seven points (5g-2a) in 11 games for Rochester this season.
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 were a record 47 former ECHL players who made their NHL debut in 2005-06, including five goaltenders who played a game in both leagues. Since 2000-01 there have been 160 players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL and in 2005-06 there were 112 former ECHL players who played in the NHL and all 30 teams had a former ECHL player take the ice for at least one game.
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.
The ECHL raised its average attendance for the third straight year in 2005-06 drawing 3,934,794 for 900 games which is an average of 4,372 per game, an increase of more than nine percent from 2004-05 and the largest per-game average since 1999-2000. Six teams surpassed 200,000 and nine teams averaged 5,000 per game for the first time since 1999-2000 as the league welcomed 40 sellout crowds and 13 of the 22 returning teams raised their average attendance from a year ago.
Idaho Steelheads and City of Boise will host the 15th Annual ECHL All-Star Game presented by Rbk Hockey on Jan. 17 and the 10th Annual ECHL All-Star Skills Competition presented by Rbk Hockey on Jan. 16 at Qwest Arena.
ECHL and its member teams contributed more than $2.3 million for charity and relief funds in 2005-06.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com .