PRINCETON, N.J, – The 2002 ECHL All-Star Game was the first time that the ECHL asked its coaches to select players who they felt to be prospects to move up to the American Hockey League and National Hockey League. Four players from the 2002 ECHL All-Star Game have advanced to the National Hockey League while countless others have gone on to play in the American Hockey League.
Michael Ryder was selected to play in the 2002 ECHL All-Star Game after scoring 15 points (7g-8a) in 10 games with Mississippi, but did not play because he was on call up to Quebec of the AHL. In 2003-04, Ryder played his first season in the NHL and was named Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News. He finished second to Boston goaltender Andrew Raycroft in voting for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the National Hockey League’s top rookie, becoming the first player in ECHL history to be a finalist for the award.
Named the starting goaltender for the Northern Conference in the 2002 ECHL All-Star Game, Curtis Sanford was 5-1-0 with a shutout, goals-against average of 1.96 and a save percentage of .912 save percentage in eight games with St. Louis in the NHL in 2002-03. After re-signing with St. Louis in the offseason, Sanford is 10-9-2 with a goals-against average of 2.64 and a save percentage of .902 in 23 games with Worcester in 2004-05.
Vern Fiddler was selected to the ECHL All-Star game and named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team in 2001-02. Fiddler began 2002-03 with Milwaukee of the AHL but was called up to Nashville and made his NHL debut in November 2002. He finished 2002-03 with six points (4g-2a) in 19 games with Nashville and played in 17 games with the Predators in 2003-04. After re-signing with Nashville in September 2004, Fiddler is currently assigned to Milwaukee where he has 27 points (13g-14a) in 38 games.
Named to the ECHL All-Star Game in his first professional season, Pat Leahy signed with Providence of the AHL and scored 43 points (20g-23a) in 66 regular season games and one goal in four playoff games in 2002-03. In 2003-04, Leahy played six games in the NHL with Boston and scored 30 points (14g-16a) in 55 games with Providence. Currently under contract to Boston, Leahy has one assist in 10 games with Providence in 2004-05.
Selected to the ECHL All-Star Game in his first full professional season, David Gove played in the entire 2002-03 season with San Antonio of the AHL, scoring 35 points (15g-20a) in 72 regular season games and one point (0g-1a) in three playoff games. In 2003-04, Gove had 36 points (7g-10a) in 75 games with Utah of the AHL. Currently playing for Providence of the AHL, Gove has 23 points (7g-16a) in 36 games.
Selected to the All-Star Game and named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team, Ben Stafford played the entire 2002-03 season with Philadelphia of the AHL scoring 27 points (12g-15a) in 80 regular season games. In 2003-04 with the Phantoms, Stafford scored 32 points (12g-20a) in 73 regular season games and had one goal in 12 postseason games. With Philadelphia of the AHL in 2004-05, Stafford has 19 points (8g-11a) in 40 games.
Named to the first of his two consecutive ECHL All-Star Games in 2002, Kevin Colley was named MVP of the 2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs after scoring 13 goals and 20 points in Atlantic City’s run to the Kelly Cup Championship. Colley spent all of 2003-04 in the AHL with Bridgeport, scoring 31 points (12g-19a) in 78 games. Signed by the New York Islanders to an NHL contract in August 2004, Colley has 13 points (7g-6a) in 38 games with Bridgeport in 2004-05.