PRINCETON, N.J. – The number of players to play in the National Hockey League after the ECHL increased to 424 after former Stockton Thunder right wing Colin McDonald and former Stockton Thunder and ECHL All-Star goaltender Devin Dubnyk made their debuts with the Edmonton Oilers over the weekend.
McDonald played his first game on Friday and scored his first NHL goal on Saturday when Dubnyk made 21 saves after coming on in relief of former ECHL goaltender Jeff Deslauriers. Dubnyk are the third and fourth former ECHL players to make their NHL debut in the past week joining former Cincinnati Cyclones center David Desharnais and former Cincinnati Cyclones right wing J.T. Wyman, who made their debuts with Montreal on Nov. 25 and 24, respectively.
Selected in the first round (14th overall) by Edmonton in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Dubnyk played for Stockton as a rookie in 2006-07 and was 24-11-7 with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.56 and a save percentage of .921 in 43 regular season games. He was selected to play in the Reebok Hockey ECHL All-Star Game and also played in the American Hockey League where he was 2-1-0 with a goals-against average of 2.94 and a save percentage of .855 in four games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Selected in the second round (51st overall) by Edmonton in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, McDonald played for the Thunder in 2008-09 and had two assists in three games while also playing in the AHL where he had 22 points (10g-12a) in 77 games for Springfield.
Seventeen ECHL players have made their NHL debut this season: former Charlotte Checkers and Reading Royals defenseman Dean Arsene (Edmonton on Nov. 16), former Gwinnett Gladiators and 2006 ECHL All-Star right wing Guillaume Desbiens (Vancouver on Oct. 11), former Cincinnati Cyclones center and 2008 ECHL Most Valuable Player David Desharnais (Montreal on Nov. 25), former Stockton Thunder and 2007 ECHL All-Star goaltender Devin Dubnyk (Edmonton on Nov. 28), former Las Vegas Wranglers, Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Deryk Engelland (Pittsburgh on Nov. 10), former Idaho Steelheads center Aaron Gagnon (Dallas on Oct. 16), former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Shaun Heshka (Phoenix on Nov. 7), former Wheeling Nailers right wing David Laliberte (Philadelphia on Oct. 31), former Wheeling Nailers center Mark Letestu (Pittsburgh on Nov. 14), former Stockton Thunder right wing Colin McDonald (Edmonton on Nov. 27), former Stockton Thunder center Ryan O’Marra (Edmonton on Nov. 10), former Reading Royals right wing Scott Parse (Los Angeles on Oct. 24), former Charlotte Checkers center Tom Pyatt (Montreal on Nov. 5), former Johnstown Chiefs defenseman Jay Rosehill (Toronto on Oct. 1), former Bakersfield Condors center MacGregor Sharp (Anaheim on Nov. 19), former Idaho Steelheads left wing Francis Wathier (Dallas on Oct. 21) and former Cincinnati Cyclones right wing J.T. Wyman (Montreal on Nov. 24).
The ECHL had a record 78 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 71 from a year ago and marking the seventh year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. Every ECHL team has an affiliation with an NHL team and the league has affiliations with 28 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 13th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 424 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including a record 52 who made their debut in 2008-09. The ECHL has had 232 players reach the NHL since 2002-03 when it changed its focus to become the primary developmental league for the NHL and the AHL. The ECHL had 97 players reach the NHL in its first 10 seasons and 215 in the first 15 years. There have been 168 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last five seasons for an average of more than 33 per year.
There are 26 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau and New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is head coach of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. It is the fifth consecutive season that there have been 11 or more coaches with an ECHL background working in the NHL. Boudreau, who coached Mississippi for three seasons winning the Kelly Cup championship in 1999, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2007-08 becoming the first former ECHL coach to receive the award.
There are 20 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2009-10 with referees David Banfield, Francis Charron, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain Herbert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Bryan Pancich, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak and Jay Sharrers.
There were nine players who played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2008-09 with goaltenders Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Elmira, Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Chris Holt (Alaska and St. Louis), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Wes O’Neill (Johnstown and Colorado), Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado) and Kevin Quick (Augusta, Elmira and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders).
The ECHL was represented for the ninth year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, player Ruslan Fedotenko, equipment managers Dana Heinze and Dave Zeigler, athletic trainers Chris Stewart and Scott Adams and scout Derek Clancey. There were 43 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fourth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the sixth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
Former ECHL and current Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was the recipient of the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL and was also presented the William Jennings Trophy with teammate Manny Fernandez as the goaltenders finishing the season having surrendered the fewest goals. Thomas was also named First Team All-NHL after registering a career-high 36 wins while leading the NHL with a goals-against average of 2.10 and a save percentage of .933 to help the Bruins finish with the most wins (53) and points (116) since 1971-72.
The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender and current New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon, who played his first game with the Quebec Nordiques against Buffalo on Jan. 30, 1990. The 100th player honor is shared by Jean Sebastien Aubin and Manny Legace, who both made their debut on Oct. 21, 1998 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. The 200th player was Brett McLean with the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 10, 2002 while the 300th was David Liffiton with the New York Rangers on Apr. 11, 2006 and the 400th was Phil Oreskovic on Mar. 9, 2009 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Former ECHL broadcasters working in the National Hockey League include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Tom Callahan of the Nashville Predators, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bob McElligott and John Michael of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rob Simpson, who is a producer/host for The NHL Network.
Ryan Stanzel and Jeremy Zager, who were both recipients of the ECHL Media Relations Director of the Year award, are working in the communications department for the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Former ECHL assistant director of communications Joe Siville and Kelly Murray are now with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, respectively, while former ECHL director of communications Jason Rothwell is the creative director for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider” of the ECHL.
• Watch ECHL games around the clock on ECHL TV on B2CableTV.com.
• The ECHL celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
• ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league with 20 teams in 15 states and British Columbia in 2009-10.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 20 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• In the last six seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,500 call-ups involving more than 1,300 players and in 2008-09 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.