PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL has 43 former players and 13 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It is the seventh year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the ninth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
The ECHL has been represented on the last 11 Stanley Cup champions and there are 22 ECHL alums who have their name engraved on the Stanley Cup: assistant coach Geoff Ward, Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder and Tim Thomas (Boston – 2011); assistant coach Mike Haviland and associate coach John Torchetti (Chicago – 2010); head coach Dan Bylsma and Ruslan Fedotenko (Pittsburgh – 2009); Aaron Downey (Detroit – 2008); assistant coach Dave Farrish, Francois Beauchemin and George Parros (Anaheim – 2007); head coach Peter Laviolette, Andrew Hutchinson and Chad LaRose (Carolina – 2006); Ruslan Fedotenko, Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy (Tampa Bay – 2004); Corey Schwab (New Jersey – 2003); Manny Legace (Detroit – 2002); David Aebischer and Nolan Pratt (Colorado – 2001); Krzysztof Oliwa (New Jersey – 2000) and Kevin Dean (New Jersey – 1995). Fedotenko and Pratt are the only former ECHL players to have their name engraved twice on the Stanley Cup.
It is the eighth straight year that the ECHL has been represented by at least six coaches including Chicago’s Haviland, who played in the ECHL with Richmond and Winston-Salem in 1990-91, and then coached in Trenton and Atlantic City from 1999-2005 and was part of Chicago’s Stanley Cup championship in 2010; Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma, who played in the ECHL with Greensboro in 1993-94 and in 2009 led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup championship; and Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette, who coached Wheeling in 1997-98 and led Carolina to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship and guided the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010. Other former ECHL coaches in the Stanley Cup Playoffs include former Arkansas head coach Geoff Ward, who was part of Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup championship team; Phoenix associate coach Jim Playfair, who was the ECHL Coach of the Year in 1995 with Dayton and Nashville assistant coach Peter Horachek, who coached in the 2002 ECHL All-Star Game while leading Trenton.
Twenty-three ECHL players have made their NHL debuts this season: former Toledo Walleye, Gwinnett Gladiators and Colorado Eagles right wing Akim Aliu (Calgary on April 5), former Florida Everblades center Mike Angelidis (Tampa Bay on Jan. 24), former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Jordie Benn (Dallas on Jan. 3), former Bakersfield Condors and Elmira Jackals defenseman Stu Bickel (New York Rangers on Dec. 20), former Greenville Road Warriors defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon (Philadelphia on Nov. 21), former South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Joe Finley (Buffalo on Dec. 2), Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Brian Foster (Florida on Feb. 4), former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Kris Fredheim (Minnesota on Nov. 17), former Gwinnett Gladiators center Ryan Garbutt (Dallas on Feb. 18), former Elmira Jackals center Mike Hoffman (Ottawa on Dec. 23), former Victoria Salmon Kings goaltender Leland Irving (Calgary on Dec. 16), former Toledo and Reading center Bracken Kearns (Florida on Oct. 20), Stockton Thunder center Milan Kytnar (Edmonton on Jan. 11), former Bakersfield center Maxime Macenauer (Anaheim on Oct. 7), former Ontario Reign center Jordan Nolan (Los Angeles on Feb. 11), former Idaho Steelheads center and two-time ECHL All-Star Greg Rallo (Florida on Dec. 18), former Cincinnati Cyclones center Ryan Russell (Columbus on Jan. 7), former Reading Royals goaltender Jussi Rynnas (Toronto on March 27), former Reading Royals goaltender Ben Scrivens (Toronto on Nov. 3), former Cincinnati Cyclones defenseman Frederic St. Denis (Montreal on Nov. 16), former Ontario Reign defenseman Colten Teubert (Edmonton on Nov. 3), former Wheeling Nailers goaltender Brad Thiessen (Pittsburgh on Feb. 26), and former Las Vegas Wrangler right wing Matt Watkins (Phoenix on Feb. 21).
Six players played in both the ECHL and NHL this season: Akim Aliu (Colorado and Calgary), Brian Foster (Cincinnati and Florida), Milan Kytnar (Stockton and Edmonton), Peter Mannino (Chicago and Winnipeg), Jussi Rynnas (Reading and Toronto) and Allen York (Chicago and Columbus).
The ECHL had a record 81 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 79 from a year ago and marking the ninth year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 15th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 490 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 23 in 2010-11. The ECHL has had 298 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 234 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last seven seasons for an average of more than 33 per year.
The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant 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.
There are 31 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including including Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and 2011 Jack Adams Award winner Dan Bylsma, New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel. It is the seventh 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. Bylsma, who played in the ECHL with Greensboro from 1992-94, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2010-11.
There are 22 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2011-12 with referees David Banfield, Francis Charron, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre, Graham Skilliter and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Brian Mach, Matt MacPherson, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.
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, Jack Michaels of the Edmonton Oilers, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Bob McElligott of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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.
Former ECHL coaches and players in Stanley Cup Playoffs (ECHL affiliate in parentheses):
Boston Bruins (Reading Royals)
Assistant coach Geoff Ward (Arkansas, 1999-00), Joe Corvo (Hampton Roads, 1997-98), Anton Khudobin (Texas, 2007-08 and Florida, 2008-09), Rich Peverley (South Carolina, 2004-05 and Reading, 2005-06) and Tim Thomas (Birmingham, 1997-98)
Chicago Blackhawks (Toledo Walleye)
Assistant coach Mike Haviland (Richmond, 1990-91; Winston-Salem, 1990-91; Trenton, 1999-01 and 2004-05 and Atlantic City, 2001-04) and Andrew Brunette (Hampton Roads, 1993-94)
Detroit Red Wings (Toledo Walleye)
Joey MacDonald (Toledo, 2001-02 and 2005-06)
Florida Panthers (Cincinnati Cyclones)
Krys Barch (Richmond, 2001-02 and Greenville, 2004-06), Jerred Smithson (Trenton, 2000-01) and Tyson Strachan (Las Vegas, 2007-08)
Los Angeles Kings (Ontario Reign)
Assistant coach Jamie Kompon (Hampton Roads, 1989-90; Cincinnati, 1990-91 and Winston-Salem, 1990-91), Dwight King (Ontario, 2009-10), Jordan Nolan (Ontario, (2009-10) and Jonathan Quick (Reading, 2007-08)
Nashville Predators (Cincinnati Cyclones)
Assistant coach Peter Horachek (Nashville, 1990-91 and Trenton, 2001-02), Francis Bouillon (Wheeling, 1996-97) and Jeremy Smith (Cincinnati, 2009-10)
New Jersey Devils (Kalamazoo Wings)
Eric Boulton (Charlotte, 1996-98; Florida, 1998-99 and Columbia, 2004-05), Johan Hedberg (Baton Rouge, 1997-98) and Tim Sestito (Greenville, 2005-06 and Stockton, 2006-07)
New York Rangers (Greenville Road Warriors)
Video coach Jerry Dineen (Winston-Salem, 1990-92 and Raleigh, 1991-92), Stu Bickel (Bakersfield, 2009-10), Martin Biron (South Carolina, 1997-98), Ruslan Fedotenko (Trenton, 1999-00) and Dan Girardi (Charlotte, 2005-06)
Ottawa Senators (Elmira Jackals)
Assistant coach Mark Reeds (Peoria, 1996-99), Alex Auld (Columbia, 2001-02), Zenon Konopka (Wheeling, 2002-03 and Idaho, 2003-04) and Chris Neil (Mobile, 1999-00)
Philadelphia Flyers (Trenton Titans)
Head coach Peter Laviolette (Wheeling, 1997-98) and Marc-Andre Bourdon (Greenville, 2010-11)
Pittsburgh Penguins (Wheeling Nailers)
Head coach Dan Bylsma (Greensboro, 1992-94), assistant coach Todd Reirden (Raleigh, 1994-95; Tallahassee, 1994-95 and Jacksonville, 1995-96) and Deryk Engelland (Las Vegas, 2003-05; South Carolina, 2005-06 and Reading, 2006-07)
San Jose Sharks (Stockton Thunder)
Goalie coach Corey Schwab (Cincinnati, 1991-92), assistant coach Matt Shaw (Mobile, 1997-98), assistant coach Jay Woodcroft (Jackson, 1999-00), Andrew Desjardins (Phoenix, 2008-09), Thomas Greiss (Fresno, 2006-07) and Daniel Winnik (Phoenix, 2006-07)
Vancouver Canucks (Kalamazoo Wings)
Alexandre Burrows (Greenville, 2002-03; Baton Rouge, 2002-03 and Columbia, 2003-05)
Washington Capitals (South Carolina Stingrays)
Associate goaltending coach Olaf Kolzig (Hampton Roads, 1990-92), Keith Aucoin (Florida, 2001-02), Jay Beagle (Idaho, 2006-07), Matt Hendricks (Florida, 2004-05), Braden Holtby (South Carolina, 2009-10), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina, 2008-09), Dany Sabourin (Johnstown, 2000-02; Wheeling, 2004-05 and Las Vegas, 2005-06) and Tomas Voukon (Wheeling, 1995-96)
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• 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 16 states in 2010-11.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• In the last seven seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,000 call-ups involving more than 1,500 players and in 2010-11 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,339 fans per game in 2010-11, marking the seventh consecutive season and the 19th time in the last 21 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.