PRINCETON, N.J. – Ten players who played all or most of their games in the National Hockey League in 2003-04 played in the ECHL in 2004-05, including Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils, who played for the Alaska Aces in his hometown of Anchorage.
The 2000 NHL Rookie of the Year, Gomez was named the ECHL’s Most Valuable Player and helped Alaska finish atop the National Conference after leading the league with 73 assists and 86 points in 61 games. The 25-year-old Gomez had four points (1g-3a) in four games before being injured in Game 4 of the West Division Semifinals.
“The hockey in the ECHL is just amazing,” Gomez told the Times of Trenton during the 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs. “There are a few guys here that I think will have a shot to play in the NHL.”
In addition to Gomez, the ECHL had Jon “Bates” Battaglia (Mississippi, Colorado and Washington), Curtis Brown (San Diego, Buffalo and San Jose), Eric Boulton (Columbia and Buffalo), Shane Hnidy (Florida, Nashville and Ottawa), Bill Lindsay (Long Beach and Atlanta), Dale Purinton (Victoria and New York Rangers), Phil Sauve (Mississippi and Colorado), Mark Smith (Victoria and San Jose) and Jeremy Stevenson (South Carolina, Minnesota and Nashville).
In 2003-04 in the NHL, the group combined for 131 points (37g-97a) and 659 penalty minutes in 493 regular season games and nine points (1g-8a) and 43 penalty minutes in 43 playoff games. During their careers in the NHL, the 10 have combined for 1,073 points (369g-702a) and 3,884 penalty minutes in 3,136 regular season games and 113 points (40g-73a) and 203 penalty minutes in 279 playoff games.
Bates Battaglia joined his brother Anthony Battaglia in Mississippi and scored 17 points (6g-11a) in 25 regular season games while also playing in all four postseason games for the Sea Wolves. Boulton tied for second on the team with 23 goals and scored 39 points in 48 regular season games with Columbia, and he tied for the team lead with two goals and five points in four postseason games with the Inferno.
Hnidy scored five points (1g-4a) in 19 regular season games with Florida and has three assists in nine postseason games with the Everblades. Lindsay scored 23 points (9g-14a) in 32 regular season games while helping Long Beach reach the postseason where he had four points (2g-2a) in seven games.
Stevenson had 29 points (9g-20a) in 42 regular season games with South Carolina and one goal in three playoff games. Brown scored 38 points (9g-29a) in 47 regular season games with San Diego while Smith had 15 points (6g-9a) in 20 games with Victoria and Purinton had 12 points (3g-9a) in 25 games.
The ECHL had affiliations with 23 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League and with 23 of the 28 teams in the AHL in 2004-05. There were 116 former ECHL players who played in the NHL in 2003-04, bringing the total number of ECHL players to have played at the highest level to 256. Every team in the NHL had a former ECHL player take the ice and there were 40 players who played in the NHL for the first time after playing in the ECHL, surpassing the high of 27 players in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. Eleven players, including eight goaltenders, played in both the ECHL and the NHL in 2003-04, breaking the high of five players in 2001-02.
The ECHL remained the top developmental league for the American Hockey League as evidenced by the more than 78 percent of the roster additions to the 28 teams in the AHL in 2004-05. The ECHL accounted for 355 of the 450 roster additions involving players from the four professional minor leagues in North America. The 28 teams in the ECHL provided 219 of the 267 players who were listed by the AHL as being added to rosters in 2004-05 with the other 39 minor professional teams combining to provide 48 players.