Harper becomes 600th ECHL player to reach NHL

Former Greenville Road Warriors and Trenton Titans forward Shane Harper became the 600th former ECHL player to reach the National Hockey League on Thursday when he made his debut with the Florida Panthers.

Harper first appeared in the ECHL with Greenville as a rookie in 2010-11, recording 45 points (22g-23a) in 48 regular-season games and adding 10 points (4g-6a) in 11 games during the 2011 Kelly Cup Playoffs. After spending the entire 2011-12 campaign in the American Hockey League, he returned to the ECHL in 2012-13, tallying 27 points (14g-13a) in 15 games with Trenton.

A native of Valencia, Calif., Harper has amassed 161 points (77g-84a) in 340 career American Hockey League games with Adirondack, Chicago and Portland.

The ECHL had 76 players on NHL opening-day rosters, marking the 15th season in a row with more than 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 20th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.

There have been who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 30 who made their debuts in 2015-16. The ECHL has had 408 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 344 ECHL players have played their first game in the last 12 seasons for an average of more than 28 per year.

There are 36 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau, Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma, Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan, Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette and New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. It is the 12th consecutive season that there have been 12 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 32 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2016-17 with referees Jake Brenk, Francis Charron, Tom Chmielewski, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Trent Knorr, Pierre Lambert, Mike Leggo, Dave Lewis, T.J. Luxmore, Peter MacDougall, Wes McCauley, Jon McIsaac, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Graham Skilliter, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Ryan Daisy, Brandon Gawryletz, Matt MacPherson, Brian Mach, Kory Nagy, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.

The ECHL was represented for the 16th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion in 2016 with Pittsburgh Penguins’ player Tom Kuhnhackl, goalie development coach Mike Buckley, Vice President of Hockey Operations Jason Karmanos, Director of Pro Scouting Derek Clancey, Amateur Scout Warren Young, Head Athletic Trainer Chris Stewart and Head Equipment Manager Dana Heinze.  There were 40 former players and 15 coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2016, marking the 11th year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the 13th consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.

The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender 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 April 11, 2006. The 400th was Phil Oreskovic on March 9, 2009 with the Toronto Maple Leafs while the 500th player honor is shared by Anthony Peluso and Darcy Kuemper, who both made their debut on Feb. 12, 2013 with the Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota Wild, respectively.

Former ECHL broadcasters working in the National Hockey League include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Bob McElligott of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jack Michaels of the Edmonton Oilers, Doug Plagens of the Florida Panthers, Brendan Burke of the New York Islanders, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues and Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Former ECHL player Jody Shelley is an analyst with the Blue Jackets.

About the ECHL

Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province for its 29th season in 2016-17. There have been who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their career in the ECHL, including 30 who made their NHL debuts in the 2015-16 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams in 2016-17, marking the 20th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.