Five former ECHL players have debuted in the National Hockey League in October, increasing the number of players to advance to the NHL to 546.
Former Elmira Jackals, Bakersfield Condors and Chicago Express center Bobby Robins made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins in a 2-1 win against Philadelphia on Oct. 8. Robins registered five hits and had seven penalty minutes in his debut, and has posted 14 penalty minutes in three games with the Burins this season.
Robins tallied 35 points (18g-17a) in 68 games with Elmira in 2007-08 and then spent two seasons in Europe before returning to the ECHL with Bakersfield in 2010-11 where he posted 27 points (14g-13) in 46 games. He saw action in 28 games with Chicago in 2011-12, scoring 15 points (7g-8a). The 33-year-old has recorded 87 points (22g-65a) in 282 career American Hockey League games with Binghamton, Rochester, Albany, Syracuse, Abbotsford and Providence.
Former Toledo Walleye right wing Andrej Nestrasil appeared in his first NHL game with the Detroit Red Wings in a 2-1 victory against Boston on Oct. 9. Nestrasil has picked up one assist in nine games with the Red Wings this season.
A third-round selection (75th overall) of the Red Wings in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Nestrasil tallied 29 points (7g-22a) in 51 games with Toledo in 2011-12 before recording 41 points (11g-30a) in 40 games with the Walleye in 2012-13. The 23-year-old has added 46 points (22g-24a) in 120 career games with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.
Former Florida Everblades’ center Brody Sutter made his NHL debut for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 2-1 shootout loss against the New York Rangers on Oct. 16.
A seventh-round selection (193rd overall) by the Hurricanes in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Sutter posted 16 points (8g-8a) in 33 games with the Everblades in 2012-13 and he has added 35 points (13g-22a) in 101 career games with Charlotte of the American Hockey League.
Former Reading Royals and Toledo Walleye center Justin Hodgman scored a goal in his NHL debut with the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 25 against Florida.
Hodgman, who notched 22 points (9g-13a) in 36 games with the Royals and Walleye in 2009-10 and 2010-11, spent the previous three seasons in Europe before returning to North America this season. The 26-year-old has 41 points (19g-22a) in 83 career AHL games with Toronto and Portland.
Former Florida Everblades, Wheeling Nailers and Cincinnati Cyclones’ goaltender Scott Darling saw his first NHL action for the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 26 against Ottawa, stopping 32 shots in a 2-1 win. In three games with the Blackhawks this season, Darling is 2-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and a save percentage of .933.
The first SPHL player to ever reach the NHL, Darling went 17-14-4 in 39 career ECHL appearances with a 2.83 goals-against average and a save percentage of .906. He also has appeared in 29 career AHL games with Hamilton, Milwaukee and Rockford.
The ECHL had 72 former players on NHL opening-day rosters, marking the 12th year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. The ECHL has affiliations with 29 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 18th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 546 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 29 who made their NHL debuts in 2013-14. The ECHL has had 354 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 290 ECHL players have played their first game in the last 10 seasons for an average of 29 per year.
There are 23 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano and Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette. It is the 10th 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 27 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2014-15 with referees Darcy Burchell, Francis Charron, Tom Chmielewski, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Trent Knorr, Mike Leggo, Dave Lewis, T.J. Luxmore, 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, Matt MacPherson, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.
The ECHL was represented for the 14th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion in 2014 with Los Angeles Kings assistant coach Davis Payne, players Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Martin Jones, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Jonathan Quick; manager of communications and broadcasting Jeremy Zager; and scouts Mark Mullen and Mark Yannetti.. There were 49 former players and 19 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the ninth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the 11th 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, Josh Bogorad of the Dallas Stars, 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, who was a recipient of the ECHL Media Relations Director of the Year award, works in the communications department for the Minnesota Wild while former ECHL assistant director of communications Joe Siville works in the communications department for the Philadelphia Flyers.
About the ECHL
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 21 teams in 14 states for its 27th season in 2014-15. There have been 546 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including five who have made their NHL debuts in the 2014-15 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 29 of the 30 NHL teams in 2014-15, marking the 18th 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.