PRINCETON, N.J. – Five former ECHL players are on the rosters for the 2004 American Hockey League All-Star Classic scheduled for Sunday and Monday in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Canadian AHL All-Star roster features defensemen Terry Virtue and Brandon Smith and forward Nathan Robinson while the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star roster includes defenseman Andrew Hutchinson and goaltender Rastislav Stana.
Because he led Houston to the AHL Championship in 2003, Todd McLellan will serve as head coach for the Canadian AHL All-Star team. Matt Shaw, who coached Mobile of the ECHL in 1997-98, as an assistant coach, the same role he has in Houston.
Jaroslav Obsut, who played in the ECHL from 1996-2001 with Toledo, Raleigh, Augusta and Peoria, was originally named to the PlanetUSA roster, but will be unable to play because of injury.
The 2004 AHL All-Star Skills Competition is Sunday at 7 p.m. ET and the 2004 AHL All-Star Game is Monday at 7 p.m. ET at Van Andel Arena, home of the Grand Rapids Griffins. For more information fans can visit www.theahl.com.
Hutchinson, who became the 218th former ECHL player to advance to the NHL making his debut with Nashville in October, has scored 13 points (6g-7a) in 23 games with Milwaukee while also scoring four points in 12 games with Nashville. Selected by Nashville in the second round (54th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Hutchinson scored seven points (2g-5a) in 10 games with Toledo in 2002-03. The 6-2 and 185-pound Hutchinson scored 26 points (9g-17a) in 63 regular season games and one goal in three postseason games with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League in 2002-03.
Stana, who made his first NHL appearance with Washington in November, is 8-3-3 with a 1.42 goals against average and a .952 save percentage in 21 games with Portland and 1-2-0 with a 3.13 goals against average and a .890 save percentage in six games with Washington. Stana, who is the first Slovakian-born goalie to win an NHL game, represented his native Slovakia in the 2002 Winter Olympics and in the World Championships in both 2002 and 2003, winning a gold medal in the 2002 World Championships. Selected in the seventh round (193rd overall) by Washington in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, the 6-2 and 184-pound Stana was 20-12-3 with a shutout, a 2.72 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in 36 games with Richmond in 2001-02. He also appeared in three games with Portland going 1-2-0 with a 3.66 goals against average. The 23-year-old began his professional career in 2000-01 going 15-16-2 with a 2.56 goals against average, sixth in the ECHL, a shutout and a .914 save percentage in 38 games with Richmond. The Kosice, Slovakia native was 0-2-1 with a 4.09 goals against average in three games with Portland in 2000-01.
Robinson, who became the 225th former ECHL player to advance to the National Hockey League when he made his debut with Detroit in November, has scored 40 points (21g-19a) in 45 games with Grand Rapids in 2003-04 while also appearing in five games with Detroit. In his first professional season in 2002-03, the 21-year-old Robinson scored 14 points (5g-9a) in nine games with Toledo and was named InGlasCo ECHL Player of the Week for February 24-March 2 after scoring seven points (4g-3a) in four games. Signed as a free agent following the Red Wings training camp in 2002, Robinson also played for Grand Rapids in 2002-03 scoring 17 points (3g-14a) in 53 regular season games and had three assists in eight playoff games.
Selected to captain the Canadian team, seven years after making his first AHL All-Star Classic appearance in 1997, Virtue began his professional career in the ECHL in 1991-92 scoring 26 points (4g-22a) in 38 regular season games with Roanoke Valley and 16 points (1g-15a) in 23 regular season games and eight points (0g-8a) in 13 playoff games with Louisville. He scored 17 points (0g-17a) in 28 regular season games with Louisville in 1992-93 and 18 points (3g-15a) in 31 regular season games and eight points (3g-5a) in 16 playoff games for Wheeling. He scored 33 points (5g-28a) in 34 regular season games and four points (2g-2a) in six playoff games for Wheeling in 1993-94 while also scoring 10 points (4g-6a) in 26 regular season games and appearing in five playoff games with Cape Breton of the AHL.
There are eight former ECHL coaches who are head coaches in the AHL: Scott Allen (San Antonio), Bruce Boudreau (Manchester), Scott Gordon (Providence), Don Granato (Worcester), Claude Noel (Milwaukee), Roy Sommer (Cleveland), Doug Shedden (St. John’s), and Geoff Ward (Toronto). Serving as assistant coaches in the AHL are David Baseggio (Bridgeport), Nick Fotiu (Hartford), Greg Ireland (Grand Rapids), Mark Kumpel (Portland), Kjell Samuelsson (Philadelphia), and Matt Shaw (Houston) . Former ECHL player David Cunniff is an assistant coach for Cleveland. There are former ECHL coaches behind the bench of 14 of the 28 AHL teams, and the ECHL has affiliation agreements with 21 of the 28 teams in the AHL in 2003-04. The ECHL had 450 call ups to the AHL in 2002-03, the most since a record 453 call ups to the 19 teams of the AHL and the 13 teams of the International Hockey League in 1999-2000.
For the 14th consecutive year, a former ECHL player was a member of the AHL Calder Cup Champion. In 2003, Houston had five former ECHL players including playoff MVP Johan Holmqvist on its roster.