TORONTO – The National Hockey League announced that former ECHL All-Star goaltender Mike Smith has been selected to the 2006-07 NHL All-Rookie Team as determined in voting by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the conclusion of the regular season.
Smith becomes the third former ECHL player to be chosen to the NHL All-Rookie Team. Michael Ryder, who played for both Mississippi and Tallahassee in the ECHL, was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2003-04 and also finished second in voting for NHL Rookie of the Year. Patrick Lalime, who began his career in the ECHL with Hampton Roads, was named to the All-Rookie Team in 1996-97.
The 25-year-old was 12-5-2 with a goals-against average of 2.23 and a save percentage of .912 in 23 games for Dallas. He became the first goaltender in Stars history to record a shutout in his NHL debut, making 22 saves in a 4-0 win at Phoenix on Oct. 21, 2006. He was selected as one of the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ on Nov. 26 after going 3-0-0 with a shutout, a goals-against average of 1.73 and a save percentage of .917 and again on Feb. 12 after he was 3-0-0 with a goals-against average of 0.85 and a save percentage of .967.
As a rookie in 2002-03, Smith was named to the ECHL All-Star Game and was 11-10-4 with a goals-against average of 2.55 and a save percentage of .910 in 27 games with Lexington while also playing in the AHL with Utah where he was 5-5-0 with a goals-against average of 3.23 and a save percentage of .906 in 11 games.
In his third professional start on Oct. 22, 2002, Smith picked up not only his first win and his first shutout, but also scored his first-ever goal in a 2-0 win over Dayton. With Lexington leading 1-0 late in the third period, Dayton dumped the puck behind the net where Smith gained control and flipped it out of the zone. The puck hit in the center face off circle and then slid untouched into the empty net at 19:04. The goal by the then 20-year-old Smith, who is the youngest goaltender ever to score a goal in a professional game, was featured on ESPN’s NHL 2Night.
The ECHL is represented for the seventh consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2007 with Anaheim assistant coach Dave Farrish, players Francois Beauchemin and George Parros and broadcasters John Ahlers and Steve Carroll.
There have been 329 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 47 in 2005-06 and 26 in 2006-07. There have been 184 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past five seasons and 107 former ECHL players have skated in the NHL this season. More than 100 players under contract to NHL teams have played in the ECHL this season.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL had affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2006-07, marking the 10th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. There were two NHL head coaches (Peter Laviolette of Carolina and Jim Playfair of Calgary) and nine NHL assistant coaches who have experience in the ECHL.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in three states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league that will have 25 teams playing in 17 states and British Columbia in 2007-08, including the Mississippi (Biloxi) Sea Wolves, who return after missing two seasons in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Opening Day for the 20th Anniversary Season will be Oct. 18 when the Johnstown Chiefs host the Wheeling Nailers at Cambria County War Memorial. The game is a rematch of Game 7 from the first-ever ECHL Finals played in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Cambria County War Memorial. The two teams will wear throwback jerseys for the Opening Day game that begins at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast worldwide on B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL”. The remaining teams will open their seasons the weekend of Oct. 19-21.
The ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion.
In each of the last two seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL and there were over 800 call-ups involving more than 500 players.
In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.