PRINCETON, N.J. – The National Hockey League announced that Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who began his professional career in the ECHL with Birmingham, Toronto Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Mike Knuble have been named the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ for the week ending Mar. 2.
The Johnstown Chiefs are the ECHL affiliate of Boston. The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the NHL, marking the 11th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams.
Thomas was named the Second Star after going 3-0-0 with a shutout, a goals-against average of 0.97 and a save percentage of .962 to help the Bruins move into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. After recording his sixth career shutout with 22 saves in a 4-0 win against Ottawa on Feb. 26, Thomas stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Feb. 28 and turned aside 26 shots in a 3-2 shootout win over Atlanta on Mar. 1. He is 23-15-4 with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 2.49 and a save percentage of .922 in 46 games.
In his first professional season in 1997-98, Thomas was 4-1-1 with a goals against of 2.18 and a save percentage of .944 in six regular season games for Birmingham while also playing one game in the International Hockey League with Houston. He also played in Finland where he was 13-4-1 with two shutouts, a goals against of 1.62 and a save percentage of .947 in 18 regular season games for Helsinki.
There have been 350 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 205 who have played their first game in the NHL in the past seven seasons.
Three players this season have played in the ECHL and the NHL with goaltenders Chris Beckford-Tseu, Alaska and St. Louis, and Jonathan Quick, Reading and Los Angeles, and left wing Joe Jensen, Wheeling and Carolina.
There have been 21 former ECHL players who have played their first game this season: former Peoria Rivermen and Alaska Aces goaltender Chris Beckford-Tseu (St. Louis on Feb. 21), former Florida Everblades center David Brine (Florida on Feb. 2), former Idaho Steelheads right wing B.J. Crombeen (Dallas on Jan. 19), former Gwinnett Gladiators left wing Kevin Doell (Atlanta on Jan. 4), former Alaska defenseman Zack FitzGerald (Vancouver on Feb. 5), former Fresno goaltender Thomas Greiss (San Jose on Jan. 14), former Roanoke Express and Wheeling Nailers left wing Jason Jaffray (Vancouver on Dec. 12), former Wheeling Nailers left wing Joe Jensen (Carolina on Feb. 18), former Toledo Storm goaltender Drew MacIntyre (Vancouver on Dec. 13), former San Diego Gulls left wing Cody McLeod (Colorado on Dec. 19), former Alaska Aces and Pensacola Ice Pilots center Chris Minard (Pittsburgh on Jan. 21), former Columbia Inferno center Brandon Nolan (Carolina on Dec. 22), former Johnstown Chiefs and Fresno Falcons goaltender Dmitri Patzold (San Jose on Oct. 7), former Gwinnett Gladiators and Louisiana IceGators left wing Pascal Pelletier (Boston on Jan. 17), former Reading Royals goaltender Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles on Dec. 6), former Stockton Thunder left wing Liam Reddox (Edmonton on Dec. 7), former Gwinnett Gladiators left wing Colin Stuart (Atlanta on Dec. 29), former Columbus Chill, Richmond Renegades and Trenton Titans left wing Pete Vandermeer (Phoenix on Feb. 10), former San Diego goaltender Tyler Weiman (Colorado on Oct. 4), former Charlotte Checkers right wing Craig Weller (Phoenix on Oct. 4) and former Phoenix RoadRunners center Daniel Winnik (Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 4).
There were 26 former ECHL players who made their NHL debut in 2006-07, including goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji and defenseman Bryan Young who played in the ECHL and the NHL. Fukufuji played for Reading in the ECHL and Los Angeles in the NHL while Young skated for Stockton in the ECHL and for Edmonton in the NHL. Dave McKee played for Augusta and dressed for five games as the backup goaltender for Stanley Cup champion Anaheim.
There are 15 coaches in the NHL who have ECHL experience including former Wheeling coach Peter Laviolette, who is head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, and former Mississippi coach Bruce Boudreau, who is head coach of the Washington Capitals.
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.
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league with 25 teams playing 900 games in 17 states and British Columbia in 2007-08.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 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.