Four former ECHL players have debuted in the National Hockey League in the last six weeks, increasing the number of players to advance to the NHL to 555.
Former Florida Everblades goaltender Rob Zepp made 25 saves in Philadelphia’s 4-3 overtime win at Winnipeg on Dec. 21, becoming the oldest goaltender to win his NHL debut since Hugh Lehman in 1926. Zepp has appeared in six games for the Flyers this season, posting a 3-1-0 record.
Zepp made his professional debut with the Everblades in 2001-02, and appeared in 115 career games with Florida from 2001-05 posting an overall record of 51-41-18 with five shutouts, a 2.89 goals-against average and a save percentage of .913. He also appeared in the 2003 ECHL All-Star Game, and helped lead the Everblades to the 2004 Kelly Cup Finals. He spent the previous nine seasons in Europe before returning to North America this season.
Former Wheeling Nailers center Dominik Uher made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 4-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Dec. 23.
Uher made his pro debut in the ECHL in 2012-13, recording one assist in three games before being recalled to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. A fifth-round selection (144th overall) of the Penguins in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Uher has 40 points (16g-24a) in 165 career games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Former Cincinnati Cyclones defenseman Anthony Bitetto debuted with the Nashville Predators on Jan. 17 in a 5-2 loss at Detroit.
A sixth-round selection (168th overall) of the Predators in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Bitetto had three points (1g-2a) in 23 games with Cincinnati in 2012-13. He has added 65 points (14g-51a) in 150 career games with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
Former Gwinnett Gladiators goaltender Louis Domingue made his NHL debut with Arizona on Jan. 31. Domingue stopped nine of 11 shots in 17:43 of playing time at Ottawa then picked up the win in his first NHL start, making 18 saves in a 3-2 win at Montreal on Feb. 1.
Selected by the Coyotes in the fifth round (138th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Domingue is 25-13-4 in 43 career games with Gwinnett, including a 2-0-0 record this season. He also has seen action in 51 career games with Portland of the American Hockey League.
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 555 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 363 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 299 ECHL players have played their first game in the last 10 seasons for an average of more than 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, Toronto Maple Leafs interim head coach Peter Horachek 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 555 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including 14 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.