PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Greenville and Gwinnett goaltender Michael Garnett made his National Hockey League debut on Wednesday in Atlanta’s 2-0 loss to Montreal, becoming the 261st player to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL.
Entering the game in the first period following an injury to Mike Dunham, the 22-year-old stopped 23 shots through two periods to keep the game 1-0 and finished with 29 saves on 30 shots.
Selected in the third round (80th overall) by Atlanta in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Garnett began his professional career in the ECHL with Greenville in 2002-03 and was 16-15-3 with a goals-against average of 3.41 and a save percentage of .895 in 38 regular season games and 1-2 in three Kelly Cup Playoff games while also playing in two games with Chicago of the American Hockey League.
The 6-foot-1 and 200-pound Garnett returned to the ECHL in 2003-04 and was selected to the ECHL All-Star Game while going 21-10-2 with four shutouts, a save percentage of .926 and ranked third in the league with a goals-against average of 2.14 in 33 regular season games with Gwinnett. He was 7-5 with a goals-against average of 2.65 in 12 Kelly Cup Playoff games as the Gladiators reached the conference finals and also played in the AHL with Chicago where he was 7-3-2 with a goals-against average of 2.63 and a save percentage of .914 in 13 games.
In 2004-05 with Chicago of the AHL, Garnett was 11-9-0 with one shutout, a goals-against average of 2.86 and a save percentage of .911 in 24 regular season games.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the NHL and there is one head coach, 12 assistant coaches, 12 referees and five linesmen working in the NHL in 2005-06 who have ECHL experience. There have been five players in 2005-06 that have made their first NHL appearance since playing in the ECHL: Derek Boogaard (Minnesota on October 5), Michael Garnett (Atlanta on October 12), Raitis Ivanans (Montreal on October 8), George Parros (Los Angeles on October 5) and Mark Streit (Montreal on October 8).