PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Greenville Grrrowl left wing Zdenek Blatny became the 212th former East Coast Hockey League player to advance to the National Hockey League when he made his debut with Atlanta on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Blatny did not have a shot on goal in 14 shifts and was even in the Thrashers 5-4 overtime loss to Dallas.
Selected by Atlanta in the third round (68th overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Blatny split his first professional season in 2001-02 with Greenville and Chicago of the American Hockey League. He helped Greenville win the 2002 Kelly Cup Championship scoring 10 points (2g-8a) in nine postseason games after scoring 10 points (5g-5a) in 12 regular season games for the Grrrowl. He helped Chicago win the Calder Cup Championship scoring two goals in three postseason games after scoring seven points (4g-3a) in 41 regular season games with the Wolves.
The Brno, Czech Republic native began 2002-03 with Chicago scoring 18 points (10g-8a) while posting a plus or even rating in 53 of his 64 games.
Blatny becomes the 17th ECHL player to make his NHL debut in 2002-03 joining Francois Beauchemin (Montreal), Joe Corvo (Los Angeles), Fedor Fedorov (Vancouver) Vern Fiddler (Nashville), Brian Finley (Nashville), Ryan Kraft (San Jose), Simon Gamache (Atlanta), Brett McLean (Chicago), Cody Rudkowsky (St. Louis), Curtis Sanford (St. Louis), Mike Siklenka (Philadelphia), Chris Schmidt (Los Angeles), Jerred Smithson (Los Angeles), Tim Thomas (Boston), John Tripp (New York Rangers) and Matt Walker (St. Louis).
There have been 63 former ECHL players that have played in the NHL in 2002-03 and 24 of the 30 teams in the NHL have affiliations with teams in the ECHL. In 2001-02, there were 83 former ECHL players that played in the NHL, including 18 who played in their first NHL game with five of those playing in both the ECHL and NHL during the season.