PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Phoenix RoadRunners and Utah Grizzlies goaltender Nathan Lawson and former Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Mark Dekancih have increased the number of former ECHL players to play in the National Hockey League to 455.
Lawson made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. The 27 year old made 32 saves on 35 shots in 64:56 of playing time for the Islanders whose lineup also included former ECHL players Trevor Gillies, Zenon Konopka, Andrew MacDonald and P.A. Parenteau. The head coach of the Islanders is former ECHL coach and executive Jack Capuano while former ECHL player and coach Scott Allen is an assistant coach with the club.
The Kalamazoo Wings are the ECHL affiliate of the Islanders and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. The head coach of the Sound Tigers is former ECHL player and coach Pat Bingham.
Lawson began his professional career with Phoenix in 2007-08 appearing in five games with a 3-2-0 record, a 3.01 goals-against average and a save percentage of .910. He was traded to Utah where he saw action in 24 regular-season games posting a 14-7-1 record with one shutout, a goals-against average of 2.89 and a .906 save percentage. Lawson helped lead the Grizzlies to the 2008 National Conference Finals appearing in 10 Kelly Cup Playoff games, and posting a record of 5-4 with two shutouts, a 2.87 goals-against average and a save percentage of .905. The Calgary, Alberta native saw action in three games with the Grizzlies in 2008-09 with a record of 2-0-0, a 2.28 goals-against average and a save percentage of .918. He has spent most of the past three seasons with Bridgeport where he has played in 76 games going 37-29-7 with three shutouts, a 2.53 goals-against average and a save percentage of .920.
Dekanich made his NHL debut with the Nashville Predators on Saturday in a 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The 24 year old made 18 saves on 20 shots in 49:59 of playing time for the Predators whose lineup also included former ECHL players Francis Bouillon and Jerred Smithson. Former ECHL player and coach Peter Horachek is an assistant coach with the Predators.
The Cincinnati Cyclones are the ECHL affiliate of the Predators and the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. Former ECHL coach Ian Herbers is an assistant coach with the Admirals.
Dekanich appeared in two games with Cincinnati in 2009-10 going 2-0-0 with one shutout, a 0.48 goals-against average and a save percentage of .981 earning him ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors for the week of Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2009. A fifth-round selection of the Predators in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Dekanich has spent the previous three seasons with Milwaukee appearing in 96 games with a record of 52-29-9, eight shutouts, a 2.15 goals-against average and a save percentage of .922.
Twelve ECHL players have made their NHL debut this season: former Idaho Steelheads goaltender and 2010 ECHL All-Star Richard Bachman (Dallas on Dec. 11), former Las Vegas Wranglers right wing Adam Cracknell (St. Louis on Dec. 15), former Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Mark Dekanich (Nashville on Dec. 18), former South Carolina Stingrays left wing Stefan Della Rovere (St. Louis on Dec. 1), former Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies and Idaho Steelheads defenseman Brian Fahey (Washington on Oct. 16), former South Carolina Stingrays goaltender and 2010 ECHL All-Star Braden Holtby (Washington on Nov. 7), former Texas Wildcatters left wing Matt Kassian (Minnesota on Nov. 5), former Ontario Reign center Dwight King (Los Angeles on Nov. 17), former Phoenix RoadRunners and Utah Grizzlies goaltender Nathan Lawson (New York Islanders on Dec. 18), former Trenton Titans defenseman Olivier Magnan (New Jersey on Oct. 22), former Trenton Devils center Brad Mills (New Jersey on Oct. 30) and former Alaska Aces right wing Ryan Reaves (St. Louis on Oct. 11).
The ECHL had a record 79 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 78 from a year ago and marking the eighth year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. Every ECHL team has an affiliation with an NHL team and the league has affiliations with 27 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 14th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 455 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including a record 52 who made their debut in 2008-09. The ECHL has had 263 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 199 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last six seasons for an average of more than 33 per year.
There are 30 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, New York Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and St. Louis Blues head coach Davis Payne while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is the sixth 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 21 former ECHL officials are working as part of the NHL officiating team in 2010-11 with referees David Banfield, Francis Charron, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.
The ECHL was represented for the 10th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion with Chicago Blackhawks assistant coaches Mike Haviland and John Torchetti, developmental goaltending coach Wade Flaherty, senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac, general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard and scout Ryan Stewart. There were 35 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fifth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the seventh 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 Apr. 11, 2006 and the 400th was Phil Oreskovic on Mar. 9, 2009 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Former ECHL broadcasters working in the NHL include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Tom Callahan of the Nashville Predators, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues, Jack Michaels of the Edmonton Oilers, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bob McElligott and John Michael of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rob Simpson, who is a producer/host for The NHL Network.
Ryan Stanzel and Jeremy Zager, who were both recipients of the ECHL Media Relations Director of the Year award, are working in the communications department for the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Former ECHL assistant director of communications Joe Siville and Kelly Murray are now with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, respectively, while former ECHL director of communications Jason Rothwell is the creative director for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 and is 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 19 teams in 14 states and British Columbia in 2010-11.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• In the last seven seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,000 call-ups involving more than 1,500 players and in 2009-10 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,486 fans per game in 2009-10, the highest single-season average since 1999-00, and is the only minor professional hockey league to increase average attendance each of the last three seasons. It is the sixth consecutive season and the 18th time in the last 20 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans and the league drew over 3 million fans for the 17th year in a row.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.