Former ECHL All-Star Chris Minard scored his first career National Hockey League goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins at 10:03 of the third period in a 7-3 win over Buffalo on Wednesday.
Minard made his NHL debut on Jan. 21 and has two points (1g-1a) in 10 games with the Penguins.
The 26 year old is one of the 350 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after playing in the ECHL and is one of the 21 former ECHL players who have made their NHL debut this season. There have been 205 former ECHL players who have played their first NHL game in the past seven seasons.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL 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 in the NHL.
Minard helped Alaska capture the Kelly Cup in 2005-06 leading the postseason with 14 goals and tying for the lead with three game-winning goals while finishing tied for third with 19 points in 22 games after scoring 42 points (26g-16a) in 33 regular season games. He led the ECHL with 49 goals in 2004-05 while playing alongside Anchorage-born Scott Gomez during the NHL Lockout, finishing second in Most Valuable Player voting the NHL All-Star. Minard was selected to play in the 2006 ECHL All-Star Game as well as being selected First Team All-ECHL and finishing second in voting for ECHL Man of the Year in 2004-05.
He played in the ECHL as a rookie in 2002-03 and had 32 points (15g-17a) and 71 penalty minutes in 72 regular season games and six penalty minutes in four Kelly Cup Playoff games for Pensacola. In three seasons in the ECHL, Minard had 152 points (90g-62a) and 163 penalty minutes in 174 regular season games and 27 points (18g-9a) and 72 penalty minutes 41 games in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
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.
The 21 former ECHL players who have played their first game this season are: 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.