Record Nine Players Appear In ECHL, NHL In 2003-04
PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Florence goaltender Matt Underhill made his National Hockey League debut on Sunday with the Chicago Blackhawks. Underhill started and made 29 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton.
Underhill signed a free agent contract with Chicago on Thursday. He was called up from Florence to Norfolk of the American Hockey League on February 20, but did not appear in a game with the Admirals before signing with Chicago.
Selected by Calgary in the sixth round (170th overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the 24-year-old Underhill is 9-14-3 with a 3.57 goals against average and a .892 save percentage in 27 games with Florence in 2003-04. He also appeared in four games with Manchester of the AHL going 2-2-0 with a 2.90 goals against average.
Named to the ECHL All-Star Game in his first professional season in 2002-03, Underhill was 16-13-2 with a 2.81 goals against average in 33 games with Pee Dee of the ECHL and also appeared in seven games with Providence of the AHL going 3-3-1 with a 3.08 goals against average.
Underhill becomes the ninth player and seventh goaltender to play in both the ECHL and the NHL in 2003-04, surpassing the previous high of five players that played in both leagues in 2001-02. Underhill joins Andy Chiodo (Wheeling and Pittsburgh), Mathieu Chouinard (Reading and Los Angeles), Benoit Dusablon (Charlotte and New York Rangers), Dan Ellis (Idaho and Dallas), Arturs Irbe (Johnstown and Carolina), Adam Munro (Gwinnett and Chicago), Dany Sabourin (Las Vegas and Calgary) and Jeremy Yablonski (Peoria and St. Louis).
There have been 32 players in 2003-04 that have made their first NHL appearance since playing in the ECHL. Underhill becomes the 31st ECHL player to make his NHL debut in 2003-04 joining Johnathan Aitken (Chicago on November 26), Ryan Barnes (Detroit on December 15), Mike Bishai (Edmonton on January 29), Darryl Bootland (Detroit on November 8), Garrett Burnett (Anaheim on October 8), Andy Chiodo (Pittsburgh on February 18), Mathieu Chouinard (Los Angeles on February 29), Carl Corazzini (Boston on January 15), Benoit Dusablon (New York Rangers on March 4), Dan Ellis (Dallas on February 18), Mike Green (Florida on February 3), Andrew Hutchinson (Nashville on October 18), Boyd Kane (Philadelphia on October 16), Quintin Laing (Chicago on February 29), Cory Larose (New York Rangers on February 16), Patrick Leahy (Boston on December 6), Steve McLaren (St. Louis on December 16), Jason MacDonald (New York Rangers on December 12), Graham Mink (Washington on February 3), Adam Munro (Chicago on March 1), Lawrence Nycholat (New York Rangers on January 20), Pat Rissmiller (San Jose on November 13), Nathan Robinson (Detroit on November 28), Michael Ryder (Montreal on October 9), Dany Sabourin (Calgary on October 29), Rob Skrlac (New Jersey on December 13), Rastislav Stana (Washington on November 14), Mike Stuart (St. Louis on October 24), Darcy Verot (Washington on January 1), and Jeremy Yablonski (St. Louis on December 30). Travis Brigley, who played for Macon of the ECHL in 2001-02, played for Colorado on October 26.
There have been 97 ECHL players that have played in the NHL in 2003-04 including 29 goaltenders which is more than 32 percent of the goaltenders that have appeared in an NHL game this season. There were 53 former ECHL players on NHL opening-day rosters surpassing the record of 50 players set in 2002-03. There are nine ECHL coaches in the NHL, including Carolina Hurricanes Head Coach Peter Laviolette and Florida Panthers Interim Head Coach John Torchetti, and there are 13 referees and three linesmen with ECHL experience on the 2003-04 NHL officiating staff. The ECHL has affiliations with 21 of the 30 teams in the NHL in 2003-04 and there has been an ECHL player on each of the 30 NHL teams in 2003-04.