Every pro hockey player who makes it to the National Hockey League will always remember his first-ever NHL goal, and on Wednesday night, four recent American Hockey League graduates all experienced that thrill, including three – Carolina’s Jon Matsumoto, New Jersey’s Brad Mills, and Anaheim’s Kyle Palmieri – who were just called up within the past week. Boston forward Brad Marchand also nabbed his first NHL marker on Wednesday.
A 2010 AHL All-Star, Matsumoto put up 20, 29, and 30 goals during his first three pro seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliates before signing with Carolina last summer. After racking up nine points (3-6-9) in 10 games with the Charlotte Checkers, Matsumoto earned his first NHL call-up on Sunday and then scored his first two NHL goals last night in the Hurricanes’ 7-2 win over the N.Y. Islanders.
Mills became the ninth player this season to suit up for both the Albany and New Jersey Devils on Saturday when he made his NHL debut in the big club’s 3-1 loss at Los Angeles. On Wednesday, Mills beat Chicago goaltender Marty Turco for his first NHL tally, helping the Devils to a 5-3 road victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
A 19-year-old rookie and first-round draft pick by Anaheim in 2009, Palmieri was already coming off a memorable week which saw him rack up five goals and six points for Syracuse en route to earning Reebok/AHL Player of the Week honors. That led to an NHL call-up on Wednesday, and Palmieri celebrated by scoring the game-tying goal for the Ducks with just 4:20 to play in regulation, sending Anaheim on its way to a 3-2 overtime victory vs. previously red-hot Tampa Bay.
Marchand spent all of the 2008-09 season and half of 2009-10 with the Providence Bruins before sticking with the big club in Boston out of training camp this year. In his ninth game of the year and 29th NHL contest overall, the 22-year-old beat another recent AHL call-up – Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth – for a shorthanded tally early in the first period Wednesday to finally get into the NHL goal-scoring column. Marchand later added an assist as the Bruins went on to win the game, 5-2.