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593 AHL grads open on NHL rosters

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As it embarks on its historic 75th season, the American Hockey League is proud to boast 593 graduates on National Hockey League opening-day rosters, making up more than 80 percent of the NHL’s player pool to begin the 2010-11 campaign.

Several of last year’s marquee AHL players have made the jump to the NHL as the new season gets underway. After being named the AHL’s outstanding goaltender and leading the Manchester Monarchs to the conference finals last year, Jonathan Bernier earned a spot with the Los Angeles Kings out of training camp. Tyler Ennis, the AHL’s rookie of the year with the Portland Pirates last year, begins his first full NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres. P.K. Subban was a First Team AHL All-Star as a rookie with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2009-10; he opens the season on the blue line for the Montreal Canadiens. 2010 All-Rookie defenseman and Calder Cup champion John Carlson will step in and contribute his skills to the high-powered Washington Capitals, and forwards Lars Eller (Montreal) and Logan Couture (San Jose) also start the year in the NHL after making the AHL All-Rookie Team last season.

Carlson is one of four members of the 2010 Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears beginning the 2010-11 season in the NHL, joining Karl Alzner and Michal Neuvirth in Washington and Kyle Wilson with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There are 23 former AHL head coaches running NHL benches, including Joel Quenneville of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and 2009 Stanley Cup winner Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher and Columbus’s Scott Arniel – the last two winners of the AHL’s coach of the year award – as well as New Jersey’s John MacLean are set to make their NHL head coaching debuts after having apprenticed in the AHL.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams, as well as the NHL’s on-ice officials. By season’s end in 2009-10, more than 85 percent of all NHL players were American Hockey League graduates, including more than 200 former first- and second-round draft picks and more than 300 players who appeared in both leagues last season alone.

The AHL’s 2010-11 regular season is set to begin on Friday night.