SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As it embarks on its 76th season, the American Hockey League is proud to have 607 graduates on National Hockey League opening-day rosters, making up nearly 83 percent of the NHL’s player pool to begin the 2011-12 campaign.
Several of last year’s notable AHL players have made the jump to the NHL as the new season gets under way. Last year’s AHL rookie of the year Luke Adam begins the 2011-12 season with the Buffalo Sabres, where he joins last year’s outstanding AHL defenseman, Marc-Andre Gragnani. An All-Rookie selection with Charlotte last season, Zac Dalpe earned a spot with the Carolina Hurricanes out of training camp, and several key members of the 2011 Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators – including Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Jared Cowen, Colin Greening and Zack Smith – begin the new year in the NHL with Ottawa.
Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, last year’s Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player; Lady Byng Trophy winner Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning; Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks; and Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who took home both the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading the B’s to a Stanley Cup championship. Three members of the 2010 AHL All-Rookie Team – John Carlson, P.K. Subban and Logan Couture – duplicated the feat in the NHL last season, and former Calder Cup finalists Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne were named to the First and Second NHL All-Star teams, respectively.
There are 23 former AHL head coaches running NHL benches to start 2011-12, including the last seven Stanley Cup winners. Four new NHL head coaches were promoted from the AHL ranks during this past offseason: Florida’s Kevin Dineen, Dallas’s Glen Gulutzan, Minnesota’s Mike Yeo and Winnipeg’s Claude Noel.
In 2010-11, more than 850 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League, including 320 who skated in both leagues last year alone. Sixteen AHL graduates led their NHL teams in scoring, and 27 AHL goaltending alumni paced their NHL clubs in victories.
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 2011-12 regular season is set to begin on Friday night.