626 AHL alums on opening NHL rosters

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As the National Hockey League embarks on its 2012-13 season today, the American Hockey League is proud to have 626 graduates on NHL opening-day rosters, making up more than 86 percent of the NHL’s player pool to begin its campaign.

Of those 626 players, 126 appeared in the AHL during the recent NHL lockout.

Several of last year’s notable AHL players have made the jump to the NHL as the new season gets under way. Cory Conacher, who won the Les Cunningham Award (most valuable player), the Dudley “Red” Garrett Award (outstanding rookie) and the Willie Marshall Award (leading goal scorer) with the Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals last season, made the Tampa Bay Lightning out of training camp and is poised to make his NHL debut. Chris Bourque, who won the AHL’s regular-season scoring title in 2011-12, is on the opening-day roster of the Boston Bruins, and Ben Scrivens, whose 2.04 goals-against average last season was tops in the AHL for the Western Conference champion Toronto Marlies, is beginning the season with the parent Maple Leafs.

Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings; reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators; 2012 First Team NHL All-Stars James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators; and former AHL All-Stars such as Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Jason Spezza, Zdeno Chara, Cory Schneider, Jimmy Howard and Kari Lehtonen.

There are 23 former AHL head coaches running NHL benches to start 2012-13, and last season, more than 850 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League, including 329 who skated in both leagues last year alone. Eleven AHL graduates led their NHL teams in scoring, and 28 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. The AHL has reached the midway point of its 2012-13 regular season, and upcoming highlights include the 2013 Capital BlueCross AHL Outdoor Classic at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa., on Sunday evening, and the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic in Providence, R.I., on Jan. 27-28.