SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As the National Hockey League embarks on its 2015-16 season today, the American Hockey League is proud to have 628 graduates on NHL opening-day rosters, making up more than 84 percent of the NHL’s player pool to begin its campaign.
Several of last year’s notable AHL players have made the jump to the NHL as the new season gets underway. Four months removed from capturing the Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs, Derek Forbort, Nick Shore, Jeff Schultz and 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs MVP Jordan Weal will start the 2015-16 campaign with the Los Angeles Kings, while former teammates Jean-Francois Berube (New York Islanders), Colin Miller (Boston Bruins) and regular-season MVP Brian O’Neill (New Jersey Devils) are also on NHL rosters to begin the year.
Teemu Pulkkinen begins the year with the Detroit Red Wings after leading the AHL with 34 goals in just 46 games last season; Jacob Markstrom is with the Vancouver Canucks after backstopping Utica to the Calder Cup Finals, and Chris Wideman – the 2014-15 Eddie Shore Award winner as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman – and Second Team AHL All-Star Shane Prince both earned spots with the Ottawa Senators.
Jeff Blashill, the AHL’s coach of the year in 2013-14 and a Calder Cup winner with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2012-13, is the new head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, one of 21 former AHL bench bosses currently leading NHL teams. John Hynes, who led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to at least the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of his five seasons, is set to make his NHL debut at the helm of the New Jersey Devils.
Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens; 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks; 2014-15 NHL scoring champion Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars; two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators; as well as former AHL All-Stars including Tyler Johnson, P.K. Subban, Jiri Hudler, Zdeno Chara, Petr Mrazek and Mats Zuccarello.
Last season, 865 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League – 88.8 percent of all NHL players – including 341 who skated in both leagues last year alone. Seventeen AHL graduates led their NHL teams in scoring in 2014-15, 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’s 80th-anniversary season begins Friday, Oct. 9.