630 AHL grads open season in NHL

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As the National Hockey League embarks on its 2013-14 season today, the American Hockey League is proud to have 630 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, including four members of the 2013 Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins who will begin the year on the parent Detroit Red Wings’ active roster: Joakim Andersson, Danny DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff and playoff MVP Tomas Tatar.

Tyler Johnson, who won the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player last season, will open the 2013-14 campaign on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s roster alongside several former Syracuse Crunch teammates, among them Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas.

Chris Brown, who led all AHL rookies with 29 goals for the Portland Pirates last year, starts the 2013-14 season with the Phoenix Coyotes, as does 2013 AHL All-Rookie defenseman Sami Vatanen (Anaheim Ducks) and Second Team AHL All-Star goaltender Curtis McElhinney (Columbus Blue Jackets).

Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are goaltender Corey Crawford of the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks; reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens; 2012-13 NHL scoring champion Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning; 2013 First Team NHL All-Stars Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild; and former AHL All-Stars such as Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Jason Spezza, Zdeno Chara, Cory Schneider, Jimmy Howard and Bobby Ryan.

There are 23 former AHL head coaches running NHL benches to start 2012-13, among them eight former Calder Cup winners. Last season, more than 800 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League, including 346 who skated in both leagues last year alone. Twenty-one AHL graduates led their NHL teams in scoring in 2012-13, 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. The AHL’s 2013-14 season begins Oct. 4.