SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues are ready to face off for the Stanley Cup, and the conference champions’ rosters are stocked with AHL All-Stars, Calder Cup winners and other graduates of the American Hockey League.
Boston’s run to their third Eastern Conference championship this decade has featured a roster made up entirely of AHL alumni: every player to appear in a game for the Bruins this season came through the American Hockey League. And of the 23 players with at least one game played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 16 spent time with the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence.
Tuukka Rask, who sports a 1.84 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage this postseason, played 102 AHL games with Providence over the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, and was an AHL All-Star in 2008.
Brad Marchand recorded 59 points as a rookie with Providence in 2008-09, and David Krejci scored 31 goals in his first professional season (2006-07). David Pastrnak was just 18 years old when he made his pro debut with the P-Bruins in 2014-15, notching 28 points in 25 games.
Boston’s Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari all reached the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals with Providence just two years ago, with Heinen capping an All-Star rookie season by leading the team in playoff scoring with 18 points in 17 games.
Defenseman Connor Clifton and forward Karson Kuhlman both spent the majority of the 2018-19 season in Providence before helping Boston reach the Stanley Cup Final. Clifton’s 27 points in 53 games led all P-Bruins defensemen in scoring, and Kuhlman was Providence’s top-scoring rookie with 30 points while leading the entire club in plus/minus (+23).
Behind the bench, head coach Bruce Cassidy spent eight seasons in Providence as an assistant (2008-11) and head coach (2011-16) before being promoted to Boston. Cassidy, who won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach back in 2001-02, guided Providence to the best record in the league in 2012-13.
Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean owns a special place in hockey history: he is one of four players ever to win both the Stanley Cup and the Calder Cup in the same season, accomplishing the feat with the New Jersey Devils and Albany River Rats in 1995.
The Western Conference champion Blues show 18 AHL graduates among their 23 playoff participants and five members of the Blues spent time with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage this season, most notably goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Binnington was one of the AHL’s top netminders this season before his recall to St. Louis on Jan. 5, going 11-4-0 with a 2.08 GAA and a .927 save percentage for the Rampage. An AHL All-Star in 2018 while on loan to the Providence Bruins, Binnington played 164 games in the AHL before breaking out with the Blues.
Sammy Blais appeared in 26 games with San Antonio this season, recording eight goals and 10 assists. Blais, who scored 26 goals as a rookie with the Chicago Wolves in 2016-17, scored a goal in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 6 of the Blues’ second-round series against Dallas.
Binnington’s goaltending partner is Jake Allen, who captured the Baz Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goalie in 2013-14. Allen played 172 games over four seasons with the Blues’ AHL affiliates in Peoria and Chicago before graduating to St. Louis.
Defenseman Vince Dunn was named an AHL All-Star as a rookie in 2016-17, when he tallied 45 points and a plus-15 rating in 72 games with the Wolves. Robert Bortuzzo played 236 games with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and was an AHL All-Star in 2011, and Patrick Maroon skated in 353 games in the American Hockey League over five seasons before becoming a full-time NHL player.
Jay Bouwmeester played in San Antonio before they were the Blues’ affiliate, and represented the Rampage at the 2005 AHL All-Star Classic. Later that season, he reached the Calder Cup Finals as a member of the Chicago Wolves, where they lost to a Philadelphia Phantoms team that included Craig Berube behind the bench as an assistant coach.
Berube, who was elevated to interim head coach of the Blues on Nov. 19, 2018, coached the Wolves to a division title in 2016-17 before joining St. Louis’s staff and spent four seasons (2004-08) with the Phantoms as both an assistant and head coach.
Blues assistant Mike Van Ryn spent last season as head coach of the Tucson Roadrunners, leading them to a Pacific Division title.
The 2019 Stanley Cup Final begins Monday night at TD Garden in Boston.
In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 31 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 18th year in a row, more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games in 2018-19.