AHL grads help Blackhawks win Stanley Cup

Players, coaches, executives and staff who developed their skills in the American Hockey League will once again be well represented on the Stanley Cup after the Chicago Blackhawks won their second championship in four years on Monday night.

Nineteen of the 24 players who dressed for a postseason game for Chicago were graduates of the AHL, including six who spent time with the Rockford IceHogs in 2012-13.

Goaltender Corey Crawford, who was 16-7 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in the playoffs for Chicago, spent five full seasons in the AHL with the Blackhawks’ affiliates in Norfolk and Rockford from 2005-10, winning at least 22 games each year and compiling a record of 135-98-13 with eight shutouts.

Game 6 hero Dave Bolland, whose goal with 58.3 seconds left in regulation capped the Blackhawks’ late comeback, played 81 AHL games during his first two pro seasons with Norfolk (2006-07) and Rockford (2007-08).

Duncan Keith played two AHL seasons in Norfolk (2003-05) before becoming one of the top defensemen in the NHL, and Bryan Bickell, who tallied nine goals, eight assists and a plus-11 rating in 23 games this postseason, played 228 AHL games over four seasons with Norfolk (2006-07) and Rockford (2007-10).

Blackhawks playoff performers who spent time with the IceHogs earlier this season included Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Nick Leddy, Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith.

Patrick Sharp, one of three former AHL All-Stars on Chicago’s roster, skated three seasons with the Philadelphia Phantoms (2002-05), and tallied 21 points in 21 postseason games as they won the Calder Cup in 2005.

The Blackhawks are led by head coach Joel Quenneville, a former player, assistant coach and head coach in the American Hockey League. Hawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen is also a former player and assistant in the AHL.

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 87 percent of all players competing in the NHL in 2012-13 were AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.