660 AHL grads begin 2018-19 season on NHL rosters

Photo: Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As the National Hockey League opens its 2018-19 season today, the American Hockey League is proud to have 660 graduates across the NHL’s 31 opening-day rosters, making up more than 83 percent of the NHL’s initial 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. Six members of the 2018 Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies begin the year with the parent Toronto Maple Leafs, including playoff MVP Andreas Johnsson and Baz Bastien Award winner Garret Sparks. Jacob MacDonald, like Sparks a First Team AHL All-Star last season, is poised to make his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers, and Valentin Zykov, who captured the Willie Marshall Award after leading the AHL in goal-scoring last season, begins the season with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The NHL’s active opening-night rosters also feature 11 players who participated in the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic, including Arizona’s Dylan Strome, Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark, Calgary’s Austin Czarnik, Carolina’s Warren Foegele, Edmonton’s Ty Rattie, Philadelphia’s Oskar Lindblom, Pittsburgh’s Daniel Sprong and Toronto’s Justin Holl.

Twenty-three of the NHL’s 31 head coaches were AHL bench bosses earlier in their careers, including the New York Islanders’ Barry Trotz, Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan, Nashville’s Peter Laviolette, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, Toronto’s Mike Babcock, Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle, Montreal’s Claude Julien and Columbus’s John Tortorella, all former Stanley Cup champions.

Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils; 2017-18 Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators; 2017-18 First Team NHL All-Star Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning; and former AHL All-Stars such as Nashville’s P.K. Subban, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, and Braden Holtby and John Carlson of the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

Last season, 856 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League – 86.9 percent of all NHL players – including 328 who skated in both leagues last year alone.

In operation since 1936, the AHL serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives, broadcasters and officials of the National Hockey League and its 31 teams. The AHL’s 83rd season begins Friday, October 5.