622 AHL grads begin season on NHL rosters

Daniel Carr (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As the National Hockey League opens its 2019-20 season today, the American Hockey League is proud to have 622 graduates across the NHL’s 31 opening-day rosters, making up more than 82 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. Carter Verhaeghe, who won the AHL’s scoring title with Syracuse last season, earned a spot on Tampa Bay’s opening-night roster and is poised to make his NHL debut with the Lightning. Daniel Carr, last year’s AHL MVP, begins the 2019-20 season with the Nashville Predators; Cody Glass has made the Vegas Golden Knights roster after an impressive showing during the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs; and Drake Batherson and Erik Brannstrom are now teammates with the Ottawa Senators after standout rookie seasons in the AHL a year ago.

Carr, Batherson and Brannstrom are among 12 players on active NHL opening-night rosters who participated in the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic, a list that also includes Anaheim’s Brendan Guhle, Buffalo’s John Gilmour and Curtis Lazar, Dallas’s Denis Gurianov, Florida’s Sam Montembeault, Los Angeles’s Sean Walker, New Jersey’s Mackenzie Blackwood, the New York Islanders’ Michael Dal Colle, and Toronto’s Trevor Moore.

Twenty-three of the NHL’s 31 head coaches were AHL bench bosses earlier in their careers, including 2019 Stanley Cup champion Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues, 2019 Jack Adams Award recipient Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders, and new Anaheim Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins, who spent the previous four seasons with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov and Vezina Trophy recipient Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning; 2018-19 Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames; and former AHL All-Stars such as New Jersey’s P.K. Subban, St. Louis’s Jordan Binnington, Washington’s Braden Holtby, San Jose’s Logan Couture and Boston’s Tuukka Rask.

Last season, 880 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League – 87.7 percent of all NHL players – including 358 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 84th season begins Friday, October 4.