597 AHL grads begin season on NHL rosters

Cole Perfetti (Photo: John Delaney/NHLI via Getty Images)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As the National Hockey League opens its 2021-22 season tonight, the American Hockey League is proud to have 597 graduates across the NHL’s 32 opening-day active rosters, making up more than 82 percent of the NHL’s initial player pool to begin its campaign.

Many of last year’s notable AHL players have made the jump to the NHL as the new season gets underway. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning began 2021-22 with a roster that includes forwards Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk, who are both looking to make their NHL debuts after earning selections to the North Division AHL All-Star Team with Syracuse in 2020-21.

Tyler Benson, who tied for third in the AHL scoring race with 36 points in 36 games for Bakersfield last season, begins the year with the Edmonton Oilers; Dan Vladar, one of the AHL’s top goaltenders the last two seasons with Providence, has earned a spot with the Calgary Flames this fall; and 2020-21 rookie standouts Jack Dugan (Vegas), Phil Tomasino (Nashville), Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (Anaheim), Cole Perfetti (Winnipeg) and Drew O’Connor (Pittsburgh) all find their names on opening-night NHL rosters.

Twenty-one of the NHL’s 32 head coaches were AHL bench bosses earlier in their careers, including Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper, the New York Islanders’ Barry Trotz, Colorado’s Jared Bednar, Toronto’s Sheldon Keefe, Washington’s Peter Laviolette, Detroit’s Jeff Blashill and Los Angeles’s Todd McLellan – all Calder Cup champions during their AHL tenures.

Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury of the Chicago Blackhawks; Bill Masterton Trophy winner Oskar Lindblom of the Philadelphia Flyers; Conn Smythe Trophy recipient Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning; and former AHL All-Stars such as Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, Vegas’s Jonathan Marchessault, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, and Seattle’s Philipp Grubauer.

Last season, 890 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League – 87.7 percent of all NHL players – including 268 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 32 teams. The AHL’s 86th season begins Friday, October 15.