Countdown to Opening Night

Seven days remain until the puck drops on the American Hockey League’s 69th regular season, with two games scheduled for next Wednesday, October 13. Seven is also the draft position of Cincinnati forward Joffrey Lupul, one of the dozens of first-round draft picks ready to start the 2004-05 season in the AHL.

Nearly two-thirds of the 90 players selected in the first round of the NHL’s Entry Drafts in 2001, 2002 and 2003 are on AHL rosters this preseason, including Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, San Antonio’s Jay Bouwmeester, Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton, Lowell forward Eric Staal and Milwaukee’s Scottie Upshall, a member of the Admirals’ 2004 Calder Cup championship team.

Last season, 235 players who had been selected in the first or second round of an NHL Entry Draft saw the ice in the American Hockey League, an all-time high in the league’s 68 years of existence.

That number could easily be surpassed in 2004-05, as NHL teams are assigning even more of their top prospects to their AHL affiliates so they can continue their development in spite of the NHL work stoppage.

Countdown to Opening Night: 8
Countdown to Opening Night: 9