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Griffins send 100th graduate to NHL

gr_200.jpgDetroit Red Wings right wing Aaron Downey on Thursday became the 100th former member of the Grand Rapids Griffins to play in the National Hockey League, when he took his first shift against the Dallas Stars in the opening period at Joe Louis Arena.

The Griffins’ 100 alumni over their 13 seasons include 53 forwards, 31 defensemen and 16 goaltenders, many of whom have achieved the NHL’s highest honors.

Twelve Griffins have continued on to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup, including nine who helped Detroit capture the Cup last spring: Valtteri Filppula (no. 75), Darren Helm (92), Jiri Hudler (58), Tomas Kopecky (79), Niklas Kronwall (64), Brett Lebda (70), Darren McCarty (95), Derek Meech (82) and Chris Osgood (72).

Other notable Griffins alumni include:

• Vancouver right wing Pavol Demitra (no. 1), whose 728 games played, 282 goals, 416 assists and 698 points since departing Grand Rapids are the most of any former Griffin. The three-time NHL All-Star won the league’s Lady Byng trophy in 2000;

• Buffalo goalie Patrick Lalime (12), a one-time NHL All-Rookie pick whose return to the league in 1999 was later punctuated by a 2003 NHL All-Star Game selection;

• Ottawa center Jason Spezza (50), who made his pro debut with Grand Rapids in the 2002 Calder Cup Playoffs and remains the highest-drafted player to ever skate for the Griffins (2nd overall by Ottawa in 2001). He played in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game and led the Senators with 92 points last season.

“It’s gratifying to look at that number and realize we’ve had 100 players called up from our organization,” said general manager Bob McNamara, who as the only GM in franchise history has witnessed every alumnus play in a Griffins sweater. “You feel like you’ve at least had a small impact in helping each player get to the next level and reach his potential.”

Forwards Ville Leino and Justin Abdelkader are in line to become graduates numbers 101 and 102 this Saturday when Detroit visits Washington. Leino was recalled by the Red Wings on Thursday, while Abdelkader was summoned on Friday.

Griffins NHL Alumni Chronology
# – Player – NHL Debut/Return
1 – Pavol Demitra – 3/17/97 STL at PHX
2 – Kevyn Adams – 10/1/97 TOR vs. WSH
3 – Tyler Moss – 10/28/97 CGY vs. PIT
4 – Michel Picard – 1/6/98 STL at SJ
5 – Jeff Nelson – 10/10/98 NSH vs. FLA
6 – Patrick Traverse – 10/10/98 OTT at COL
7 – Mark Greig – 1/7/99 PHI vs. NYI
8 – Radim Bicanek – 2/1/99 OTT at VAN
9 – Robert Petrovicky – 2/15/99 TB at NYI
10 – Andrei Vasilyev – 3/5/99 PHX vs. DET
11 – Todd Hlushko – 4/25/99 PIT vs. NJ
12 – Patrick Lalime – 10/2/99 OTT at PHI
13 – Glen Metropolit – 10/2/99 WSH at FLA
14 – Kevin Miller – 10/31/99 OTT at ATL
15 – Karel Rachunek – 10/31/99 OTT at ATL
16 – Erich Goldmann – 11/11/99 OTT vs. NSH
17 – Yves Sarault – 11/20/99 OTT at NJ
18 – John Gruden – 11/30/99 OTT vs. CHI
19 – Mike Fountain – 12/3/99 OTT at NJ
20 – Dave Van Drunen – 12/13/99 OTT at TOR
21 – Petr Schastlivy – 1/3/00 OTT vs. NJ
22 – John Emmons – 1/6/00 OTT vs. PHX
23 – Slava Butsayev – 1/28/00 OTT at BUF
24 – Aris Brimanis – 2/13/00 NYI at NYR
25 – Dieter Kochan – 3/28/00 TB vs. DAL
26 – Jani Hurme – 4/9/00 OTT vs. TB
27 – Shane Hnidy – 10/5/00 OTT at BOS
28 – Donald MacLean – 10/14/00 TOR vs. OTT
29 – David Oliver – 11/4/00 OTT vs. CBJ
30 – Jamie Rivers – 11/12/00 OTT at CAR
31 – Sean Gagnon – 11/26/00 OTT at NYR
32 – Joel Bouchard – 11/29/00 PHX at COL
33 – Mike Crowley – 12/8/00 ANA at MIN
34 – Ivan Ciernik – 1/23/01 OTT at NYI
35 – Darren Rumble – 2/6/01 STL at COL
36 – Joel Kwiatkowski – 2/19/01 OTT at BUF
37 – Todd White – 2/19/01 OTT at BUF
38 – Chris Neil – 10/3/01 OTT at TOR
39 – Toni Dahlman – 1/3/02 OTT vs. WSH
40 – Steve Martins – 1/11/02 OTT at FLA
41 – Kip Miller – 1/17/02 NYI at SJ
42 – Jody Hull – 2/4/02 OTT at TB
43 – Dmitry Afanasenkov – 2/6/02 TB at FLA
44 – Simon Lajeunesse – 3/7/02 OTT at SJ
45 – Martin Prusek – 3/23/02 OTT vs. ATL
46 – Chris Bala – 3/27/02 OTT at NYI
47 – Neil Little – 3/28/02 PHI at CAR
48 – Josh Langfeld – 3/30/02 OTT vs. TB
49 – Gaetan Royer – 4/1/02 TB vs. NYR
50 – Jason Spezza – 10/24/02 OTT at BOS
51 – Sean Avery – 10/29/02 DET vs. SJ
52 – Jason Doig – 12/3/02 WSH at PIT
53 – Jason Williams – 12/5/02 DET at PHX
54 – Patrick Boileau – 12/19/02 DET vs. DAL
55 – Stacy Roest – 2/20/03 DET vs. EDM
56 – Wade Brookbank – 10/9/03 NSH vs. ANA
57 – Julien Vauclair – 10/25/03 OTT at MTL
58 – Jiri Hudler – 10/29/03 DET vs. STL
59 – Curtis Joseph – 10/30/03 DET at NSH
60 – Darryl Bootland – 11/8/03 DET vs. NSH
61 – Mark Mowers – 11/19/03 DET vs. CBJ
62 – Nathan Robinson – 11/28/03 DET vs. NYI
63 – Blake Sloan – 12/4/03 DAL at LA
64 – Niklas Kronwall – 12/10/03 DET at BUF
65 – Ryan Barnes – 12/15/03 DET vs. FLA
66 – Chris Kelly – 2/5/04 OTT vs. TOR
67 – Marc Lamothe – 2/23/04 DET at EDM
68 – Anders Myrvold – 2/26/04 DET at CGY
69 – Mathieu Chouinard – 2/29/04 LA at ANA
70 – Brett Lebda – 10/5/05 DET vs. STL
71 – Mark Eaton – 10/5/05 NSH vs. SJ
72 – Chris Osgood – 10/29/05 DET at CHI
73 – Kyle Quincey – 11/25/05 DET at ANA
74 – Jimmy Howard – 11/28/05 DET at LA
75 – Valtteri Filppula – 12/15/05 DET at FLA
76 – Rob Collins – 12/17/05 NYI vs. COL
77 – Manny Legace – 1/5/06 DET vs. STL
78 – David Gove – 1/31/06 CAR at MTL
79 – Tomas Kopecky – 2/28/06 DET at SJ
80 – Alexandre Giroux – 3/25/06 NYR at TB
81 – Joey MacDonald – 10/19/06 DET at SJ
82 – Derek Meech – 12/7/06 DET vs. STL
83 – Matt Ellis – 12/18/06 DET at CBJ
84 – Matt Hussey – 1/26/07 DET at STL
85 – Sheldon Brookbank – 2/6/07 NSH at PIT
86 – Danny Syvret – 2/27/07 EDM vs. PHX
87 – Mark Hartigan – 11/29/07 DET vs. TB
88 – Drew MacIntyre – 12/13/07 VAN at SJ
89 – Peter Vandermeer – 2/10/08 PHX vs. NSH
90 – Jonathan Ericsson – 2/22/08 DET at CGY
91 – Garrett Stafford – 2/23/08 DET at VAN
92 – Darren Helm – 3/13/08 DET vs. DAL
93 – Mattias Ritola – 3/15/08 DET vs. NSH
94 – Clay Wilson – 3/25/08 CBJ at NSH
95 – Darren McCarty – 3/28/08 DET vs. STL
96 – Krys Kolanos – 11/4/08 MIN at SJ
97 – Landon Wilson – 11/22/08 DAL vs. ANA
98 – Bryan Helmer – 11/28/08 WSH vs. MTL
99 – Chris Chelios – 12/13/08 DET at PHX
100 – Aaron Downey – 1/29/09 DET vs. DAL

Griffins NHL Alumni – By the Numbers
Griffins graduates by season – 1996-97: 1; 1997-98: 3; 1998-99: 7; 1999-00: 15; 2000-01: 11; 2001-02: 12; 2002-03: 6; 2003-04: 14; 2004-05: 0 (NHL Lockout); 2005-06: 11; 2006-07: 6; 2007-08: 9; 2008-09: 5

Griffins graduates by NHL team (first NHL team after playing for Grand Rapids) – Detroit: 32; Ottawa: 32; Nashville and Tampa Bay: 4; New York Islanders, Phoenix, St. Louis and Washington: 3; Dallas, Philadelphia and Toronto: 2; Anaheim, Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh and Vancouver: 1

1 – NHL team, out of 30, which has never had a former Griffin play for it – Colorado

2 – Sets of brothers who have played in the NHL after suiting up for the Griffins – Kevin and Kip Miller and Sheldon and Wade Brookbank

3 – Griffins games played by Ottawa Senators star Jason Spezza while making his pro debut with Grand Rapids during its 2002 Calder Cup Playoff series against Chicago. He scored his first pro goal as a Griffin then later became the team’s 50th NHL graduate.

5 – One-hit wonders (played in exactly one NHL game) – Mathieu Chouinard, Erich Goldmann, Simon Lajeunesse, Dave Van Drunen and Julien Vauclair

5 – Established NHL players who spent conditioning stints with the Griffins before returning to their NHL clubs – Chris Chelios, Jody Hull, Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace and Chris Osgood

6 – Different NHL teams that Kevyn Adams, Glen Metropolit and Jamie Rivers have gone on to play for, the most of any Griffins alumni

12 – Griffins who’ve gone on to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup – Dmitry Afanasenkov and Darren Rumble (2004 Tampa Bay); Kevyn Adams (2006 Carolina); and Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda, Darren McCarty, Derek Meech and Chris Osgood (2008 Detroit). A total of 15 former Griffins were on the Red Wings’ playoff roster last spring, including Mark Hartigan and “black aces” Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey and Mattias Ritola.

15 – Record number of Griffins alumni who graduated to the NHL during the 1999-2000 season

16 – Griffins goalies who’ve gone on to play in the NHL

17 – Players on the Griffins’ 2005-06 AHL regular season championship squad who’ve since played in the NHL – Darryl Bootland, Matt Ellis, Valtteri Filppula, Bryan Helmer, Jimmy Howard, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda, Manny Legace, Joey MacDonald, Drew MacIntyre, Donald MacLean, Derek Meech, Chris Osgood, Kyle Quincey and Clay Wilson

19 – Record number of NHL teams that had a former Griffin play for them at some point during the 2007-08 season

31 – Griffins defensemen who’ve gone on to play in the NHL

34 – Griffins alumni who’ve played in the NHL this season

36 – Griffins who’ve earned their Wings (gone on to play for Detroit) – Sean Avery, Ryan Barnes, Patrick Boileau, Darryl Bootland, Chris Chelios, Aaron Downey, Matt Ellis, Jonathan Ericsson, Valtteri Filppula, Mark Hartigan, Darren Helm, Jimmy Howard, Jiri Hudler, Matt Hussey, Curtis Joseph, Tomas Kopecky, Niklas Kronwall, Marc Lamothe, Josh Langfeld, Brett Lebda, Manny Legace, Joey MacDonald, Donald MacLean, Darren McCarty, Derek Meech, Kevin Miller, Mark Mowers, Anders Myrvold, Chris Osgood, Kyle Quincey, Mattias Ritola, Jamie Rivers, Nathan Robinson, Stacy Roest, Garrett Stafford, Jason Williams

44 – Record number of former Griffins who appeared in an NHL contest during the 2003-04 season

48 – Players who’ve made their NHL debuts after playing for the Griffins, including 30 who made their debut during the same season they played in Grand Rapids

52 – Players who’ve used their time with the Griffins as a springboard for returning to the NHL

53 – Griffins forwards who’ve gone on to play in the NHL

728 – Record number of NHL games played by the Griffins’ first graduate, Pavol Demitra, since departing Grand Rapids in 1997. The three-time NHL All-Star and current Vancouver Canuck also stands first among former Griffins with 282 goals, 416 assists and 698 points in the NHL since leaving the organization.