NHL rosters feature 570 AHL grads

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As it embarks on its 74th season of operation, the American Hockey League is proud to boast 570 graduates on National Hockey League opening-day rosters, making up more than 84 percent of the NHL’s player pool to begin the 2009-10 campaign.

Tim Kennedy, who led all AHL rookies in scoring with 67 points for the Portland Pirates last season, begins this year with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. After finishing among the AHL’s top five in goals (37) and points (81) as a 20-year-old with the Hartford Wolf Pack last year, Artem Anisimov breaks camp as a member of the New York Rangers. Johnny Boychuk won the Eddie Shore Award as the outstanding defenseman in the AHL in 2008-09; he begins this season with the Boston Bruins. And Danny Syvret, who joined Boychuk as a First Team AHL All-Star defenseman a year ago, has earned a roster spot with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Five members of the 2009 Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears will begin the 2009-10 season in the NHL: Tyler Sloan and Quintin Laing with the Washington Capitals, Staffan Kronwall with the Calgary Flames, Sami Lepisto with the Phoenix Coyotes, and Chris Bourque with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And after coaching the Bears to the franchise’s second AHL title in four years, Bob Woods was promoted to Washington where he will serve as an assistant to Bruce Boudreau.

There are 21 former AHL head coaches running NHL benches, including Dan Bylsma of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and 2009 Jack Adams Award winner Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins. Minnesota’s Todd Richards and Colorado’s Joe Sacco are set to make their NHL head coaching debuts after having apprenticed in the AHL.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams, as well as the NHL’s on-ice officials. By season’s end in 2008-09, more than 84 percent of all NHL players were American Hockey League graduates, including more than 200 former first- and second-round draft picks and more than 300 players who appeared in both leagues last season alone.