NHL season opens with 627 AHL grads on rosters

1617nhl_ahlgradsSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … As the National Hockey League opens its 2016-17 season today, the American Hockey League is proud to have 627 graduates on NHL opening-day rosters, making up more than 82 percent of the NHL’s 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. Four months after winning the Calder Cup with the Lake Erie Monsters, Zach Werenski, Josh Anderson, Lukas Sedlak and 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs MVP Oliver Bjorkstrand will start the 2016-17 campaign with the parent Columbus Blue Jackets, while former Monsters head coach Jared Bednar is set to make his NHL debut this weekend at the helm of the Colorado Avalanche – one of 23 former AHL head coaches now running NHL benches.

Seth Griffith, a First Team AHL All-Star after leading the league in assists (53) and ranking second in points (77) for Providence last season, is on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ opening-night roster, where he is joined by defenseman Connor Carrick, who led the entire AHL in postseason scoring with 18 points in 15 games during the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Injured Boston Bruins forward Frank Vatrano and injured Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen were the co-winners of the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the outstanding rookies in the AHL in 2015-16; Derek Grant, who scored 27 goals in just 36 AHL games for Stockton last year, made the Buffalo Sabres’ roster after an impressive training camp; and Shane Harper is poised to make his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers following six seasons and 340 games in the American Hockey League.

Among the NHL stars who developed their skills in the American Hockey League are reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals; 2016 Second Team AHL All-Star and Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins; 2016 NHL All-Rookie Team selections Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers, John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks and Colton Parayko of the St. Louis Blues; and NHL First Team All-Stars Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.

Last season, 880 AHL alumni played in the National Hockey League – 88.8 percent of all NHL players – including 377 who skated in both leagues last year alone.

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. The AHL’s 81st season begins Friday, Oct. 14.