The ECHL will be represented in the National Hockey League All-Star Game on Sunday by Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. In addition, Nick Johnson of the Minnesota Wild has been selected as a rookie, and will participate in the Skills Competition on Saturday.
Girardi appeared in seven games with Charlotte as a rookie in the 2005-06 season, scoring five points (1g-5a). He debuted with the Rangers the following season, and has tallied 128 points (28g-100a) in 407 career National Hockey League games.
Quick made his professional debut in the ECHL, seeing action in 38 games with Reading in 2007-08. He went 23-11-3 with one shutout, a 2.79 goals-against average and a save percentage of .905. In 222 career NHL games with Los Angeles, Quick is 117-78-21 with 20 shutouts, a 2.34 goals-against average and a save percentage of .916.
In his first professional season in 1997-98, Thomas was 4-1-1 with a goals against of 2.18 and a save percentage of .944 in six regular season games for Birmingham while also playing one game in the International Hockey League with Houston. He also played in Finland where he was 13-4-1 with two shutouts, a goals against of 1.62 and a save percentage of .947 in 18 regular season games for Helsinki. Last season, Thomas set a single-season NHL record with a .938 save percentage on his way to winning his second Vezina Tropy as the league’s top goaltender in the last three seasons. He became the first ECHL alum to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, leading the Bruins to their first title in over 40 years.
Johnson appeared in 18 games with Wheeling during the 2008-09 season, tallying 14 goals and adding 10 assists for 24 points. After splitting the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons with Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, he joined Minnesota prior to the start of this season and has posted 16 points (6g-10a) in 45 games.
There have been 483 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 16 who have played in their first NHL game this season. The ECHL has had 291 players reach the NHL since 2002-03 when it changed its focus to become the primary developmental league for the NHL and the AHL. The ECHL had 97 players reach the NHL in its first 10 seasons and 215 in the first 15 years. There have been 227 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last seven seasons for an average of more than 32 per year.
The ECHL had a record 81 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 79 from a year ago and marking the ninth year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. The ECHL has affiliationswith 26 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 15th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
I currently work for Germain Arena which serves as the home of the ECHL Florida Everblades and from being fortunate enough to watch our own team and others in action I can honestly say the the players within the ECHL are definitely worth watching and keeping an eye out for more to move up into the ranks of the NHL in the coming years.