Matt Watkins of the Las Vegas Wranglers Becomes the 487th ECHL player to reach NHL!

Former Las Vegas Wranglers right wing Matt Watkins became the 487th player to play in the National Hockey League after the ECHL when he made his debut with the Phoenix Coyotes in a 5-4 win against the Los Angeles
Kings on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old had 6:37 of ice time for the Coyotes, whose line-up also included former ECHL players Paul Bissonnette and Mike Smith. Former ECHL coach Jim Playfair is the associate coach of the Coyotes.

The Gwinnett Gladiators are the ECHL affiliate of the Coyotes and the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. Former ECHL player and coach Ray Edwards is head coach of the Pirates while former ECHL player Mike Minard is the club’s goaltending and video coach.

A fifth-round selection (160th overall) by the Dallas Stars in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Watkins scored 11 points (4g-7a) in 14 games with Las Vegas during the 2009-10 season. He has appeared in 162 American Hockey League games with San Antonio and Portland over the last three seasons, scoring 84 points (36g-48a).

Twenty ECHL players have made their NHL debuts this season: former Florida Everblades center Mike Angelidis (Tampa Bay on Jan. 24), former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Jordie Benn (Dallas on Jan. 3), former Bakersfield Condors and Elmira Jackals defenseman Stu Bickel (New York Rangers on Dec. 20), former Greenville Road Warriors defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon (Philadelphia on Nov. 21), former South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Joe Finley (Buffalo on Dec. 2), Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Brian Foster (Florida on Feb. 4),
former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Kris Fredheim (Minnesota on Nov. 17), former Gwinnett Gladiators center Ryan Garbutt (Dallas on Feb. 18), former Elmira Jackals center Mike Hoffman (Ottawa on Dec. 23), former Victoria Salmon Kings goaltender Leland Irving (Calgary on Dec. 16), former Toledo and Reading
center Bracken Kearns (Florida on Oct. 20), Stockton Thunder center Milan Kytnar (Edmonton on Jan. 11), former Bakersfield center Maxime Macenauer (Anaheim on Oct. 7), former Ontario Reign center Jordan Nolan (Los Angeles on Feb. 11), former Idaho Steelheads center and two-time ECHL All-Star Greg Rallo
(Florida on Dec. 18), former Cincinnati Cyclones center Ryan Russell (Columbus on Jan. 7), former Reading Royals goaltender Ben Scrivens (Toronto on Nov. 3), former Cincinnati Cyclones defenseman Frederic St. Denis (Montreal on Nov. 16), former Ontario Reign defenseman Colten Teubert (Edmonton on Nov. 3) and former
Las Vegas Wrangler right wing Matt Watkins (Phoenix on Feb. 21).

Four players have played in the ECHL and NHL in 2011-12: Brian Foster with Cincinnati and Florida, Milan Kytnar with Stockton and Edmonton, Peter Mannino with Chicago and Winnipeg and Allen York with Chicago
and Columbus.

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 affiliations with 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.

The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Scott Gordon, who played his first game with the Quebec Nordiques against Buffalo on Jan. 30,

Congratulations to Matt Watkins, and all continued success. I thoroughly enjoy receiving notices of players moving up to the ‘big’ leagues from the ECHL.

Watch live ECHL action on 'America One', the “Official Broadband and Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL. The entire league's action can be caught here and I have said it before – the ECHL is most definitely a league
to keep an eye on.

Tonight the Florida Everblades take on the Cincinnati Cyclones, on Ohio ice. Puck drops at 7:35 p.m. GO BLADES!!!