INDIANAPOLIS – As June is rolling through, that means that hockey season is coming to an end. For some, it means the start of another sports season such as baseball or soccer. To others, it just means a boring few months before hockey starts back up. Lucky for me, I’m a soccer fan so getting a break from hockey isn’t always the worst thing for me.
That being said, the end of the hockey season is always a little bittersweet. I love getting to watch somebody raise the Stanley Cup but I hate knowing I have to wait until September for my favorite sport to start back up.
The Stanley Cup Final ended on Sunday night, meaning the NHL season had officially ended. The Pittsburgh Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row. Both times, the Penguins have been very well represented by former AHL and ECHL players.
Thirteen former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were part of the 2017 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Former WBS Penguins on Pittsburgh roster: Josh Archibald, Brian Dumoulin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jake Guentzel, Tom Kuhnhackl, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Matt Murray, Carter Rowney, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, and coach Mike Sullivan.
Josh Archibald, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Carter Rowney also spent time with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. Just three of many NHL players who began or spent time in the ECHL. Mark Streit also played 14 games in the ECHL with the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks.
During the Stanley Cup Final, Frederick Gaudreau became one of the leading scorers on the Nashville Predators. In the same year, Gaudreau played 66 games for the Milwaukee Admirals. Two years before that, he earned seven points in 14 games for the Cincinnati Cyclones.
The ECHL and AHL are becoming the way for NHL teams to create a winning franchise. Every year former ECHL and AHL players are making their presence known on NHL rosters. The minors are becoming the prime area for development and more and more players on NHL contracts are beginning their careers in the minors and climbing the ladder to the highest level.
In the salary cap era, the best way to develop your team is to draft players, place them in the minors and develop until they have the skills to play at the top level. The Penguins have benefitted greatly from it and teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs have followed suit with players like Michael Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and Kasperi Kapanen.
Our favorite minor league hockey leagues will be seeing more players on NHL contracts as teams begin to figure out their draft strategy and their prospect pools. The more players that teams draft and develop in the minors, the better they are going to be. The benefit for fans in minor league markets, we get to see future NHL players playing in our backyard.
So during this offseason, be sure to pay attention to The Sin Bin and keep an eye on who will be coming to your town. As you are checking out the rosters for your local team, pay attention to which players are on NHL contracts next season because they could very well end up on your favorite NHL team in the future.