Nine hundred and ninety nine players skated in an at least one NHL game this past regular season and 88 percent of those players claimed AHL service time on their stats sheets.
The AHL is the breeding ground for the NHL and it’s not just on the ice. The Vegas Golden Knights have 55 people in the organization with AHL ties including 23 players and 32 staffers.
From No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to graphic designer Brady Hackmeister to head coach Gerard Gallant to president and chief operating officer Kerry Bubolz – the AHL and its many lessons has its fingerprints all over the Golden Knights.
Vegas has an affiliation agreement with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves who are tied 1-1 with the San Diego Gulls in a Calder Cup best-of-seven Western Conference Finals.
Games 3, 4 and 5 are scheduled for San Diego. Game 3 goes Wednesday night and can be heard here in Vegas on Fox Sports 98.5 FM and 1340 AM.
For Golden Knights GM George McPhee having his prospects go deep in the Calder Cup playoffs is a huge plus.
“It expedites their development and they are even better players when they come to training camp next year,” said McPhee, who played for the Utica Devils and New Haven Nighthawks in the AHL. “In a lot of ways it allows management to sort out, just exactly where these players fit in the future.”
McPhee oversaw the AHL’s Hershey Bears during his time with the Washington Capitals and those teams captured three Calder Cups during his tenure.
Some organizations like to go heavy on prospects and focus on development alone. McPhee has always preferred a blend of veterans and youth.
“You really try to find what would be the right chemistry on the team. Get the right veterans in the right positions, and have an environment that young players can still, if they are playing well, bubble up to the top,” said McPhee. “Winning and developing can be done. It’s not easy, but it can be done. With this particular club in Chicago, it’s been done well this year. These young players have really taken on prominent roles and played a lot. They’ve earned their ice time and really developed well as a result.”
Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson is a Golden Knights employee and has been instrumental in winning games as well as developing the likes of Reid Duke, Cody Glass, Keegan Kolesar, Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, Jake Bischoff and Dylan Coghlan.
“Rocky has motivated all our players in Chicago and got the most out of the roster,” said McPhee. “The ideal is to have the players in a winning environment and developing at the same time and he’s done that. He doesn’t favor the veterans. He seems to have the right touch with the amount that people play.”
McPhee promoted players from Hershey to Washington on a regular basis and some of his early draft picks in Vegas are on the cusp of earning jobs in the NHL. The Golden Knights model is to draft players and then season them in the AHL before giving them work with the big club. Going through those early pro lessons in the AHL can be an excellent bonding experience for players.
“It’s a great frame of reference to have,” said McPhee “Absolutely, a player or a group of players can rely on what they’ve learned going through the hurdles of pro hockey. If there’s a time where you’re struggling individually or as a team, you know you can work your way out of it.”
With the Golden Knights eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, the competitive focus for the organization now falls on the Wolves. McPhee has been watching from afar and will likely take in games live, as well. Will he be cheering on the Wolves?
“Yeah, we want them to win the Cup,” he stated. “That is a great thing for young men. We did it in Hershey and now we’re hopefully going to
Ryan Carpenter – Worcester Sharks and San Jose Barracuda
William Carrier – Rochester Americans
Cody Eakin – Hershey Bears and Texas Stars
Deryk Engelland – Lowell Devils, Hershey Bears and Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury – Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins
Erik Haula – Houston Aeros, Iowa Wild
Nick Holden – Syracuse Crunch, Springfield Falcons
William Karlsson – Norfolk Admirals, Springfield Falcons
Jonathan Marchessault – Connecticut Whale, Springfield Falcons and Syracuse Crunch
Brayden McNabb – Rochester Americans, Manchester Monarchs
Jon Merrill – Albany Devils
Colin Miller – Manchester Monarchs, Providence Bruins
Tomas Nosek – Grand Rapid Griffins
Max Pacioretty – Hamilton Bulldogs
Ryan Reaves – Peoria Rivermen
Nate Schmidt – Hershey Bears
Reilly Smith – Texas Stars
Malcolm Subban – Providence Bruins
Shea Theodore – Norfolk Admirals, San Diego Gulls, Chicago Wolves
Alex Tuch – Iowa Wild, Chicago Wolves
Mark Stone – Binghamton Senators
Valentin Zykov – Charlotte Checkers, Ontario Reign
Gerard Gallant – Assistant coach for Louisville Panthers, player for Adirondack Red Wings
Mike Kelly- Assistant coach for Manitoba Moose
Ryan McGill – Head coach of Hartford Wolfpack, Omaha Knights and player for Hershey Bears and Halifax Citadels
Ryan Craig – Player for Cleveland Monsters, Lake Erie Monsters, Springfield Falcons, Scranton Penguins, Norfolk Admirals, Hersey Bears
Scott Luce – player with Rochester Americans
Vojtech Kucera – Player for Fredericton Express
Vince Williams – player with Lowell Lock Monsters
Kent Hawley – player for Hershey Bears, New Haven Senators
Peter Ahola – player for Saint John Flames
Yan Stastny – player with Iowa Stars, Providence Bruins, Manitoba Moose and Peoria Riverman
Peter Ward – Bridgeport Sound Tigers
VGK Hockey Ops
George McPhee – player with the Utica Devils and New Haven Nighthawks
Keith Veronesi – Business Operations for Utica Comets
VGK Medical and Equipment Staff
Kyle Moore -Athletic Trainer for Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins
Mike Muir – Athletic Trainer/ Strength coach for Manchester Monarchs
Doug Davidson – Strength and Conditioning Coach for Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins
Chris Davidson-Adams – Equipment manager for Grand Rapids Griffins, Worchester Sharks and San Jose Barracuda
J.W. Aiken – Equipment manager for Syracuse Crunch, Norfolk Admirals, Providence Bruins
Pat Maino – Assistant Equipment Manager for Ontario Reign
Dan D’Uva – broadcaster Syracuse Crunch
Gary Lawless – writer on Manitoba Moose beat
Dave Goucher – broadcaster Providence Bruins
Shane Hnidy – player for Saint John Flames, Adirondack Red Wings and Cincinnati Mighty Ducks
Kerry Bubolz – President, Lake Erie Monsters
Jonny Greco – Management Lake Erie Monsters
Darren Eliot – player for Rochester Americans, New Haven Nighthawks, Adirondack Red Wings
VGK Front Office
Andrew Abrams – video coordinator Manchester Monarchs
Dillon Garofolo – intern Lake Erie Monsters
Alyssa Girardi – intern Grand Rapids Griffins
Brady Hackmeister – graphic designer San Antonio Rampage
Matt McElroy – graphic designer Ontario Reign
Brittany Usmail – Sponsorship/CR/Foundation for Utica Comets