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Engelland, O Marra Raise ECHL Players In NHL To 417

November 11, 2009 - ECHL (ECHL) News Release

PRINCETON, N.J. - Former Las Vegas Wranglers, Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Deryk Engelland and former Stockton Thunder center Ryan O'Marra made their National Hockey League debuts on Tuesday raising the number of players to play in the NHL after the ECHL to 417.

Engelland played for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-0 loss at Boston while O'Marra skated for the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-3 shootout loss at Ottawa. The Penguins lineup also had former ECHL player Ruslan Fedotenko while the Bruins had former ECHL goaltender Tim Thomas, Michael Ryder and Trent Whitfield. The Oilers lineup also had former ECHL goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Liam Reddox, who also played for Stockton, while Ottawa had former ECHL player Chris Neil.

The Wheeling Nailers are the ECHL affiliate of Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League while the Stockton Thunder are the ECHL affiliate of Edmonton and Springfield of the AHL. The head coach of Pittsburgh is former ECHL player Dan Bylsma while the head coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is former ECHL player Todd Reirden. There were nine individuals with ECHL experience who were part of the Penguins Stanley Cup celebration. Former ECHL coach Gerry Fleming is an assistant coach for Springfield.

Engelland played for Las Vegas as a rookie in 2003-04 and had 13 points (2g-11a) and 63 penalty minutes in 35 regular season games and appeared in two Kelly Cup Playoff games while also playing in the AHL where he had 34 penalty minutes in 26 games for Lowell. He returned to Las Vegas in 2004-05 and had 21 points (5g-16a) and 138 penalty minutes in 72 games. He played for South Carolina in 2005-06 and had 16 points (3g-13a) in 35 games while also playing in the AHL where he had four assists and 77 penalty minutes in 37 games for Hershey. He played for Reading in 2006-07 and had three assists and eight penalty minutes in six games while also playing in the AHL where he had 10 points (4g-6a) and 95 penalty minutes in 44 regular season games and 14 penalty minutes in 14 playoff games for Hershey. He has played the last three seasons in the AHL where he has 33 points (5g-28a) and 302 penalty minutes in 171 regular season games and six points (1g-5a) and 20 penalty minutes in 35 playoff games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Selected in the first round (15th overall) by the New York Islanders in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, O'Marra played for Stockton as a rookie in 2007-08 and was selected to play in the 2008 ECHL All-Star Game. He had 20 points (11g-9a) and 45 penalty minutes in 24 regular season games and nine points (2g-7a) and 10 penalty minutes in six Kelly Cup Playoff games while also playing in the AHL where he had nine points (2g-7a) and 31 penalty minutes in 31 games for Springfield. O'Marra has played the last two seasons in Springfield where he has 14 points (3g-11a) and 65 penalty minutes in 67 games. He was acquired by Edmonton from the Islanders on Feb. 27, 2007 with Robert Nilsson and New York's first-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Ryan Smyth.

Ten ECHL players have made their NHL debut this season: Gwinnett Gladiators and 2006 ECHL All-Star right wing Guillaume Desbiens (Vancouver on Oct. 11), former Las Vegas Wranglers, Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Deryk Engelland (Pittsburgh on Nov. 10), former Idaho Steelheads center Aaron Gagnon (Dallas on Oct. 16), former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Shaun Heshka (Phoenix on Nov. 7), former Philadelphia Flyers right wing David Laliberte (Philadelphia on Oct. 31), former Stockton Thunder center Ryan O'Marra (Edmonton on Nov. 10), former Reading Royals right wing Scott Parse (Los Angeles on Oct. 24), former Charlotte Checkers center Tom Pyatt (Montreal on Nov. 5), former Johnstown Chiefs defenseman Jay Rosehill (Toronto on Oct. 1) and former Idaho Steelheads left wing Francis Wathier (Dallas on Oct. 21).

The ECHL had a record 78 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 71 from a year ago and marking the seventh year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. Every ECHL team has an affiliation with an NHL team and the league has affiliations with 28 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 13th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.

There have been 417 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including a record 52 who made their debut in 2008-09. The ECHL has had 225 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 161 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last five seasons for an average of more than 32 per year.

There are 26 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau and New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is head coach of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. It is the fifth consecutive season that there have been 11 or more coaches with an ECHL background working in the NHL. Boudreau, who coached Mississippi for three seasons winning the Kelly Cup championship in 1999, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2007-08 becoming the first former ECHL coach to receive the award.

There are 20 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2009-10 with referees David Banfield, Francis Charron, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain Herbert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O'Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Bryan Pancich, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak and Jay Sharrers.

There were nine players who played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2008-09 with goaltenders Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Elmira, Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Chris Holt (Alaska and St. Louis), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Wes O'Neill (Johnstown and Colorado), Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado) and Kevin Quick (Augusta, Elmira and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders).

The ECHL was represented for the ninth year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, player Ruslan Fedotenko, equipment managers Dana Heinze and Dave Zeigler, athletic trainers Chris Stewart and Scott Adams and scout Derek Clancey. There were 43 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fourth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the sixth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.

Former ECHL and current Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was the recipient of the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL and was also presented the William Jennings Trophy with teammate Manny Fernandez as the goaltenders finishing the season having surrendered the fewest goals. Thomas was also named First Team All-NHL after registering a career-high 36 wins while leading the NHL with a goals-against average of 2.10 and a save percentage of.933 to help the Bruins finish with the most wins (53) and points (116) since 1971-72.

The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender and current New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon, who played his first game with the Quebec Nordiques against Buffalo on Jan. 30, 1990. The 100th player honor is shared by Jean Sebastien Aubin and Manny Legace, who both made their debut on Oct. 21, 1998 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. The 200th player was Brett McLean with the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 10, 2002 while the 300th was David Liffiton with the New York Rangers on Apr. 11, 2006 and the 400th was Phil Oreskovic on Mar. 9, 2009 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Former ECHL broadcasters working in the National Hockey League include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Tom Callahan of the Nashville Predators, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bob McElligott and John Michael of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rob Simpson, who is a producer/host for The NHL Network.

Ryan Stanzel and Jeremy Zager, who were both recipients of the ECHL Media Relations Director of the Year award, are working in the communications department for the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Former ECHL assistant director of communications Joe Siville and Kelly Murray are now with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, respectively, while former ECHL director of communications Jason Rothwell is the creative director for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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