Familiar Faces Set to Raise Stanley Cup

Familiar Faces Set to Raise Stanley Cup
Many Former AHL’ers are competing in the Stanley Cup Finals
By Justin Tetrault
            The Los Angeles Kings are currently up three games to none against the New York Rangers with Game Four coming up Wednesday at 8pm in New York. More than half of the Kings roster itself has played at one point or another with their farm team in Manchester, a foe that Sharks fans are very familiar with due to being division rivals, while the Rangers have 16 members on their active roster that have played in the AHL at one point or another, but not all necessarily for their farm team in Hartford.
            The Manchester Monarchs have graduated thirteen different players up to the parent club in Los Angeles over the years that are currently holding a roster spot this spring. Forwards such as Dustin Brown, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Trevor Lewis, Dwight King, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, defensemen Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez, and Jake Muzzin, along with goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones all have played for the Monarchs in recent seasons.
            Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are two players who started off this past season in Manchester before getting called up and contributing to the Kings playoff run this spring. Toffoli, who is a former AHL Rookie of the Year winner from the 2012-13 season, quickly made his way to the Kings early this season after storming out of the gate for 23 points in his first 18 games with Manchester. While playing the remainder of the season with L.A, he managed to produce 29 points (12-17=29) in 62 games for the Kings, but his playoff performance this spring is what has got everyone talking, as he has put up seven goals and six assists for a total of 13 points so far in 24 games while playing top six minutes alongside Jeff Carter. Along with Toffoli, the other winger flanking Carter is Pearson, who played 41 games for the Monarchs this season and 25 games for the Kings. Pearson had 33 points (17-16=33) during his time in Manchester this season, and so far in this postseason for the Kings has four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 22 games. Combined, the duo has 25 points combined and have thrived since joining forces with Carter on the King’s “70’s Line,” referring to the fact all of their jersey numbers are in the seventies.
            Kings captain and overtime hero in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals Dustin Brown played with the Monarchs during the 2004-2005 season and recorded 29 goals and 45 assists to total 74 points in 79 games that year before becoming a mainstay with the big club the following year. Many members of the Kings bottom six forward group played for their minor league club as well, as Trevor Lewis played for the Monarchs from 2006-10 and recorded 92 total points his time there. Dwight King was also another Monarchs mainstay from the years 2009-13 and had 124 total points in 202 career games there. Jordan Nolan played for the Monarchs from 2010-13 while Kyle Clifford also had a stint in Manchester, competing for the Monarchs during the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs for a total of seven games. Aside from Brown, who is routinely one of the league leaders in hits on an annual basis, the other four players listed all are big, two way forwards who made the Monarchs a tough team to face every single game, and they have translated that style of play to the NHL with the Kings.  
            Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin played for the Monarchs for various stretches from 2009-2013 and has become a very reliable and underrated of the parent club this season, logging quality minutes and playing against other teams top players on a routine basis. Alec Martinez, who scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Blackhawks, played three seasons in Manchester from 2008-11. Slava Voynov played in Manchester over the course of five seasons, posting gaudy offensive stats to the tune of 42 goals, 81 assists for 123 points in 266 career games, including a personal best season in 2010-11 where he had 51 points(15-36=51).
            Both Kings goaltenders have also played in Manchester previously as well. Martin Jones, a Monarchs mainstay from 2010-14, is a former AHL All-star in the year of 2011 and was nominated again this past season in 2014 but was unable to play due to being called up by the Kings. However, arguably the best playoff goalies in the past few years, Jonathan Quick also spent some time in Manchester, playing in 33 games through the course of the 2007-2009 seasons before establishing himself as one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders like he currently is today.
            The New York Rangers also have a great deal of players who have AHL experience and are familiar to Sharks fans. Forwards Brian Boyle, Derek Brassard, Daniel Carcillo, Derek Dorsett, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Carl Hagelin, and Benoit Pouliot all spent various points of their careers developing with either Hartford or other AHL clubs. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi both played with the Wolf Pack before graduating to the big club in New York, while both backup goaltenders Cam Talbot and David LeNeveu are AHL grads as well.
            Starting with the Rangers forward corps, top young speedster Chris Kreider spent half the 2012-13 season with the Wolf Pack in the AHL and started off there to begin the 2013-14 campaign as well before quickly getting called up to New York for good. Kreider has been quite the force to be reckoned with for the Rangers, giving them a player with game breaking speed and large size, while contributing 11 points(4-7=11) in 13 games so far this postseason after missing a few games in the earlier rounds due to a minor injury. Brian Boyle is another forward who actually played in Manchester from 2007-09, having a standout 61 point season in 2008, and was without question one of the biggest men to play at the DCU Center at 6’7 and 244 pounds.
            J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast played for the Wolf Pack during this past 2013-14 season, enjoying a few call ups to the big club and then sticking around for the playoff run. Miller had 15 goals along with 27 assists for 42 points in 41 games with the Wolf Pack, while Fast contributed 17 goals and 17 assists to finish with 34 points in 48 games in Hartford. The duo have been inserted in the lineup at various instances over the course of the playoffs to make up for injuries and suspensions, as well as taking over for other players poor play, and bring even more speed to a Rangers team that has plenty already.
            Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello picked up a suspension against the Sharks for boarding Jonathan Cheechoo and injuring him during the 2010 season. Zuccarello played in Hartford from 2010-12 and totaled 66 points in 72 total games over the course of those two years. Carl Hagelin, another speedster the Rangers employ, played for the Wolf Pack briefly in 2011-12 and in only 17 games collected 13 points before earning a full time role in New York. Lastly, the Rangers also have forward Dominic Moore on their roster, who once played for the San Jose Sharks in 2011-12 and was a fan favorite during his time in the organization due to his gritty, hardworking style of play.
            Defenseman Dan Girardi played for the Wolf Pack from 2005-07 and racked up a total of 63 points in a total of 111 games over the course of those two seasons. Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers top blue liner today, spent half a season in Hartford from 2010-11 before becoming a full time NHLer. John Moore is a defensemen who played for the Springfield Falcons (2011-13) prior to getting traded to the Rangers organization, who finally gave him a chance in the NHL. Goaltender Cam Talbot had spent 2010-13 as the Wolf Pack’s starting goaltender before becoming the backup for the Rangers this past season. Fellow goalie David LeNeveu has played in the AHL for various teams since 2004, ranging from the Springfield Falcons, Utah Grizzlies, and San Antonio Rampage, while suiting up in Hartford this past season before getting called up for the Rangers playoff run once the Wolf Pack were eliminated from postseason contention.
            The Rangers and Kings feature rosters full of players that once played here at the DCU Center numerous times before graduating to their respective NHL teams. The vast number of players that once played here just emphasizes the fact that tomorrow’s NHL stars play right here in your backyard in Worcester! Whether it is the Manchester graduates that finish the job in Game Four and lift the Cup over their heads in celebration, or the former Wolf Pack grads that keep the finals alive with a win at home, be sure to check out Game Four and see these familiar faces in action as they continue their pursuit of hockey’s greatest prize

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