WHL has big-league impact

As the National Hockey League passes the mid-point of the 2010-11 campaign, Western Hockey League graduates find themselves in the middle of the action.

Of the 868 players who had played at least one game in the NHL as of January, 186 are graduates of the WHL. That figure represents over 21 per cent of the NHL’s playing population.

In addition, there are 36 WHL grads on NHL coaching staffs, and and another 29 in key management positions around the league. The Minnesota Wild lead all NHL clubs with 12 WHL alumni having suited up for at least one game. That list includes a few faces familar to Chilliwack Bruin fans, including ex-Kelowna Rocket Cody Almond and Kamloops Blazer/Vancouver Giant Matt Kassian.

The Bruins have had a couple grads suit up for big league games this year.

Oscar Moller has spent most of his time with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs, but he logged four games with the Los Angeles Kings, scoring once and adding a pair of assists.

Former Bruins captain Nick Holden was called up by the Columbus Blue Jackets and got five games on defence. Holden has played 33 games for the AHL Springfield Falcons.

A couple of ex-Bruins continue to toil in the minors.

2007-08 WHL scoring champ Mark Santorelli has seven goals and 13 points in 37 games for the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.

Former Chilliwack captain Josh Aspenlind has split this season between the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings, posting zero goals and 10 points in 37 games.

Original Bruin Myles Stoesz has only appeared in 11 games this season, playing seven for the AHL Albany Devils and four for the ECHL Trenton Devils.

Forty-three WHLers were selected in the most recent NHL entry draft, with seven going in the first round, marking the WHL’s best showing since 2005.

Get a full list of WHLers in the NHL at www.whl.ca.