Calgary, AB -- The 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final is set to begin on the weekend, with the Western Conference Champion Chicago Blackhawks taking on the Eastern Conference Champ Philadelphia Flyers. 15 Western Hockey League graduates are among the players who will be battling for hockey’s most prized possession.
The WHL continues to be one of the World’s top development Leagues for supplying talent to the National Hockey League. Over 21% of all players who played at least one game in the NHL during the 2009-10 regular season are WHL graduates.
The Philadelphia Flyers are making their first Cup Final appearance since 1997, and are looking for their first Stanley Cup win since 1975, when WHL great Bobby Clarke led the team to the championship.
The 2009-10 edition of the Flyers features five former WHLers including former Prince Albert Raider Scott Hartnell, former Red Deer Rebel Arron Asham, former Portland Winterhawk Braydon Coburn, former Prince George Cougar Blair Betts and Tri-City Americans’ alumnus Brian Boucher.
Hartnell, a product of Regina, SK, who played for the Raiders from 1998-00, has appeared in 17 playoff contests for the Flyers, scoring three goals and eight points.
Asham, a Portage La Prairie, MB, native, played four seasons with the Rebels from 1994-98, scoring 131 goals and 292 points. He has three goals and five points on Philly’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
Coburn, from Shaunavon, SK, spent four seasons with the Winterhawks from 2001-05, and was the WHL Rookie of the Year in 2002 and WHL Humanitarian of the Year in 2004. The 6’5”, 220-lb defenseman has one goal and two points for the Flyers in the post-season, and has been a key contributor to the Flyers’ outstanding defensive play.
Betts, an Edmonton, AB, product, spent four seasons with the Cougars from 1996-00, leading the Cougars to the 2000 WHL Western Conference Championship series. Betts has notched one assist in 17 post-season contests for the Flyers, but leads the team with a 56.6 percent faceoff winning percentage.
Boucher, from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, played three seasons with the Tri-City Americans, and was the 1997 WHL Goaltender of the Year. He appeared in 10 playoff contests for Philadelphia, posting a 6-4 record with a .915 save percentage before suffering an injury that has kept him out since Game 6 of their second-round series versus Boston.
The Blackhawks are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 1992 and are looking for their first Cup win since 1961.
The Hawks boast a whopping 10 former WHL players in their lineup including forwards Marian Hossa (Portland), Dustin Byfuglien (Brandon, Prince George), Kris Versteeg (Lethbridge, Kamloops, Red Deer), Tomas Kopecky (Lethbridge), Troy Brouwer (Moose Jaw), Andrew Ladd (Calgary) and Colin Fraser (Red Deer), and defensemen Brent Seabrook (Lethbridge), Duncan Keith (Kelowna) and Brent Sopel (Saskatoon, Swift Current).
Hossa, a native of Slovakia, spent one season with the Winterhawks in 1997-98, scoring 45 goals and 85 points while leading the Hawks to the Memorial Cup Championship. Making his third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, Hossa has two goals and 11 points through 16 playoff contests for Chicago.
Byfuglien, a Minneapolis, MN, product, played three seasons in the WHL from 2002-05, beginning his career with the Brandon Wheat Kings before moving to Prince George. The 6’4”, 257-lb behemoth has been a force for the Blackhawks in the post-season, scoring eight goals including a team-leading four game-winners.
Versteeg, a Lethbridge, AB, native, played four seasons in the WHL – his first three with his hometown Hurricanes – notching a career-best 22 goals and 52 points during the 2004-05 season. Versteeg, a Calder trophy finalist last season, has four goals and nine points for the Hawks in the 2010 playoffs.
Kopecky, from Slovakia, played one season in the WHL with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2000-01 where he scored 22 goals and 50 points in 49 contests. The 6’3”, 203-lb forward has three goals and four points in 11 post-season games for the Hawks.
Vancouver, B.C., native Troy Brouwer played 287 games over five seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors from 2001-06, and won the WHL scoring title in 2005-06 while leading the Warriors all the way to the WHL Championship series. Brouwer has two goals and three points over 13 games for the Hawks in the 2010 playoffs.
Ladd, who hails from Maple Ridge, B.C., played two campaigns in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen from 2003-05 where he partnered with Anaheim Ducks’ all-star Ryan Getzlaf to form one of the WHL’s most dangerous duos. Ladd, who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, has two goals and three points through 16 post-season contests with Chicago.
Fraser, a Sicamous, B.C., product, spent four seasons with the Rebels from 2001-05, and was the WHL’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2005. Fraser has appeared in three playoff games for the Hawks.
Duncan Keith, a Winnipeg, MB, native, joined the Kelowna Rockets midway through the 2002-03 season and helped lead them to the 2003 WHL Championship. Keith, a finalist for the 2010 Norris trophy, has been stellar for the Hawks in the post-season, notching 10 points in 16 games.
Delta, B.C., product Brent Seabrook played four seasons for the Lethbridge Hurricanes from 2001-05, piling up 39 goals and 176 points. Seabrook has partnered with Keith to form one of the NHL’s best defensive duos through the 2009-10 season.
Sopel, a Calgary, AB, native, played 207 WHL contests with the Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos from 1993-97. The veteran of 588 NHL games has picked up three assists through 16 games during the Hawks’ run to the Cup final.