Three NAHL alumni named to 2018 NHL All-Star Game
January 10, 2018
The National Hockey League announced the full roster of players for the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, which will be held Jan. 27-28 at AMALIE Arena in Tampa, Florida.
Three North American Hockey League (NAHL) alumni, two players and one coach, were named to the game.
Former NAHL and NA3HL and current Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper has been named the head coach of the Atlantic Division team. Under the All-Star selection process, the head coach of the team with the highest points percentage in each of the four divisions through games of January 6 - the halfway point of the regular season - will guide the respective All-Star rosters. Cooper's Lightning (.744, 29-9-3) posted the top points percentage in the Atlantic Division through January 6th.
Cooper began his NAHL coaching career with the Texarkana Bandits in the 2003-04 season. He coached in the NAHL a total of five seasons. In 2004-05 and again in 2007-08, he was honored as the NAHL Coach of the Year. In his first three seasons in Texarkana, Cooper’s teams got better each season. By the time the franchise has moved to St. Louis in 2006-07, Cooper had developed the Bandits into a Robertson Cup contender. During the 2006-07 season, the Bandits and Cooper finally realized their dream and won the Robertson Cup. The next season, the Bandits and Cooper did it again. Cooper’s first experience as a coach in juniors was with the Capital Centre Pride of the NAHL, where has was an assistant. At that particular time, the Pride were working closely with the Jets. It so happened that Cooper was moving to the Metro area to practice law and Capital Centre needed a new assistant coach. So the head coach of the Jets at the time, Chris Werstine, moved up to the NAHL with Capital Centre, while Cooper moved to Metro in the CSHL (now NA3HL). After Jets Owner and Governor Butch Wolfe met with Cooper, he still very much wanted to coach, so he got his first shot to be a head coach with the Jets organization. He helped the team win the Hurster Cup (now the Silver Cup) in 2002 before moving back up to the NAHL to coach the expansion Texarkana Bandits in 2003.
Former NAHL and Odessa Jackalopes and current Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck was named to the Central Division team. Hellebuyck, 24, is in his third season in the NHL, all with the Jets franchise. The product of Commerce, Michigan is third in the league in wins (23) and tied for fourth in shutouts (3). Among goaltenders with a minimum of 15 games played, he ranks second in winning percentage (.788), seventh in goals-against average (2.36) and 10th in save percentage (.923). Hellebuyck's Jets have earned at least in point in his last nine starts (7-0-2) and he has two shutouts, a 1.86 GAA, and a .940 SV% over that span. This will be Connor Hellebuyck's first NHL All-Star Game appearance.
Hellebuyck began his junior hockey career with the NAHL with the Odessa Jackalopes in 2011-12. The Commerce, Michigan native won 26 of the Jackalopes 27 overall wins that season, and propelled the Jacks to a playoff berth in their first season in the NAHL. Hellebuyck raked in the hardware that year as well. Hellebuyck was named Goaltender of the Year, Rookie of the Year, All-NAHL First Team, All-South Division Team, and NAHL All-Rookie Team during that storybook season. Hellebuyck was also the Jackalopes first ever Division I college commit, signing his letter of intent to play at UMass-Lowell. Following his lone NAHL season in 2011-12, he was selected by the Jets in the 2012 NHL Draft in the 5th round, #130 overall.
Former NAHL and NTDP and current Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was also named to the Central Division team. Kane will make his seventh appearance in an NHL All-Star Game (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). He currently ranks 13th in the NHL in points with 45 (18G, 27A). He recorded his first career five-point game last night at Ottawa and is just three points shy of 800 for his career. He has 11 multi-point games this season and enjoyed a seven-game point streak from Nov. 11 - 27 (4G, 7A). Kane won the Hart Memorial Trophy winner for NHL MVP in 2016 and became the fifth Blackhawks player in team history to record 300 goals with his marker on December 23, 2017 at New Jersey.
Kane, the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2008, played two seasons in the NAHL from 2004-06, compiling 33 goals for 71 points in 55 games over the course of two seasons for the United States National Team Development Program.