top of page
  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

AHL Rookie of the Year tiers

The Red Garrett Memorial Trophy has been awarded annually to the best rookie in the AHL since the 1947-48 season when Bob Solinger won the inaugural award. As the primary development league for the NHL and arguably the top minor league in North America, many NHLers spend a few years gaining experience in the AHL. In reviewing Red Garrett Trophy winners from the 1990s, some distinct tiers become evident amongst the winners when you consider the success they had in the NHL:

Above average NHLers

  • Donald Audette (1990): after scoring 88 points with Rochester, Audette played 15 seasons in the NHL, scoring 509 points. He suffered a gory injury when his forearm tendons were severed by a skate during a December 2001 game, but he was able to resume his career afterwards.

  • Felix Potvin (1992): the Cat also won AHL best goalie in 1992, posting a 18-10-6 record, 2.93 goals against and .908 save percentage with St. John's. He played 13 NHL seasons, winning 266 games and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy in 1993.

  • Darcy Tucker (1996): scored 29 goals and 93 points along with 174 penalty minutes with Fredericton. Played 14 NHL seasons, scoring 215 goals and 476 points. He is also part of this legendary sequence with Daniel Alfredsson.

  • Daniel Briere (1998): the most above-average of the above average, Briere scored 92 points with Springfield in 1998. He played 17 NHL seasons, scoring 696 points, and was named the 2007 all-star game MVP.

Below average NHLers

  • Patrick Lebeau (1991): featured below, scored 50 goals and 101 points with Fredericton. Played in 15 NHL games throughout the 1990s, playing mostly in AHL/IHL and then Europe in latter half of career.

  • Corey Hirsch (1993): dominated his rookie season with Binghamton, posting a 35-4-5 record, .904 save percentage while winning best goalie and best goalie duo. Played only 108 NHL games between 1992-93 to 2002-02, but was named to NHL all-rookie team in 1995-96.

  • Rene Corbet (1994): scored 77 points with Cornwall. Played 362 NHL games over eight seasons, winning Stanley Cup in 1996. Corbet played eight seasons in Germany with Adler Mannheim following his NHL days.

  • Shane Willis (1999): scored 31 goals and 81 points with the Beast of New Haven before playing 174 games over five seasons with Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Unique cases:

  • Jim Carey (1995): the supernova of rookie performances. Posted a 30-14-11 record with Portland, also winning best goalie and leading league in shutouts. Same season he was named to NHL all-rookie team and was a finalist for the Vezina and Calder. Carey won both trophies the following season and led the NHL in shutouts, but was out of the league by 1999.

  • Jaroslav Svejkovsky (1997): scored 38 goals with Portland in 1997. Played four seasons with Washington and Tampa Bay and was forced retire after 2000-01 season due to post-concussion syndrome.

Card 453 - Patrick Lebeau

A left winger, Lebeau was drafted 167th overall by Montreal in 1989 after scoring 62 goals and 149 points in the QMJHL. The following season he increased that total to 68 goals and 174 points, leading the Q in scoring and winning offensive player of the year.

Lebeau turned pro in 1990-91, tearing up the AHL with Fredericton, winning Rookie of the Year and earning a second team all-star selection while scoring 50 goals and 101 points. He also played in his first two NHL games with the Habs, scoring two points and getting a chance to play with his older brother Stephan.

Lebeau split the 1991-92 season between Fredericton and the Canadian National Team, winning a silver meda at the 1992 Olympics. In October 1992 he was traded to Calgary, playing with Salt Lake City in the IHL, scoring 40 goals and 100 points. Lebeau signed with Florida for 1993-94, playing four games with the Panthers, scoring a goal and two points.

In 1994-95 he left to play in Europe for the next four seasons, playing mostly in Switzerland along with one partial season in Germany where he won a league title (1995). Lebeau returned to the NHL for the 1998-99 season, playing in eight games with Pittsburgh, scoring one goal. He returned to Switzerland the next season, where he played three seasons before moving to Germany. In five seasons with Frankfurt Lebeau scored well over a point-per-game, leading the league in scoring in 2004 & 2005, and winning a league title and player of the year in 2004. He missed the 2007-08 season due to injury before playing two final seasons in Austria, retiring after the 2009-2010 campaign.

In four NHL seasons Lebeau played 15 games, scoring three goals and five points.

YouTube clip: scoring his first NHL goal, assisted by brother Stephan, during a February 1992 game against the Maple Leafs.

Card 454 - Chris Taylor

A centre, Taylor was drafted 27th overall by the New York Islanders in 1990. He scored 105 points with London in the OHL, and would go on to record two more 100+ point seasons with the Knights. He turned pro in 1992-93 with Capital District in the AHL, scoring 62 points in 77 games. Taylor played the following two seasons in the IHL, scoring 38 goals and 86 points in 1994-95 with Denver. He also made his pro debut that season, playing in 10 games with the Islanders, recording three assists.

Over the next two seasons, Taylor appeared in 11 games with the Isles, scoring one assist. He experienced success in the IHL during this time, winning back-to-back Turner Cups in 1995 and 1996. In 1997 he signed with Los Angeles while continuing to play with Utah in the IHL. Taylor moved to Boston the following season, playing in 37 games with the Bruins, scoring three goals and with eight points.

For the 1999-2000 season he joined Buffalo, spending the first three seasons primarily with Rochester, playing in 36 games with the Sabres, scoring two goals and eight points. 2003-04 would be a career season for Taylor, playing in 54 games, scoring six goals and 12 points in what would be his final NHL season. He played two more seasons with Rochester, winning the Fred T Hunt Trophy for sportsmanship in 2005. Taylor moved to Germany for the 2006-07 season, playing three seasons before returning to Rochester for a third stint and two final pro seasons before retiring.

In eight NHL seasons Taylor played in 149 games, scoring 11 goals and 32 points. Upon retiring he became an assistant coach with Rochester, moving to Wilkes-Barre Scranton before returning to Rochester as head coach in 2017-18. In 2020-21 Taylor became an assistant coach with New Jersey, a role he holds as of this writing.

YouTube clip: the tribute video from Taylor’s induction into the (Rochester) Amerks Hall of Fame in 2015.

Card 455 - Chris Tancill

A centre, Tancill was selected by Hartford in the 1989 supplemental draft (check out this post for more on the supplemental draft). He had already played three years of college hockey at Wisconsin, and returned for his senior season, scoring 37 goals and 72 points while guiding the Badgers to the NCAA title and winning tournament MVP.

Tancill turned pro the following season, scoring 72 points in 72 games with Springfield in the AHL, winning the Calder Cup. He also appeared in his first nine NHL games, scoring two points. December 1991 saw Tancill traded to Detroit where he would spend two seasons, playing in five games with the Wings. During the 1992-93 season with Adirondack in the AHL he scored 59 goals and 102 points, leading the league in goals. In both seasons in Adirondack Tancill was named a first team league all-star, and won his second Calder Cup in 1992.

1993-94 saw Tancill take his talents to Dallas, playing in 12 games while scoring 45 points for Kalamazoo in the IHL. The following season he signed in San Jose where he would experience his best NHL season in 1995-96, playing in 45 games, scoring seven goals and 23 points. After two games with Dallas in 1997-98 Tancill took his talents to Switzerland. In six seasons in the Swiss league, Tancill would earn a league MVP award in 2000 and captain EV Zug from 2001-2004.

In eight NHL seasons, Tancill played in 134 games, scoring 17 goals and 49 points. He is a member of the Swiss Hockey Hall of Fame.

YouTube clip: scoring a hat trick for Springfield in Game 5 of the 1991 Calder Cup finals against Rochester. On the third goal he beats Amerks defenceman Ken Sutton, featured later in this post.

Card 456 - Mark Greig

A right winger, Greig was drafted 15th overall by Hartford in 1990 after finishing his third season with Lethbridge in the WHL where he scored 55 goals and 135 points. He turned pro the following season, scoring 87 points with Springfield in the IHL and winning the Calder Cup. Greig also appeared in his first four NHL games that season.

The following two seasons he played 39 games for the Whalers, scoring 13 points, before a trade in January 1994 to Toronto for Ted Crowley. Split between Hartford and Toronto, Greig had his best NHL season ever in 1994-95, playing in 44 games, scoring six goals and 13 points. For 1994-95 he played in eight games with Calgary, then played the next three seasons in the IHL with Atlanta, Quebec, Houston and Grand Rapids.

Greig returned to the NHL for the 1998-99 season, signing with Philadelphia. For the next five seasons he played primarily with the Philadelphia Phantoms in the AHL, scoring 70 or more points in three seasons while playing in 30 games for the Flyers, scoring five goals and 12 points. During the 2000-01 season Greig was named captain of the Phantoms and an AHL first team all star.

For the 2003-04 season Greig played in Germany, where he spent four seasons before retiring. Over nine NHL seasons Greig played in 125 games, scoring 13 goals and 40 points. Since retiring he has worked as an amateur scout for Philadelphia and also coached youth hockey in his hometown of Lethbridige.

YouTube clip: an interview with Mark and his son Ridly (now an Ottawa Senator) about playing in the Alberta Cup.

Card 457 - Mike Sillinger

A centre, Sillinger was drafted 11th overall by Detroit in the 1989 draft. He returned to junior for two more seasons, recording 129 and 116 points with Regina in the WHL. Sillinger played his first three NHL games at the end of the 1990-91 season, becoming a full time NHLer the following season, playing in 51 games for the Wings, scoring four goals and 21 points.

Halfway through the 1994-95 season he was traded to Anaheim with Jason York for Stu Grimson and Mark Ferner in what would be the first of many trades in his career. Sillinger lasted two seasons with the Ducks before a trade to Vancouver in March 1996 for Roman Oksiuta. He lasted three seasons with the Canucks before a trade to Philadelphia during the 1997-98 season. Split between the Canucks and Flyers, Sillinger scored 21 goals and 41 points, while leading the NHL with a 21.9% shooting percentage.

December 1998 saw a trade to Tampa Bay with Chris Gratton for Daymond Langkow and Mikael Renberg, then the following season another trade, this time with Sillinger going to Florida for two prospects. Split between the Lightning and the Panthers, Sillinger scored 23 goals and 52 points. At the 2001 trade deadline he was traded for a sixth time, going to Ottawa. He scored seven points in 13 regular season games before the Sens were swept in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals by Toronto.

In the 2001-02 off-season Sillinger moved teams for the first time as a free agent, signing with Columbus. In two seasons with the Blue Jackets Sillinger would play in 155 games (his most with one franchise), scoring 38 goals and 86 points. He was back on the road in July 2003, this time ending up in Phoenix after a three-way trade involving Dallas. Sillinger played the majority of the season with the Coyotes before another trade deadline move, going to St. Louis for Brent Johnson.

Following the 2004-05 lockout, Sillinger had a career season split between St. Louis and Nashville, scoring 32 goals and 63 points at age 34. In July 2006 he signed with the New York Islanders, his 12th and final NHL stop. As assistant captain with the Isles during his three seasons, Sillinger played his final seven NHL games in 2008-09.

In 17 NHL seasons, Sillinger played in 1049 games, scoring 240 goals and 548 points. He holds the record for most franchises played for by a single player (12). Upon retiring he joined Edmonton as the director of player development, a role he held until 2014-15 when he left to become a scout with his former junior team, Regina. Mike’s son Cole currently plays for Columbus, one of his former teams.

YouTube clip: scoring a goal in the third period and then the shootout winner against one of his former teams, Ottawa, during a 2007 game with the Isles.

Card 458 - Ken Sutton

A defenceman, Sutton was drafted 98th overall by Buffalo in 1989. He turned pro the following season with Rochester in the AHL, where he played the majority of the next two seasons. Sutton appeared in 15 NHL games in 1990-91, scoring three goals and nine points.

From 1991 to 1994 Sutton was regular on the Sabres’ blueline, scoring 20+ points each season, including a career-high 24 points in 1993-94. During the 1994 playoffs he scored three goals and four points in 8 games. During the lockout shortened 1994-95 Sutton was traded to Edmonton for Scott Pearson. He lasted 44 games as an Oiler before a four person trade sent him to St. Louis.

With the Blues Sutton spent most of his time playing for Worcester in the AHL, appearing in only 6 NHL games. In November 1996 he was traded to New Jersey for Mike Peluso and Ricard Persson. Sutton resurfaced in the NHL during the 1997-98 season, split between the Devils and Sharks after a December 1997 trade with John MacLean for Doug Bodger and Dody Wood.

The 1998 off-season saw Sutton traded back to New Jersey, claimed by Washington, and then traded to New Jersey for a third time. From 1998-2000 he played in only 11 games for the Devils, but made a name for himself in the AHL, being named a first team all-star and winning the Eddie Shore Award for best defenceman. Sutton persevered back to the NHL in 2000-01, playing in 53 games with the Devils, scoring eight points. He spent his final NHL season with the Islanders in 2001-02, returning to the Devils organization for a fourth time the following season. Sutton ended his pro career with three seasons in Germany, retiring after the 2005-06 season.

In 11 NHL seasons Sutton played in 388 games, scoring 23 goals and 103 points. Over his first four NHL seasons he scored 17 goals and 75 points, while in the remaining seasons he scored only six goals and 28 points.

YouTube clip: scoring in Game 4 of the 1993 Adams Division Finals against Montreal. This was the third straight game in which he had scored in the series.

9 views0 comments


bottom of page