The man in this picture is David Andrews, the president of the American Hockey League. The AHL is the top developmental league of the AHL.
Unlike the NFL, where college players tend to make the jump to the big leagues almost immediately after their NCAA days, most NHL players are carefully groomed in lower leagues like the AHL and the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
Numerous players have broken into full-time NHL jobs after starting their careers in the minor leagues, and that number is growing every year.
It is impossible to list every player who is in the NHL after playing in the minors, but here are some examples:
-Mike Richards (Philadelphia Flyers captain, won a Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms)
-Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres, set an AHL record with 40 wins in a season while playing for the Rochester Americans)
-Deryk Engelland (Pittsburgh Penguins, two-time Calder Cup finalist with the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)
In addition, coaches and officials also must work in the lower leagues before getting their big league breaks. Stanley Cup winning coaches such as Dan Bylsma and Mike Babcock began their careers in the AHL. Guy Boucher, a potential Jack Adams finalist, was named the AHL Coach of the Year in 2010 with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The best thing about developmental leagues is how fun it is to watch players mature in their careers and how AHL and ECHL fans get to say they watched a player before they made it big.