The American Hockey League (AHL) is the top hockey league in the United States behind the NHL. It exists to prepare players for entry into the NHL, and over the years, many AHL alumni have gone on to successful NHL careers.
In fact, on opening night of the 2011-12 NHL season, over 600 former AHL players were on big-league rosters. These players accounted for around 83 percent of the league's players.
While minor-league success doesn't always translate to strong performances in the NHL, the 30 players in this slideshow are in the group who may not be where they are today if they had not played in the AHL.
In order to put this list together, I used some criteria that narrowed down the pool I had to work with, as there is simply no time to go through statistics for 600 players.
First, every player considered had to spend time in the AHL before advancing to the NHL. This meant if a player was already in the NHL full-time but got sent down during the lockout in 2004-05, they weren't eligible for the list (this is why you will not see Eric Staal as the selected Hurricanes player).
Second, the players had to come through their current team's farm system. Players were not eligible for inclusion if they played in the AHL for a team that is not or was not affiliated with their current organization.
Third, I decided that each player had to play a quarter of a season in the AHL, which would be 19 games according to the AHL's current 76-game schedule. I realize some gifted players need less time in the AHL, but in general, a quarter of a season is when you can get a good read on players.
Check out who made the cut, and let me know if you think I got someone wrong.