Take a scan through the 2013 ECHL All-Star Game roster and there me be some odd selections or missing names.
However, the ECHL has purposely made its All-Star Game a showcase of the league’s young and upcoming prospects instead of a game featuring its top performers. By doing so, the ECHL is able to display some of its best talent that may one day crack an NHL roster or play in the American Hockey League.
The ECHL has become a league that offers younger players another opportunity to make a name for themselves or continue their career development for their respective NHL clubs by getting plenty of ice time.
The league can also serve as a second chance for undrafted players to maybe latch on with an NHL club after failing to do so following their junior or collegiate careers.
Such is the case for Idaho’s Austin Fyten and Stockton’s Justin Maylan. Both All-Star rookie forwards were passed over in the NHL Draft after posting solid numbers in the Western Hockey League and are now battling it out in the ECHL ranks.
“Ever since that draft I have been out to prove myself and (earn) a chance,” Maylan said. “It’s all about development, especially at this age. Obviously, I want to be moving up but I'd rather be playing lots of minutes down here than sitting on the bench or sitting in the stands up there.”
The 21-year-old forward currently leads ECHL rookies with 34 points after registering 15 goals and 19 assists this season with the Stockton Thunder. Last year, Maylan finished up his junior hockey career with the Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) by posting a career-high 26 goals and 63 assists for 89 points. His performance for the Raiders earned him a one-month tryout with the AHL’s Portland Pirates where he appeared in one game.
“I was very grateful for the opportunity to go up to Portland. That was huge for me,” Maylan added. “Confidence wise it was an all-time high for myself.”
Maylan’s confidence continued to grow when he was invited to training camp earlier this year with the AHL’s NHL prospect-loaded Oklahoma City Barons. The 6'1”, 170-pounder was able to compete and observe how current Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz handle themselves on and off the ice.
“It was really interesting to see how they worked,” Maylan said. “They were great players. (They have) a quiet confidence, but you know they have it.”
Fyten, a 6'2”, 210-pound left winger is trying to work his way back into the hockey scene after appearing in only six playoff games for the Vancouver Giants in 2011-12 after missing the regular season with a torn right ACL. The 21-year-old currently leads ECHL rookies with 23 assists and his 35 points ranks eighth overall in the ECHL.
“I was injured last year so I was working a lot on my legs and my skating,” Fyten said. “That was a rough year for me.”
Fyten has been strong this year and may finish the season statistically close to his best season in the WHL despite missing last season. The Sundre, Alberta native had 24 goals and 30 assists for the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2010-11.
Along with being a point-producer for the Steelheads, Fyten leads ECHL rookies and ranks fifth in the league with a plus-minus rating of 18.
“Plus-minus comes with being good defensively and I pride myself in that,” Fyten said. “I’m just trying to be a consistent guy. Night in and night out showing up and putting up points and leading my team. I got to step up and be a leader in that department.”
Being able to get plenty of ice time is a huge positive for ECHL players says Fyten and it has already shown dividends for himself and Maylan.
“There’s a lot of guys in this league and a lot of players in the American league. Having this league allows the young guys to come here and get more playing time,” Fyten said. “You move up to the next level, you’re only going to be playing a few minutes a night.”
Follow Justin Felisko at Twitter via @jfelisko