From ECHL to NHL?

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

There has been a handful of players who've made the long climb from the ECHL (the equivalent of double-A baseball) to the NHL.

Alex Leavitt wants to add his name to that short list. His coach, Davis Payne, wants a promotion, too.

"I battled my way from the East Coast League to the NHL as a player and eventually I'd love to do the same as a coach," said Alaska Aces coach Davis Payne,whose club is the 2nd-tier affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.

"You should have aspirations to perform your craft at the highest level possible, and that would be the ultimate for me."

The Aces' success this season - which has led them to the ECHL's conference final - is certainly going to open doors. Alaska finished the regular season with 113 points, the second-most in league history. Right behind them were the Las Vegas Wranglers (111 points), which serves Brent Bilodeau well.

This was Bilodeau's first year as a full-time assistant coach after playing 12 years in the minors. He's learned plenty this season from Wranglers head man Glen Gulutzan and mixed that with the lessons he learned as a player from his junior coaches - Peter Anholt and Graham James.

"Pete trusted in his players and believed in them and instilled a lot of confidence in me," said Bilodeau, who also played for the St. Albert Saints.

"Graham was an offensive-minded guy and really liked guys with skill and high-tempo teams.

"Every coach knows X's and O's. It's about personal skills and the way they motivate their team."


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