Brad Richard arrived in Alaska last fall as a relatively unknown defenseman from a Division III college, and he certainly wasn't a sure bet to survive training-camp cuts with the Alaska Aces.
Since then, he has developed into a fixture on the blue line and a guy who plays in all situations.
And Wednesday, Richard was rewarded for his work.
The 25-year-old was voted to the ECHL's All-Rookie Team, becoming the first player directly from an NCAA Division III program to make the team since the minor-league circuit began assembling All-Rookie Teams in 2001. Richard was a second-team East All-American for Hobart College (N.Y.) as a senior last season.
Half of the six-man All-Rookie team voted by league coaches, broadcasters, media relations directors and media has an Alaska connection. Idaho Steelheads winger William Rapuzzi of Anchorage was honored, along with former Aces goaltender Laurent Brossoit of the Bakersfield Condors.
Also selected to the team were Reading Royals defenseman Michal Cajkovsky, Stockton Thunder forward Jeremy Langlois and Kalamazoo Wings forward Matt Caria.
Richard became the sixth Aces player to be named All-Rookie in the franchise's 11 ECHL seasons, and the first since defenseman Mark Isherwood in 2011.
Richard entered Wednesday tied for second among ECHL rookie defensemen in points with 6-24--30 totals in 59 games, and his plus-minus rating of plus-21 ranked second among first-year blueliners. Nearly half of Richard's points have come on special teams -- he owns 3-8--11 power-play totals and two short-handed assists.
He has also given the Aces value as their only right-handed-shooting defenseman who has played the majority of their games and been deemed by coach Rob Murray and assistant coach Louis Mass, who runs the defense, as worthy of substantial ice time.
Rapuzzi, 24, the former Colorado College captain, entered Wednesday leading all rookie scorers in assists and points with 16-41--57 totals in 58 games, and his seven shootout goals lead the entire circuit.
Brossoit, 21, entered Wednesday with a league record-tying eight shutouts -- he shares that standard with former Aces goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (2009) and former South Carolina goalie Ryan Zapolski (2013). Brossoit has produced a 24-9-2 record that ties him for the league lead in wins, a goals-against average of 2.05 that ranks second -- Utah's Igor Bobkov leads him fractionally at 2.04 -- and a .924 save percentage. Brossoit played briefly for the Aces before the Calgary Flames, Alaska's NHL affiliate, traded him to Edmonton, which uses Bakersfield as its affiliate.
Previous Aces to be voted All-Rookie were Isherwood; Lamoureux, who was also the league's Goaltender of the Year and an All-ECHL first-teamer in 2009; winger Josh Soares, who in 2008 was also first-team All-ECHL; center Julian Talbot (2007); and center Alex Leavitt, who in 2006 was also voted the Rookie of the Year and first-team All-ECHL, and was also the league's leading scorer.
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By DOYLE WOODY