BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: The 100 Club
Blog #19 – July 17, 2020
by John Peterson
It took a conversation with a Kalamazoo Wings legend to inspire today’s blog.
This week I sat down with K-Wings great Kevin Schamehorn for Monday’s episode of Just Wingin’ It. We discussed everything from his health to his family, his former teammates who still live in the area, and his illustrious playing career in Kalamazoo.
To open the 2018-19 season, the organization honored Schamehorn by retiring his Number-26, making him one of just three players to have their jersey retired at Wings Event Center.
He holds the team’s all-time record for goals (239, tied with Mike Wanchuk) and points (474). Up until the 2019-20 season, Schamehorn also held the K-Wings record for games played before Justin Taylor surpassed that mark, which we discussed in an earlier blog post.
Another accomplishment on Schamehorn’s resume includes a 100-point season, which he notched in 1978-79 when he compiled 102 (45 goals, 57 assists) in helping the K-Wings capture their first of back-to-back Turner Cup Championships.
That got me thinking. You don’t see players in today’s game reach the 100-point plateau very often anymore.
The NHL sometimes sees one or two players reach the century mark during a 82-game season. Somehow six players hit 100 in 2018-19, but every other year in the past decade saw none, one or two.
That hasn’t translated to the minor leagues.
Chad Costello capped off a stretch of three consecutive 100-point seasons for the Allen Americans in 2016-17, but no ECHL player has totaled more than 80 in a season since.
The last two 100-point campaigns in the AHL came in 2009-10, when Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux both did it for the Hershey Bears.
It is an elite group.
THE LAST OF THE BENJAMINS
Through 46 years of K-Wings hockey, only 13 men have recorded 100 points in a single season.
Three different players did it in 1978-79 en route to the league championship, including Schamehorn (102), Thomas Milani (106) and Tom Ross (116).
In fact, Milani and Ross are the only two Kalamazoo players to achieve the feat twice. Milani (111) and Ross (103) both topped 100 the following season as the K-Wings repeated as champions.
Following the back-to-back titles, three more players eclipsed 100 points in 1980-81, including Rob Plumb (109), Jim Malazdrewicz (105) and Scott Vanderburgh (101). Kalamazoo had its best regular season in team history, but suffered heartbreak in its attempt to win a third straight Turner Cup, as the Wings were swept in four games by Saginaw in the finals.
Finally in 1981-82, Brent Jarrett put together Kalamazoo’s best season statistically—up to that point—with 122 points (40 goals, 82 assists) in 77 games.
Nine players hit 100 points in a season during a four-year span.
In the 38 seasons since 1981-82, only four players have achieved 100 points in a single season.
Two players broke the 100-point barrier for Kalamazoo in 1985-86. Bill Terry (109) and Wayne Crawford (102) helped that K-Wings team hit 100 points in the standings for the first time since 1980-81, only to fall in the first round of the playoffs.
Gary Emmons just barely made it 100 points in 81 games during the 1989-90 venture before heading to Austria, then returning the following season. He went on to skate in three NHL games with the San Jose Sharks in the mid-90s.
The 13th and last K-Wings player to reach the 100-point milestone was Rob Brown in 1993-94.
Brown tallied 155 points (42 goals, 113 assists) in 79 games, averaging an astounding 1.96 points per game. He also sat in the penalty box for 188 minutes that season.
His season in Kalamazoo was sandwiched by a successful 11-year NHL career, mostly with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brown had four different 100-point seasons in the IHL and one with the Penguins.
No player donning Kalamazoo colors has joined the 100-point club in the 26 years since. Kory Karlander came close in 2007-08, when he registered 94 points in 74 games.
But that’s just how difficult it is in the modern era.
HERE TO DEVELOP
Since the IHL, UHL and CHL folded, the ECHL aligned itself perfectly as the only “AA” league in North America. The cohesiveness and fluidity within hockey’s affiliations has strengthened in recent years, bringing value to developing prospects in the minor leagues.
Players who excel at the ECHL level usually get rewarded with an AHL tryout during the season, even if it is with a team outside the affiliation. Players who stand out at the AHL level force the big club to give them a look.
This makes it more difficult for players to reach the 100-point plateau in a single season with one team. The ECHL also goes with a 72-game schedule now, fewer games than IHL teams used to play.
Costello’s 122 points in 2016-17 was 34 points better than the second-highest total, as he easily cruised to the league’s MVP award. He had 103 the year prior and 125 in 2014-15. Nobody came even close.
The kicker is Costello had multiple AHL opportunities earlier in his career and consistently turned down call-ups to stay close to his family in Allen towards the end of his ECHL tenure. He decided he’d rather stay with the Americans as a dominant force than play limited minutes at the higher level. Following his third straight 100-point season, Costello signed a lucrative contract in the DEL, the top league over in Germany.
Before Costello, the last time the ECHL saw a 100-point producer was 2009-10, when Tyler (114) and Justin (104) Donati of the Elmira Jackals paced the league that year.
Toledo’s Josh Kestner was the closest to achieving the mark in 2019-20, before the season was cancelled due to the concerns surrounding COVID-19. Kestner had 73 points for the Walleye and won the ECHL’s MVP award. He needed 27 points in Toledo’s last 13 games to reach 100. If he stayed at his point-per-game pace of 1.26, he would have needed 22 more games to get there.
Since joining the ECHL, the K-Wings’ closest player to a 100-point season was during the team’s run to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2010-11. Karlander and Trent Daavettila both finished that season with 80 points in 71 games.
Taylor had 39 points in 49 games last year to lead Kalamazoo in the shortened season. He also played well enough early in the year to earn a month-long tryout with the AHL’s Utica Comets.
That’s how difficult it is to get to 100 points in the minor leagues with one team in a single season.
Will it ever happen again in the ECHL?
Maybe if Costello comes back from Germany.
Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson twice weekly. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to email@example.com. Enjoy!