The number of Ontario Hockey League grads playing in Italy’s Lega Italiana Hockey Ghiaccio (LIHG) seems to be down from recent years but one team still has the OHL well represented. Milano Rossoblu is a team in its first year in the LIHG Serie A1 after winning the A2 championship in 2011-12 and being promoted. The Rossoblu have been around as a franchise since 2008-09 and play out of the 4,000 seat Stadio del Ghiaccio Agora in Milan.
There are three OHL grads currently on the team. Each of the three has at least some NHL experience. One was even a Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s top rookie.
Andrew Raycroft is in his first year in Italy and is not on a NHL lockout contract. Raycroft became a free agent after splitting 2011-12 between the Dallas Stars and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. Andrew played his first NHL games in 2000-01 with the Boston Bruins. In 2003-04, he was awarded the Calder Trophy after playing 57 of Boston’s games and posting a 2.05 goals against average. In his NHL career to date, Raycroft has appeared between the pipes for the Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks and the Stars.
Raycroft played three years in the OHL from 1997-98 to 1999-00. His first two years were with the Sudbury Wolves and his final season was spent with the Kingston Frontenacs. In his final year, while playing 61 of Kingston’s 68 games, Andrew was OHL and CHL goaltender of the year.
David Liffiton was captain of the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters for the past two seasons, also appearing in four games with the Colorado Avalanche over that time period. In total, he has appeared in seven NHL regular season games with the other three as a New York Ranger.
Liffiton played three years in the OHL from 2001-02 to 2003-04, all with the Plymouth Whalers. In 2003, the Avalanche chose him in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft. David has come a long way since being a 16th round pick of the Whalers at the 2000 OHL Priority Selection.
Matt Ryan is in his first year playing in Italy but has been in Europe since the start of the 2008-09 season. Well travelled, Ryan has played in Germany, Austria, Sweden and now Italy over the past five years. For the previous four years, he was a regular with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. He got pulled up to the Los Angeles Kings for a 12 game stint in 2005-06, his only NHL action to date.
Ryan played two years in the Ontario Hockey League, 2002-03 and 2003-04, all with the Guelph Storm. He helped the Storm to a Robertson Cup championship in his final season.
Milan is currently placed sixth in the ten team LIHG. There are plans to have two teams in the club, possibly by 2013-14, with one remaining in the LIHG and the other becoming the first Italian team to play out of the Russian based KHL.