Nearly a decade ago, centerman Mark Cullen played his first professional hockey game, following in the footsteps of his older brother and current Minnesota Wild forward, Matt. This came after the 1998 USHL Rookie of the Year spent 4 years in the Colorado College hockey program. While at Colorado College studying economics, the Moorhead, Minnesota native made quite the name for himself scoring 53 goals for the Tigers. Cullen was also a two time ACHA “West Second Team All American” during his junior and senior seasons. While playing for Colorado College, Mark caught the eye of the Minnesota Wild. They signed him as a free agent upon completion of his senior season with the Tigers.
Cullen made his AHL debut with the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, in 2002. Over the 189 games he spent with the Aeros he picked up 119 points—42 of those coming from goals. Mark was named the 2002-2003 American Specialty/HG Insurance/AHL Man of the Year for the Aeros. That same season Cullen picked up 3 goals and 7 assists in 15 games during the Aeros playoff run in 2003. When it was all over with, the Aeros were the 2003 AHL Calder Cup Champions. After three seasons with the Aeros, Mark signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005. The following season he made his NHL debut when he was recalled from Chicago’s AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, in November. During his first NHL game Mark scored his first NHL goal and sealed the Blackhawks victory that night against the St. Louis Blues. He found the back of the net 6 more times while playing 28 more games for the Blackhawks that season. After the Blackhawks and Admirals season had ended, Cullen joined team USA to play in the 2006 World Hockey Championships.
Over the next three seasons, Mark played games for the Philadelphia Phantoms, Grand Rapids Griffins and Manitoba Moose in the AHL in addition to appearing in 3 games for the Flyers during the 2006-2007 NHL season. The season after the Cullen and his Manitoba Moose teammates lost in the Calder Cup Finals in 2009, he signed back with the Blackhawks organization and played with their AHL affiliate in Rockford the following season. He appeared in 62 games for the Ice Hogs scoring over 20 goals that season, and represented the team at the 2010 AHL All-Star Classic playing for Planet USA.
During the 2010 off-season, Mark signed with the Florida Panthers. After missing the start of the season with an injury, he appeared in 28 games with the Rochester Americans, picking up 14 points in an Amerks uniform. He re-signed with the Panthers during the off-season in 2011 and spent the majority of the season with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. He was a solid center for the Rampage and netted 10 goals for San Antonio in addition to assisting on 36 of his teammate’s goals. He finished the season with a +/- rating of +16 for the Rampage, the 2nd highest rating on the team. While on recall to the Panthers in December, Cullen picked up an assist on a goal scored by Bill Thomas, another member of the San Antonio Rampage who was also on recall.
Cullen’s contract with the Panthers expires on July 1st of this year making him an unrestricted free agent. He’s a player who has a lot of experience and is a good mentor younger players both on and off the ice.
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