The Stanley Cup Playoffs have narrowed to four teams, and former NCAA players will have a big impact on who ultimately hoists the Cup.
A total of 38 former collegians representing 22 schools – more than one-third of Division I – have appeared in the playoffs for Anaheim, Nashville, Ottawa and Pittsburgh, the four remaining teams.
Wisconsin is guaranteed to see an alum hoist the Cup, as each of the four remaining teams have utilized a Badger in the playoffs. Massachusetts alums have appeared for every team but Ottawa and the Minutemen are assured of a former player in the Stanley Cup Final as Brandon Montour (Anaheim) and Matt Irwin (Nashville) face off in the Western Conference Final.
Alums Fuel Pens
Defending Cup champion Pittsburgh, which knocked off Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington in the second round, sets the pace when it comes to college players on the roster. The Penguins had a record 13 former college players get their name etched on the Cup last year, then had a record 60% of their individual games played this season come from NCAA alums.
College players have had an even bigger impact for the Pens in the playoffs, with 15 alumni accounting for 65% of the team’s individual games played.
Jake Guentzel, who was a junior at Omaha last season, leads the NHL with 9 playoff goals and leads all rookies with 14 points. Five former college players have played defense for the Penguins, led by former Wisconsin All-American Justin Schultz.
The Penguins will face Ottawa, which got a crucial overtime goal from another Badger, Kyle Turris, in its second-round series vs. the New York Rangers. The Senators also feature former Miami teammates Chris Wideman and Tommy Wingels.
Western Conference Preview
Montour and Irwin will meet in the Anaheim-Nashville series, hoping to join Jonathan Quick and Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary as the only former Minutemen to win the Stanley Cup. Northeastern could also see alums play on both sides of the series; Josh Manson has been a key contributor for Anaheim while Anthony Bitetto has yet to draw into the Nashville lineup, though he played 29 regular-season games.
Ohio State product Ryan Kesler will be a key to the Ducks’ hopes, while they also hope to get two-time Boston College All-American Patrick Eaves back from injury.
Nashville – which has a crowd that sounds the most like a college game and an alum at general manager in David Poile (Northeastern) – has the fewest former college players in its lineup among the remaining teams. Irwin has been a stalwart on defense for the Predators, while former BU NCAA champion Colin Wilson had a goal and an assist in the St. Louis series.