Seventeen NCAA schools have alumni who have played in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the four teams meeting in the NHL’s conference finals, beginning Friday night.
NCAA alumni within four wins of the Cup Final include a team captain (Blake Wheeler), two general managers (George McPhee and Brian MacLellan), and six of the 13 rookies who have suited up for the four teams still alive.
Winnipeg leads the four remaining teams, having utilized 10 NCAA alumni in the postseason. Among those are starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell) and the team’s second- and third-leading scorers (Wheeler, Minnesota, and Paul Stastny, Denver). NBC Sports named those three their three stars of the Jets’ Game 7 victory against Nashville.
Both series feature a wealth of former NCAA talent, however. Ten schools are represented in each series. A few more notes on each series:
Tampa Bay-Washington – Eastern Conference Final
- All six Division I conferences are represented in the series
- Shane Gersich is the only player still alive who played NCAA hockey in 2017-18
- Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper played NCAA lacrosse and club hockey at Hofstra
- Assistant coaches on both teams excelled in college – Washington’s Todd Reirden (Bowling Green) and Tampa Bay’s Todd Richards (Minnesota)
- Richards’s son, Justin, won the NCAA title this year as a freshman at Minnesota Duluth
Vegas-Winnipeg – Western Conference Final
- All four rookies to play in the playoffs for these teams are NCAA alumni (Alex Tuch, Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic and Tucker Poolman)
- Paul Stastny, Brandon Tanev and Poolman all won NCAA titles
- Both teams feature former college teammates – Nate Schmidt and Erik Haula on Vegas (Minnesota) and Jacob Trouba and Andrew Copp on Winnipeg (Michigan)
- Trouba and Copp were teammates of Vegas’s Jon Merrill at Michigan