Alums Make Up Nearly 30% of NHL

271 former college players from 48 schools played at least one NHL game this season.
ryan suter
One of 20 former Badgers in the NHL this season, Ryan Suter led the league in ice time (Photo by Larry Radloff).

The 2012-13 NHL season featured 271 former college hockey players appearing in at least one game, making up nearly 30% of the league (29.4%). That represents a sharp increase from 10 years ago, when the 211 former NCAA players in the NHL made up 21% of the league, and continues to make college hockey the fastest growing development path to the NHL.

            List of 271 Alums in the NHL | NHL Matchup Tool

Forty-six of the 59 Division I hockey schools had a former player in the NHL this season, plus two Division III programs (Norwich and Oswego State). Wisconsin led the way with 20 former players in the NHL, followed by Boston College (19), Michigan (18), Boston University (16) and Michigan State (16).

“The impact of college hockey in the NHL is evident in every game we do,” said NBC Sports analyst and former NHL coach and executive Pierre McGuire. “It’s remarkable the growth that the college game has seen in the last 10 years. Having seen lots of college games this year and witnessing the talent coming from the NCAA level, that impact is clearly going to continue.”

College hockey’s impressive presence will continue in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with each team that qualified for the postseason featuring at least five NCAA alums on its roster. Vancouver leads the way with 15 former college players, while the top seeds in both the Eastern and Western Conferences – Pittsburgh and Chicago, respectively – each have 12 former college players on their roster.

“It’s not just the number of players, but impact guys,” McGuire said. “Look around the playoffs – it’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp in Chicago, it’s Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh for the Rangers. It’s Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty in Montreal, Jonathan Quick and Matt Greene in Los Angeles, Ryan Kesler and Cory Schneider in Vancouver, Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz in Pittsburgh, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in Minnesota. The list goes on and on. If you don’t have a wise scouting presence in the college game, your team will have a tough time winning.”

As McGuire notes, former college players were among the best players in the game in 2013, led by Art Ross Trophy winner Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Vermont alumnus led the league in scoring for the second time.

Five former NCAA players led their teams in both goals and points (Pacioretty, Parise, Phil Kessel, Kyle Turris and Thomas Vanek). Among the other noteworthy statistical accomplishments, former college players represented:

  • Three of the top eight scorers in the league (St. Louis, Kunitz, Kessel)
  • Three of the top five players in plus/minus (Kunitz, Toews, Stepan)
  • Three of the top nine players in average ice time, including the overall leader (Suter, Jack Johnson, Paul Martin)
  • Three of the top 10 players in faceoff percentage (Toews, Travis Zajac, Jay Beagle)
  • Three of the top nine players in blocked shots (Greg Zanon, Ron Hainsey, Orpik)
  • Two of the co-leaders in shutouts (Jimmy Howard, Schneider)
  • The leader in saves (Ryan Miller)
  • Four of the top 12 rookie scorers (Cory Conacher, Justin Schultz, Alex Killorn, Patrick Wiercioch)
  • The rookie assist leader (Schultz) and top two rookie defensemen in scoring (Schultz, Wiercioch)

More than 71% of the 271 former college players in the NHL this season spent at least three years at school, with 43% playing four years. Seventy-one of the players were undrafted free agents.

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