Collegians Chase Stanley Cup
The Stanley Cup Playoffs offer a wealth of storylines, and that’s true even if you haven’t followed the players since they left campus.
With 30.5% of NHL players coming from the college ranks, every first-round series has a number of colleges represented. In fact, each first-round series features at least one NCAA champion.
This will mark the 35th straight year a former college player has his name etched on the Stanley Cup – that’s already assured no matter who wins.
Each of the last two Conn Smythe Award winners as playoff MVP have come from the college ranks – Tim Thomas (Vermont) and Jonathan Toews (North Dakota). Could this year’s continue that trend?
We take an look at some of the more compelling stories in each series from a college perspective and, as always, you can compare all of the former collegians in a given matchup using our NHL Matchup Tool.
#1 Vancouver vs. #8 Los Angeles
NCAA Champions: Rob Scuderi (Boston College ’01), Davis Drewiske (Wisconsin ’06), Keith Ballard (Minnesota ’02, ’03)
- A potential Jonathan Quick (Massachusetts) vs. Cory Schneider (Boston College) goaltending matchup would recall their college days. Both left school after the 2006-07 season, Quick after two years, Schneider after three. They each were 3-3-0 in head-to-head starts in their two seasons facing each other.
- Schneider is among three Boston College Eagles in the series who can celebrate their alma mater’s 2012 NCAA title, (with Andrew Alberts on the Canucks and Rob Scuderi on the Kings).
- Four of the six hockey-playing Ivy League institutions are represented in this series (Brown-Aaron Volpatti, Cornell-Byron Bitz, Princeton-Kevin Westgarth, Yale-Chris Higgins).
- In all, 19 colleges are represented on the two rosters.
#2 St. Louis vs. #7 San Jose
NCAA Champions: Benn Ferriero (Boston College ’08), Brian Elliott (Wisconsin ’06), Joe Pavelski (Wisconsin ’06), Kevin Shattenkirk (Boston University ’09)
- Brian Elliott and Joe Pavelski face off after helping lead their Wisconsin team to the 2006 NCAA title. Elliott was a Hobey Baker finalist that year while Pavelski was the Badgers’ leading scorer.
- San Jose’s Tommy Wingels (Miami) and St. Louis’s Ian Cole (Notre Dame) have a chance for revenge. They lost in the national title to Kevin Shattenkirk (Boston University) and Benn Ferriero (Boston College), respectively.
- In all, 16 colleges are represented on the two rosters.
#3 Phoenix vs. #6 Chicago
NCAA Champions: Brendan Morrison (Michigan ’96), Jimmy Hayes (Boston College ’10), Ben Smith (Boston College ’08, ’10)
- Chicago has the decided edge in former college players represented, but Phoenix has been active lately, signing Scott Arnold (Niagara), Chris Brown (Michigan) and Mike Lee (St. Cloud State) this spring.
- Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett won the NCAA championship as a freshman at North Dakota in 1981-82.
- Jimmy Hayes got to celebrate his brother, Kevin – a Chicago draft pick – win the NCAA title with his alma mater on April 7. The two were teammates on the Eagles last year.
#4 Nashville vs. #5 Detroit
NCAA Champions: Justin Abdelkader (Michigan State ’07), Colin Wilson (Boston University ’09), Brandon Yip (Boston University ’09)
- The number of participants who were in college just a year ago is remarkable: Nashville rookie Craig Smith was at Wisconsin, Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist was at Maine and Detroit’s Riley Sheahan played at Notre Dame this year. Detroit assistant coach Jeff Blashill was coaching at Western Michigan at year ago.
- Colin Wilson and Brandon Yip both capped their college career with an overtime win in the 2009 NCAA championship game.
#1 NY Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa
NCAA Champions: Matt Gilroy (Boston University ’09)
- Each team’s top rookie played college hockey: Carl Hagelin (Michigan) and Colin Greening (Cornell). Those two never met in college, but they had a memorable head-to-head showdown in the fastest skater competition at this winter’s NHL All-Star Game.
- There’s a strong Wisconsin connection between the two teams, as Kyle Turris and Ryan McDonagh were teammates in Madison in 2007-08 and Derek Stepan arrived on campus the next fall.
- Former Maine forward John Tortorella could be coaching against former Maine goaltender Ben Bishop.
#2 Boston vs. #7 Washington
NCAA Champions: Brian Rolston (Lake Superior State ’92), Marty Turco (Michigan ’96, ’98 – ineligible for playoffs)
- Boston added three former college players at the NHL trade deadline (Mike Mottau, Brian Rolston, Greg Zanon) and signed two others (Torey Krug and Marty Turco, both ineligible for the postseason). Last year’s Bruins team only had two college players get their names on the Stanley Cup, the fewest since 2002.
- Washington’s Jeff Halpern (Princeton) faced Tim Thomas (Vermont) in college, although they never met in the playoffs.
- Mike Knuble and Marty Turco were teammates at Michigan during Knuble’s senior year and Turco’s freshman year.
- In all, 11 schools are accounted for on the two rosters, including the only Division III school in the NHL (Norwich – Keith Aucoin)
#3 Florida vs. #6 New Jersey
NCAA Champions: Scott Clemmensen (Boston College ’01), Jack Skille (Wisconsin ’06)
- Two New Jersey players – Peter Harrold and Stephen Gionta – have a chance to exact revenge on Jack Skille, whose Wisconsin team beat their Boston College club for the national championship in 2006.
- Only 41 defensemen under 6’0” tall played in the NHL this season, with nearly half (19) coming from the college ranks. Two of the best are in this series in Andy Greene (Miami) and Mike Weaver (Michigan State). Greene twice was named the CCHA’s Best Offensive Defenseman while Weaver won the CCHA’s Best Defensive Defenseman honor twice. Greene was also named the Best Defensive Defenseman once.
- New Jersey assistant coach Adam Oates won the NCAA title as a senior at Rensselaer in 1985.
- In all, 10 schools are represented on the two rosters.
#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Philadelphia
NCAA Champions: Matt Carle (Denver ’04, ’05), Paul Martin (Minnesota ’02, ’03), Brooks Orpik (Boston College ’01)
- This is the only series where both general managers and both head coaches played college hockey.
- The last two schools to win back-to-back NCAA titles are represented in this series: Denver in 2004 and ’05 (Matt Carle) and Minnesota in 2002 and ’03 (Paul Martin).
- These two cities are the sites of the next two Frozen Fours (Pittsburgh in 2013, Philadelphia in 2014) h/t Doc Emrick
- In all, 10 schools are represented on the two rosters.