Fifteen former NCAA players dressed for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final, the most for one team in history.
Sunday night those alumni hoisted the Cup, having led the Penguins to back-to-back championships with a six-game series win against the Nashville Predators.
A year ago Pittsburgh had 13 NCAA alums on its championship team, which tied the most all-time with the 1995 New Jersey Devils. This year’s group set a new standard thanks to the addition of rookies like Jake Guentzel, Carter Rowney and Josh Archibald as well as the acquisition of veteran Ron Hainsey.
NCAA alumni contributed not just in numbers but in impact as well. Fourteen of the 19 goals the Penguins scored in the Stanley Cup Final came off the sticks of former college stars.
The 15 players who appeared in the Cup Final represented 13 schools. Twelve of the 15 played three or four years of college hockey.
Pittsburgh featured 19 NCAA alumni during the regular season and 16 in the playoffs (the 15 who appeared in the Cup Final series plus Chad Ruhwedel). Both of those figures led all NHL teams this season.
Guentzel and Archibald – who were teammates at Omaha – become the first former Mavericks to win the Stanley Cup.
Guentzel, who finished his Omaha career just 15 months ago, led all players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 13 goals and tied an NHL rookie record with 21 points.
Ten of the NCAA alumni on the Penguins are repeat champions, having gotten their names on the Cup a year ago: Nick Bonino, Ian Cole, Matt Cullen, Brian Dumoulin, Carl Hagelin, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Justin Schultz and Conor Sheary.
Kunitz, the Ferris State graduate, captured his fourth Stanley Cup and third with the Penguins. Only two NCAA products – Ken Dryden (Cornell) and Glenn Anderson (Denver), who both won six Stanley Cups – have won more.
Cullen, 40, led all Penguins forwards in ice time in what may be his final game. The St. Cloud State product had nine points and won 56% of his faceoffs in the playoffs, winning his third Cup.
Ron Hainsey wins the Cup in the first playoff appearance of his career. He and fellow former UMass Lowell star Scott Wilson will get their names on the Cup, and could be joined by Ruhwedel, who played six playoff games but did not appear in the final series. They will join Craig MacTavish (four Cups) as the only former Lowell players to get their name on the Cup.
Notre Dame also had multiple players on the Penguins, with Cole and Rust each winning for the second year in a row.
Former NCAA champions Bonino (Boston University) and Dumoulin (Boston College) each win their second Cup. Dumoulin, who led all Penguins in average ice time, also won multiple NCAA titles (2010 and ’12) with the Eagles.
Former BU captain Mike Sullivan guided the Penguins as head coach, one of many college connections in the Penguins’ front office. Sullivan, who is one of six former NCAA players to be the head coach of of a Stanley Cup champion, is the first to do so twice.
Michigan graduate Jason Botterill, since hired as the Buffalo Sabres’ general manager, was the team’s associate general manager. Former Boston College star Bill Guerin is the team’s assistant general manager and Harvard product Jason Karmanos is the vice president of hockey operations.
Goaltending coach Mike Bales (Ohio State) and goaltending development coach Mike Buckley (Massachusetts) are both former NCAA players.
The Penguins’ scouting staff features multiple former NCAA stars, led by director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton (St. Lawrence). Others include Scott Bell (Minnesota), Jay Heinbuck (Northeastern), Warren Young (Michigan Tech) and Al Santilli (Curry).
|NCAA Alumni on the Penguins
|St. Cloud State
|Includes all players who appeared in playoffs
|Assoc. GM Jason Botterill*
|Asst. GM Bill Guerin
|VP, Hockey Operations Jason Karmanos
|Head Coach Mike Sullivan
|Goaltending Coach Mike Bales
|Goaltending Development Coach Mike Buckley
|Dir., Amateur Scouting Randy Sexton
|Amateur Scout Scott Bell
|Amateur Scout Jay Heinbuck
|Amateur Scout Warren Young
|Pro Scout Al Santilli
|AHL Head Coach Clark Donatelli
|AHL Asst. Coach J.D. Forrest
|* Recently named Buffalo Sabres GM