When eight former NCAA hockey players took their turn hoisting the Stanley Cup on Tuesday night as members of the newly crowned Vegas Golden Knights, it punctuated a 2022-23 National Hockey League season that showcased considerable college hockey influence.
Three-time Stanley Cup winners Phil Kessel (Minnesota), Alec Martinez (Miami) and Jonathan Quick (Massachusetts) were joined by first-time champs Teddy Blueger (Minnesota State), Jack Eichel (Boston University), Ben Hutton (Maine), Reilly Smith (Miami) and Zach Whitecloud (Bemidji State) during last night’s victory celebration. The Golden Knights were assembled by a pair of former college hockey players: president of hockey operations George McPhee played at Bowling Green from 1978-82, while general manager Kelly McCrimmon skated for Michigan from 1980-84, two of several NCAA alumni employed in Vegas’ front office.
But college hockey’s impact on the 2022-23 NHL campaign went well beyond the Stanley Cup Finals. A total of 334 NCAA alums appeared in the NHL over the course of the season, second-most in history. The majority (66%) of those 334 players spent at least three seasons on campus.
Forty-six NCAA Division I schools had at least one alum playing in the NHL in 2022-23. Minnesota led all schools with 26 alumni in the NHL, followed by Michigan (24), Boston College (23), Boston University (22) and North Dakota (20).
Other highlights included:
- A pair of former Michigan teammates, Seattle forward Matty Beniers and Buffalo defenseman Owen Power, are finalists for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
- Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell) is up for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender, an award he previously won in 2019-20.
- The Rangers’ Adam Fox (Harvard) and Colorado’s Cale Makar (UMass) are finalists for the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman. Makar won the award last season, while Fox claimed it in 2020-21.
- Arizona forward Clayton Keller (Boston University) and Chicago goalie Alex Stalock (Minnesota Duluth) are finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
- New York Islanders captain Anders Lee (Notre Dame) is one of three finalists for the King Clancy Trophy, given to the player who “best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”
- Boston’s Jim Montgomery (Maine) and Seattle’s Dave Hakstol (North Dakota) are finalists for the Jack Adams award as coach of the year. In addition to their collegiate playing days, both Montgomery and Hakstol previously enjoyed successful stints as NCAA head coaches. Montgomery led Denver to an NCAA championship in 2017, while Hakstol guided his alma mater to seven NCAA Frozen Four appearances in his 11 seasons behind the bench.
- Dallas forward Joe Pavelski (Wisconsin) scored his 1,000th NHL point, becoming the 12th former college hockey player to reach that milestone.
- Dallas defenseman Ryan Suter (Wisconsin) and Vegas center Phil Kessel (Minnesota) moved into the top 10 for career NHL games played by NCAA alumni. Suter (1,362) ranks fifth all-time and Kessel (1,286) sits seventh.
- Minnesota defenseman Alex Goligoski (Minnesota) became the 67th collegian to play in 1,000 NHL games.
- Eight NCAA alums led their respective teams in scoring in 2022-23: Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras (Boston University), Arizona’s Clayton Keller (Boston University), Buffalo’s Tage Thompson (Connecticut), Columbus’ Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College), Detroit’s Dylan Larkin (Michigan), NY Islanders’ Brock Nelson (North Dakota), Vegas’ Jack Eichel (Boston University) and Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor (Michigan).
- Seven college hockey products led their respective teams in goals: Anaheim’s Troy Terry (Denver) and Trevor Zegras (Boston University), Arizona’s Clayton Keller (Boston University), Buffalo’s Tage Thompson (Connecticut), Detroit’s Dylan Larkin (Michigan), Montreal’s Cole Caufield (Wisconsin), NY Islanders’ Brock Nelson (North Dakota) and Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel (Pittsburgh).
- More than half (17-of-32) of the NHL’s current general managers played college hockey, and more than 40 percent (13-of-31) of the league’s currently filled head-coaching positions are NCAA alumni.
“Whether on the ice, behind the bench or in the front office, the impact of college hockey alumni in the NHL is more impressive every season,” said College Hockey Inc. Executive Director Mike Snee. “College hockey truly allows a young, aspiring hockey player the opportunity to reach their full potential on and off the ice.”
The NHL will present its individual award winners at the 2023 NHL Awards in Nashville on June 26. The NHL draft will take place June 28-29 in Nashville.