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Ben Fraser The Hockey Writers

Published on Friday, July 3, 2020





Best NHL Alumni From Every NCAA D1 School

The NCAA has a rich history of transitioning their athletes to the NHL, with many players moving from college to the pros with great success. Each school within the first division of the NCAA has a unique history and famous alumni from each. Here are the best NHL alumni from each division one school of the NCAA.

University of Alabama-Huntsville

Cam Talbot

Some may be surprised to find out that the University of Alabama-Huntsville has operated a hockey program since 1985. Only two alumni from the school have made it to the NHL, and their most successful is goalie Cam Talbot.

Cam Talbot Calgary Flames
Cam Talbot is the only alumni of Alabama-Huntsville to record an NHL point (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Talbot was very successful in his time in Alabama, leading the Chargers to a berth in the 2010 NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament after winning MVP in their regional championship game. He remains active in the community, helping the school save the program this year.

After his departure from the Chargers in 2010, Talbot spent four seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL), before transitioning to the NHL. He has enjoyed a successful career, spending time with the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Calgary Flames. He is without a doubt the greatest alumnus to come from the school. The only other Charger to make the NHL is Jared Ross, who saw 13 games of action with the Flyers from 2008 to 2010.

University of Alaska-Anchorage

Curtis Glencross

The University of Alaska-Anchorage has had some great players reach the NHL, the best of which being Curtis Glencross.

Curtis Glencross
Curtis Glencross played in the NHL from 2006 to 2015 (Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Best known for his time with the Flames, he played a productive 507 games and was able to score at least 20 goals twice in his career in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He hosts an annual charity event in Calgary since 2012.

Honorable Mentions

Jay Beagle, Mike Peluso, Duvie Westcott.

University of Alaska-Fairbanks

Colton Parayko

The main rival of the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves has also had some successful alumni reach the NHL. Two great former Nanooks defensemen have reached the NHL, but the best is current St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. After spending three seasons in Fairbanks, he has become a steady figure on the blue line in St. Louis and was a major part of the 2019 Stanley Cup run.

Colton Parayko St. Louis Blues
Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Since his debut in 2015, he has recorded 159 points over his 386 games, with an eighth-place finish in Calder voting in 2016, and has been in the conversation for the Lady Byng Trophy.

Honorable Mentions

Shawn Chambers, Chad Johnson

American International College

Dave Forbes

Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, American International College (AIC) is not exactly a hockey hotbed. Their best alumnus is former Boston Bruin Dave Forbes. He played in the NHL from the 1973-74 season to the 1978-79 season, recording 128 points. A member of the “Big Bad Bruins” from 1973 to 1977, he appeared in two Stanley Cup Final series. Despite only playing for six seasons, he is one of only two former AIC alumni to reach the NHL.

Army (West Point)

Dan Hinote

It is quite rare for a member of one of the United States Armed Forces schools to make the NHL, but even more so to maintain a career there. That honor goes to forward Dan Hinote. Though he only played for one season at West Point in 1995-96, he is the only alumnus to reach the NHL.

Army West Point logo
Army West Point logo (United States Military Academy – West Point Athletics – Public domain)

When Hinote reached the NHL, he was able to maintain a career as a fourth-line defensive specialist. He found a home with the Colorado Avalanche, winning a Stanley Cup in 2001. He was able to carve out a nine-season career for the Avs and Blues while recording 90 points over more than 500 games.

Arizona State University

Joey Daccord

The only independent team in the first division of NCAA hockey, the Sun Devils have only had one player reach the NHL. Ottawa Senators goalie Joey Daccord, who has played one game in the NHL so far, but has been quite good for the Senators AHL affiliate in Bellville.

He may get a chance to get some starts this season with Ottawa, which will add to the legacy of the Sun Devils program.

Bemidji State University

Joel Otto

Located in Bemidji, Minnesota, the school has had a few famous alumni pass through its doors and into the NHL. The best of those alumni is Joel Otto. He made his career as a Selke Trophy-candidate center, as he was within the top-15 in voting seven times, including two third-place finishes in 1993 and 1995.

Even though Otto played his career as a defensive forward, he is also the top-scoring alumni from the school, with 508 points over his time in the league.

Honorable Mentions

Matt Read, Brad Hunt, Zach Whitecloud

Boston College

Brian Leetch

The Boston College Eagles are one of the most prestigious hockey programs in the world. With so much talent it is hard to pick just one alumnus. Brian Leetch is the best of the bunch. In his one season with the Eagles, he was named an All-American, before heading to the Rangers in 1988.

The Hall-of-Fame defenseman has won his fair share of awards in the league — two Norris Trophies, the Calder Trophy, and the Stanley Cup with the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Rangers won in 1994. He was the first American born player to win the Conn Smythe. His 23 goals in his Calder winning season in 1988-89 remain a rookie defenseman record.

Brian Leetch New York Rangers
Brian Leetch, New York Rangers (THW Archives)

After his NHL career ended, he would go on to work in the NHL’s player safety department, albeit for only one season. His number was also raised to the rafters of the Madison Square Garden in 2008.

Honorable Mentions

Joe Mullen, Bill Guerin, Johnny Gaudreau

Boston University

Jack Eichel

Like their rival school, the Boston University Terriers have a large selection of NHL stars. The best is current Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel. The superstar is the Sabres’ best hope at competing in the future. He has turned into a scoring machine with little help around him

Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Despite the fact that he only played one season at Boston, he still left quite the legacy. He lead the NCAA in points with 71, won Rookie of the Year, and the Hobey Baker Award, becoming only the second freshman to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Keith Tkachuk, Tony Amonte, Kevin Shattenkirk

Bowling Green University

Rob Blake

Bowling Green University, located in Ohio, has a rich history of NHL alumni that have played for the team. Rob Blake, the Hall-of-Fame defender played for the Falcons from 1987-90 and saw great success, which he translated to the NHL for 20 years.

Rob Blake Colorado Avalanche
Rob Blake, Colorado Avalanche, Oct. 13 2001 (Jeff Vinnick/Allsport)

Blake, who had an incredible career, lasting from 1990 to 2010, recorded 777 points in the NHL. His career resume includes a Norris Trophy win in 1998, multiple All-Star appearances, a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001, and entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014. He is now the general manager (GM) of the Kings, who will select second overall in the upcoming 2020 draft.

Honorable Mentions

Garry Galley, Dave Ellett

Brown University

Curt Bennett

The Ivy League school located in Providence, Rhode Island has had had a large number of alumni make it to the NHL. The best player to come out of the school is Atlanta Flames forward Curt Bennett. One of the original members of the Flames franchise, he was one of the first two 30 goal scorers for the team, when he and teammate Eric Vail did it during the 1974-75 season. He is leading American scorer in Atlanta’s history, and fourth overall.

He played 10 seasons in the NHL with the Flames, Blues, and Rangers, accumulating 334 points over his career. He comes from a hockey family, as both of his brothers and his father played in the NHL.

Honorable Mentions

Todd Simpson, Tim Bothwell

Clarkson University

Dave Taylor

One of the juggernauts of NCAA hockey, Clarkson University in upstate New York is filled with alumni that reached the NHL. Most famously, Dave Taylor not only had a great college career, but an equally amazing NHL career. He was a member of the Los Angeles Kings and together with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer, made up the “Triple Crown Line.”

Dionne Taylor Simmer Los Angeles Kings
The Triple Crown Line of Dave Taylor (left), Marcel Dionne (center) and Charlie Simmer (right) (Shelly Castellano/Icon SMI).

Taylor is second in Kings scoring with over 1,100 points and is the best player Clarkson has ever produced. Even when his offensive skills started to go, he transitioned into a leadership role at the end of his career, where he won a King Clancy and Bill Masterton Trophy in 1991.

Honorable Mentions

Craig Conroy, Erik Cole, Todd Marchant. Mark Borowiecki

Colgate University

Andy McDonald

Colgate University, another upstate New York school, doesn’t have as many alumni as its rivals. Andy McDonald, best known for his time for the Blues and Anaheim Ducks, is their school’s best alumni. He spent four years there, winning a scoring title, becoming a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, and graduating in 2000. he went undrafted and began his career signing with the Ducks after the draft.

Patrick Kane battles Andy McDonald
Andy McDonald #10 (Robin Alam/Icon SMI)

Despite his injury-plagued career, the Strathroy, Ontario native was still able to play for 12 seasons. He recorded 489 points and was also a member of the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Ducks. He was in the voting for the Selke and Lady Byng Trophies in the 2005-06 season, while recording a career-high 85 points.

Honorable Mention

Mike Milbury

Colorado College

Jaden Schwartz

The school located in Colorado Springs has several active NHL alumni, the best of which is current Blues forward Jaden Schwartz. Since his debut in the 2011-12 season, his consistency has been a vital part of a Blues squad that has set an example for the rest of the league.

Jaden Schwartz St. Louis Blues
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When healthy, he is a regular 20-goal scorer, with at least 20 in four of his five full seasons, peaking at 28 during the 2014-15 season. He was a key contributor for the Blues in their 2019 Stanley Cup run.

Honorable Mention

Jacob Slavin

University of Connecticut

Todd Krygier

The University of Connecticut is best known as a football and basketball school, but they did produce an NHL player in the 1980s. Todd Krygier is the school’s best hockey alumni, playing nine NHL seasons for the Washington Capitals, Ducks, and Hartford Whalers. In those nine seasons, he was able to play over 500 games, with 243 points.

He was on the 1997-98 Capitals team that made an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time. Today Krygier is an assistant coach for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate for Detroit. This after spending time behind the bench for the University of Michigan.

Cornell University

Ken Dryden

Cornell University is another Ivy League school with a great hockey history. Ken Dryden is the most famous name to come from the school. The Hall of Fame goalie spent eight seasons in the NHL, with a resume that includes six Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Calder Trophy, and six Vezina Trophies. He was also a goalie for the 1972 Summit Series, where Canada would defeat the Soviet Union. Education was just as important to him as hockey. He took a season off from the Canadiens in order to get his doctorate at McGill University and work in a law firm.

ken dryden at Cornell
Ken Dryden spent several seasons at Cornell (THW Archives)

Once his hockey career ended, he would go on to become an author, teacher, and Liberal Party politician. He served as a member of parliament from 2004 to 2011 under Prime Minister Paul Martin, and under Liberal leader Bill Graham. He and fellow Cornell alumni Joe Nieuwendyk are the only players to have their numbers retired.

Honorable Mention

Joe Nieuwendyk

Dartmouth University

Lee Stempniak

The Ivy League continues to impress, as Dartmouth has also produced a number of NHL players. Lee Stempniak is the school’s greatest alumni, whose 13 season-career netted him over 900 games and over 450 points.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Forgotten Ones: Glenn Anderson

The American winger made stops in 10 different cities, but was best known for his time in St. Louis and Calgary. When he retired in 2019, it left the Dartmouth program with a figure to look up to.

Honorable Mentions

David Jones, Carey Wilson, TJ Galiardi, Tanner Glass.

University of Denver

Glenn Anderson

The University of Denver Pioneers has produced amazing hockey players, including a key member of the 1980s Oilers, Hall-of-Famer Glenn Anderson. He scored 1,099 points in his career and won six Stanley Cups on his way to a legendary career.

Glenn Anderson of the Edmonton Oilers
Glenn Anderson was with the Oilers from 1980 to 1991. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Before he called it quits, he would play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and Blues. Often overshadowed by Wayne Gretzky and the other members of the 1980s Oilers, Anderson is a legend in his own right.

Honorable Mentions

Peter McNab, Kevin Dineen, Paul Stastny, Tyler Bozak, Jason Zucker

Ferris State University

Chris Kunitz

Ferris State University has been a force in the NCAA for a while, and their alumni list represents that. The best player to come from the school is Chris Kunitz, whose career ended with over 1,000 games, 619 points, and 4 Stanley Cups. While best known as a Pittsburgh Penguin, he began his career as a Duck, where he won his first Stanley Cup in 2007. For a brief time, he held the Ducks record for rookie points, when he had 41 in the 2005-06 season.

Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL
Chris Kunitz played a major role in helping the Penguins get back to the Stanley Cup Final. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He was also called upon for the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. In Sochi, he added to his resume, where he won a Gold Medal. While at Ferris State, Kunitz stayed the full four years and earned a business and marketing degree.

Honorable Mentions

Jason Blake

Harvard University

Alex Killorn

Once again, the Ivy League has quite the list of names attached to its NHL alumni. Several great players have come through the program, but the best is Lightning forward Alex Killorn.

Alex Killorn Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He spent four seasons at Harvard, earning his degree in government before joining the Lighting. The native of Halifax, Nova Scotia has come into in his own over the last few seasons and had set career highs in goals and points in only 68 games this season.

Honorable Mentions

Don Sweeney, Dominic Moore, Ted Donato.

Holy Cross University

Patrick Rissmiller

The school in Worchester, Massachusetts isn’t well known for its NHL alumni, as only two have skated in the NHL. The best almunist is Patrick Rissmiller, who had played 7 seasons between the 2003-04 and 2010-11 seasons. He did manage to record 46 points over his 192 games for The San Jose Sharks, Rangers, Atlanta Thrashers, and Florida Panthers. He now works in the New Jersey Devils’ organization in the player development department.

Lake Superior State University

Doug Weight

A hockey program that is not spoken about often enough is Lake Superior State. It’s not a household name in the hockey world, but it did produce one of the more underrated players of his era, Doug Weight. Spending two years at the school, he transferred his talents to the NHL with flying colors when he was drafted by the Rangers in the second round in 1990.

Related: Oilers’ Doug Weight Trade Revisited

The Oilers star had over 1,000 points in his career, mostly with Edmonton, while winning a cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He was a textbook first-line center for Edmonton but unfortunately was on some less than stellar teams during his time there. During the 1990s, he put up gaudy assist numbers and was in the conversation for the Hart Trophy in 2001.

Doug Weight Edmonton Oilers
Doug Weight, Edmonton Oilers, Dec. 2000 (Tom Pidgeon/Allsport)

These days, Weight attempted to coach in the NHL. He coached the Islanders for a season and a half, before being fired at the end of the 2017-18 season.

Honorable Mentions

Brian Rolston, Jim Dowd

University of Maine

Paul Kariya

One of the best college and NHL hockey players of all-time, the University of Maine is home to Hall-of-Fame Mighty Duck Paul Kariya. He took the NHL by storm in the 1990s, winning two Lady Byng Trophies, while being in the conversation for the Hart Trophy almost every year. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his career, but when healthy, he was among the premier players in the NHL. In one of the greatest single seasons in NCAA history, he scored 100 points in only 39 games during the 1992-93 season. He left Maine early the following season to join the Canadian national team but is still honored to this day.

Related: Paul Kariya – The Original Mighty Duck

Kariya also brought his natural talent to the NHL, becoming one of the games brightest stars, before being plagued with injuries, most notably the blindside hit took from Devils defenseman Scott Stevens in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals.

Paul Kariya
Paul Kariya, Anaheim Mighty Ducks (Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images/NHLI)

Despite this, he was still able to average a point per game, with 989 points in the same number of games. If not for the injuries, he would have had well over 1000 points in his career and could have left an even bigger legacy.

Honorable Mentions

Eric Weinrich, Gustav Nyquist, Dustin Penner

University of Massachusetts

Jonathan Quick

Among the hockey hotbed of Massachusetts lies the next generation of local NHL players. Several amazing former Minutemen are still active in the league. This is headlined by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who spent two years in Amherst from 2005 to 2007. He leads the Kings in nearly all of their all-time categories, including wins, shutouts, and save percentage. he is one of the few goalies to score a goal in the NCAA, when he did so during a game in 2007. He also scored a goal in the ECHL during his first professional start.

Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Though he has struggled recently, the two-time Cup champion is the school’s greatest alumnus, and one of the better goalies of the last decade.

Honorable Mentions

Cale Makar, Justin Braun, Connor Sheary

The University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Connor Hellebuyck

Located just outside of Boston, UMass Lowell has given the NHL more than a handful of players. The best to come from the school is Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck. He impressed from the beginning of his college career, posting a goals-against-average of under 2.00 in both of his seasons at Lowell.

Related: Jets’ Hellebuyck Deserves Vezina & Hart Consideration

He has taken the NHL by storm since his debut in 2015. The Michigan-born netminder has been one of the best of the last five seasons, with a second-place finish for the Vezina, a top-15 finish for the Hart Trophy in 2018, and is likely to be nominated again in 2020.

Connor Hellebuyck Scott Laughton
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He is the Jets backbone, and the talent he showed at UMass has been on display in Manitoba since his arrival.

Honorable Mentions

Ron Hainsey, Craig MacTavish, Carter Hutton

Merrimack College

Steve McKenna

A small college in northern Massachusetts, the school has sent 13 players to the NHL. The best player to come out of Merrimack is Steve McKenna, who had 32 points in 372 career games with four different franchises from 1996 to 2004. Now that the former enforcer’s hockey career is over, he works for the police in Waterloo, Ontario as a constable. (from ‘Catching up with former Penguin — and current constable — Steve McKenna,’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/24/19).

Miami (Ohio)

Dan Boyle

The University of Miami (Ohio) is famous for producing Dan Boyle. The offensive defenseman had 605 points in his career, with the Panthers, Lightning, Sharks, and Rangers. He showed his incredible potential at Miami, playing four seasons, where he became the school’s biggest star. Though he took his time getting there, he eventually became an amazing NHL player.

Dan Boyle Tampa Bay Lightning
Dan Boyle, Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

He was in the conversation for the Norris Trophy for several years, taking home a Stanley Cup in 2004. The textbook power play quarterback was a staple of the Lightning and Sharks’ blue line core for nearly two decades.

Honorable Mentions

Brian Savage, Reilly Smith, Andy Greene.

University of Michigan

Max Pacioretty

Among the most famous NCAA schools, so many great NHL players once called the University of Michigan home. Vegas Golden Knight Max Pacioretty is the best alumnus from the school, but with so many great players, it is a hard decision to make. Pacioretty is a pure goal scorer and was the Canadiens’ primary option for seven seasons.

Max Pacioretty #67, Vegas Golden Knights
Max Pacioretty (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He netted at least 30 goals in six seasons and is a primary example of a top-line winger. His dedication to the game with his recovery from a terrifying injury netted him the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2012.

Honorable Mentions

Red Berenson, Mike Cammalleri, Brendan Morrison, Mike Knuble, Dylan Larkin, Zach Hyman, Jacob Trouba, Kyle Connor, Zach Werenski.

Michigan State University

Rod Brind’Amour

Like their rivals less then an hour away, the Michigan State Spartans hold an impressive number of NHL alumni. None more so then Rod Brind’Amour. In a career that saw him play for 20 years, he scored over 1,100 points, won two Selke Trophies, and a Stanley Cup in 2006. He only spent a season at Michigan State, but it was memorable, scoring 59 points in 42 games. When he left Lansing in 1989, he was able to bring his talent with him.

Rod Brind'Amour Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour helped the small-market Carolina Hurricanes win the 2006 Stanley Cup. (THW Archives)

The center was a two-way forward, who could wow you on both ends of the ice, scoring at least 30 goals five times, winning key faceoffs, and intimidating other players all night. When his career was over, he moved behind the bench, and now is the head coach of the Hurricanes, whom he played with from 2000 to 2010.

Honorable Mention

Duncan Keith, Torey Krug, and Jeff Petry.

Michigan Tech

Tony Esposito

The Michigan Tech Huskies do not have the same star power as their Ann Arbor and Lansing rivals, but none the less have produced quite a few players. The school has sent 50 players to the NHL, but one Hall-of-Fame player stands above the rest.

Related: Top 5 Goaltenders of the 1970s

The most famous alumnus of Michigan Tech is goalie Tony Esposito. His three seasons for the Huskies resulted in an NCAA championship in 1965, and leads the program in save percentage and goals against average.

Tony Esposito
BOSTON, MA – 1970’s: Tony Esposito #35 of the Chicago Black Hawks tends goal in game against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

His Hall of Fame career began with Montreal but he made his name with the Chicago Blackhawks. He went on to win over 400 games, record 76 shutouts, win three Vezina’s, and a Calder. His name will forever be attached to the Huskies, and the Houghton area school should be proud to be attached to him. He joined Dryden for the ’72 summit series, splitting games against the Soviet Union.

Honorable Mentions

Andy Sutton, Jarkko Ruutu, Randy McKay, Jujhar Khaira, Matt Roy.

University of Minnesota

Neal Broten

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers is the most successful NCAA program in terms of sending its players to the next level. The school has sent 111 of its players to the NHL, headlined by longtime Minnesota North Star, and 1980 Olympic Gold Medalist Neal Broten.

Neal Broten
1998 Season: Neal Broten of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

In his historic career, he played over 1,000 games in the NHL with four franchises, most notably the Minnesota/Dallas Stars, recorded more than 900 points, and became one of the most famous players in American hockey history. He added a Stanley Cup ring in 1995 when he was traded mid-season to the New Jersey Devils.

Honorable Mentions

Phil Kessel, Thomas Vanek, Blake Wheeler, Brady Skjei, Nick Leddy.

Minnesota State University

David Backes

Not as successful as the non-state equivalent, the Mavericks did produce a very consistent NHL player. Former Blues captain David Backes went to the school in the mid-2000s for three seasons. When he reached the NHL, he became the face of the Blues and served as their captain for five seasons.

Boston Bruins sign David Backes
David Backes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During that time, he became an intimidating power forward, leading the Blues to the playoffs year after year, before heading to the Bruins in 2016. Injuries took hold, and while he hasn’t been the same player he was in St. Louis, he has had a fantastic career. With his future uncertain going into the 2020-21 season, his 950 games played and 557 points are indicators about how good he once was.

University of Minnesota-Duluth

Brett Hull

Like the other schools in Minnesota, the Bulldogs have a good history and one of the best goal scorers to play the game on their alumni list, Brett Hull. He holds the school record for goals in a season with 52, and in his freshman year, won the school’s rookie of the year award. Passed over in the NHL draft twice before going to the Bulldogs, he beat the odds to not only make the NHL, but thrive.

With his 741 goals, he sits in fourth place all-time. His 86 goals in 1990-91 are the third-best in a single season. He is one of a handful of players to score 50 goals in 50 games and was named one of the NHL’s 50 greatest players in 2017.

Brett Hull
Brett Hull was the NHL’s best goal scorer of the 1990s (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

His other individual accomplishments include a Lady Byng, Hart, and Pearson Trophy. His Hall of Fame career includes two Stanley Cups — as a member of the Stars in 1999 and as a Detroit Red Wing in 2002.

Honorable Mentions

Justin Faulk, JT Brown, and Matt Niskanen.

University of New Hampshire

Rod Langway

The Wildcats have had a few significant players who have made the NHL. Hall of Fame defenseman Rod Langway leads the charge.

The Capitals great has two Norris Trophies under his belt and a second-place finish for the Hart Trophy in 1983-84. Although he began his career as a Canadien, where we won a Cup in 1979, he will be remembered for his time as a Capital. When he was traded to DC in 1982 and made captain, it changed the path for the struggling franchise. The Capitals were on their way to relocation before the trade, and the acquisition of the budding star gave life to the team and launched them into 11 straight playoff appearances.

Honorable Mentions

James Van Riemsdyk, Bobby Gould, Dave Lumley

Niagara University

Matt Ryan

Niagara doesn’t have the same success as other programs, and the size of the smaller school in Lewiston, Maine is reflective of that. Only two Purple Eagles have reached the NHL. Matt Ryan, who played 12 games for the Kings in the 2005-06 season is still the best to come out of the school. Considering the size and lack of prestige of the program, getting one player to the NHL is a major accomplishment.

University of North Datoka

The NCAA program with the second most NHL players at 102 is a team rife with history. The Fighting Hawks/Sioux have been a major player in the NCAA tournament for many years, and their list of former players who reached the highest level is filled with stars.

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The best to come from the school is Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. He played two seasons at North Dakota in 2006 and 2007, and help them reach the Frozen Four in both of his seasons.

Related: North Dakota: Hockey’s Cradle of Coaches

The three-time Stanley Cup champion has more than 800 points, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Mark Messier Leadership Award, and a Selke Trophy. His international career is just as good, with two World Junior Gold medals, two Olympic Golds, a World Cup Trophy, and a World Hockey Championship.

Honorable Mentions

Zach Parise, TJ Oshie, Travis Zajac, Ed Belfour

Northeastern University

Chris Nilan

While Northeastern has given the NHL a handful of players, none have become stars quite yet. Chris Nilan, the famous Canadiens and Bruins enforcer of the 1980s is the school’s best alumnus. Despite being known as a tough guy, he still managed to chip in offensively from time to time.

He was a key piece of the 1986 Stanley Cup champion Canadiens. His 3043 penalty minutes are ninth all-time.

Honorable Mentions

Dan McGillis, Josh Mason.

University of Northern Michigan

Dallas Drake

Unlike their fellow Michigan programs, the Wildcats haven’t experienced the same success. 21 former Northern Michigan players have reached the NHL. Their best player is Dallas Drake, who played over 1000 games with the Jets/Arizona Coyotes, Blues, and Red Wings, where he ended his career with a Stanley Cup in 2008. Though a defensive forward, he was still able to score at a decent rate, with 477 points over his career.

Honorable Mention

Steve Bozek, Steve Weeks, Tom Laidlaw, Mike Santorelli

Notre Dame

Dave Poulin

The Fighting Irish may be known as a football school, but their hockey program has also been quite successful over the years. Dave Poulin is the best of many great alumni to reach the NHL.

His 530 points are the most of any NHL player from the school. Even though he leads the Irish in scoring, Poulin was also great at defensive hockey, winning a Selke in 1987, and winning a King Clancy Trophy in 1993. The Flyers hold him in high regard for good reason, as his captaincy is considered one of the best in Philadelphia history.

Honorable Mentions

Kyle Palmieri, Anders Lee, and Bryan Rust.

Ohio State University

Ryan Kesler

The Ohio State University hockey program is another that gets overlooked due to the success of their football and basketball teams. The Buckeyes have sent 28 players to the NHL, none more famous then Ryan Kesler.

Related: Flyers May Have Won It All With Ryan Kesler

He only spent one year at Ohio before leaving, but it was productive none the less. The 2003 first-round pick took a few years to find his game, but when he broke out in 2008-09, he became part of a vital part of a Canucks team that went to the finals in 2011.

Ryan Kesler, NHL, Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Kesler (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Even after his time as a Vancouver Canuck was over, he was still able to contribute to an excellent run of Ducks teams.

Honorable Mentions

RJ Umberger, Ryan Dzingle.

Penn State University

Casey Bailey

The Nittany Lions aren’t great at sending their alumni to the NHL, as only one former player made it to the league. Casey Bailey, who last played in the NHL in 2017 for the Senators, is the team’s only NHL alumnus. Although very productive for Penn State, he wasn’t able to translate that to the pros. In 13 NHL games, he scored a goal, which is more then any other Lion can say. Bailey is currently a member of Vaxjo HC in the Swedish Hockey League.


Syl Apps

The best NHL player to come from the Princeton Tigers is longtime Penguin Syl Apps. In his over 700 NHL games, Apps scored 606 points and led a Penguins team who struggled for the entirety of his career.

Despite this, he was able to consistently lead the still young franchise in scoring for several years. He was seventh in Hart voting in 1974. He averaged more than a point per game in his Pittsburgh career and was one of the icons of a young Penguins franchise.

Honorable Mentions

Jeff Halpern, George Parros

Providence College

Tom Fitzgerald

The Friars have a very good hockey program considering the size of the school. With only 4000 students in 2019, the school has had 38 players reach the NHL. The best in team history is Tom Fitzgerald, who played 17 seasons with seven franchises. He began his career with the Islanders in 1988 but didn’t develop into the player he became until he arrived in Florida in 1993. With the Panthers, he was able to become a role player with a defensive upside. He was within the top 20 of Selke voting in 1996 and 1997.

Related: Devils’ Fitzgerald Earns Solid Grades for Trade Deadline

Now the GM in New Jersey, he is still going quite strong in the hockey world, years after his playing career ended.

Honorable Mentions

Hal Gill, Brandon Tanev.

Quinnipiac University

Devon Toews

The Hamden, Connecticut school is beginning to make a name for themselves in the NHL. New York Islanders defenseman Devon Toews is the school’s best alumnus.

Devon Toews New York Islanders
Devon Toews, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He is only getting better as he adjusts to the NHL. Even though he has only played just over 100 games, he is developing into a solid piece for New York. He will likely put Quinnipiac on the map if he develops into the player he is capable of being.

Honorable Mentions

Matthew Peca, Connor Clifton

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

Chris Tanev

RIT has sent two of their players to the NHL, one being more successful than the other. Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev is the school’s greatest alumnus. In his career with the Tigers, he was named the AIC rookie of the year in 2010, and help the team reach the Frozen Four. The now 30-year old defender was signed out of RIT after being undrafted in 2010.

Related: Pick One Canuck: Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher

He has been a consistent piece of the Canucks defensive core for almost a decade and had tied a career-high in points when the season was paused.

Chris Tanev Vancouver Canucks
Chris Tanev, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Making the NHL and maintaining a long career is rare for an undrafted player, and Tanev was able to not only play in the league but do so for 10 years. When you combine this with his NHL work ethic, it shows how hard he worked to get to his current position.

St Cloud State University

Matt Cullen

Another Minnesota school with a great hockey program, St Cloud State is front and center in the NCAA-NHL development path. Matt Cullen is the school’s greatest alumnus. His two seasons in St Cloud were successful, with him being named to all the all-rookie team in 1995, and an all-star in 1996.

Related: Matt Cullen: 5 Things We’ll Miss

He played for more than 20-years and is one of only 21 players with more than 1500 games under his belt. He played for eight different franchises but was most successful with the Hurricanes, where he won his first Stanley Cup in 2006.

Matt Cullen Wild
Matt Cullen (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The three-time champion became a symbol of longevity and work ethic. Even though he began to show his age towards the end of his career, he is still an example of how hard work is rewarded.

Honorable Mentions

Ryan Malone, Matt Hendricks

St Lawrence University

Rich Peverley

The St. Lawrence Saints, from Canton, New York have Rich Peverley in their list of NHL alumni. The center played for the Nashville Predators, Atlanta, Boston; where he won a Stanley Cup in 2011, and Dallas, where his career was unfortunately cut short when he collapsed on the Stars bench in 2014.

He was well on his way to a very productive career but retired officially in 2015. Regardless, he is the best player to come out of St Lawrence, and it is shame his career ended much sooner then it should have.

Honorable Mention

Gary Croteau

Union College

Shayne Gostisbehere

The Union College Dutchmen have experienced a larger uptick in talented players. The top scorers for the school are mostly all recent alumnus. Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is the school’s best alumnus He was apart of the Dutchman’s 2014 NCAA championship, where he had three points in the final against Minnesota. After the 2014 season, he was drafted by the Flyers, where he transferred to the pros.

Shayne Gostisbehere Philadelphia Flyers
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His amazing rookie season, where he finished second in Calder voting, and in the top 20 in Norris voting has yet to matched, but he remains an exciting player to watch. The decline in his play can somewhat be attributed to injuries, but he does need to return to the player he once was in order to keep a spot. The Floridian is a part of the dynamic Flyers core that was a cup contender when the season was paused, and remain one as the NHL moves into the playoffs.

Honorable Mention

Josh Jorris

University of Vermont

Martin St Louis

The Vermont Catamounts have a very long list of alumni that have made it to the NHL, and one of their former alumni is a member of the Hall-of-Fame, alongside two players who became stars in the NHL.

Martin St. Louis 2018 Hockey Hall Of Fame
Martin St. Louis takes part in a press conference at the Hockey Hall Of Fame during his induction in 2018. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Martin St Louis is the face of the Vermont alumni. In his four years at Vermont, he established team records with 176 assists, and 267 points, while leading the Catamounts to an appearance in the 1996 Frozen Four. In 2016, he had his number retired at Vermont.

Related: Martin St. Louis, the Little Big Man

He played for Tampa and the Rangers, and while productive for both franchises, is rightly remembered as a member of the Lighting. His wonderful career ended with over 1000 points, a Stanley Cup, multiple Lady Byng Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, and a Hart Trophy.

Honorable Mentions

John Leclair, Tim Thomas, Patrick Sharp, Viktor Stalberg, and Torrey Mitchell.

University of Western Michigan

Joe Corvo

The Western Michigan Broncos share the tradition of the great lake state and have the same good NHL alumni. Former defenseman Joe Corvo is the school’s greatest alumnus.

Carolina Hurricane Joe Corvo (Photo By Andy Martin Jr)

With over 700 career games, he was a key member of the Senators and Hurricanes in the mid to late 2000s. The offensive defenseman recorded 310 points over 11 seasons, who finished within the top 20 in Norris voting in 2008 with the Sens/Hurricanes.

Honorable Mentions

Jamal Mayers, Mike Eastwood

University of Wisconsin

Chris Chelios

The Wisconsin Badgers are among the NCAA’s best hockey programs, and the players who have transitioned from their program to the NHL is indicative of that. The Hall-of-Fame defender Chris Chelios is an alumnus of the school, and his play is indicative of how good the Badgers program is. While playing at Wisconson, he made the United States team that went to the 1982 World Juniors hosted by both Canada and the US. He was also a key contributor to the 1983 NCAA championship team.

Related: The Chris Chelios Trade Revisited

As for his NHL career, three Stanley Cups, three Norris Tcrophies, and multiple all-star appearances made Chelios an imposing figure for nearly 30 years.

Chris Chelios
Chris Chelios played in the NHL from 1983-84 to 2009-10. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

The former Canadien, Blackhawk, Red Wing, and Thrasher is one of the greatest to ever play the game, and his time at Wisconson only adds to the prestige of the school in Madison.

Honorable Mentions

Gary Suter, Scott Mellanby, Dany Heatley, Brian Mullen, Brian Rafalski, Tony Granato, Curtis Joseph, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter, Kyle Turris, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Jake Gardiner

Yale University

Chris Higgins

The Yale Bulldogs don’t have the same prestige as the rest of the Ivy League, but still have one alumnus who was a great scorer in his prime. Chris Higgins, who was a three-time 20 goal scorer for Montreal in the mid-2000s, and a consistent piece for the Canucks in the early and mid-2010s. He lead the Canucks, and the entire playoffs in games played during Vancouver’s run to the finals in 2011. When his NHL career was done, he returned to the Canucks as a member of management in 2019.

Honorable Mentions

Randy Wood, Bob Kudelski

The NCAA’s Place in NHL Development

The NCAA is often overshadowed by the Canadian Hockey League in terms of the NHL players that they develop. When looking at how many fantastic players have come from the American collegiate system, you see how good these programs are. You can think whatever you’d like about the ethical implications of the student-athlete system in the United States, but you cannot deny how well it has effected the NHL.

The post Best NHL Alumni From Every NCAA D1 School appeared first on The Hockey Writers.


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