From college to the NHL
by Kevin Kurtt
Nearly a third of all NHL players in 2008-09
honed their skills in college before making the leap to the pros
In the world of NCAA hockey, the vast majority of players on the 58 Division I and 78 Division II/III men’s teams will not make the jump to the NHL, AHL, ECHL or any other of the various professional hockey leagues around the world. But for a growing number of players, college hockey is a steppingstone to the bright lights of the National Hockey League.
In fact, according to next week’s issue of Let’s Play Hockey (www.letsplayhockey.com), 279 players who saw at least one regular season NHL game in 2008-09 honed their skills in college before making the leap to the professional ranks. That number represents nearly a third of all NHL players from the current season. In 2008-09, 61 former collegiate hockey players made their NHL debut.
Leading the list of former college players now in the NHL are standouts such as New Jersey’s Zach Parise (North Dakota), Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis (Vermont), Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri (Michigan), Atlanta’s Todd White (Clarkson), Ottawa’s Dany Heatley (Wisconsin), Chicago’s Jonathan Toews (North Dakota) and Boston’s Tim Thomas (Vermont).
Former college players are also among the leading 2008-09 rookies. Eight players who competed in the college ranks are currently among the top 33 rookie scorers in the NHL. They are: Boston’s Blake Wheeler (Minnesota), N.Y. Islanders’ Kyle Okposo (Minnesota), St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie (North Dakota), Anaheim’s Andrew Ebbett (Michigan), Boston’s Matt Hunwick (Michigan), Phoenix’s Kyle Turris (Wisconsin), Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski (Minnesota) and Nashville’s Ryan Jones (Miami).
Breaking down the list of 279 players by college sees the University of Michigan lead the way with 25 players, followed by Boston College (16), North Dakota (16), Wisconsin (16), Michigan State (15) and Minnesota (14).
And the numbers will only continue to grow. During the 2008-09 college hockey season, there were 197 players whose rights were owned by an NHL franchise. In addition, the NHL Central Scouting Service’s rankings for the 2009 Entry Draft list numerous prospects who will head to college hockey programs across the nation this fall.
Phil Housley was the rare hockey player to make the quantum leap from high school to the NHL. Countless Canadians take the Major Junior route before making the jump to the pros. European players compete in the numerous leagues throughout the continent in hopes of someday earning a spot on an NHL team. But for 279 NHL players, college was the path to take.
*I can't help but add the names of the five Wildcats to have participated in the NHL this season: Jason Krog, Ty Conklin, Garrett Stafford, Daniel Winnik and Trevor Smith.
For a complete list of college players in the NHL, click here (pdf).
And be sure to check out Let's Play Hockey.com!