Hockey after college

Two programs and their NHL Presence

Graphic by Shiny Mahlum

Graphic by Shiny Mahlum

Nick Erickson, Staff Writer

Everyone who calls themselves a fan of college hockey has probably informed you they prefer watching it over the NHL. That is absolutely the case with most UND hockey fans. This year is even more meaningful. This year something magical happens in the season. UND gets to play the Gophers in the Ralph. The Ralph Engelstad Arena is popularly known as one of the best, if not the best, venues in all of college hockey. The town is buzzing during what most upperclassmen, alumni and townies will all call “hate week,” the days leading up to the weekend showdown with the University of Minnesota.

UND and the U of M have had a lot of stellar players come through their programs. Most notably in recent years, the focus has come onto the players that have gone on to the NHL and become highly productive players in the world’s most competitive league of hockey. Now, it’s time to really break down these two programs by the numbers.

Just discussing the era of the Ralph Engelstad opening up, both programs have produced incredibly successful players. Household names included with the gophers: Nick Leddy, Phil Kessel, Kyle Okposo, Erik Haula, Thomas Vanek, Nick Bjugstad and Blake Wheeler. UND has put out quite the household names as well. The big name that tops the list of course being Jonathan Toews, followed by Zach Parise, TJ Oshie, Matt Greene, Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford.

There will be a much larger list of names to come in the future from both clubs as well. Brock Boeser recently began his first full season in the NHL and already making a splash. Tyson Jost, also for UND, is starting out well this season even though it is early.

Other players looking to make a large contribution in the near future to their teams are Drake Caggiula of the Edmonton Oilers, Nick Schmaltz of the Chicago Blackhawks, who has been switched around with the likes of large named players like UND alumni Jonathan Toews and one of the best players in Blackhawks history: Patrick Kane.

Troy Stecher of the Vancouver Canucks quickly became a fan favorite last year and is looking to take on an even bigger role this year. Paul Ladue of the L.A. Kings has made his way onto the Kings opening night roster and is looking to make a huge impact in the defensive core.

Last but not least, Tucker Poolman of the Winnipeg Jets surprised even his head coach who had made the comment before the preseason started that no true rookie will be making the opening night roster for the Jets this year and Tucker proved him wrong. All players were a part of the 2016 national championship team at UND.
Graphic by Shiny Mahlum

Players for Minnesota that will be up and coming stars in the NHL are also in abundance similar to UND. Kyle Rau of the Iowa Wild will see quite a bit of playing time up with the NHL Wild, Hudson Fasching of the Buffalo Sabres, Mike Reilly of the Minnesota Wild already has two points in the three games he’s played in, Brady Skjei having played all of the games with the New York Rangers so far this year is gaining confidence with his physical play from head coach Alain Vigneault. Looking forward, Casey Mittelstadt a dynamic threat of a player that currently is playing for Minnesota, was the eighth overall pick in last year’s NHL draft and the 2017 Minnesota Mr. Hockey award winner.

UND and the U of M have had a lot of stellar players come through their programs. Most notably in recent years, the focus has come onto the players that have gone on to the NHL and become highly productive players in the world’s most competitive league of hockey.”

— Andy Kollar, UND Hockey alumus

Together, UND and the University of Minnesota have put out a combined total of 72 players since 2001 to have touched the ice in an NHL uniform during the regular season. UND having the edge by only two players in this comparison. However, noticeably so the gophers have put forth a larger number of forwards who have become more productive with points and games played in the NHL having the edge on UND by 1,565 games played. The gophers also have outscored UND alumni in the NHL by 1,007 points accumulated. Yes, these numbers sound discouraging to UND fans, but UND still has the gophers beat in what is considered to be the most important statistic: Stanley Cups won. UND alumni have won the Stanley cup on 15 separate occasions compared to the Gophers 11. This can be similarly compared to UND’s overall amount of NCAA National Titles won, standing at eight over Minnesota’s five.

These are two incredibly big powerhouse programs that produce NHL stars just about every year. It is incredibly possible you will see a good amount of the players that play in this upcoming series, facing off against each other in the near future while being paid large salaries in the NHL. But for the meantime, we are all going to enjoy this incredible rivalry in this upcoming series staged for an epic battle at the Ralph Englestad Arena.  

Nick Erickson is a staff writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]