skip navigation

From College to the NHL

04/10/2019, 12:15pm CDT
By Kevin Kurtt - Let's Play Hockey Editor

A record 328 former U.S. college players appeared in the NHL during the 2018-19 season

Let’s Play Hockey photos by Mike Thill

If you’ve watched nearly any NCAA sporting event on television in the past several years, you’ve seen the ad. You may even be able to recite the tagline: “There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports.” It’s a noble campaign directed at educating the masses that most athletes in college will see their athletic careers come to an end at graduation. 

In the world of NCAA hockey, the vast majority of players on the 60 Division I and 90 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 select few, college hockey is merely a steppingstone to the bright lights of the NHL.

In fact, according to our research, a record 328 players who have seen at least one regular season NHL game in 2018-19 honed their skills in college before making the leap to the professional ranks. That number represents 33% of all NHL players from the current season. In 2018-19, 53 former collegiate hockey players have made their NHL debut.

Leading the list of former college players now in the NHL are standouts such as Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College), Winnipeg’s  Blake Wheeler (Minnesota), Buffalo’s Jack Eichel (Boston University), Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel (Minnesota), Chicago’s Jonathon Toews (North Dakota), Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel (Omaha), Columbus’ Cam Atkinson (Boston College), Boston’s Torey Krug (Michigan State), Minnesota’s Ryan Suter (Wisconsin), Tampa Bay’s Ryan McDonagh (Wisconsin), Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell) and Dallas’ Ben Bishop (Maine)

Through the end of the regular season, former college players stand as the seventh overall pointgetter (Gaudreau), sixth overall goal scorer (Atkinson), third overall assist scorer (Wheeler), second overall plus/minus performer (McDonagh), second-ranked rookie scorer (Keller) and seventh-ranked goalie by wins (Hellebuyck).

Breaking down the list of 328 players by college sees Minnesota lead the way with 22 players, followed by Boston College, Michigan and North Dakota (21), Boston University (20), Wisconsin (15), and Denver and St. Cloud State (14).

Nearly 33% of the NHLers who played college hockey spent all four years in school, with 69% staying at least three years on campus. Nearly 30 percent of the former college players who played in the NHL this year were undrafted free agents.

In the NHL, it sure seems some teams are more likely to sign, trade or draft for a college-bred player than others. In fact, 13 NHL teams had 12 or more college-bred players on the ice this season, led by the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils with 18 college players each.

Naturally, the state of Minnesota is well-represented among the college-to-the-NHL players. Of the 328 players, there are 57 native Minnesotans, including 10 who made their NHL debut this season. 

A look at the NHL rosters of last 19 seasons also shows that college hockey players are gaining a stronger foothold in the league. According to our research, 210 players who saw at least one regular season NHL game in 1999-2000 played college hockey before making it to the big leagues. In following seasons, that number has continued to grow (see graph) to the this season’s high mark of 328, a 56-percent increase from 1999-2000.

The number of colleges providing players to the NHL has similarly grown over the past 19 seasons, from 39 in 1999-2000 to a high of 49 the past three seasons.

Along the same lines, the numbers of Minnesotan NHL players who also played college hockey has grown over the last 19 seasons. In 1999-2000, there were 25 college-to-the-NHL Minnesota natives. The last 12 seasons has seen 40 or more.

And the numbers will only continue to grow as over 150 players have signed pro contracts since the conclusion of their 20118-19 college seasons. During the 2018-19 college hockey season, there were nearly 200 players whose rights were owned by an NHL franchise. In addition, the NHL Central Scouting Service’s rankings for the 2019 Entry Draft list 113 current or future college players.

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 328 NHL players, college was the path to take.


Thanks to College Hockey, Inc. for additional data.

Top Stories

  • Piece by piece

  • 06/25/2019, 11:15am CDT , By Bryan Zollman, Let's Play Hockey
  • With new leadership, Hopkins Hockey is revitalizing its program
  • Read More
  • On the Brink

  • 06/20/2019, 10:45am CDT , By Bryan Zollman, Let's Play Hockey
  • Excelsior native Bobby Brink is expected to be the top Minnesotan taken in this year’s NHL Entry Draft
  • Read More

College hockey alums in the NHL (since 1999-2000)

College hockey alums in the NHL (since 1999-2000)

Minnesota native college hockey alums in the NHL (since 1999-2000)

Minnesota native college hockey alums in the NHL (since 1999-2000)

Colleges Represented in the NHL (2018-19)

Minnesota 22
Boston College 21
Michigan 21
North Dakota 21
Boston University 20
Wisconsin 15
Denver 14
St. Cloud State 14
Minnesota Duluth 13
Miami 11
Michigan State 11
Notre Dame 11
UMass Lowell 9
Maine 8
Massachusetts 8
Northeastern 8
Ohio State 7
Western Michigan 7
Harvard 6
Princeton 6
Providence 6
Colorado College 5
Michigan Tech 5
Minnesota State 5
New Hampshire 5
Omaha 5
Quinnipiac 4
Bowling Green 3
Clarkson 3
Cornell 3
Union 3
Yale 3
Alaska 2
Bemidji State 2
Brown 2
Dartmouth 2
Merrimack 2
St. Lawrence 2
Vermont 2
Alabama-Huntsville 1
Alaska Anchorage 1
Arizona State 1
Canisius 1
Colgate 1
Connecticut 1
Ferris Satte 1
Lake Superior State 1

College Players on NHL Teams (2018-19)

Anaheim Ducks 18
Minnesota Wild 18
New Jersey Devils 18
Boston Bruins 17
Buffalo Sabres 16
Pittsburgh Penguins 14
Vancouver Canucks 14
Colorado Avalanche 13
Detroit Red Wings 12
Los Angeles Kings 12
New York Rangers 12
Nashville Predators 11
Ottawa Senators 11
Vegas Golden Knights 11
Winnipeg Jets 11
Arizona Coyotes 10
Dallas Stars 10
Edmonton Oilers 10
Chicago Blackhawks 9
Florida Panthers 9
Carolina Hurricanes 8
Columbus Blue Jackets 8
Philadelphia Flyers 8
Washington Capitals 8
New York Islanders 7
St. Louis Blues 7
Calgary Flames 6
Montreal Canadiens 6
San Jose Sharks 6
Toronto Maple Leafs 5
Tampa Bay Lightning 3

From college to the NHL (2018-19 season)

Kevin Boyle * G UMass Lowell Anaheim
Patrick Eaves # F Boston College Anaheim
Derek Grant F Michigan State Anaheim
Chad Johnson D Alaska Anaheim
Ryan Kesler F Ohio State Anaheim
Justin Kloos # F Minnesota Anaheim
Kalle Kossila F St. Cloud State Anaheim
Josh Manson D Northeastern Anaheim
Jaycob Megna D Omaha Anaheim
Ryan Miller G Michigan State Anaheim
Carter Rowney F North Dakota Anaheim
Kevin Roy F Northeastern Anaheim
Kiefer Sherwood * F Miami Anaheim
Devin Shore F Maine Anaheim
Ben Street F Wisconsin Anaheim
Andrej Sustr D Omaha Anaheim
Troy Terry F Denver Anaheim
Andy Welinski # D Minnesota Duluth Anaheim
Josh Archibald # F Omaha Arizona
Kevin Connauton D Western Michigan Arizona
Alex Goligoski # D Minnesota Arizona
Vinnie Hinostroza F Notre Dame Arizona
Clayton Keller F Boston University Arizona
Dakota Mermis D Denver Arizona
Hunter Miska *# G Minnesota Duluth Arizona
Jordan Oesterle D Western Michigan Arizona
Derek Stepan F Wisconsin Arizona
Nick Schmaltz F North Dakota Arizona
Noel Acciari F Providence Boston
David Backes # F Minnesota State Boston
Anders Bjork F Notre Dame Boston
Paul Carey F Boston College Boston
Connor Clifton * D Quinnipiac Boston
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson * F Boston University Boston
Charlie Coyle F Boston University Boston
Trent Frederic * F Wisconsin Boston
Matt Grzelcyk D Boston University Boston
Danton Heinen F Denver Boston
Steve Kampfer D Michigan Boston
Torey Krug D Michigan State Boston
Karson Kuhlman *# F Minnesota Duluth Boston
Sean Kuraly F Miami Boston
Charlie McAvoy D Boston University Boston
Kevan Miller D Vermont Boston
Chris Wagner F Colgate Boston
Will Borgen *# D St. Cloud State Buffalo
Jack Eichel F Boston University Buffalo
Matt Hunwick D Michigan Buffalo
Carter Hutton G UMass Lowell Buffalo
Jake McCabe D Wisconsin Buffalo
Casey Mittelstadt # F Minnesota Buffalo
Brandon Montour D Massachusetts Buffalo
Casey Nelson D Minnesota State Buffalo
Danny O’Regan F Boston University Buffalo
Kyle Okposo F Minnesota Buffalo
Evan Rodrigues F Boston University Buffalo
Conor Sheary F Massachusetts Buffalo
C.J. Smith F UMass Lowell Buffalo
Matt Tennyson D Western Michigan Buffalo
Tage Thompson F Connecticut Buffalo
Scott Wilson F UMass Lowell Buffalo
Austin Czarnik F Miami Calgary
Johnny Gaudreau F Boston College Calgary
Noah Hanifin D Boston College Calgary
Garnet Hathaway F Brown Calgary
Mark Jankowski F Providence Calgary
Ryan Lomberg F Maine Calgary
Scott Darling G Maine Carolina
Justin Faulk # D Minnesota Duluth Carolina
Warren Foegele F New Hampshire Carolina
Curtis McElhinney G Colorado College Carolina
Brett Pesce D New Hampshire Carolina
Jaccob Slavin D Colorado College Carolina
Lee Stempniak F Dartmouth Carolina
Trevor van Riemsdyk D New Hampshire Carolina
Drake Caggiula F North Dakota Chicago
Collin Delia G Merrimack Chicago
Dennis Gilbert * D Notre Dame Chicago
John Hayden F Yale Chicago
Luke Johnson * F North Dakota Chicago
Duncan Keith D Michigan State Chicago
Chris Kunitz F Ferris State Chicago
Dylan Sikura F Northeastern Chicago
Jonathan Toews F North Dakota Chicago
Mark Alt D Minnesota Colorado
Ian Cole D Notre Dame Colorado
J.T. Compher F Michigan Colorado
Sheldon Dries * F Western Michigan Colorado
A.J. Greer F Boston University Colorado
Erik Johnson # D Minnesota Colorado
Tyson Jost F North Dakota Colorado
Alexander Kerfoot F Harvard Colorado
Cale Makar * D Massachusetts Colorado
Matt Nieto F Boston University Colorado
Logan O’Connor * F Denver Colorado
Dominic Toninato # F Minnesota Duluth Colorado
Colin Wilson F Boston University Colorado
Cam Atkinson F Boston College Columbus
Adam Clendening D Boston University Columbus
Zac Dalpe F Ohio State Columbus
Ryan Dzingel F Ohio State Columbus
Mark Letestu F Western Michigan Columbus
Riley Nash F Cornell Columbus
Eric Robinson F Princeton Columbus
Zach Werenski D Michigan Columbus
Gavin Bayreuther * D St. Lawrence Dallas
Ben Bishop G Maine Dallas
Andrew Cogliano F Michigan Dallas
Erik Condra F Notre Dame Dallas
Taylor Fedun D Princeton Dallas
Joel Hanley D Massachusetts Dallas
Joel L’Esperance * F Michigan Tech Dallas
Ben Lovejoy D Dartmouth Dallas
Jamie Oleksiak D Northeastern Dallas
Tyler Pitlick # F Minnesota State Dallas
Justin Abdelkader F Michigan State Detroit
Jake Chelios * D Michigan State Detroit
Dennis Cholowski * D St. Cloud State Detroit
Danny DeKeyser D Western Michigan Detroit
Luke Glendening F Michigan Detroit
Taro Hirose * F Michigan State Detroit
Jimmy Howard G Maine Detroit
Ryan Kuffner * F Princeton Detroit
Dylan Larkin F Michigan Detroit
Wade Megan F Boston University Detroit
Thomas Vanek F Minnesota Detroit
Luke Witkowski D Western Michigan Detroit
Matt Benning D Northeastern Edmonton
Alex Chiasson F Boston University Edmonton
Joseph Gambardella * F UMass Lowell Edmonton
Jason Garrison D Minnesota Duluth Edmonton
Kevin Gravel D St. Cloud State Edmonton
Jujhar Khaira F Michigan Tech Edmonton
Brad Malone F North Dakota Edmonton
Cooper Marody * F Michigan Edmonton
Patrick Russell * F Patrick Russell Edmonton
Anthony Stolarz G Omaha Edmonton
Henrik Borgstrom F Denver Florida
Anthony Greco * F Ohio State Florida
Brady Keeper * D Maine Florida
Jacob MacDonald * D Cornell Florida
Michael Matheson D Boston College Florida
Ian McCoshen D Boston College Florida
Riley Sheahan F Notre Dame Florida
Frank Vatrano F Massachusetts Florida
Chris Wideman D Miami Florida
Daniel Brickley D Minnesota State Los Angeles
Jonny Brodzinski # F St. Cloud State Los Angeles
Derek Forbort # D North Dakota Los Angeles
Alex Iafallo F Minnesota Duluth Los Angeles
Paul LaDue D North Dakota Los Angeles
Blake Lizotte *# F St. Cloud State Los Angeles
Alec Martinez D Miami Los Angeles
Cal Petersen * G Notre Dame Los Angeles
Jonathan Quick G Massachusetts Los Angeles
Sheldon Rempal * F Clarkson Los Angeles
Matt Roy * D Michigan Tech Los Angeles
Sean Walker * D Bowling Green Los Angeles
Matt Bartkowski D Ohio State Minnesota
Louie Belpedio D Miami Minnesota
Anthony Bitetto D Northeastern Minnesota
J.T. Brown # F Minnesota Duluth Minnesota
Ryan Donato F Harvard Minnesota
Jordan Greenway F Boston University Minnesota
Brad Hunt D Bemidji State Minnesota
Luke Kunin F Wisconsin Minnesota
Zach Parise # F North Dakota Minnesota
Greg Pateryn D Michigan Minnesota
Nate Prosser # D Colorado College Minnesota
Kyle Rau # F Minnesota Minnesota
Matt Read F Bemidji State Minnesota
Nick Seeler # D Minnesota Minnesota
Alex Stalock # G Minnesota Duluth Minnesota
Nico Sturm * F Clarkson Minnesota
Ryan Suter D Wisconsin Minnesota
Jason Zucker F Denver Minnesota
Christian Folin D UMass Lowell Montreal
Charlie Lindgren # G St. Cloud State Montreal
Matthew Peca F Quinnipiac Montreal
Jeff Petry D Michigan State Montreal
Ryan Poehling *# F St. Cloud State Montreal
Mike Reilly # D Minnesota Montreal
Colin Blackwell * F Harvard Nashville
Nick Bonino F Boston University Nashville
Brian Boyle F Boston College Nashville
Phil Di Giuseppe F Michigan Nashville
Matt Donovan D Denver Nashville
Dante Fabbro * D Boston University Nashville
Rocco Grimaldi F North Dakota Nashville
Matt Irwin D Massachusetts Nashville
Rem Pitlick *# F Minnesota Nashville
Craig Smith F Wisconsin Nashville
Kyle Turris F Wisconsin Nashville
Kenny Agostino F Yale New Jersey
Joey Anderson *# F Minnesota Duluth New Jersey
Will Butcher D Denver New Jersey
Blake Coleman F Miami New Jersey
Andy Greene D Miami New Jersey
Eric Gryba D Boston University New Jersey
Josh Jacobs * D Michigan State New Jersey
Keith Kincaid G Union New Jersey
Nick Lappin F Brown New Jersey
Kyle Palmieri F Notre Dame New Jersey
Blake Pietila F Michigan Tech New Jersey
Kevin Rooney F Providence New Jersey
Steve Santini D Boston College New Jersey
Cory Schneider G Boston College New Jersey
Brett Seney * F Merrimack New Jersey
Drew Stafford F North Dakota New Jersey
Miles Wood F Boston College New Jersey
Travis Zajac F North Dakota New Jersey
Tanner Fritz F Ohio State N.Y. Islanders
Stephen Gionta F Boston College N.Y. Islanders
Nick Leddy # D Minnesota N.Y. Islanders
Anders Lee # F Notre Dame N.Y. Islanders
Scott Mayfield D Denver N.Y. Islanders
Brock Nelson # F North Dakota N.Y. Islanders
Devon Toews * D Quinnipiac N.Y. Islanders
Connor Brickley F Vermont N.Y. Rangers
Steven Fogarty # F Notre Dame N.Y. Rangers
John Gilmour D Providence N.Y. Rangers
Chris Kreider F Boston College N.Y. Rangers
Vinni Lettieri # F Minnesota N.Y. Rangers
Ryan Lindgren *# D Minnesota N.Y. Rangers
Boo Nieves F Michigan N.Y. Rangers
Neal Pionk # D Minnesota Duluth N.Y. Rangers
Kevin Shattenkirk D Boston University N.Y. Rangers
Brady Skjei # D Minnesota N.Y. Rangers
Brendan Smith D Wisconsin N.Y. Rangers
Jimmy Vesey F Harvard N.Y. Rangers
Mike Borowiecki D Clarkson Ottawa
Erik Burgdoefer D RPI Ottawa
Mike Condon G Princeton Ottawa
Joey Daccord * G Arizona State Ottawa
Brian Gibbons F Boston College Ottawa
Cody Goloubef D Wisconsin Ottawa
Max McCormick F Ohio State Ottawa
Brady Tkachuk * F Boston University Ottawa
Max Veronneau * F Princeton Ottawa
Colin White F Boston College Ottawa
Christian Wolanin D North Dakota Ottawa
Brian Elliott G Wisconsin Philadelphia
Mark Friedman * D Bowling Green Philadelphia
Shayne Gostisbehere D Union Philadelphia
Corban Knight F North Dakota Philadelphia
Alex Lyon # G Yale Philadelphia
Mike McKenna G St. Lawrence Philadelphia
Cam Talbot G Alabama Huntsville Philadelphia
James van Riemsdyk F New Hampshire Philadelphia
Zach Aston-Reese F Northeastern Pittsburgh
Nick Bjugstad # F Minnesota Pittsburgh
Teddy Blueger * F Minnesota State Pittsburgh
Matt Cullen # F St. Cloud State Pittsburgh
Casey DeSmith G New Hampshire Pittsburgh
Brian Dumoulin D Boston College Pittsburgh
Jake Guentzel # F Omaha Pittsburgh
Adam Johnson *# F Minnesota Duluth Pittsburgh
Jack Johnson D Michigan Pittsburgh
Phil Kessel F Minnesota Pittsburgh
Chad Ruhwedel D UMass Lowell Pittsburgh
Bryan Rust F Notre Dame Pittsburgh
Justin Schultz D Wisconsin Pittsburgh
Zach Trotman D Lake Superior State Pittsburgh
Justin Braun # D Massachusetts San Jose
Aaron Dell G North Dakota San Jose
Dylan Gambrell F Denver San Jose
Gustav Nyquist F Maine San Jose
Joe Pavelski F Wisconsin San Jose
Joakim Ryan D Cornell San Jose
Tyler Bozak F Denver St. Louis
Chris Butler D Denver St. Louis
Mackenzie MacEachern * F Michigan State St. Louis
Colton Parayko D Alaska St. Louis
Zach Sanford F Boston College St. Louis
Jordan Schmaltz D North Dakota St. Louis
Jaden Schwartz F Colorado College St. Louis
Cory Conacher F Canisius Tampa Bay
Alex Killorn F Harvard Tampa Bay
Ryan McDonagh # D Wisconsin Tampa Bay
Jake Gardiner # D Wisconsin Toronto
Ron Hainsey D UMass Lowell Toronto
Justin Holl # D Minnesota Toronto
Zach Hyman F Michigan Toronto
Trevor Moore * F Denver Toronto
Richard Bachman G Colorado College Vancouver
Jay Beagle F Alaska Anchorage Vancouver
Alex Biega D Harvard Vancouver
Brock Boeser # F North Dakota Vancouver
Thatcher Demko G Boston College Vancouver
Adam Gaudette F Northeastern Vancouver
Quinn Hughes * D Michigan Vancouver
Ben Hutton D Maine Vancouver
Tyler Motte F Michigan Vancouver
Brogan Rafferty * D Quinnipiac Vancouver
Tim Schaller F Providence Vancouver
Troy Stecher D North Dakota Vancouver
Chris Tanev D RIT Vancouver
Josh Teves * D Princeton Vancouver
Ryan Carpenter F Bowling Green Vegas
Daniel Carr F Union Vegas
Erik Haula F Minnesota Vegas
Jon Merrill D Michigan Vegas
Max Pacioretty F Michigan Vegas
Brandon Pirri F RPI Vegas
Nate Schmidt # D Minnesota Vegas
Jimmy Schuldt *# D St. Cloud State Vegas
Reilly Smith F Miami Vegas
Paul Stastny F Denver Vegas
Alex Tuch F Boston College Vegas
Travis Boyd # F Minnesota Washington
Pheonix Copley G Michigan Tech Washington
Nic Dowd F St. Cloud State Washington
Carl Hagelin F Michigan Washington
Nick Jensen # D St. Cloud State Washington
Matt Niskanen # D Minnesota Duluth Washington
Brooks Orpik D Boston College Washington
T.J. Oshie # F North Dakota Washington
Mason Appleton * F Michigan State Winnipeg
Kyle Connor F Michigan Winnipeg
Andrew Copp F Michigan Winnipeg
Kevin Hayes F Boston College Winnipeg
Connor Hellebuyck G UMass Lowell Winnipeg
Matt Hendricks # F St. Cloud State Winnipeg
Jack Roslovic F Miami Winnipeg
Cam Schilling D Miami Winnipeg
Brandon Tanev F Providence Winnipeg
Jacob Trouba D Michigan Winnipeg
Blake Wheeler # F Minnesota Winnipeg
* player made NHL debut in 2018-19
# Minnesota native

Tag(s): State Of Hockey  News  College  Pro  Kevin Kurtt