Former Gopher star Brock Faber is a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

Former College Hockey Stars Shine, Seven Up for Major Individual Awards

Award finalists, scoring leaders, and career milestones highlighted another year of NCAA alumni making significant impact in the National Hockey League during the 2023-24 regular season.

A total of 327 former college hockey players appeared in the NHL during the regular season. The majority of those 327 alumni (65%) played at least three years of college hockey.

Forty-five NCAA Division I schools had at least one alum playing in the NHL in 2023-24. Michigan led all schools with 30 alumni in the NHL, followed by Minnesota (26), Boston College (22), Boston University (21), UMass (15) and North Dakota (15), Minnesota Duluth (14) and Wisconsin (14).

A pair of former college hockey standouts – Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes (Michigan) and Colorado’s CaleMakar (UMass) – finished 1-2 in the NHL’s scoring race among defensemen. In fact, Hughes’ 92 points were the second-most ever recorded by a college hockey defenseman, trailing only Brian Leetch’s (Boston College) 102-point campaign in 1991-92.

Former college hockey players were also dominant between the pipes in 2023-24, with five NCAA alumni ranked among the league’s top eight in goals against average.

Edmonton’s Zach Hyman (Michigan) was one of only four NHLers to score 50 goals in 2023-24, and his career-high 54 tallies were the most by an NCAA alum since Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull (Minnesota Duluth) had 54 in 1992-93.

Other highlights included:

AWARDS

  • New York Rangers captain Jacob Trouba (Michigan) was named the recipient of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on May 14.
  • Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes (Michigan) and Colorado’s Cale Makar (UMass) are two of the three finalists for the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. A former college hockey player has won the award in two of the past three seasons: Makar in 2021-22 and the New York Rangers’ Adam Fox (Harvard) in 2020-21.
  • Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko (Boston College) and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell) are two of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie. Now a four-time finalist, Hellebuyck previously won the award in 2019-20.
  • Minnesota defenseman Brock Faber (Minnesota) and New Jersey defenseman Luke Hughes(Michigan) are two of the three finalists for Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Hughes’ former Michigan teammate, Seattle forward Matty Beniers, won the award in 2022-23.
  • Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin (Colorado College) was named one of three finalists for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” Slavin previously won the award in 2020-21 and was runner-up in 2021-22.
Nick Leddy, a former standout at Eden Prairie High School, recently played din his 1,000th game for the St. Louis Blues. LPH PHOTO BY Jackson Boline

MILESTONES

  • Four NCAA alumni reached 1,000 career NHL games: St. Louis defenseman Nick Leddy (Minnesota), Florida/Buffalo forward Kyle Okposo (Minnesota), Washington forward T.J. Oshie(North Dakota) and Boston forward James van Riemsdyk (New Hampshire).
  • Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell) appeared in his 500th game, becoming just the sixth active NHL netminder to reach that milestone.
  • Forty-three NCAA alumni made their NHL debuts and former college hockey players accounted for 36 percent of all NHL debuts in 2023-24.
  • Philadelphia head coach John Tortorella (Maine) and New York Rangers bench boss PeterLaviolette (Westfield State) became just the eighth and ninth coaches in NHL history to have coached in 1,500-plus games.
Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks.

STATISTICAL LEADERS

  • Nine NCAA alums led their teams in goals in 2023-24: Vancouver’s Brock Boeser (North Dakota), Edmonton’s Zach Hyman (Michigan), Arizona’s Clayton Keller (Boston University), Detroit’s DylanLarkin (Michigan), Los Angeles’ Trevor Moore (Denver), the New York Islanders’ Brock Nelson (North Dakota), Buffalo’s Tage Thompson (UConn), Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk (Boston University) and Anaheim’s Frank Vatrano (UMass).
  • Five of the NHL’s top eight in goals against average were college hockey products: Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (UMass Lowell), Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko (Boston College), Seattle’sJoey Daccord (Arizona State), Los Angeles’ Cam Talbot (Alabama-Huntsville), and Boston’s Jeremy Swayman (Maine).
  • Three of the NHL’s four top-scoring rookies played NCAA hockey: New Jersey defenseman LukeHughes (Michigan), Minnesota defenseman Brock Faber (Minnesota) and Arizona forward LoganCooley (Minnesota).
  • Minnesota’s Brock Faber (Minnesota) and New Jersey’s Luke Hughes (Michigan) led NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with 47 points each. Faber also paced all NHL rookie skaters in ice time per game (24:58).

FRONT OFFICE

  • Half (16-of-32) of the NHL’s general managers in 2023-24 played college hockey.
  • New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello (Providence) joined fellow NCAA alumni David Poile(Northeastern) as the only GMs in NHL history with more than 2,800 games in that role.
  • More than 40 percent (13 out of 32) of the NHL’s head coaches in 2023-24 were NCAA alumni, including recent Jack Adams Trophy recipients Jim Montgomery (Maine) in Boston, Rod Brind’Amour (Michigan State) in Carolina and John Tortorella (Maine) in Philadelphia.

EDUCATION

  • Many active NHL players continued to work toward completion of their college degrees, including Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who completed his degree in 2023-24 and received his diploma at Wisconsin’s commencement ceremony earlier this month. Ninety-three percent of NCAA Division I men’s hockey players earn their degrees.