Phil Kessel, a three-time Stanley Cup Champion Photo from Gophers website

The Stanley Cup is one of, if not, the most unique trophy in all of professional sports. Lord Stanley’s Cup stands about 35 inches and weighs 34 and a half pounds. This trophy has been hoisted above thousands and thousands of NHL players’ heads… players from all around the world who come together and battle for the top prize in the sport. The 2023 Stanley Cup Final champion, Vegas Golden Knights had three players with Minnesota ties in their hockey background. Phil Kessel, a former Golden Gopher, Zach Whitecould, a former Beaver, and Teddy Blueger, a former Mavericks forward. These three players have experienced a hockey player’s lifelong dream.


Let’s start with Phil Kessel; Kessel (35 Yrs, 5 foot 11) grew up just over four hours East of St. Paul Minn. in Madison, Wisconsin. He was amongst the nation’s top Junior hockey players, jumping right in with the U.S National U18 Team for three seasons before making his commitment to the University of Minnesota, and becoming a Golden Gopher. Kessel played one season with the Maroon and Gold, scoring 18 goals, and 33 assists for 51 points in 39 games, this was good enough to get him drafted in the first round of the 2006 NHL

Entry Draft. The Boston Bruins selected a young Phil Kessel with the fifth overall selection. He would only play three seasons for the Bruins before getting traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kessel spent six seasons in the True North, having some success, scoring 30 or more goals in four of those six seasons. The new journey for “Phil the Thrill” started in Pittsburgh with Crosby and the Penguins. This is where Kessel found the most career success, winning two Stanley Cups in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Phil Kessel spent the 2022-23 season with the Vegas Golden Knights after three years with the Arizona Coyotes. Kessel ended the season with 14 goals, 22 assists for 36 points, and added his third Stanley Cup Championship.

Zach Whitecloud, a top defenseman in his two years with Bemidji State University Photo from:

Next up is Zach Whitecloud; Whitecloud (26 Yrs, 6 foot 2)  has a different story from Phil the Thrill, as he started his hockey journey in Brandon Manitoba, Can. Whitecloud spent most of his youth hockey career playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings U18 AAA, and the Virden Oil Capitals of the MJHL before making a college commitment 

to play Division-1 hockey at Bemidji State University in 2016. Whitecloud spent two seasons in the northern Minnesota school, scoring 7 goals and 29 assists for 36 points. After the college hockey season, he was an undrafted signing for the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL and played one game. Whitecloud was up and down with the NHL Knights and the

 AHL Chicago Wolves for the next couple of seasons before establishing himself as an everyday defenseman for the Knights in the 2020-21 season. He played 59 games in the 2022-23 season for the Knights but played all playoff games. Whitecloud won his first Stanley Cup this season with the Knights.

Teddy Blueger, a four-year starter for the Mavericks Photo from:

The third player on the Golden Knights roster with Minnesota college hockey ties is Teddy Blueger. Blueger (28 Yrs, 6 foot 0,) born in Latvia, committed to play for Minnesota State University Mankato prior to the 2012 season, the same year he was selected in the NHL Entry Draft in the second round to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Blueger decided to play for MSU for the next four seasons before making the jump to pro hockey. He scored 31 goals, 77 assists for 108 points in four seasons with the Mavericks. Blueger is in his 10 season in the NHL, he spent the last nine with the team who drafted him before signing as a free agent with the Vegas Golden Knights. This was Blueger’s first Stanley Cup Champion Ring.