This is why it comes as no surprise that the Hockey East conference — comprised of 10 colleges throughout New England — is littered with talented players that eventually work their way into the NHL.
Tuesday night’s matchup between the Bruins and the Lightning will see two former college teammates square off in Tampa. Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and Lightning forward Martin St. Louis were in the same graduating class at the University of Vermont, and both rose into very successful players in the NHL. The duo played at UVM when it was a member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), but the school joined Hockey East in the 2005-06 season.
The thought of two former college teammates battling head-to-head on the professional stage got us thinking. Who is the best Hockey East alumnus in the NHL?
St. Louis may have been undrafted out of Burlington, but he developed into quite the prolific scorer when he was picked up by Tampa Bay in 2000. The 5-foot-9 winger rattled off a league-high 94 points in the 2003-04 season, leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup victory. Two seasons later, St. Louis notched a career-high 102 points, and the 35-year-old has refused to slow down since.
It took a few years for Tim Thomas to reach the NHL, but his perseverance clearly paid off. Though he experienced a down year in 2009-10, Thomas bounced back with an incredible hunger in 2010-11 and has done nothing but dazzle in net since his first start in Prague. The 36-year-old continues to dominate the NHl leaderboards in save percentage (.949), goals against (1.68) and shutouts (5).
Another forward that lists UVM on his career resume is Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp. The former Catamount started his professional career in Philadelphia, but he really began making strides in the past few seasons with Chicago. Sharp recorded 66 points last season and chipped in an additional 22 points during the Blackhawks’ playoff run toward the Stanley Cup.
The lines of leadership run through Montreal Canadiens forward Brian Gionta. The former Boston College Eagle wore the “C” during the team’s national championship run in 2000-01 and now serves as captain for the Habs. Though the Canadiens are hated rivals in Boston, Eagles fans will never forget Gionta’s stellar contributions throughout his four-year career at BC.
Playing his collegiate career on the opposite side of the Beanpot rivalry, Rangers forward Chris Drury honed his game with the Boston University Terriers. Though his production has dipped over the past two years, Drury is still recognized as one of the greats to come out of Hockey East, and he’s the only NHL player in history to win both the Hobey Baker Award and the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Or is it another Hockey East alumnus? Ryan Whitney (Boston University) and Jonathan Quick (UMass Amherst) both earned their collegiate stripes in Hockey East and are quickly rising the ranks in the NHL.
Who do you think is the best player to come out of a Hockey East school? Share your thoughts below.
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