Throughout the 2016-17 season we have seen a lot of new names in and out of the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Most of these names are young talent coming from the Penguins farm system. Names such as Chad Rudwedel, Scott Wilson, and Carter Rowney are in and out of the lineup due to injuries. Players like Phil Kessel, Conor Sheary, and Chris Kuntiz are guys we think of as essential pieces to the Penguins in their respected ways. But what is one thing these players and many others have in common? That is, they have all played hockey in the NCAA before turning pro with the Pens, or another NHL franchise.
Would you believe that the Penguins have 17 guys that have played in the NCAA play this season in the NHL? Well, you had better believe it because it is true.
2016-17 Players Who Have Played in the NCAA for the Penguins
- Matt Cullen- St. Cloud State University
- Carl Hagelin- University of Michigan
- Chris Kunitz- Ferris State University
- Nick Bonino- Boston University
- Brian Dumoulin- Boston College
- Jake Guentzel- University of Nebraska Omaha
- Ian Cole- Notre Dame
- Ron Hainsey- Umass Lowell
- Phil Kessel- University of Minnesota
- Bryan Rust- Notre Dame
- Justin Schultz- University of Wisconsin
- Conor Sheary- Umass-Amherst
- Josh Archibald- University of Nebraska Omaha
- Carter Rowney- University of North Dakota
- Chad Ruhwedel- Umass Lowell
- Scott Wilson- Umass Lowell
- David Warsofsky- Boston University
*Out of the 17 listed players above, 12 are everyday players for the Penguins this season.
The Penguins have proved yet again that their depth in the farm system helped boost them to be a top 3 team in the NHL this season. Although all 17 former NCAA players have proved their worth this season, there are three names that stand out to me.
Justin Schultz- 12 Goals, 38 Assists. Schultz has proven this season that he is capable of putting up the offensive numbers he was expected to after being a 2nd round pick in 2008 all while improving his defensive game.
Conor Sheary- 23 Goals, 30 Assists. Playing aside Sidney Crosby for most of the season is beneficial, but believe me Sheary is the real deal. In just his 2nd NHL season he has proven capable of being Crosby’s right winger for a long time.
Jake Guentzel- 15 Goals, 16 Assists. Recently joining Crosby and Sheary to form the Sid and the Kids line, Gunetzel has proven to Penguins management that he deserves to stay in the lineup going into the playoffs.
To give credit where credit is due, these players have all proved that the NCAA is producing some serious talent now more than ever. There are also a few people in Penguins management that need to be recognized for their outstanding work.
Mark Rechi– Player Development Coach
Randy Sexton– Director of Amateur Scouting
Derek Clancey– Director of Pro Scouting
Without these gentlemen being part of the Penguins organization we may never see players like Sheary or Gunztzel make such a huge impact as they have this season.
As far as the AHL team, Wilkes Barre Penguins, they currently have 14 rostered players who have played NCAA previously. The most notable singing being Hobby Baker finalist Zach Aston-Reese. Two notable players in the ECHL playing for the Wheeling Nailers are Cody Wydo, and Daniel Leavens who both attended Robert Morris University here in Pittsburgh.
The NCAA is producing talent at a much more rapid level than they have in recent years. In 2015 alone 30% of the NHL were former NCAA players. Not only are they gifted hockey players but 91% of NCAA players are graduating with their degree. The NCAA is growing each year in talent, and I personally cannot wait to see what the future holds for these student athletes.