When considering Connecticut-born NHL players, choosing the all-time lineup is both easy and difficult. Of the five skaters and one goalie for the starting lineup, each is a no-brainer. Except one. Unlike most other states, Connecticut’s NHL cohort is heavy with current players. Five of the six selected to the all-time lineup are still playing in the Show.
But that doesn’t tell the whole tale. A player from Connecticut once set the records for both being the youngest goaltender in NHL history and the oldest goaltender in NHL history. Maurice “Moe” Roberts debuted as an injury replacement for Boston Bruins on Dec. 8, 1925, at age 19. Almost exactly 26 years later, on Nov. 25, 1951, Roberts (an assistant trainer for the Chicago Black Hawks at the time) was an injury fill-in for 20 minutes. At age 45, he was the oldest NHL player in history at the time and remains the oldest goaltender to appear in a game.
C – Craig Janney (Hartford, CT)
Craig Janney, drafted in the first round (No. 13, 1986) by the Bruins, played 12 years in the NHL. He likely would have had a longer career, but was forced to retire due to blood clots. A sublime playmaker, he tallied 563 assists and 751 points in just 760 games.
For the initial seven years of his career (1987-88 to 1993-94), he averaged over a point per game for Boston and the St. Louis Blues. He played an additional 320 games with 242 points for the San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Islanders. (In 1994, he was also part of the Vancouver Canucks organization as part of an arbitrator’s award, but was quickly traded back to St. Louis.) Janney is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, inducted in 2016.
LW – Max Pacioretty (New Canaan, CT)
Currently playing his 13th year in the NHL, Max Pacioretty is a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. He was a first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens (2007, No. 22 overall) and spent the first 11 years of his career with the club, scoring 226 goals and 448 points in 626 games. In the first two seasons after his trade to Vegas in 2018 (for Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar, and a second-round draft pick), he added 54 goals and 106 points in 101 games.
This season – so far – he’s on pace for 34 goals and 62 points in a 56-game season. Should he maintain that scoring rate, it will mark his first season scoring more than a point per game.
RW – Cam Atkinson (Riverside, CT)
A career-long member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cam Atkinson was drafted by the club in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (No. 157 overall), despite his lack of size (5-foot-8, 175 pounds). Following his draft year, he spent three years at Boston College, winning the Hockey East tournament twice and the overall NCAA championship in 2010.
His personal accomplishments during his university years include Hockey East Second Team All-Star (2010) and First Team All-Star (2011), the Derek Hines Award (2010), NCAA goal scoring champion (2010), Hockey East Tournament MVP (2011), and Finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (2011). He was also a member of bronze-medal-winning Team USA at the World Championship in 2018, and was named an NHL All-Star in 2012 and 2019.
Atkinson joined the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate Springfield Falcons after wrapping up his collegiate career in 2011. During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, he played for both the Falcons and the Blue Jackets. Between his first NHL game during the 2011-12 season and the end of last season, he scored 198 goals and 358 points in 571 games. His goals-to-assists ratio at the time placed him No. 22 on the modern-day list of “finishers.” He holds the Blue Jackets’ record for most career shorthanded goals with 16, including four so far this season. (As I write this, he is tied for this season’s lead in goals and is second in points for Columbus.)
D – Kevin Shattenkirk (Greenwich, CT)
Well-traveled defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is currently on his sixth NHL team. He was selected in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (No. 14 overall) by the Colorado Avalanche. Like Atkinson, he went the NCAA route, playing three years at Boston University before turning pro. He started his NHL career in Colorado, but was shipped to the Blues after just 46 games as part of the package in which the Avalanche acquired Erik Johnson and Jay Clement (as well as a first-round draft pick).
He scored 258 points in 425 games with the Blues before being traded to the Washington Capitals. Following that 2017 trade, he stayed in Washington for only 19 games. That summer he was signed as a free agent by the New York Rangers, a team with which he played 119 games, scoring 51 points. After the 2018-19 season, the Rangers allowed him to walk into free agency via a buyout. He signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and contributed 13 points in 25 postseason games en route to the Stanley Cup. Once again he was left to find a team in free agency, signing with the Anaheim Ducks prior to the 2020-21 season. He has scored 13 points in 36 games (so far this season) and is averaging almost 22 minutes per game on ice.
D – Ron Hainsey (Bolton, CT)
Drafted in the first round of the 2000 draft (No. 13 overall) by the Montreal Canadiens, Ron Hainsey is currently an unretired, unsigned free agent. His NHL career has spanned 17 years, 1,132 regular-season games (with 311 points and 443 penalty minutes), 39 postseason games, seven NHL organizations, and eight NHL teams. (He was with the Atlanta Thrashers when they relocated to become the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.)
It wasn’t until his 14th season in the NHL that Hainsey saw postseason action, winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2016-17. (Interestingly, his move from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Penguins was the first time he had been traded, although he had already played with three different organizations.) In addition to Montreal, Atlanta/Winnipeg, Carolina, and Pittsburgh, he played three seasons in Columbus and, most recently, two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by a stint with the Ottawa Senators last season.
G – Jonathan Quick (Milford, CT)
Goalie Jonathan Quick is a career-long member of the Los Angeles Kings, having played with the club since the 2007-08 season. Including 14 games in 2020-21, his record is 331-246-69, with a save percentage of .913 and a goals-against average of 2.40. He was drafted in the third round (No. 72 overall) by the Kings in 2005.
He backstopped the Kings to the Stanley Cup in 2011-12 and 2013-14, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during the first Cup run. Although he’s never won the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender, he has twice had his named engraved in the William M. Jennings Trophy (2014, 2018) for backstopping the team with the fewest goals against.However, some, including my colleague Nick Chudoba, believe Quick’s days as with the Kings should come to an end.
Connecticut-Born 600 Game Club
In addition to the six players on the All-Time Connecticut-Born Lineup, three more have played over 600 games in the NHL:
Chris Drury (Trumbull, CT)
If it wasn’t for Janney, Drury would have been a shoo-in for center in this lineup. He was a winner at every level (and sport). His 12-year NHL career included 892 regular-season games and 135 postseason games, with 302 goals and 704 points (regular and postseason combined).
In 1989, Drury pitched his hometown baseball team to the Little League World Series Championship. In hockey, his accolades include the Hobey Baker Memorial Award from his days at BU, the Calder Memorial Trophy for his rookie season with the Avalanche, a Stanley Cup ring with Colorado, and two Olympic silver medals. (He was the first player in NHL history to win the Calder Trophy after claiming the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.)
Nick Bonino (Hartford, CT)
With 657 regular-season games and 289 points, Nick Bonino deserves mention among Connecticut-born NHLers. A sixth-round pick of the Sharks in 2007, he’s played for Anaheim, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, and Nashville prior to his current role with the Minnesota Wild.
Colin Wilson (Greenwich, CT)
On Oct. 29, 2020, Colin Wilson retired from the NHL after 11 seasons, 632 games, and 286 points. In addition to his NHL accomplishments, he won both silver (2007) and gold (2006) at the Under-18 World Championship with Team USA. In 2009, his BU Terriers won the NCAA Championship.
Chris Clark (South Windsor, CT)
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the third round of the 1994 draft (No. 77 overall), Chris Clark played 607 regular-season games in the NHL for the Flames, Capitals, and Blue Jackets. He totaled 214 points and 700 penalty minutes. Since his retirement in 2011, he has remained with the Blue Jackets organization, rising from development manager to general manager of the team’s AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters.
The Connecticut-College Connection
With the exception of old-timer Roberts, every Connecticut-born player mentioned in this article spent time in the NCAA, as did a dozen or so more who never reached 600 NHL games. Of the 10, eight played their collegiate hockey in Massachusetts. Four played for Boston University, two for Boston College, one for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and one for UMass-Amherst.
Oversized Impact From an Undersized State
Considering the population of Connecticut, it’s contributions to the NHL are proportionally higher than many states. A total of 33 players have appeared in at least one NHL game. Much of the Connecticut connection in the NHL is still active. In fact, other than Janney, this entire lineup is still playing in the NHL, as are Bonino and Adam Erne of the Detroit Red Wings (who, by the way, turned down a full scholarship at BU).
Pete Bauer is both a hockey fan and player. As a columnist for The Hockey Writers.com, he covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, NCAA hockey, and NHL trends, statistics, and history. He’s considered the go-to guy for info on the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL Players’ Association and other hockey-related legal mumbo-jumbo. He’s a frequent guest on a variety of podcasts. You’ll find all of his THW columns here. Pete is also the author of over a dozen books on photography, digital imaging, and graphics, including “Photoshop CC for Dummies.”