Of the 20 NHL players born in the state of Rhode Island, only half played more than a full season’s worth of games. Of those 10, seven played with at least four different teams – and three men played for six different organizations. Of those three, two not only wore six different sweaters, but both spent multiple tours with one of the six teams. One Rhode Islander, Noel Acciari, is active in the NHL.
Four Rhode Island-born players suited up for over 300 NHL games. Interestingly, each of them spent at least one full season with the Chicago Blackhawks. However, Chicago wasn’t the most common stop for NHLers from Rhode Island. Eight of the 20 played for the Boston Bruins. That, by the way, likely had nothing to do with proximity – only one player, Bill Bennet, started his NHL career with Boston (and that lasted only seven of his 31 total NHL games).
The Top NHL Players From the Smallest State
This is an easy lineup to select. Only three forwards and two defensemen played over 140 games in The Show. Their experience ranges from Rob Gaudreau’s 231 games to Keith Carney’s 1,018. The currently active NHLer, Acciari, has 11 points in 40 games (so far) this season for the Florida Panthers.
The next most recent NHL experience ended with goalie Brian Boucher’s final game in Philadelphia for the Flyers in March, 2013. Among skaters, it’s Tom Cavanaugh’s last appearance with the San Jose Sharks four years earlier. (Ten of the 20 NHL players from Rhode Island were born in the 1960s.) To see if there are any Rhode Island-born prospects on the radar, check The Hockey Writers’ Draft Central.
G – Chris Terreri
Remember when I said selecting this team was “easy”? I didn’t include this position for a reason. Three Rhode Islanders played goal in the NHL. It was a simple thing to eliminate David Littman, with his three appearances in goal over three seasons (only one complete game), a goals-against average (GAA) of 5.96 (not a typo) and a save percentage (SV%) of .794. Deciding between Chris Terreri and Brian Boucher, however, was tougher. Boucher had better numbers, with a 2.71 GAA and .901 SV% over 328 NHL games. Terreri played 406 games, with a GAA of 3.07 and a SV% of .892.
But, in addition to his longer career, Terreri also owns two Stanley Cup rings (1995 and 2000) from his two tours with the New Jersey Devils. In addition, he represented the USA in four World Championships (1985, 1986, 1987, 1997) and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
D – Keith Carney
With the longest NHL career of any Rhode Islander, picking Carney was simple. Over his 1,018 regular-season games, he scored 45 goals and added 183 assists for 228 points. Add another 22 points in 91 playoff games. Oh, and let’s not forget his combined 971 penalty minutes (PIMs) in those 1,109 NHL games, as well as his cumulative plus-164 during the regular season games.
D – Bryan Berard
I’m glad my all-time Rhode Island-born lineup includes space for two defensemen – I would hate to leave out Bryan Berard. Winner of the 1997 Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year, there’s no telling where his career would have gone if it hadn’t been for a freak accident that robbed him of sight in one eye.
Despite the eye injury, Berard racked up 323 points and 500 PIMs in 619 regular-season games. In the years before his injury, he also played for Team USA at the Under-20 World Championship in 1995 and 1996, the (men’s) World Championship in 1997, and at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
F – Noel Acciari
While some say he’s having an off-year as the Panthers head to the 2020-21 playoffs, Acciari’s 11 points in 40 games are actually above his NHL career points-per-game average headed into this year (.275 for 2020-21 compared to .236 for 2015-16 through 2019-2020).
Acciari also has seven points in 39 playoff games (so far) with the Bruins and Panthers. An interesting side note: he’s played for two different “Providence” teams (the NCAA college and the AHL Bruins) and played for two different “Bruins” teams (NHL and AHL).
F – Harvey Bennett
In 268 games over five seasons with five different clubs, Harvey Bennett totaled 44 goals and 46 assists. He started with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1974-75, was traded to the Washington Capitals during the following season, traded from the Capitals to the Philadelphia Flyers in the middle of the season after that, and from the Flyers to the Minnesota North Stars shortly after the start of the season following that. His final season, 1978-79, was spent entirely with the St. Louis Blues.
F – Rob Gaudreau
The final member of this lineup, Rob Gaudreau, played for only two teams over his 231 games, the Sharks and the Ottawa Senators. He totaled 51 goals and 54 assists for 105 points.
The Brothers Capuano
One other fun thing about NHLers from Rhode Island: Brothers Dave and Jack Capuano played together, although very, very briefly, for the Vancouver Canucks. Dave played a total of 110 regular season and playoff games in the NHL (57 points). Jack’s NHL career consisted of six regular-season games (zero points). But fully one-half of Jack’s career – three games – was played with his brother Dave as Canucks, on Oct. 21, 23, and 25, 1990.
Jack did go on to have a career in coaching, including a stint as head coach of the New York Islanders.
Statistics from NHL.com, QuantHockey.com.
Pete Bauer is both a hockey fan and player. As a columnist for The Hockey Writers, he covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, NCAA hockey, and NHL trends, statistics, and history. He is also the author of over a dozen books on photography, digital imaging, and graphics, including “Photoshop CC for Dummies.”