Notre Dame to the NHL: Active Fighting Irish Players

During the 2019-20 season (so far), 15 former University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey players have appeared in NHL games. This season’s experiences ranged from New York Islanders’ captain Anders Lee, who appeared in all 68 of his team’s games, to a pair of appearances by Thomas Di Pauli (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jordan Gross (Arizona Coyotes).

Anders Lee New York Islanders
Anders Lee, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

And that’s not counting Robbie Russo, who was called up by Arizona, but didn’t dress for any games, although he has 19 NHL contests on his resumé.

Player2019-20 NHL Team2019-20 Games,
NHL Total Games,
Bjork, AndersBoston Bruins58, 9/10/19108, 14/20/34
Cole, IanColorado Avalanche65, 4/22/26541, 26/112/138
Di Pauli, ThomasPittsburgh Penguins2, 0/0/0/2, 0/0/0
Fogarty, StevenNew York Rangers7, 0/0/07, 0/0/0
Gilbert, DennisChicago Blackhawks21, 1/2/322, 1/2/3
Gross, JordanArizona Coyotes2, 0/1/12, 0/1/1
Hinostroza, VinnyArizona Coyotes68, 5/17/22246, 34/66/100
Johns, StephenDallas Stars17, 2/3/5167, 15/18/33
Lee, AndersNew York Islanders68, 25/20/45493, 172/129/301
Palmieri, KyleNew Jersey Devils65, 25/20/45561, 175/163/338
Peeke, AndrewColumbus Blue Jackets22, 1/2/322, 1/2/3
Petersen, CalLos Angeles Kings8, GAA 2.64/SV% .92219, GAA 2.62/SV% .923
Rust, BryanPittsburgh Penguins55, 27/29/56308, 78/92/170
Sheahan, RileyEdmonton Oilers66, 8/7/15513, 66/98/164
Tynan, T.J.Colorado Avalanche16, 0/1/119, 0/1/1

As you can see in the table above, for four players, this year accounts for their entire NHL careers to date.

Cal Petersen (Notre Dame Athletics)

Eight former Fighting Irish have at least 100 NHL games to their credit, with three having played in over 500 games (and Lee is knocking at the door with 493 games).

Former Irish Contributions, Large and Small

Six of the former Irish players were on the opening night rosters for NHL teams. Unfortunately, half of them were on injured reserve. Lee, Hinostroza, and Palmieri all played in their teams’ opening games, all losses, with Palmieri’s assist the only point among the three.

Related: Revisiting the Islanders’ Draft of 2009

Cole, Rust, and Sheahan had to wait to make their season debuts. Cole hit the ice on Oct. 14, Colorado’s fifth game of the season, a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals (zero points for Cole). Rust scored a goal in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 shutout of Dallas, a dozen games into the team’s schedule. Sheahan’s logged just over 15 minutes of ice time (no points) in the Oilers’ third game, a 5-2 victory over the Islanders.

Ian Cole Colorado Avalanche
Ian Cole, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Along with the two Anders (Bjork and Lee), all played significant roles throughout the season. On the other end of the scale, Di Pauli’s two-game call-up in January with the Penguins totaled 18 shifts and just under 12 minutes of ice time. Gross’s two-game stint with Arizona, the team’s last two games before the Christmas break, produced an assist in a 5-2 win over Detroit (25 shifts, 17:33 ice time) and zero points in a 3-2 loss to Nashville (20 shifts, 14:48 ice time).

Scholar-Athletes at Notre Dame

Hockey at Notre Dame is a big-time sport, but the athletes are also students. 17 of the 20 eligible players from the 2019-20 Fighting Irish hockey team were named Big Ten All-Academic Team honorees (freshman are not eligible). Among them are Jake Pivonka (drafted by the New York Islanders, 2018 fourth round), Spencer Stastney (Nashville Predators, 2018, fifth round), Nathan Clurman (Colorado Avalanche, 2016, sixth round), Matthew Hellickson (New Jersey Devils, 2017, seventh round), and Nick Leivermann (Colorado, 2017, seventh round). 

Matthew Hellickson
Matthew Hellickson of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (Photo Credit: Fighting Irish Media)

Those drafted players on the Big Ten All-Academic list are not all of the potential NHLers at Notre Dame. Other NHL-drafted players on the Notre Dame roster this year include Cam Morrison (Colorado, 2016, second round) and Trevor Janicke (Anaheim Ducks, 2019, fifth round). Senior goalie Cale Morris, also a Big-Ten All-Academic honoree, is an undrafted free agent. (from ‘As graduation nears, former Colorado youth hockey star Cale Morris awaits NHL future,’ Denver Post, 05/11/2020) As a Mike Richter Award winner and Hobey Baker finalist, he’s likely to find a professional hockey contract in his future.

Related: NHL Hopefuls- What Does Hockey Mean To Them?

Another Notre Dame alumnus has also been very visible in the world of hockey this year – Dave Poulin is currently a TV analyst for TSN. Following four years on the ice at Notre Dame (graduating in 1982), Poulin spent a dozen years in the NHL, playing 724 games and scoring 482 points. On the eve of just his second season in the NHL, then-Philadelphia Flyers coach Mike Keenan named the 25-year-old captain of the team. Poulin also coached the Fighting Irish for 10 years and spent five years as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Vice-President of Hockey Operations.

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