EDINA, Minn. – Oct. 12, 2016 –As the puck drops tonight on the 2016-17 National Hockey League (NHL) season, 13 alumni from current Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) schools are on opening night rosters. These former student-athletes, representing seven WCHA institutions, will play for 10 different NHL clubs.
"Lining up on Opening Night is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for many hockey players," said WCHA President and Men's League Commissioner Bill Robertson. "We are proud for anyone who has ever worn a WCHA jersey, past and present, who now have the opportunity to represent their schools and college hockey at the sport's highest level. We look forward to watching the upcoming NHL season, while also watching the top-notch talent on display in WCHA rinks each weekend."
The last two WCHA Defensive Players of the Year are set to continue their NHL careers: 2014-15 winner (and 2015-16 NHL All-Rookie Team selection) Colton Parayko (Alaska / St. Louis Blues) and 2015-16 honoree Casey Nelson (Minnesota State / Buffalo). Nelson is one of just 14 players on NHL opening night rosters that played college hockey last season, while former Minnesota State teammate Teddy Blueger is one of another five that will begin the campaign on injured reserve.
The 2016-17 group also includes reigning and three-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Kunitz (Ferris State / Pittsburgh Penguins), who will serve as one of the Pens' alternate captains; and, Team USA member David Backes (Minnesota State / Boston Bruins).
A full list of the 13 current WCHA member institution alumni on 2016-17 NHL opening night rosters:
WCHA-affiliated players on 2016-17 NHL Opening Night Rosters
|Player, Pos.||NHL Team||School (Years)|
|Cam Talbot, G||Edmonton Oilers||Alabama Huntsville (2008-10)|
|Jay Beagle, F||Washington Capitals||Alaska Anchorage (2006-07)|
|Chad Johnson, G||Calgary Flames||Alaska (2006-09)|
|Colton Parayko, D||St. Louis Blues||Alaska (2013-15)|
|Matt Read, F||Philadelphia Flyers||Bemidji State (2008-11)|
|Kevin Bieksa, D||Anaheim Ducks||Bowling Green (2001-04)|
|Andrew Hammond, G||Ottawa Senators||Bowling Green (2010-13)|
|Chris Kunitz, F||Pittsburgh Penguins||Ferris State (2000-03)|
|Zach Redmond, D||Montréal Canadiens||Ferris State (2008-11)|
|David Backes, F||Boston Bruins||Minnesota State (2004-06)|
|Teddy Blueger, F*^||Pittsburgh Penguins||Minnesota State (2013-16)|
|Tyler Pitlick, F||Edmonton Oilers||Minnesota State (2010)|
|Casey Nelson, D*||Buffalo Sabres||Minnesota State (2014-16)|
|* - denotes played in the WCHA in 2015-16; ^ - denotes placed on injured reserve|