BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Sept. 7, 2018 – Six alumni of the men's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) are among those competing at the eight-team 2018 NHL Prospect Tournament, held Sept. 7-11 at the Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Mich. The group, which includes five who skated collegiately in 2017-18, features Bemidji State's Gerry Fitzgerald (Minnesota Wild), Bowling Green's Mitch McLain (Wild) and Chris Nell (New York Rangers), Michigan Tech's Joel L'Esperance (Dallas Stars) and Mitch Reinke (St. Louis Blues), and Minnesota State's Zeb Knutson (Wild).
The eight-team field for the 2018 event consists of prospects from the host Detroit Red Wings, along with the Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Stars, Wild, Rangers and Blues. Over the tournament's 19-year history, nearly 600 players have moved on to play in at least one NHL game.
More on the six WCHA prospects:
Gerry Fitzgerald, F, Minnesota Wild (Bemidji State, 2014-18)
Prolific power-play scorer tallied 22 career goals on the man advantage, tying for Bemidji State's Division I-era record… 2016-17 Third Team All-WCHA selection finished his career 10th on BSU's D-I scoring charts with 95 points (41g-54a)… Began his pro career with 16 games in an Iowa Wild sweater in 2018, posting eight points (4g-4a) and a plus-3 rating.
Mitch McLain, F, Minnesota Wild (Bowling Green, 2014-18)
Bowling Green's captain as a senior and only the 71st player in Falcons history to record 100 career points (53-48—101), he led BGSU to four-straight 20-win seasons, the program's longest such stretch since the 1980s… Was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award® and was a Hockey Humanitarian Award nominee in 2017-18 before beginning his pro career with the Iowa Wild.
Chris Nell, G, New York Rangers (Bowling Green, 2014-17)
Signed with the Rangers organization as an undrafted free agent following his junior campaign in 2016-17, ending a three-year Bowling Green career in which he set school records for career shutouts (11), save percentage (.922) and goals-against average (2.07)… Was the First-Team All-WCHA goaltender in 2016-17 with a program-record 1.91 GAA, .930 save percentage and four shutouts.
Joel L'Esperance, F, Dallas Stars (Michigan Tech, 2014-18)
Part of a Michigan Tech senior class that ranked fifth nationally with 97 wins in four years, snapped a 34-year NCAA tournament drought with three appearances and hoisted three WCHA trophies… Tallied 98 collegiate points (46g-52a), including 23 (10g-13a) in 20 career postseason games (both WCHA and NCAA)… Helped the Texas Stars reach the 2018 Calder Cup Finals, skating in 22 playoff contests for Dallas' AHL affiliate.
Mitch Reinke, D, St. Louis Blues (Michigan Tech, 2016-18)
Signed with the Blues as an undrafted free agent after his sophomore season and made his NHL debut March 31, 2018 – just eight days after playing for Michigan Tech in the NCAA East Regional semifinal vs. Notre Dame… Named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team as a freshman and the All-WCHA Third Team as a sophomore, helping Tech win back-to-back WCHA Postseason Tournament championships.
Zeb Knutson, F, Minnesota Wild (Minnesota State, 2014-18)
2017-18 All-WCHA Third Team selection after a fantastic senior season, as his career-high 43 points (15g-28a) tied for the team lead and helped the Mavericks score the most goals (153) and goals per game (3.83) in the country last season… Tied for 21st in Minnesota State's Division I history with 88 career points (38g-50a)… Logged a pair of games with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals in 2018.