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Minnesota Hockey: Eighteen Gophers Make NHL Opening Night Rosters

The Gophers rank tied for 3rd in the nation with alums on opening rosters

Seattle Kraken v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Minnesota Gophers hockey team will have eighteen alums starting the 2022-23 NHL season on an active roster when the NHL began play this week. Minnesota will have at least an additional thirteen players starting the season on AHL contracts, many who have previously seen time on an NHL roster and are only an injury or two away from being called up to the big leagues. Minnesota’s total of 18 players ranks only behind Michigan’s 21, Boston College’s 19 and is tied with Boston University’s 18.

The eighteen Gophers are split over fourteen NHL squads. Some players have been mainstays for their team, while some moved to new clubs in the off season, and one will make the roster as a rookie.

The list of Gophers currently in the NHL is as follows:

Arizona Coyotes:

Travis Boyd—F

Nick Bjugstad-F

Boyd will be in his second season in the Valley of the Sun after playing 74 games for the Coyotes last season recording a career high 35 points and 17 goals.

Bjugstad moved to Arizona after a pair of injury prone seasons with his hometown Minnesota Wild. Last year in 57 games he recorded 13 points.

Boston Bruins

Mike Reilly-D

Reilly enters his third year in Boston looking to repeat his career year a season ago when he played in 75 games scored 17 points and recorded 4 goals. Reilly was sent through waivers right before the Bruins season was to begin, but it appeared it was more of a salary cap maneuver than a demotion to the AHL.

Buffalo Sabres

Kyle Okposo-F

Casey Mittelstadt-F

Okposo is the grizzled leader of this Buffalo squad and it was proved when he was named the Captain of the Sabres a week ago. The 14 year NHL Vet enters year 8 in Buffalo and will look to improve his 45 points and 21 goals a season ago.

Mittelstadt will have one eye at home on his two brothers currently playing for the current Gopher squad. He enters his fifth season with the Sabres trying to stay healthy and play more than the previous two seasons where he averaged just 40 games per year.

Carolina Panthers

Brady Skeji-D

Skeji starts his third full season in Carolina after being traded from the New York Rangers in 2020. He set career highs last season in games played with 82, goals with 9 and points with 39.

Colorado Avalanche

Erik Johnson-D

Ben Meyers- F

The defending Stanley Cup Champions have one old vet and one fresh rookie on their squad to start the season. Erik Johnson won his first cup last year and enters year 16 in the NHL with the last 12 with the Avs.

Ben Meyers made his NHL debut last season for the Avs in five games after signing after his junior year with the Gophers. He will look to cement himself in the lineup on a regular basis of a team that once again has a great chance to win the cup.

Minnesota Wild

Alex Goligoski-D

Goligoski returns for his second season with the Wild and his 17th in the NHL. Goli played 72 games a season ago for Minnesota but will most likely see much less time this season as Minnesota tries to go with a more youthful defensive group.

Montreal Canadiens

Rem Pitlick-F

Pitlick started last season with the Wild and played 20 games before being claimed on waivers by Montreal where he finished the season with 26 points in 46 games. He will have one eye back home as his brother Rhett is a sophomore on the current Gopher squad.

New Jersey Devils

Eric Haula-F

Year 11 in the NHL sees Haula on his 7th different team, and his fifth in three seasons. He played in 78 games a year ago for the Boston Bruins scoring 18 goals on the year.

New York Rangers

Ryan Lindgren-D

Lindgren has found his footing in New York as one of their best defensemen. In what will be his fourth full season in the NHL Lindgren already earned one assist in the Rangers opening night win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and returns home to play the Wild on Thursday night.

Philadelphia Flyers

Nick Seeler-D

Seeler has bounced around the NHL and AHL in his professional career but seemed to find a steady home in Philly last season playing in 43 games on the blue line.

St, Louis Blues

Nick Leddy-D

Leddy starts his second season in St. Louis after being traded to the Blues by Detroit mid-season a year ago. In 75 total games last season he recorded 24 points between the two teams.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Justin Holl-D

Holl will begin his fourth season with the Maple Leafs in a regular role finally breaking through after three seasons of spot duty up from the AHL. Last season he recorded 23 points in 69 games for Toronto.

Vegas Golden Knights

Phil Kessel-F

Kessel starts year 17 in the NHL as the NHL’s ironman with a record 983 straight games played. He joins his fifth team in Vegas this season and look to bounce back from his career low 8 goals a season ago.

Winnipeg Jets

Blake Wheeler-F

Nate Schmidt-D

Wheeler starts his 15th season in the NHL and his 13th with the Jets organization on a bit off a rough note as he had his captain’s C stripped from him in the offseason by the new GM and coach in Winnipeg. He played in just 65 games a season ago due to injury and will look to improve that number this season.

Schmidt starts season #10 in the NHL and his second in the Peg. He set a career high in games with 77 and his second highest season point total with 32.

Gophers in the AHL:

San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks)

Blake McLaughlin-F

Brent Gates -F

Both McLaughlin and Gates will start the season with the Duck’s AHL team in San Diego.

Providence Bruins (Boston)

Vinni Lettieri-F

Lettieri will start the season in the AHL but could be a call up to Boston if needed after playing in 31 games with the Anaheim Ducks a season ago and has 2 career NHL game under his belt.

Colorado Eagles (Colorado)

Sampo Ranta-F

Ranta made his NHL debut last year playing in 10 games for the Avs. He will start the season back with the Eagles but could once again fins his way to the big club.

Iowa Wild (Minnesota)

Sammy Walker-F

Walker signed this summer with his hometown team and will begin the season in Iowa, but will hopefully find a way to work his way up to the big club at some point.

Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville)

Tommy Novak-F

Novak has been one of the AHL’s best forwards the past two seasons and found his way into 27 games a year ago with the Predators.

Bridgeport Islanders (NY Islanders)

Hudson Fasching-F

Seth Helgeson-D

Fasching comes to the islanders organization after the last four with the Arizona Coyotes where he played 16 NHL games.

Helgeson has spent the last four seasons with the Islanders AHL team as a defensive stalwart, but has not seen NHL action since 2-17 with the New jersey Devils.

San Jose Barracuda (Sharks)

Scott Reedy-F

Reedy enters his second year with the Sharks organization and played in 35 games at the NHL level a year ago.

Syracuse Crush (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Jack LaFontaine-G

LaFontaine had a surreal 2021-22 season After starting the year with the Gophers he left midseason to join the Carolina Hurricanes. He played 2 games in the NHL giving up 9 goals in 75 minutes of ice time. He was then sent down to the AHL, and then further to the ECHL to finish the season. He signed an AHL contract with the Crunch in the off season and it will remain to be seen what kind of career LaFontaine can have.

Henderson Silver Knights (Las Vegas)

Jake Bischoff-D

Bischoff is coming off of an injury that kept him out the entirety of last season with the Silver Knights. he signed a one year deal in the of-season and will look to get back to his old ways.

Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals)

Aaron Ness-D

Ness is another player that seems to be making a home in the AHL. Ness epnd the season with the Bruins AHL team playing in 55 games and with the US Olympic Team as well. He last played in the NHL in 2019-20 with Arizona.

Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets)

Chaz Lucius-F

Lucius will start his pro career in the AHL with the Moose after being cut by the Jets in training camp.