The BC Hockey League continues to make inroads as one of the top development leagues in North America. With the 2019-20 NHL season set to open tonight, teams had until 2 pm yesterday to declare their rosters, and the BCHL is well represented.
In total, 35 players on opening night rosters played in the BCHL. Of the 31 NHL teams, only nine do not feature a player who skated in the league. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m considering a former BCHL player as one who played at least a game in the league, even if it was as an affiliate.
The Nashville Predators lead the way with six BCHL alumni on their roster. The New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings are next with three, while Anaheim, Edmonton, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver each have two.
Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, St. Louis and Winnipeg each feature one former BCHL player on the roster.
From a BCHL perspective, Coquitlam and Penticton are the teams with the most alumni on NHL rosters at six. Salmon Arm and Victoria are next with four former players in the NHL, followed by Surrey and West Kelowna at two.
Alberni Valley, Powell River and Wenatchee are the lone BCHL teams to not have an alumnus in the NHL to open the season.
Boston Bruins forward Danton Heinen is the only current NHLer to play for two different BCHL teams during his time in the league. Heinen spent four games as an affiliate player with Merritt in 2012-13 before joining the Surrey Eagles full-time in 2013-14.
New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal, Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Tyson Barrie and Florida Panthers rookie Dryden Hunt are three players who weren’t signed as a regulars during their respective seasons in the BCHL.
Barzal played six games with his hometown Coquitlam Express in 2012-13 as an affiliate player and had two assists. He joined the Seattle Thunderbirds the following season, his first of four years in the Emerald City.
Hunt, who’s played 42 career NHL games with Florida, was an AP for the Trail Smoke Eaters in 2010-11. He played in four games as a 16-year-old and was held off the scoresheet.
Barrie has the distinction of not playing any BCHL regular season games, but still is counted as an alumnus of the league because he played three playoff games with the Victoria Grizzlies. As a 16-year-old, he had two assists during the 2007 BCHL post-season and joined the Kelowna Rockets starting in the 2007-08 season.
Came across this cool photo the other day. Can anyone name this former BCHL goalie? pic.twitter.com/0lgobVmr42
— Gregory Balloch (@GregBalloch) November 3, 2018
Other notable and star NHL players who got their start in the BCHL include Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (Quesnel MIllionaires), New York Islanders forward Andrew Ladd, Calgary Flames forward Milan Lucic, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alex Kerfoot and Nashville Predators forward Kyle Turris (Coquitlam Express).
There’s also all-world defenceman Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks (Penticton Panthers), along with forwards Tyson Jost of Colorado and Ryan Johansen of Nashville, and blueliners Troy Stecher of the Canucks, Nashville’s Dante Fabbro, and Montreal Canadiens’ Mike Reilly, all of whom are former Penticton Vees.
New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac and Columbus Blue Jackets grinder Riley Nash are products of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, as well as Anaheim Ducks defenceman Josh Manson.
Tyler Bozak of the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues is a former Victoria Grizzlies sniper, as is former Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.
And the team which has the BCHL in its own backyard features two alumni from the league as the Vancouver Canucks boast Stecher and former Grizzlies defenceman Jordie Benn on their roster.
Jost, Fabbro and Dennis Cholowski (Chilliwack/Detroit) were each selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. It was the first time the BCHL ever had three players be among the top prospects chosen in the opening round.
The reigning Fred Page Cup champion Prince George Spruce Kings have two former players in the NHL, with forward Jujhar Khaira and defenceman Brandon Manning both skating for the Edmonton Oilers.
With three BCHL players drafted among the top 90 picks in this past June’s NHL Draft, it likely won’t be long before NHL rosters feature more than the 35 BCHL alumni announced on Tuesday. That said, there are 31 NHL teams each having a roster of 23 players for a total of 713 active players. The number of players who played in the BCHL is just over four percent, something the league and its teams should be extremely proud of.