As the National Hockey League returns to play, no less than ten Niagara IceDogs’ graduates will suit up for seven big-league teams in Phase 4 of league’s Return to Play Plan, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No matter the outcome, last year’s playoff champs, the St. Louis Blues, will confirm that having a former IceDog (or three in their case) is good luck in the postseason. With twelve alumni on playoff rosters, there is a good chance that one or two more graduates will hoist the Cup again, representing a junior franchise that has become synonymous with champions.
A major force behind capturing the second Central Division title (2018-19) in franchise history. Studnicka totaled 49 points in 30 games, after arriving in a blockbuster deal with the Oshawa Generals.
In his first professional season, he was named to the American Hockey League’s All-Rookie Team, leading the Atlantic Division champion, Providence Bruins in goals (23), assists (26) and points (49) in 60 appearances, while tying a league record with seven shorthanded markers. The 21-year-old has been given an opportunity to join the big club, in the postseason, as a result of his excellent play in the AHL.
Hamilton ranks fifth in games (213); first in goals (40), assists (147), and points (187) among IceDogs’ rearguards all-time. He won OHL, and CHL Defenceman of the Year honours in 2012. Carolina will depend on him to lead their powerplay, and defence corps as they return to play.
Acquired in December of the 2015-16 season from the Flint Firebirds, Nedeljkovic excelled in his short-time with Niagara, being named the team’s MVP while helping the club to an Eastern Conference title. One of five goaltenders to have played for the Hurricanes this season. The 24-year-old could be called on to serve in a backup role in the playoffs and preliminary rounds.
Oleksiak appeared in 28 games for the 2011-2012 Eastern Conference Champion, Niagara IceDogs. He has proven to be an incredibly reliable player ever since. The big 6-foot-7 rearguard was taken 14th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft, racking up 58 NHL points for Dallas and Pittsburgh.
At 21, the offensively gifted Robertson will have to battle to join a deep Dallas lineup. He has a highly successful rookie AHL season under his belt and scored 79 points (including 25 goals) for Niagara in 2018-19. He drew into the NHL lineup for three games and notched his first NHL point (an assist). There is a chance he could make the Stars’ big-league team adding scoring.
Kuhnhackl, a two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the vaunted Pittsburgh Penguins. The native of Landshut, Germany, proved a fearless competitor in his lone season in Niagara, where he honed his elite two-way style of play, notching 25 points (seven goals) in 30 games, helping the IceDogs win their first Bobby Orr Trophy as Eastern Conference Champions in 2011-12. Kuhnhackl now a member of the Islanders will boost the clubs’ playoff hopes with grit and supplementary offence.
There’s no question, Strome’s game-breaking offensive abilities left a lasting impression in the “Garden City.” He was voted the franchise-best centre of all time. The Mississauga, Ontario native sits second in IceDogs’ all-time scoring, after notching an ultra-impressive 281 points (100 goals) in 191 games from 2009-2013. The Rangers are hoping that a bevy of young talent, including Strome, will help them push deep into the postseason.
A member of the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion, St. Louis Blues, Dunn’s development started when he was taken in the sixth round of the 2012 priority selection, (109th overall). He has been a defensive mainstay for the Blues since joining the club in 2017.
Pietrangelo’s leadership, and skill were major contributors in order to capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title. The King City, Ontario native played two distinguished seasons with the Niagara IceDogs’ organization from 2007-2009. He ranks among both the OHL and NHL’s elite.
Mike Van Ryn – St. Louis Blues
The former IceDogs’ assistant spent just one season with the franchise in (2010-2011). He’d lead an IceDogs’ penalty-killing unit that ranked third best in the OHL at (83.1 percent), and a highly regarded defensive core to the second-fewest goals (197) allowed in the league.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest forwards in franchise history, Verhaeghe registered 224 career-points (83 goals) in 262 games his stellar play earned him the teams Most Valuable Player award in both 2013-14, and 2014-15. The Waterdown, Ontario native has been an AHL standout with the Syracuse Crunch, and joined an ultra-deep Lightning lineup this year, appearing in 52 games thus far.
Ben Vanderklok – Nashville Predators
The former IceDogs’ goaltending coach, of Welland, spent six seasons with the franchise (2008-2014). Working with some of the IceDogs best goaltenders in franchise history, he coached Mark Visentin to a franchise setting season in 2011-12. He continues to operate goaltending clinics in the Niagara Region
Which IceDogs Alumni are you most excited to watch when the NHL returns to play?