There’s nothing typical about the 2020-21 National Hockey League season, but if there are any constants, IceDogs’ alumni remain at the forefront of any hockey season. In total 20 former Niagara players and coaches will compete in the abridged 2021 NHL/AHL season.
Jack Studnicka (Centre) – Boston Bruins
Jack is a top prospect for the Bruins. He led AHL Providence in goals (23), assists (26) and points (49) in 2019-2020. He also made his way into two regular season and five playoff NHL contests, managing one assist. In 2018-19, Studnicka played 30 games for Niagara and amassed 49 points over that stretch. He added 11 points in as many games in the OHL playoffs that year. He started the Bruins’ first game of 2021 on the first line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Brett Ritchie (Right-winger) – Calgary Flames
A veteran of 268 NHL games, Ritchie’s physical presence translated a professional try-out agreement into a full-time deal with the Calgary Flames. The Orangeville, Ontario native tallied 106 points (57G-49A), in 83 games with Niagara over two seasons.
Hamilton ranks first in goals (40), assists (147) and points (187) among IceDogs’ blueliners all-time. He won OHL and CHL Defenceman of the Year honours in 2012. One of the NHL’s best, Carolina will rely on him to lead their powerplay, and defence corps.
Alex Nedeljkovic (Goaltender) – Carolina Hurricanes
Acquired in December of the 2015-16 season from the Flint Firebirds, Nedeljkovic was named the team’s MVP while helping the club to an Eastern Conference title. The Ohio native will start the season on the taxi squad and could be called on to serve in a backup role for the Hurricanes throughout the season.
Andrew Shaw (Right-winger) – Chicago Blackhawks
A tenacious competitor, Belleville’s Andrew Shaw is making his return to the ice after a 14-month absence due to a concussion. The two-time Stanley Cup Champion will provide vital leadership to a rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks roster.
Jamie Oleksiak (Defenceman) – Dallas Stars
Oleksiak played 28 games for the IceDogs in 2012-2013. The big rearguard was taken 14th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft. He has proven to be an incredibly reliable player ever since, helping Dallas to a Stanley Cup finals appearance last season.
Jason Robertson (Left-winger) – Dallas Stars
Robertson led AHL Texas in points (47) in 2019-20. He also appeared in three NHL games, notching his first big-league point (an assist). He was a standout with Niagara in 2018-19, notching 79 points in 38 games, and adding 10 points in 10 playoff matches. Robertson remains with the Stars, who haven’t yet designated a taxi squad due to an extended training camp for COVID-related issues.
Carter Verhaeghe (Centre)– Florida Panthers
A member of the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion, Tampa Bay Lightning, Verhaeghe parlayed a strong campaign into a two-year contract with the in-state rival, Florida Panthers.
Ben Vanderklok (Goaltender coach) – Nashville Predators
The former IceDogs’ goaltending coach, of Welland, spent six seasons with the franchise (2008-2014). He continues to operate goaltending clinics in the Niagara Region.
Ryan Strome (Centre) – N.Y. Rangers
Strome will look to build on a career-high in points (59) last season beginning the campaign, centring Artemi Paranin and Kaapo Kakko. The Mississauga native sits second in IceDogs’ all-time scoring, after notching 281 points (100 goals) in 191 games from 2009-2013
Vince Dunn (Defenceman) – St. Louis Blues
Between 2013 and 2016, Dunn shone on Niagara’s blueline, racking points without compromising on defence. Vince has also enjoyed an outstanding career in the NHL. He is a mainstay for the Blues and helped the club capture the Stanley Cup in 2018-19.
Mike Van Ryn (Assistant coach) – 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.
Alex Pietrangelo (Defenceman) – Vegas Golden Knights
Like Dunn, Pietrangelo was a major part of St. Louis’ Stanley Cup run. He was a top defenseman in the OHL, as well as a current NHL star. He was arguably the most sought after NHL free agent last year. The Golden Knights hope Pietrangelo can elevate them to championship status.
Andrew Agozzino (Centre) – Anaheim Ducks/San Diego Gulls
The IceDogs all-time games played, goals, and points leader, Agozzino appeared in 369 contests with the franchise, where he scored 185 goals and added 168 assists, captaining the team to a 2012 Eastern Conference Championship.
Akil Thomas (Centre) – Los Angles Kings/ Ontario Reign
Thomas, one of three IceDogs, and the youngest, to surpass the 100-point mark. In 219 regular-season games, his 275 points are third all-time, and his 96 goals rank fourth.
Ivan Lodnia (Right-winger)- Minnosota Wild/ Iowa Wild
Ivan is a fiery competitor and former Niagara captain. In his last season (2019-2020) with the IceDogs, he managed 62 points (including 27 goals) in 41 games. Lodnia began his 2020-21 season on loan in the Kontinental Hockey League, skating with HC Dinamo Minsk.
Phil Tomasino (Centre) – Nashville Predators/Chicago Wolves
Selected 24th overall by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft, Tomasino amassed 61 goals and 153 points in 164 career games with Niagara. Coming off a silver medal-winning performance at the 2021 World Juniors, the Mississauga, Ontario native will start the season with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, which the Predators will share with the Carolina Hurricanes this year.
Josh Ho-Sang (Right-winger) – N.Y. Islanders/Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Ho-Sang is a highly-skilled winger who can add offence to any lineup. As a junior, he racked up points for Niagara and OHL Windsor. He has also had a successful AHL career and played in 53 NHL games, scoring 24 points.
Sam Miletic (Left-winger) – Pittsburgh Penguins/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Acquired at the 2017-18 trade deadline from the London Knights, Miletic excelled in his short-time with Niagara, being named the team’s top over-age Player and MVP. Last season, the 23-year-old native of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, totalled 32 points in 62 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL.
Ben Jones (Centre) – Vegas Golden Knights/Henderson Silver Knights
In 260 regular-season games with Niagara, the Waterloo native collected 240 points (89 goals and 151 assists). He was selected 189th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. In his first professional season, he split time between the Chicago Wolves (36GP, 2G, 5A) and the Fort Wayne Komets (8GP, 1G, 4A).