Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A look at how former Minutemen are performing in the NHL

Nine former players are in the NHL
Jon Asgeirsson

The University of Massachusetts currently has nine former ice hockey players on active rosters in the National Hockey League. The NHL has moved to a bubble format, much like the NBA, to continue and finish out its season despite the ongoing global pandemic. With the season coming to a close, I figured it would be a good time to check in on some of the Minutemen in the league.

Cale Makar

Cale Makar committed to playing at UMass two years before he was selected by the Colorado Avalanche with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft. Makar became one of the top defensemen in the NCAA with 21 points in 34 games during his 2017-18 season with the Minutemen. The following season Makar dominated at UMass. He scored 49 points in 41 games and helped the Minutemen reach their first National Championship game in program history. Makar also became the first UMass player to win the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA ice hockey.

Makar joined the Avalanche in April of 2019 in the middle of their playoff run. Makar became the first defenseman to score a goal in his NHL debut in a playoff game, helping Colorado win its first playoff series in 11 years against the Calgary Flames. Makar earned a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie team this season and was also recently rewarded the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year. Makar and the Avalanche beat the Arizona Coyotes in five games in the first round of this year’s playoffs before losing to the Dallas Stars in seven games in the second round.

 Joel Hanley

After spending four seasons at UMass, Hanley signed a contract with Portland of the AHL. He later signed a one-year two-way contract with the Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 2016. Hanley made his professional debut in March of 2016, scoring six assists in his first ten games. He was then signed as a free agent by the Arizona Coyotes in July of 2017.

A year later Hanley signed with the Dallas Stars as a free agent, where Hanley and the Stars are currently in a battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Stanley Cup. Hanley scored a goal in the opening game of the series helping the Stars win. Dallas is currently trailing Tampa Bay in the series three games to two and will look to tie up the series against the Lightning on Sept. 28.

Jonathan Quick


The Los Angeles Kings selected former Minutemen goalie Jonathan Quick in the third round of the 2005 NHL draft. After playing two seasons at UMass, Quick made his professional league debut in December of 2007. He has since played every season of his career with Los Angeles, holding many of the franchise’s goalie records. Quick helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.

His trophy case does not end there, as he won the William M. Jennings trophy in 2014 and 2018, rewarded to the goaltender with the fewest goals scored against him in a minimum of 25 games. Quick also won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2012, awarded to the Most Valuable Player throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has also played in the All-Star game in 2012 and 2016. After his breakout and championship year in 2012, the Kings and Quick agreed to a 10-year deal worth $58M. Los Angeles missed the playoffs this season for the second consecutive year, despite ending this season 10-2-1 in its last 13 games.

 Justin Braun

Spending four years at UMass, Braun was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the seventh round of the 2007 draft. Braun made his professional debut on Nov. 26, 2010 against the Vancouver Canucks. He spent nine seasons with San Jose before signing a five-year deal worth $19M last offseason with the Philadelphia Flyers prior to this season. Philadelphia entered the playoffs this season as the No. 1 seed beating the Montreal Canadians in the first round before being eliminated by the New York Islanders in the second round.

Matt Irwin


Irwin spent two seasons with the Minutemen before signing with the San Jose Sharks in March of 2010. He made his professional debut in 2012 and spent three seasons with the Sharks before signing with the Boston Bruins for the 2015 season. He played two games with the Bruins that season before being moved down to their AHL affiliate team in Providence.

Irwin signed with the Nashville Predators in the summer of 2016. He helped the team reach the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Irwin signed a contract extension with Nashville in 2018 before most recently being traded to the Anaheim Ducks this past February. The Ducks missed the playoffs again this season, the first time in consecutive seasons since the 2001-02 season.

Conor Sheary

Conor Sheary spent four years at UMass, being named a captain for his senior season in 2013-14. Sheary led the team with 28 points in 34 games during his final season with the Minutemen. After spending one year in the AHL and scoring 45 points in 58 games, Sheary signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in July of 2015.

Sheary made his professional debut in December of 2015 and worked his way to earning a spot on Pittsburgh’s top line for most of the second half of the season. Sheary helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup that year as he scored twice in the finals including the game-winning goal in overtime of the second game. He scored a career-high 53 points in 61 games the following season, helping Pittsburgh win their second straight Stanley Cup. Sheary played with the Penguins until being traded to Buffalo in June of 2018. He was recently traded back to Pittsburgh by Buffalo this past February. The Penguins were knocked out by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round of the playoffs this season.

Frank Vatrano

Vatrano played one season at UMass, scoring 18 goals with the Minutemen before signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Bruins in March of 2015. Vatrano made his NHL debut in November of 2015, scoring his first career goal in his first game in the league. He was moved down to Boston’s AHL team in Providence later in the season. In the AHL, Vatrano scored 10 goals in his first ten games. He continued to play well that season as he scored 55 points in 36 games. Vatrano’s play earned him the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial award with Mikko Rantanen of San Antonio as the AHL’s most outstanding rookie.

Vatrano was traded to the Florida Panthers by Boston in February of 2018. A year later he signed a three-year contract with the Panthers. Vatrano ended the 2019 season with Florida with a career-high 24 goals and 39 points. This season the Panthers made the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season but lost to the New York Islanders in the qualifying round.


Brandon Montour

Brandon Montour was selected in the second round of the 2014 NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks after playing well with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League. Montour then headed to Amherst to play with the Minutemen for the 2014-15 season, earning a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie team. Montour signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Ducks in March of 2015. He spent the following year in the AHL earning a spot on the First All-Star team and All-Rookie team playing for San Diego.

Montour made his professional debut with Anaheim in December of 2016. That year, Montour helped the Ducks reach the Western Conference Finals in the playoffs by scoring seven assists in 17 playoff games. He finished his second season with the Ducks second among defensemen with 32 points in 80 games. Montour was traded to the Buffalo Sabers this past February, where Buffalo missed the playoffs this season for the ninth straight year.

Mario Ferraro

Ferraro spent two seasons at UMass, earning a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie team in 2018. He helped the Minutemen reach their first National Championship as an alternate captain. Ferraro set the program record for the most points by a freshman defenseman with 23 points on four goals and 19 assists.

The San Jose Sharks selected Ferraro in the second round of the 2017 NHL draft. In April of 2019 Ferraro signed a three-year contract with San Jose. This season, Ferraro played in 61 games for the Sharks scoring two goals and nine assists. San Jose fell short of the playoffs this season, missing it for just the second time since the 2003-04 season.

Carson Depp can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @CarsonDepp.

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