A Year in Review: Irish in the NHL

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A Year in Review: Irish in the NHL
Former Notre Dame forward, Anders Lee celebrates after scoring a goal against the Capitals (MIKE STOBE/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Notre Dame hockey is having quite the season under Head Coach Jeff Jackson. Jackson has built a solid program and this team is no different. The Irish currently rank number 1 in the college hockey polls, and just snapped a 16 game win streak with a loss to Wisconsin yesterday afternoon. However, the current Notre Dame players aren’t the only Irish hockey players finding recent success. Currently, Notre Dame has several players in the NHL and professional hockey ranks, and many of them are enjoying terrific 2017 and 2018 seasons. Golden Domer Daily takes a look at the Notre Dame hockey alumni in the NHL.

Stanley Cup Rings Galore 

A pair of former Irish players are coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals victories with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bryan Rust and Ian Cole have both played key roles the last two seasons with the Penguins, and they have some hardware to prove it. Cole was a first round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 2007 draft, and after spending several seasons with the St. Louis club, Cole was traded to Pittsburgh toward the 2015 trade deadline. A left handed shooting defensemen, Cole had his best season in the NHL in 2017 notching 26 points to along with a 26 plus/minus rating. This season has not been as kind to Cole, with only 7 points and a -9 rating in 38 games played.

Bryan Rust is entering the prime of his career after an outstanding Stanley Cup playoffs for the Penguins. Rust was drafted by the Penguins in round 3 of the 2010 draft and spent four seasons with Notre Dame. Upon graduation, Rust signed his entry level deal with the Penguins and spent most of the next season in the AHL. He then split time during 2015-2016 in both leagues before becoming a regular for the Penguins last season. Rust broke out with 15 goals and 28 points in 57 games played, and really turned it on in the playoffs with 7 goals. Rust has a knack for the heroics posting 13 goals in the last two Stanley Cup runs. He currently has 18 points in 38 games played this season.

Budding Stars 

Anders Lee

Lee was a 6th round pick in the 2009 draft by the New York Islanders and he is becoming a prolific NHL goal scorer over the past two seasons. Lee posted a career high 34 goals and 52 points last season, and he is on pace to top that by a wide margin this season. He is currently tied for second in the NHL in goals with 27 (42 points total) in 33 less games. At only 27 years of age, we could see Lee grow into a top NHL forward for years to come.

Kyle Palmieri 

A more recognizable name for the average Notre Dame fan, Palmieri has been a productive NHL player for several years. Palmieri was also drafted in 2009, but as a much higher selection (Round 1, pick 26). He spent his first few years bouncing around from the Anahiem Ducks and the AHL before establishing himself as a regular late in the 2012-2013 season. Palmieri was traded to the New Jersey Devils in the summer of 2015, and he saw his career take off. He has posted back-to-back 50 point seasons, but has been sidelined with an injury the majority of this season. Still only 26 years old, Palmieri has plenty of good hockey left in him.

Young Guns

Vinny Hinostroza 

Hinostroza left Notre Dame after two seasons to sign an entry level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. He is an undersized forward with top notch speed and exciting handles, but has yet to consistently crack the Hawks lineup. Over the past two seasons, he has appeared in 65 games for the Blackhawks with 23 points. Not eye popping numbers on its surface, but in 16 games this season he has 9 points providing a spark to Chicago’s top line. Vinny is beginning to establish himself a solid NHL regular.

Stephen Johns 
Johns is a current Dallas Stars defensemen after spending 4 years at Notre Dame and few in the Chicago Blackhawks farm system. He was traded to the Stars, along with Patrick Sharp, in the summer of 2015. He has spent the majority of the last two seasons on the NHL club, and is in the midst of his best season in 2017-2018 with 10 points and a 10 plus rating in 45 games played. Johns is a mammoth of a man standing at 6’4 225, and should be a solid blue line player for many years to come.

Familiar Names 

Riley Sheahan

Sheahan is another former first round pick out of Notre Dame, and has turned into a good bottom 6 foward in the NHL. Originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, Sheahan played his first 6+ seasons with the Wings. He was traded to the Penguins earlier this season making that 3 former Domers in Pittsburgh. He currently has 14 points in 40 games with the Penguins, and at only 26 years old can still carve out several more successful seasons in the league.

Erik Condra 

Condra is toward the tail end of his NHL career at age 31. He is in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization playing for the AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. He has spent the majority of the past two seasons with Syracuse, appearing in only 13 games with the Lightning. A former 7th round pick for the Ottawa Senators, Condra’s NHL career shouldn’t be understated as he had multiple solid years early on with Ottawa. Condra could find a new home in the NHL soon.

Hoping For a Chance 

A couple of former Notre Dame teammates and 2011 draftees are still trying to leave their mark and impress a NHL franchise. T.J. Tynan and Robbie Russo were selected in the 3rd and 4th rounds, Tynan by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Russo by the New York Islanders. Both men spent four years at Notre Dame and then signed entry level contracts upon graduation. Tynan remained with the Blue Jackets while Russo signed with the Detroit Red Wings. Each of them saw their first NHL action last season with those squads, but had no points to show for it. This past summer, Tynan signed a contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. Neither guys has received any NHL time with their respective teams this season.

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