As a self-admitted Boston University graduate (I know, typical BU), my time in college was genuinely transformative to both the person and journalist I’ve become. When I was a senior at BU, I joined the staff here at Stanley Cup of Chowder for the first time, being able to share my thoughts with this incredible platform of readers and gaining access to such a historic franchise. For student publications, I attained press credentials for a landmark and uniquely talented Division 1 Hockey program that has produced some of the best men and women players in their respective professional leagues.
College hockey’s influence across the NHL is growing to be just as transformative to the game as the juniors’ route. According to collegehockeyinc.com, “A record 349 former college players skated in the NHL in 2021-22, a number that has increased by 65% over the last 19 years.”. Whether they’re a first-round selection, an undrafted free agent, or even behind the bench, the effect college hockey’s products have on this Boston Bruins team is undeniable. So, what colleges find themselves represented in the Bruins’ ranks?
The University of Maine
Our reigning player of the week, Jeremy Swayman, found his craft under Red Gendron as a Maine Black Bear. He took over the crease upon his arrival in Orono and never played less than 31 games a season in his three years at Maine. His final year is when he stepped onto the national stage, tallying a career-low 2.07 GAA and a career-high .939 SV% over 34 games. He took home the 2020 Mike Richter Award, college hockey’s equivalent of the Vezina Trophy, and fell just short of winning the Hobey Baker award but was honored as one of the top three finalists.
His highlights speak for themselves, both at the collegiate and NHL levels. Swayman, drafted in the fourth round in 2017, is proving himself to be the real deal.
However, let’s not forget about one more Black Bear in the team’s midst: head coach Jim Montgomery.
Inducted into the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, Monty left an even more significant legacy in The Pine Tree State. In 1993 – his senior year – he was also a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, losing out to teammate Paul Kariya. Yes, THAT Paul Kariya. However, Montgomery may have been the most iconic moment in program history.
Down 4-2 to Lake Superior State during the third period in the National Championship, Montgomery scored the fastest hat trick in championship game history to give Maine a 5-4 lead and secure the program’s first national title.
That’s right, Monty can do it just as well on the ice as he is behind the bench right now.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison
It’s taken some time, but we’re starting to see some of the college hockey scoring touch Trent Frederic had as a Wisconsin Badger.
After being taken 29th overall in 2016, Frederic is starting to show the combination of scoring prowess and grit the Bruins have been looking for out of their first-round pick. Playing in Madison for two seasons before signing his ELC with the Bruins, Frederic was around a point-a-game player each year in Wisconsin. Freddy really made his name known with a four-goal game in the IIHF World Juniors Bronze Medal game over the Czech Republic (keep an eye out for #34 in the highlights below).
Craig Smith is also a product of the Cheese State, playing two seasons for Wisconsin. In his second season in 2010-11, not only did he don the “C,” but he also put up over a point a game pace (19-24-43). Smith became one of only a handful of Predators to make his NHL debut without ever playing in the AHL. He has enjoyed a relatively consistent NHL career up until this season.
Cliffy Hockey! Did you know he was a fifth-round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013?
He played all four seasons of eligibility as a Quinnipiac Bobcat, earning the captain’s C in his junior year. Coincidentally, his offensive game took off that same season, registering a college career-high 28 points (7-21-28), earning numerous ECAC accolades.
Did you know he could do that?!
University of North Dakota
Derek Forbort is our lone representative from the UND Fighting Hawks, and while not a point-producing defenseman, he was well-regarded by scouts as a potential two-way defenseman in the pros. After three seasons in Fargo, he ranked as high as the ninth-best North American skater in the NHL Central Scouting’s ranking before the 2010 draft, where he was selected 15th overall by the LA Kings.
I did leave the best for last, didn’t I? Right down Storrow Drive lies Boston University, the home of multiple members of this current Bruins roster.
Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk were linemates in their lone overlapping season on Comm Ave. Grizzy – a captain for the second straight year going into his senior season – finished out his college career on a solid note, almost a point-a-game player (10-13-23) despite missing the first eight games of the season due to injury. His junior year, the first as captain, was one where not just Grzelcyk but the entire Terrier team flourished. Headlined by NHL talents Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues on the front end, Grzelcyk dominated on the blue line, putting up an eye-watering 28 assists and ten goals en route to a national championship runner-up finish. That is all the mention I’ll give to that game. What I will mention is winning the Beanpot for the only time in his BU career, and not only that, scoring the game-winner in overtime against Northeastern.
McAvoy was as much a stallion in his two seasons as a Terrier as we’ve come to see him in Black and Gold. He was putting up devastating hits and scoring crucial goals. In a grudge match in the NCAA tournament against UND in McAvoy’s final collegiate season, Chucky slid down the wall quietly behind every skater and potted an incredible feed from current Arizona Coyote Clayton Keller to ice a cagey double overtime victory in Fargo.
McAvoy was selected 16th overall in 2016 by Don Sweeney, and Grzelcyk was an 85th overall (third round) selection in 2012. Both show how pivotal they are to this Bruins d-corps, just like they were for BU’s blue line.
Charlie Coyle and A.J. Greer also donned Terriers sweaters but eventually left for the juniors route; Both played in the QMJHL after a season and a half at Agganis Arena.
Surprise! There’s one more Terrier on this squad, and he’s behind the bench.
Assistant coach Joe Sacco played three seasons as a Terrier between 1987-1990, taking home a Beanpot in his final season and going as far as the Frozen Four semifinals in 1990.