December was another month loaded with achievements for Canadian Hockey League alumni in the pro ranks and on the international stage.
It also brought at end to a decade where many former stars made their mark in NHL history.
Four CHL grads rank among the top-5 NHL scorers over the last 10 years including Patrick Kane (London Knights) with 802 points for the Chicago Blackhawks, Sidney Crosby (Rimouski Oceanic) recorded 788 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Claude Giroux (Gatineau Olympiques) accumulated 737 points for the Philadelphia Flyers, and Steven Stamkos (Sarnia Sting) produced 719 points for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On the back end, another four defencemen from the CHL rank among the NHL’s top point producers including Brent Burns (Brampton Battalion) with 548 points for the San Jose Sharks, Keith Yandle (Moncton Wildcats) recorded 495 points between Arizona, New York, and Florida, Kris Letang (Val-d’Or Foreurs) reached 455 points for the Penguins, and John Carlson (London Knights) tallied 453 points for the Washington Capitals.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) won 322 games between Pittsburgh and Vegas to lead all NHL netminders, while Carey Price (Tri-City Americans) won 280 games for the Montreal Canadiens.
Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John Sea Dogs) was recognized as the NHL’s First Star of the Month tying for the most points in December with 22 including six goals and 16 assists for the Florida Panthers. In that stretch he surpassed a pair of milestone marks including 500 games and 400 career points since hoisting the Memorial Cup as tournament MVP and being the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Another Memorial Cup winner was recognized for his achievements in December. Goaltender Tristan Jarry, who won in 2014 with the Edmonton Oil Kings, was the league’s Second Star of the Month leading all netminders with eight wins, three shutouts, and a goals-against-average of 1.54 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. His shutout streak of 173:06 established a new franchise record.
Milestone marks were also achieved in December in the form of Joe Thornton (Soo Greyhounds) of the San Jose Sharks becoming just the 12th player in NHL history to play 1,600 games. Eric Staal (Peterborough Petes) hit the 1,000 point mark with the Minnesota Wild, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Quebec Remparts) played in his 1,000th game with the San Jose Sharks.
Yandle’s 831st consecutive game put him in sole possession of the league’s fourth longest iron man streak, while Nikita Kucherov (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) recorded his 500th career point for the Tampa Bay Lightning with his 300th career assist. Stanley Cup champion Alex Pietrangelo (Barrie Colts) also set a St. Louis Blues franchise record for defencemen with 326 assists.
Four former CHL talents recorded their first career NHL goals in December including former Saginaw Spirit captain and London Knights graduate Mitchell Stephens with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Another Lightning forward and OHL captain, Connor Verhaeghe (Niagara IceDogs) scored his first goal, as did a pair of former QMJHL talents including Yakov Trenin (Gatineau Olympiques) for the Nashville Predators, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Val-d’Or Foreurs) for the Philadelphia Flyers.
December also had a collection of NHL debuts including Adam Brooks (Regina Pats) for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kale Clague (Moose Jaw Warriors) for the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan MacInnis (Kitchener Rangers) for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jansen Harkins (Prince George Cougars) for the Winnipeg Jets, Dalton Smith (Ottawa 67’s) for the Buffalo Sabres, and 2019 WHL top scorer Joachim Blichfeld (Portland Winterhawks) for the San Jose Sharks.
The NHL also announced rosters for the 2020 All-Star Game headlined by a pair of fan elected captains like Connor McDavid (Erie Otters) of the Edmonton Oilers for the Pacific Division, and Nathan MacKinnon (Halifax Mooseheads) of the Colorado Avalanche representing the Central Division.
CHL grads named to the Atlantic Division roster include defenceman Shea Weber (Kelowna Rockets) of the Montreal Canadiens, plus forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (Guelph Storm) of the Detroit Red Wings, Anthony Duclair (Quebec Remparts) of the Ottawa Senators, and Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John Sea Dogs) of the Florida Panthers all making their first all-star appearance.
The Metropolitan Division will feature CHL talents like forward Mathew Barzal (Seattle Thunderbirds) of the New York Islanders, defencemen John Carlson (London Knights) of the Washington Capitals and Seth Jones (Portland Winterhawks) of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and goaltender Braden Holtby (Saskatoon Blades) of the Capitals. Forward Travis Konecny (Sarnia Sting) of the Philadelphia Flyers and defenceman Dougie Hamilton (Niagara IceDogs) of the Carolina Hurricanes are both making their first all-star appearance.
The Central Division all-stars include Patrick Kane (London Knights) of the Chicago Blackhawks, Ryan O’Reilly (Erie Otters) of the St. Louis Blues, Mark Scheifele (Barrie Colts) of the Winnipeg Jets, Tyler Seguin (Plymouth Whalers) of the Dallas Stars, Eric Staal (Peterborough Petes) of the Minnesota Wild, Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo (Barrie Colts), and Blue goaltender Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound Attack) receiving recognition for the first time.
The Pacific Division will include Logan Couture (Ottawa 67’s) of the San Jose Sharks, Leon Draisaitl (Kelowna Rockets) of the Edmonton Oilers, Mark Giordano (Owen Sound Attack) of the Calgary Flames, plus Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk (London Knights) making his first appearance along with Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (Red Deer Rebels).
A pair of former CHL players received AHL recognition in December including Kieffer Bellows (Portland Winterhawks) of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers who was named Player of the Month, and Oscar Dansk (Erie Otters) of the Chicago Wolves who was named Goaltender of the Month.
Sticking in goal, 2019 grad Ivan Prosvetov (Saginaw Spirit) earned his first career shutout for the Tucson Roadrunners before receiving a call up by the Arizona Coyotes, and Philippe Desrosiers (Rimouski Oceanic) set a Springfield Thunderbirds record with a 62-save performance.
December was also golden for Team Canada and 18 CHL grads at the Spengler Cup following a 4-0 shutout victory over Trinec Ocelari for Canada’s 16th title.
The CHL was represented by former players that included Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge Hurricanes), Brendan Burke (London Knights), David Desharnais (Chicoutimi Sagueneens), Chris Didomenico (Drummondville Voltigeurs), Eric Faille (Acadie-Bathurst Titan), Eric Fehr (Brandon Wheat Kings), Zach Fucale (Quebec Remparts), Dustin Jeffrey (Soo Greyhounds), Alex Grant (Shawinigan Cataractes), Andrew MacDonald (Moncton Wildcats), Matthew Maione (Guelph Storm), Ben Maxwell (Kootenay ICE), Maxim Noreau (Victoriaville Tigres), Paul Postma (Calgary Hitmen), Nick Ross (Vancouver Giants), Adam Tambellini (Calgary Hitmen), Scottie Upshall (Kamloops Blazers), and Kris Versteeg (Red Deer Rebels).