February’s CHL Alumni Roundup


Canadian Hockey League alumni made their mark in the pros in February with no shortage of accomplishments to highlight:

Kelowna Rockets graduate Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers closed out February with an impressive 23-point showing counting 10 goals and 13 assists registered over 14 appearances to earn NHL First Star of the Month honours. Draisaitl also became the league’s first member of the century club recording 100 points for the second straight season.

The accomplishments continued in Washington where London Knights graduate John Carlson became the Capitals’ all-time leader in points by a defenceman with 475. Carlson matched the franchise high-water mark in picking up an assist in a 5-3 win over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 23.

Kitchener Rangers alumnus Dominik Kubalik continues to push the pace among all NHL rookies with an astounding 29 goals on the season, good for a nine-goal edge on the next highest freshman goal scorer. Making his debut season extra special, February also saw Kubalik net his first career hat-trick in a 5-2 win versus the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 27.

Chalk up the latest achievement for Soo Greyhounds graduate and longtime San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton, who tallied his 1,500th career point coming as an assist and as part of a two-point night in a 3-1 win versus the Calgary Flames on Feb. 4. The accomplishment sees Thornton become just the 14th player in NHL history to score 1,500 career points.

The milestones continued in Ottawa where Guelph Storm graduate Craig Anderson recorded his 200th career victory with the Senators following a 7-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 18. Anderson is the Senators’ all-time leader in wins, doing so in 431 career contests with the franchise.

Kelowna Rockets graduate Jamie Benn joined an exclusive group as the Dallas Stars captain became just the fourth player in Stars/North Stars franchise history to net 300 regular-season goals with the milestone marker coming in a 4-3 decision versus the Boston Bruins on Feb. 27. Benn trails three players for top spot on the franchise’s all-time goals list, including Mike Modano (Prince Albert Raiders), Brian Bellows (Kitchener Rangers), and Dino Ciccarelli (London Knights).

Behind the bench, February saw Joel Quenneville of the Florida Panthers become just the second head coach in NHL history to reach 1,700 career games. The Windsor Spitfires graduate and three-time Stanley Cup champion got his start as a head coach in 1996 in a decorated career that has since counted stops in St. Louis, Colorado, Chicago, and Florida.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain and London Knights graduate John Tavares appeared in his 800th career game coming in a 2-1 final versus the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 8. The first player in CHL history to be granted exceptional status, Tavares spent the first three-and-a-half years of his junior career with the Oshawa Generals before shifting to the Knights to close out 2008-09 and was selected first overall by the New York Islanders in the 2009 NHL Draft.

Reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning made his latest accomplishment in February as he skated in his 500th career game. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies graduate joined the Lightning in 2013-14 and has recorded 542 points in the ensuing 510 career contests.

Carolina Hurricanes forward and Barrie Colts graduate Andrei Svechnikov continues to dazzle in his sophomore season, with February seeing the Russian-born talent piece together an impressive 11-game point streak, a feat accomplished by just seven other teenage players in NHL history.

There has been no slowing down Ottawa 67’s graduate Sean Monahan who since making his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames in 2013-14 has reached the 20-goal plateau in each of the following seasons. The Brampton, Ont., native did it again in 2019-20, reaching the 20-goal mark with a two-goal effort in a 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Feb. 25.

Ottawa 67’s alumnus Tyler Toffoli skated outdoors in style at the 2020 NHL Stadium Series, picking up a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 15. It was the perfect ending for Toffoli in a Kings uniform as two days later he was flipped to the Vancouver Canucks in pursuit of his second Stanley Cup.

February saw Brampton Battalion graduate Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks skate in his 1,100th career contest, becoming just the eighth active rearguard to accomplish the feat. Among the group, Burns is joined by Zdeno Chara (Prince George Cougars), Jay Bouwmeester (Medicine Hat Tigers), Dan Hamhuis (Prince George Cougars), Duncan Keith (Kelowna Rockets), and Brent Seabrook (Lethbridge Hurricanes).

One year after the hoisting the Stanley Cup as a freshman, Owen Sound Attack alumnus Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues continues to get his name in the record books after becoming just the 10th goaltender in NHL history to record 50 career wins in 77 or fewer appearances. The decisive victory came in a 14-save shutout versus the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 20.

Gabriel Vilardi‘s long-awaited NHL debut was well worth the wait as the Windsor Spitfires 2017 Memorial Cup MVP and later Kingston Frontenacs graduate needed just 10 seconds into his first-ever contest before finding the back of the net in an eventual 5-4 win versus the Florida Panthers on Feb. 20. The 11th overall selection in 2017, Vilardi remains with the Kings and has since appeared in six total games.

Added as part of the deal that sent former Spitfires forward Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes, Kelowna Rockets graduate Nick Merkley made the most of his new home with the New Jersey Devils scoring in his second-ever appearance with the new squad, a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 16.

It was an unforgettable moment for Prince George Cougars alumnus Jansen Harkins as the Winnipeg Jets rookie netted his first goal as part of a two-point effort in a 4-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6.

Rounding out February’s first-time NHL goal scorers was Portland Winterhawks graduate Kieffer Bellows who came up with a two-goal showing in just his second-ever NHL appearance facing the Los Angeles Kings, with the Feb. 6 contest ultimately ending in a 5-3 victory.

Kamloops Blazers graduate and Las Vegas native Gage Quinney made history on Feb. 22 in becoming the first Nevada-born player to skate in an NHL game in a 5-3 win versus the Florida Panthers. The following night then saw Quinney pick up his first NHL point in a 6-5 overtime win for his hometown Golden Knights against the Anaheim Ducks.

The NHL debuts continued in the Ohio capital where Rockets alumnus Calvin Thurkauf stepped into the lineup for the Columbus Blue Jackets. In all, Thurkauf skated in just over eight minutes as part of his Feb. 22 debut versus the Nashville Predators, earning him another two appearances before being returned to the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters.

2018-19 CHL Top Scorer and Niagara IceDogs graduate Jason Robertson was all smiles following his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars on Feb. 13 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Getting on the score sheet in his NHL debut, Robertson picked up an assist in the 3-2 victory before earning another two appearances as part of a three-game trial with the Stars.

It was a storybook night for Edmonton native Tyler Benson, formerly of the Vancouver Giants, who made his NHL debut with his hometown Oilers on Feb. 6 in 6-3 final versus the San Jose Sharks. In all, Benson appeared in seven games with the big club before being returned to the minors, a stretch which his saw him pick up his first NHL point in a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 16.

Seattle Thunderbirds graduate and San Jose Sharks forward Alexander True lived out a dream on Feb. 4 in making his NHL debut against the Calgary Flames, ultimately seeing nearly 13 minutes of ice time in the 3-1 victory. Two nights later, True picked up his first NHL point versus the Edmonton Oilers.

Rounding out the February debuts, Columbus Blue Jackets first-round pick Liam Foudy of the London Knights made his NHL debut on an emergency recall, facing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 10. Three days later, Foudy was back with the big club, in which he picked up his first NHL point in a 4-3 final versus the Buffalo Sabres.

February 21 saw the New York Islanders retire the iconic No. 27 of the legendary John Tonelli, a Toronto Marlboros graduate who was part of the Islanders from 1978-86, a stretch which included six 20-plus goal campaigns in addition to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

Longtime Ottawa Senators blue liner Chris Phillips saw his No. 4 raised to the rafters in Kanata on Feb. 17. The Lethbridge Hurricanes graduate and first-overall selection from the 1996 NHL Draft spent his entire NHL career with the Senators, spanning from 1997 to 2015, a stretch which saw him appear in a franchise-record 1,179 career contests.

In February, Owen Sound Attack graduate Bobby Ryan made an emotional return to the Ottawa Senators lineup following a three-plus month personal absence. Returning to the lineup Feb. 25 in Nashville, it was then just two nights later when Ryan was back on home ice where he played the hero with a hat-trick performance in a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

A scary moment occurred on Feb. 11 when Medicine Hat Tigers alumnus Jay Bouwmeester went into cardiac arrest during a contest between the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks. After undergoing an ICD procedure three days later, Bouwmeester returned to the Blues home rink where off ice he was saluted with a moving standing ovation. Last spring, Bouwmeester was a key cog that helped the Blues hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

Prior to puck drop on Feb. 19 versus the Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Rangers went with a surprise twist as part of their annual Moms Trip, inviting Ryan Strome‘s mother Trish into the locker room to announce the starting lineup, who then got to watch her son find the back of the net in the eventual 6-3 road win. Skating in his first full season with the Rangers, the Niagara IceDogs graduate has already reached a career high in points.

Plymouth Whalers graduate Sonny Milano was on the move at this year’s trade deadline, heading west from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Anaheim Ducks. Milano needed little time to find his footing with his new club however as he came up with a two-goal performance including the overtime winner versus the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 25. In all, Milano becomes just the seventh player in the NHL’s modern era to secure the overtime winner in his debut with his new club.

A CHL graduate was also recognized at the minor-pro level as Drummondville Voltigeurs alumnus Max Comtois was named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month for February after notching 13 points counting eight goals and five assists through 13 appearances. This season, Comtois has split time between the AHL’s San Diego Gulls in addition to time with the big club Anaheim Ducks where he has recorded 11 points through 29 appearances.

In a photo surely to end up in the family scrapbook, brothers Mathieu Joseph and Pierre-Olivier Joseph posed for a pregame shot prior to going head-to-head for the first time in their pro careers in a Feb. 28 showdown between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Syracuse Crunch. Pierre-Olivier is skating in his first pro season after splitting the 2018-19 campaign between the Charlottetown Islanders and Drummondville Voltigeurs, while Mathieu is skating in his third pro season after winning a 2017 QMJHL title with the Saint John Sea Dogs that has also included 37 appearances with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tri-City Americans graduate Morgan Geekie of the Charlotte Checkers had a productive few weeks, initially tying a franchise-record for the longest point streak before taking control of top spot with points in 14 consecutive games, a stretch that counted 11 goals and seven assists for 18 points.

‘Captain Canada’ Ryan Smyth is headed to the IIHF Hall of Fame in recognition of his achievements on the international stage that includes gold-medal wins at five separate tournaments, including the World Juniors, World Championship, Winter Olympics, World Cup, and Spengler Cup. The Moose Jaw Warriors graduate also saw success at the NHL level in a decorated career that counted 1,270 games played and stops with four clubs, including the Edmonton Oilers.

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