Canadian Hockey League graduates are shining across the pro ranks this season.
In the NHL’s race for the Art Ross Trophy, four of the top five scorers are CHL graduates, counting Connor McDavid (Erie Otters), Leon Draisaitl (Kelowna Rockets), Brad Marchand (Halifax Mooseheads), and Nathan MacKinnon (Halifax Mooseheads).
Across 29 appearances, McDavid has tallied a league-leading 51 points counting 19 goals and 32 assists. Through 14 contests in November, the 2014-15 CHL Player of the Year collected 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points to mark the best performance by an Oilers skater since 1988 as he earned recognition as the NHL’s First Star for November. The month also saw McDavid reach the 400-point plateau, doing so in 306 career games, the 13th fewest in NHL history. McDavid also becomes one of just seven players to score 400 points before his 23rd birthday.
In all, CHL graduates swept NHL Three Star honours for November as MacKinnon claimed second-star recognition after collecting 25 points counting 10 goals and 15 assists across 14 appearances, marking the best single-month performance of his career and the top monthly showing by a Colorado Avalanche skater since 1995-96. Rounding out the list, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (London Knights) received third-star recognition after tallying at least one point through all 15 of his appearances in November as he finished with 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points. The stretch also saw Kane record his 600th career assist.
The accomplishments continue on the back end where the top two scoring defencemen are also CHL graduates in Washington Capitals blue-liner John Carlson (London Knights), who leads all rearguards with 37 points, followed by Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Dougie Hamilton (Niagara IceDogs) coming in at 28 points. Joining the Hurricanes in June 2018, Hamilton has made an immediate impression with the franchise, scoring 26 goals in his first 100 games, the most in franchise history since Mark Howe (Toronto Marlboros) scored 31 times in his first 100 appearances with the former Hartford Whalers franchise. Rounding out the blue line honours, November saw Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber (Kelowna Rockets) net the 100th power play goal of his career, the most among active defencemen.
Between the pipes, CHL graduates have also had success as Arizona Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper (Red Deer Rebels) leads all goaltenders with a .935 save percentage and 1.97 goals-against average (minimum 18 games played). Kuemper is one of seven CHL graduates to have recorded at least 10 wins in 2019-20, a group which also includes Braden Holtby (Saskatoon Blades), Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound Attack), Martin Jones (Calgary Hitmen), Petr Mrazek (Ottawa 67’s), Marc-Andre Fleury (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles), and Carey Price (Tri-City Americans). In all, it was a month of celebration for Fleury as he recorded his 450th career victory, just the seventh netminder to do so in NHL history and the fourth CHL graduate, following in the footsteps of Martin Brodeur (St. Hyacinthe Lasers), Patrick Roy (Granby Bisons), and Roberto Luongo (Acadie-Bathurst Titan). Fleury also recorded his 58th career shutout in November to move into the Top 20 on the all-time list.
Success in the blue paint also came from young netminders as Chris Driedger (Calgary Hitmen) turned aside all 27 shots in his first career start, marking the first time a Florida Panthers goaltender has recorded a shutout in his debut appearance. Shutouts were also a common theme in the AHL as Chicago Wolves netminder Garret Sparks (Guelph Storm) pieced together 115 consecutive saves and a perfect streak that lasted more than three games totaling 191 minutes and 14 seconds without a goal allowed to set a Wolves’ franchise record.
A handful of major milestones were also reached as all of Jeff Carter (Soo Greyhounds), Ryan Getzlaf (Calgary Hitmen), and Corey Perry (London Knights) skated in their 1,000th career game, while defenceman Dan Hamhuis (Prince George Cougars) saw his 1,100th career appearance, a total matched by Blackhawks defender Brent Seabrook (Lethbridge Hurricanes), marking the second most in franchise history behind Stan Mikita (St. Catharines Teepees). Elsewhere, both Jay Bouwmeester (Medicine Hat Tigers) and Eric Staal (Peterborough Petes) made their 1,200th career appearance. Rounding out the major milestones is Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (Prince George Cougars) who skated in his 1,500th career game, becoming just the 21st player in NHL history to reach that plateau.
Several players also achieved significant statistical milestones as November saw Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (Sarnia Sting) score his 400th career goal, becoming the 98th player to reach the mark. Sticking in Tampa Bay, forward Brayden Point (Moose Jaw Warriors) became the third youngest player in franchise history to score 100 career goals, doing so at 23 years and 261 days old, following in the footsteps of Stamkos at 20 years and 316 days as well as Vincent Lecavalier (Rimouski Oceanic) at 22 years and 272 days. Elsewhere, Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John Sea Dogs) of the cross-state rival Panthers notched his 250th career assist to become the franchise’s all-time leader in the category. In San Jose, forward Patrick Marleau (Seattle Thunderbirds) netted his 99th game-winning goal with the franchise, the third most all-time with a single club.
Young talent was also on display across the NHL in November as eight CHL graduates scored their first NHL goal, including Adam Boqvist (London Knights), Morgan Frost (Soo Greyhounds), and Noah Gregor (Prince Albert Raiders), all of whom skated in the CHL in 2018-19. Rounding out the list includes Logan Brown (Kitchener Rangers), Justin Dowling (Swift Current Broncos), Brendan Guhle (Prince George Cougars), Cale Fleury (Regina Pats), and Henri Jokiharju (Portland Winterhawks). Earlier this season, Kirby Dach (Saskatoon Blades) scored his first NHL goal, while November saw him become just the third 18-year-old in Blackhawks history to net a game-winning goal. On the sophomore scene, Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts) became just the sixth teenager in NHL history to register multiple overtime winners, joining CHL graduates in Sidney Crosby (Rimouski Oceanic), Cam Fowler (Windsor Spitfires), and Rick Nash (London Knights).
Success was also seen behind the bench as Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien (Hull Olympiques) coached his 1,200th career game, becoming just the 19th bench boss to reach the milestone. Elsewhere, Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville (Windsor Spitfires) reached 900 career victories, the second most in NHL history. In Toronto, new Maple Leafs bench boss Sheldon Keefe (Soo Greyhounds) won his first three games as a first-year NHL head coach, marking a franchise record.
Rounding out the pro ranks, a trio of CHL graduates in Chris Terry (Plymouth Whalers), Drake Batherson (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada), and Jansen Harkins (Prince George Cougars) sit atop the American Hockey League scoring race with 27 points apiece. In U SPORTS action, top scorer distinction goes to St. Francis Xavier forward Bryson Cianfrone (Owen Sound Attack) who leads the country with 29 points, trailed by St. Mary’s University defenceman Nick Welsh (Moncton Wildcats) with 28 points.