OHL Footprint: Coaches in the NHL
Last week we took a look at the 10 NHL captains with Ontario Hockey League origins. This week, we turn our attention behind the bench where eleven NHL coaches have OHL roots.
From former players to ex-coaches, several with decorated OHL pasts, we take a look at NHL coaches who have come through the League. We also delve into assistant coaches, goaltending coaches and coaches in various development capacities who spent time developing in the Ontario Hockey League below:
Anaheim Ducks – Dallas Eakins (Peterborough Petes, 1984-88)
A former Petes captain, Dallas Eakins donned the maroon and white from 1984-88. He patrolled the blue line, recording 82 points (20-62–82) over 226 career OHL contests before embarking on a lengthy pro career that included 120 NHL contests. He’s in his 16th season of professional coaching and his second NHL head coaching stint after leading the Edmonton Oilers from 2013-15. He’s now in his second season as Ducks head coach.
- Ducks assistant coach Marty Wilford played for the Oshawa Generals from 1994-97.
Arizona Coyotes – Rick Tocchet (Soo Greyhounds, 1981-84)
Known as a fierce competitor, Scarborough, Ont. native Rick Tocchet played the wing for the Soo Greyhounds from 1981-84, piling up 196 points (83-113–196) over 189 career contests. He went on to play in 1,144 career NHL games, hoisting the Stanley Cup with the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins. After retiring in 2002, Tocchet stepped behind the bench as an assistant. He previously served as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning between 2008-10 and is in his fourth season as head coach of the Coyotes.
- Coyotes goaltending development coach Zac Bierk played for the Peterborough Petes from 1993-97 and was goaltending coach of the 2015 Memorial Cup champion Oshawa Generals. Player development coach Alex Henry played for the London Knights from 1996-99.
Boston Bruins – Bruce Cassidy (Ottawa 67’s, 1982-85 / Kingston Frontenacs, 2006-08)
One of the best defencemen to ever wear an Ottawa 67’s uniform, Bruce Cassidy didn’t have a long NHL career on the ice, but he’s certainly made his mark behind the bench. The Ottawa native was the 18th overall pick of the 1983 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks as a result of his impressive work with the 67’s, racking up 246 points (65-181–246) over just 165 regular season games. The former OHL Rookie of the Year played in 36 NHL games but competed professionally across the globe over a span of 12 seasons. He was the head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs from 2006-08 following an NHL head coaching stint in Washington (2002-04). Cassidy was a long-time fixture behind the bench with the AHL’s Providence Bruins (2009-16) and has been head coach in Boston since February 2017.
- Assistant coach Steve Smith played for the London Knights and Brantford Alexanders from 1980-84.
Calgary Flames – Geoff Ward (Niagara Falls, Kitchener, Guelph, 1992-99)
Waterloo, Ont. native Geoff Ward got his OHL coaching start as an assistant with the Niagara Falls Thunder in 1992-93. He later stepped into a head coaching position with the Kitchener Rangers from 1994-98 before joining the Guelph Storm for the 1998-99 campaign. Since being named head coach of the Calgary Flames midway through the 2019-20 season, Ward spent several seasons in the American Hockey League with the Hamilton Bulldogs and Toronto Roadrunners. He’s also been an assistant in Boston (2007-14) and New Jersey (2015-18) before joining the Flames in 2018-19.
- Assistant coach Ray Edwards played for the Sudbury Wolves, Guelph Platers, Owen Sound Platers and Belleville Bulls from 1987-91. Video coach Jamie Pringle served as an assistant with the Belleville Bulls and Kingston Frontenacs from 1999-2006.
- Assistant coach Jeff Daniels played for the Oshawa Generals from 1984-88.
- Assistant coach Marc Crawford served as head coach of the Cornwall Royals from 1989-91 after winning back-to-back Memorial Cups there as a player. Player development coach Brian Campbell played for the Ottawa 67’s from 1995-99, winning a Memorial Cup title in his final season.
- Player development coach Brian Willsie played for the Guelph Storm from 1995-98. He was an OHL champion and OHL first team all-star in 1998.
Columbus Blue Jackets
- Assistant coach Brad Shaw played for the Ottawa 67’s from 1981-84. Goaltending coach Manny Legace played for the Niagara Falls Thunder from 1990-93. Player development coach Jared Boll played for the Plymouth Whalers from 2005-07, graduating as an OHL champion.
- Assistant coach John Stevens played for the Oshawa Generals from 1983-86. Goaltending coach Jeff Reese played for the London Knights from 1983-86. Assistant video coach Matt Rodell was video coach of the Soo Greyhounds from 2016-18.
Detroit Red Wings
- Goaltending coach Jeff Salajko played for the Ottawa 67’s, Niagara Falls Thunder and Sarnia Sting from 1992-96.
Florida Panthers – Joel Quenneville (Windsor Spitfires, 1975-78)
Windsor, Ont. native Joel Quenneville was a rugged blueliner for the Spitfires, finishing his junior career with a 103-point season in 1977-78. A second round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1978, Quenneville went on to skate in 803 career NHL contests. He’s won a total of four Stanley Cups behind the bench, winning as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 before three as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
- Assistant coach Andrew Brunette played for the Owen Sound Platers from 1990-93. Fellow Sudbury native and assistant coach Derek MacKenzie played for the Wolves from 1997-2001.
Montreal Canadiens – Claude Julien (Oshawa Generals, Windsor Spitfires, 1977-81)
Originally from Blind River, Ont., Claude Julien manned the blue line for the Oshawa Generals and Windsor Spitfires over parts of four seasons from 1977-81, wearing the ‘C’ in Windsor in 1979-80. Julien saw just 14 NHL contests in his playing career, but his coaching tenure as lasted over parts of 18 seasons. He’s now in his fifth season in Montreal. He guided the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques to a Memorial Cup title in 1997 and hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
- Associate coach Kirk Muller played for the Kingston Canadians and Guelph Platers from 1980-84. Assistant coach Luke Richardson played for the Peterborough Petes from 1985-87.
- Assistant coach Dan Hinote played for the Oshawa Generals from 1996-98. Goaltending coach Ben Vanderklok played for the Barrie Colts from 1998-2000 and served as goaltending coach of the Niagara IceDogs from 2008-14. Goaltending development coach Dave Rook served as goaltending coach of the London Knights from 2005-09, 2016-18.
New Jersey Devils
- Player development coach Rick Kowalsky played for the Soo Greyhounds from 1989-93. He won back-to-back OHL championships with the Hounds in 1991 and 1992 before captaining them to a Memorial Cup title on home ice in 1993.
New York Islanders
- Assistant coach John Gruden coached the Flint Firebirds and Hamilton Bulldogs from 2015-18, hoisting the Robertson Cup as an OHL champion in his final season. Goaltending coach Piero Greco played for the Sudbury Wolves, Belleville Bulls and Toronto Marlboros from 1985-88 and served as an OHL goaltending coach between Owen Sound, Barrie and Kitchener from 2002-13. Special assignment coach Jacques Lemaire played for the OHA’s Montreal Jr. Canadiens from 1963-66.
New York Rangers
- Assistant coach Jacques Martin was an assistant coach with the Peterborough Petes from 1983-85 and coached the Guelph Platers to a Memorial Cup title in 1986.
Ottawa Senators – D.J. Smith (Windsor Spitfires, 1994-97, 2005-11 / Oshawa Generals, 2012-15)
A rough n’ tumble fan favourite on the Windsor blue line from 1994-95, hometown product D.J. Smith appeared in 45 career NHL contests, spending most of his playing career in the American Hockey League. Smith has gone on to great things as a coach after originally getting his start as an assistant with his hometown Spitfires in 2005-06. He eventually ascended to the role of head coach in Oshawa in 2012-13, guiding the Generals to an OHL championship and Memorial Cup title two years later in 2015. Smith served as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2015-19. He’s now in his second campaign as Senators bench boss.
- Assistant coach Bob Jones played for the Soo Greyhounds from 1985-90 and was a long-time assistant between Sault Ste. Marie, Brampton, Toronto, Sudbury and Windsor between 1995-2015. He served as a head coach with the Windsor Spitfires in 2010-11 as well as with the Oshawa Generals from 2015-18. Player development coach Shean Donovan played for the Ottawa 67’s from 1991-95 and was an assistant with the Barber Poles in 2013-14.
- Assistant coach Mike Yeo played for the Sudbury Wolves from 1990-94.
- Assistant coach Mike Vellucci played for the Belleville Bulls from 1983-86. He coached the Plymouth Whalers from 2001-14, was named OHL Coach of the Year in 2007 and 2013 and also won an OHL Championship in 2007. Player development coach Tom Kostopoulos played for the London Knights from 1996-99. Goaltending development coach Andy Chiodo played for the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors from 2000-03.
San Jose Sharks – Bob Boughner (Soo Greyhounds, 1988-91 / Windsor Spitfires 2006-10, 2011-15)
Windsor, Ont. native Bob Boughner played a three year OHL career in Sault Ste. Marie, serving as captain of the 1991 OHL champion Greyhounds. He went on to play in 630 career NHL contests before retiring in 2006 when he took over head coaching duties with the Windsor Spitfires. Boughner coached the Spits to back-to-back Memorial Cup championships in 2009 and 2010 and was also a back-to-back CHL Coach of the Year Award recipient in 2008 and 2009. After spending the 2010-11 season as an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boughner returned for four more years of coaching in Windsor. He spent two years as an assistant in San Jose before two years as head coach of the Florida Panthers (2017-19). He’s back in San Jose in his first full season as head coach of the Sharks.
- Associate coach Rocky Thompson coached the Windsor Spitfires from 2015-17, hoisting the Memorial Cup in 2017. NHL development coach Mike Ricci played for the Peterborough Petes from 1987-90. Scouting and development coach Bryan Marchment played for the Belleville Bulls from 1985-89.
St. Louis Blues
- Assistant coach Steve Ott played for the Windsor Spitfires from 1999-2002. Assistant coach Mike Van Ryn played for the Sarnia Sting in 1999-2000 and served as an assistant coach for the Niagara IceDogs in 2010-11 before spending 2013-16 behind the bench for the Kitchener Rangers. Assistant coach Larry Robinson played for the Kitchener Rangers in 1970-71.
Tampa Bay Lightning
- Assistant coach Rob Zettler played for the Soo Greyhounds from 1984-88.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Sheldon Keefe (Toronto, Barrie, 1998-2000 / Soo Greyhounds 2012-15)
Former CHL Coach of the Year Sheldon Keefe enters his first full season as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs after replacing Mike Babcock in November 2019. Keefe captained the Barrie Colts to an OHL championship in 2000, completing an OHL career that included 237 points (99-138–237) over 132 games between Toronto and Barrie. A second round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1999, Keefe played in 125 career NHL contests before retiring in 2004-05, shifting his attention to ownership and coaching duties with the Pembroke Lumber Kings Jr. A program. Keefe coached the Hounds from 2012-15, working alongside current Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. He earned the promotion to the NHL a year after guiding the AHL’s Toronto Marlies to a Calder Cup title.
- Assistant coach Manny Malhotra played for the Guelph Storm from 1996-2000, winning an OHL title in 1998. Skill development coach Denver Manderson played for the Guelph Storm and Kitchener Rangers from 2005-09. Skating development consultant Barb Underhill has served as skating coach of the Guelph Storm since 2008.
- Player development goaltending consultant Curtis Sanford played for the Owen Sound Platers from 1996-2000.
Vegas Golden Knights – Peter DeBoer (Windsor Spitfires 1985-89 / Detroit, Plymouth, Kitchener 1994-2008)
The eight-winningest coach in OHL history, Peter DeBoer‘s time in the league precedes his coaching tenure as he played for the Windsor Spitfires from 1985-89, winning an OHL championship in 1988. He’d go on to add three OHL titles in his coaching career, doing so as an assistant with the Detroit Jr. Red Wings in 1995 and head coach of the Kitchener Rangers in 2003 and 2008. DeBoer was a back-to-back OHL Coach of the Year recipient in 1999 and 2000 and broke into the NHL as head coach of the Florida Panthers in 2008-09. The Dunnville, Ont. native has also coached the New Jersey Devils (2011-15) and San Jose Sharks (2015-20). He’s in his first full season as head coach of the Golden Knights.
- Assistant coach Steve Spott served as DeBoer’s long-time assistant in both Plymouth and Kitchener from 1997-2008 before serving as head coach of the Rangers from 2008-13. Assistant coach Ryan McGill was head coach of the Owen Sound Attack from 2015-17, finishing as OHL Coach of the Year in his second season. Goaltending coach Mike Rosati played for the Hamilton Steelhawks and Niagara Falls Thunder from 1985-89 and was goaltending coach of the Barrie Colts from 2011-17.
- Assistant coach Scott Arniel played for the Cornwall Royals in the QMJHL from 1979-81 before playing the 1981-82 season in the Ontario Hockey League. He won Memorial Cups in both 1980 and 1981.
Winnipeg Jets – Paul Maurice (Windsor Spitfires 1984-88 / Windsor, Detroit 1988-95)
Paul Maurice played parts of four OHL seasons with the Windsor Spitfires from 1984-88, stepping behind the bench as an assistant midway through his final season to help guide the team to an OHL title. He’d spend the following two seasons as an assistant in Windsor before joining the Detroit Ambassadors program. Maurice was promoted to head coach of the Detroit Jr. Red Wings in 1993, guiding the club to an OHL championship a year later in 1994-95. The 53-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. has just embarked on his 23rd season as an NHL head coach, eight of which he’s spent in Winnipeg.
- Assistant coach Dave Lowry played for the London Knights from 1982-85. Assistant coach Charlie Huddy played for the Oshawa Generals from 1977-79.