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Spartans In The Show: A Hockey Alumni Update

Checking in on Spartans in the National Hockey League

Jared Wickerham

With the holiday break this weekend, there is no hockey team to preview for the Michigan State Spartans. I thought now would be a good time to check in on former Spartans playing professional hockey. This season, 17 Spartans have played at least one game in the NHL, which is tied for second most by any NCAA school this season (Wisconsin and Michigan). Only the Boston College Eagles have had more alumni play in the NHL this season (21).

The Spartans have had 6 defenseman, 10 forwards and 1 goaltender play in the NHL this year. If the Spartans had just 2 more forwards break through, they could literally field an entire NHL roster of alumni. This will be a great recruiting tool for Tom Anastos and could be important in continuing to rebuild this program.

I decided to split the NHL Spartans into 3 categories: Cup of Coffee, Regulars and Stars. All stats are through Thursday, December 19th and were found using HockeyDB.

Cup of Coffee

The Cup of Coffee category is reserved for the former Spartans who have made NHL appearances, but have spent most of the season in the American Hockey League (top minor league).

  • John-Michael Liles (D 1999-2003, Toronto Maple Leafs)- Liles has spent 16 games with the AHL's Toronto Marlies and only 5 games with the Leafs. Liles was brought to Toronto by former GM Brian Burke and has found himself phased out of their future plans this season. If it wasn't for his $3.875 million cap hit (per CapGeek), Liles likely would have been traded or claimed off waivers by now. Bonus: Liles is currently with the Leafs and may play in the Winter Classic against Detroit on January 1.
  • Corey Potter (D 2002-06, Edmonton Oilers)- Potter has 3 assists in nine games played with the Oilers. He has split time between the AHL and NHL. Recently Potter was suspended 2 games for an illegal hit from behind on Nick Bonino.
  • Jim Slater- (F, 2001-05, Winnipeg Jets)- Slater, best known in his collegiate career for scoring the tying goal in the Cold War game, has only 1 assist in 8 games played. Slater has been out of action since October after a sports hernia injury.
  • Chris Mueller- (F, 2004-08, Dallas Stars)- Mueller has only played in 1 NHL game this season with Dallas. In 27 games in the AHL, Mueller has 11 goals and 15 assists.
  • Derek Grant (F, 2009-11, Ottawa Senators)- Grant has broken through to play 20 games on a struggling Senators roster. He had only 2 assists in those games and was recently sent back to Binghamton in the AHL 
  • Mike Weaver- (D 1996-00, Florida Panthers)- Weaver has 2 assists in 32 games and is a minus 6 on the year.
  • Adam Hall- (F, 1998-02, Philadelphia Flyers)- Playing on the Flyers fourth line and penalty kill Hall has 1 goal and 1 assist in 33 games.
  • Corey Tropp (F, 2007-10, Columbus Blue Jackets) Tropp has had the distinct pleasure of playing for two of the worst teams in the NHL this season. After being put on waivers by the Buffalo Sabres, Tropp was claimed by the Blue Jackets. He has 2 points in 19 games played. Tropp has had a rough start to his NHL career. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and began this season on the mend from a broken jaw suffered in the preseason.

  • Tim Kennedy (F,  2005-08, Phoenix Coyotes)- Kennedy, former linemate of Justin Abdelkader and the first goal-scorer in the 2007 title game, has 1 goal and 6 points in 19 games played. Also check out this video, if for nothing else, the chance to hear Doc Emrick do college hockey.

  • Jeff Petry (F, 2007-10, Edmonton Oilers)- Petry is stuck once again on the worst team in the Western Conference. Petry is a minus 10 and has 8 points in 32 games played. Petry has great offensive talent and could be a top 4 defenseman on a top team once his deal with Edmonton expires.
  • Shawn Horcoff (F, 1996-00, Dallas Stars)- Horcoff, after being the captain in Edmonton for years, left in free agency for Dallas. Horcoff was brought in for a veteran presence and has 3 goals and 10 points in 34 games played.
  • David Booth (F, 2002-06, Vancouver Canucks)- Booth has had a huge struggle with injuries since a breakout season in 2008. In fact Booth has only once played all 82 games in a season. This year in 25 games with Vancouver he has 5 goals and 9 points.
  • Drew Miller (F, 2003-06, Detroit Red Wings)- Miller has continued to find a nice niche spot with the Red Wings. He is featured prominently on the penalty kill and has already matched his 4 goal and 8 point output from last season.
  • Justin Abdelkader (F, 2005-08, Detroit Red Wings)- The hero of the 2007 championship team is on pace to have his highest point output of his NHL career. Abdelkader has gone from a 4th or 3rd line grinder, to a linemate of Pavel Datsyuk. Abdelkader has 13 points in 34 games but is currently injured with a concussion. It appears he will be in the lineup for the Red Wings by the Winter Classic on January 1.

  • Duncan Keith (D, 2001-03, Chicago Blackhawks)- Keith played only 56 games with the Spartans, leaving midway through his sophomore season to sign with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. Since then, Keith has had an amazing NHL career. Two Stanley Cup Championships and a Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 2009-10. This season Keith continues to be a top 10 defenseman in the league, as he is the Spartan with the highest point total, 32 points in 37 games. The near point per game pace that Keith has is close to the pace he had in that Norris Trophy winning season. The Blackhawks are the top ranked team in the NHL and will be a threat to repeat as Stanley Cup champions this spring. Keith will also be a lock for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics.
  • Ryan Miller (G, 1999-02, Buffalo Sabres)- The 2000-01 Hobey Baker Award winner continues to be one of the leagues best goalies, on one of it's worst teams. Miller is 8-17 this season with a 2.83 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. The Sabres are in the middle of a rebuild, already firing their coach and general manager this season. This is also Miller's last year on his contract leading to rumors that he will be traded at the deadline. If Miller is not traded look for him to move to a new team, as the 33 year old is seeking a chance at winning a Stanley Cup. Also with the injuries to Jonathan Quick and Jimmy Howard, Miller has possibly become the favorite to be Team USA's starting goaltender at the Sochi Olympics.

  • Torey Krug (D, 2009-12, Boston Bruins)- Torey Krug has gone from undrafted college free agent to one of the best young players in professional hockey. The diminutive defenseman had a great first season with the Providence Bruins in the AHL last season, then exploded onto the national scene with 4 goals in 5 Eastern Conference Semi-Final games. Krug stayed on the Bruins all the way through the Stanley Cup Finals, totaling 4 goals and 6 points in 15 games. Krug has built off that debut by sticking with the Bruins out of training camp this season and leading all rookie defenseman with 18 points this year. Krug is the 4th leading scorer among all rookies and with leading scorer Tomas Hertl injured last night, Krug has become a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year).