Jun. 25—UND has gained notoriety for the number of players it sends to the NHL.
After Matt Kiersted, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto made their debuts in March, the official number is up to 107 NHLers from UND.
But it’s not just players that are carving out spots in the league.
The Seattle Kraken hired Dave Hakstol as the franchise’s first head coach Thursday afternoon, putting the former UND captain back in the NHL head-coaching ranks again after his three-and-a-half-year stint with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2015-18.
UND now has two former players as head NHL coaches with Hakstol and Dave Tippett, who is with the Edmonton Oilers.
“I think it’s great,” said UND coach Brad Berry, who previously served as an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. “One of the things we do is try to develop players that play at the highest level. We’ve had over 100 players play in the NHL. The next phase of hockey life is coaching. Having former players that have gone through North Dakota and have coached in the NHL is something we cherish and are proud of, going back to Rick Wilson being a head coach.”
There are eight former Division-I hockey players currently in NHL head coaching positions. UND and Boston University (John Hynes of the Nashville Predators and Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins) are the only with multiple.
The others are Don Granato (Wisconsin) of the Buffalo Sabres, Rod Brind’Amour (Michigan State) of the Carolina Hurricanes, Jeff Blashill (Ferris State) of the Detroit Red Wings and Dominique Ducharme (Vermont) of the Montreal Canadiens. Peter Laviolette of the Washington Capitals played Division-III hockey at Westfield State College.
“It’s not only good for UND, it’s good for college hockey, seeing the number of players and coaches in the NHL rising,” Berry said. “It goes to show you how strong college hockey is.”
The Flyers made Hakstol the first head coach to directly jump from the NCAA ranks to a head NHL coaching job since the early 1980s when they hired him in 2015. But he soon opened the door for other college coaches to do the same. Denver’s Jim Montgomery followed by going to the Dallas Stars in 2018 and Boston University’s David Quinn went to the New York Rangers that same summer.
Although Berry could draw NHL interest — he’s been an assistant in the NHL and American Hockey League, and had success as a head coach at UND — he said he’s happy in Grand Forks.
“I feel like I’m the 33rd NHL coach with the way we’re treated here at North Dakota,” he said. “I feel like we’re the 33rd NHL team. The way we do things here, we do it a lot like NHL teams. I’m happy here and I want to stay here for a long time.”
Former NCAA players as head NHL coaches
Seattle Kraken — Dave Hakstol, UND
Edmonton Oilers — Dave Tippett, UND
Buffalo Sabres — Don Granato, Wisconsin
Carolina Hurricanes — Rod Brind’Amour — Michigan State
Detroit Red Wings — Jeff Blashill, Ferris State
Montreal Canadiens — Dominique Ducharme, Vermont
Nashville Predators — John Hynes, Boston University
Pittsburgh Penguins — Mike Sullivan, Boston University
Washington Capitals — Peter Laviolette, Westfield State (D-3)