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UND sets program record with 23 NHL players in one season

Rhett Gardner of the Dallas Stars and Austin Poganski of the Winnipeg Jets joined the list this week.

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Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (6) smiles during the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
Brace Hemmelgarn, USA Today Sports

GRAND FORKS — Austin Poganski stepped onto the ice at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Thursday night wearing a Winnipeg Jets jersey for the first time.

In doing so, a new UND hockey record was set.

Poganski became the 23rd former UND player to suit up in the NHL this season, breaking the previous record of 22, which was reached several times, including last season.

This season's list of UND players in the NHL — to this point — has featured 15 forwards, seven defensemen and one goaltender.

The forwards are Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks), Drake Caggiula (Buffalo Sabres), Rhett Gardner (Dallas Stars), Rocco Grimaldi (Nashville Predators), Tyson Jost (Colorado Avalanche), Brock Nelson (New York Islanders), T.J. Oshie (Washington Capitals), Zach Parise (New York Islanders), Shane Pinto (Ottawa Senators), Poganski, Carter Rowney (Detroit Red Wings), Nick Schmaltz (Arizona Coyotes), Cole Smith (Nashville Predators), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) and Jasper Weatherby (San Jose Sharks).

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The defensemen are Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa Senators), Derek Forbort (Boston Bruins), Matt Kiersted (Florida Panthers), Paul LaDue (New York Islanders), Tucker Poolman (Vancouver Canucks), Troy Stecher (Detroit Red Wings) and Christian Wolanin (Buffalo Sabres/Los Angeles Kings).

The lone goaltender is Aaron Dell, who earned his first win with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.

It's possible that number will continue to grow.

UND has nine more players under NHL contracts who have potential to play in the the league this season: Collin Adams (New York Islanders), Shane Gersich (Washington Capitals), Cam Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets), Luke Johnson (Winnipeg Jets), Jordan Kawaguchi (Dallas Stars), Grant Mismash (Nashville Predators), Colton Poolman (Calgary Flames), Adam Scheel (Dallas Stars) and Zane McIntyre (Minnesota Wild).

Gersich and Luke Johnson are the most likely candidates for call-ups.

Additionally, it's possible UND sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson signs a pro deal at the end of the season and plays an NHL game for the Ottawa Senators, who drafted him No. 5 overall in 2020.

UND has sent 108 players all-time to the NHL. The most recent to make his debut was Weatherby, who earned a spot on the Sharks' opening night roster as a first-year pro.

In addition to the high number of top prospects that have come through UND in recent years, there are other reasons that have helped the number of potential NHLers.

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The addition of the expansion Seattle Kraken this season has brought the number of NHL teams to an all-time high of 32, increasing the number of jobs available. And with players going into COVID-19 protocol, it has opened the door for more call-ups this season.

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