Although the majority of today's NHL players got their start in one of Canada's major junior leagues (OHL, WHL and QMJHL), there are a growing number of players coming out of U.S. colleges. Some are the sole representative of their college in the NHL, while other colleges are seeing as many as 20 alumni playing professionally.
In this slideshow, we will look at the best player from every college that has at least one alumni representing it in the NHL. This list is comprised of active players and those currently playing full-time in the big leagues. Players who are in the AHL or have split time between an AHL and NHL team were not eligible for inclusion.
So take a seat in the student section, and let the great debate begin.
Alison Myers is an NHL and Pittsburgh Penguins Featured Columnist. You can reach her at Alison.Myers@mail.com or follow her on Twitter.
Orpik was drafted by the Penguins in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He attended Boston College through his junior season in 2000-01 and joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League for the 2001-02 campaign.
He made the NHL team permanently in 2003-04 and posted 10 points and 127 penalty minutes in 79 games. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a physical defenseman and one not afraid to speak his mind about his team's play.
He was part of the Penguins squads that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and won the Cup in 2009. During the 2009 playoffs, he had four assists and 22 penalty minutes in 24 games.
In 2010, Orpik represented the USA at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and won a silver medal.
He is currently an alternate captain for the Penguins, having earned 11 points and a plus-nine rating through 53 games this season.
Aucoin is approaching his 1,000th NHL game. He has played in 989 games with six different teams.
Aucoin has scored at least 20 points in a season nine times. The highlight of his career was making the 2004 NHL All-Star Game when he was on his way to posting 44 points and a plus-29 rating.
Those totals were also the best of his NHL days.
He is an alternate captain for the Coyotes and currently has 19 points and a plus-19 rating through 56 games. He leads Phoenix in plus/minus rating and is second among the team's defensemen in assists with 17.
Bieksa, a Canucks alternate captain, is in his fifth full season with the team.
In his first full campaign in 2006-07, he had 42 points. However, his best year statistically was his 43-point total in 2008-09.
His play in 2006-07 earned him the Babe Pratt Trophy, which is given to Vancouver's top defenseman. He also won the team's unsung hero award.
Bieksa currently has 19 points and a plus-26 rating—his plus/minus rating is ranked first in the NHL.
Cole has played with the Hurricanes for nearly his entire career. The only time he left the organization was during the 2008-09 season, when he played 63 games with the Edmonton Oilers after being acquired for Joni Pitkanen. Later that season, he was traded back to the Canes.
He was a part of Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup championship team, putting up 59 points and a plus-19 in the regular season. Unfortunately, he played just two games in the playoffs due to an injury.
In 2006, he played in the Olympics with Team USA and had three points in six games.
During the 2006-07 season, he set a career high with 61 points in 71 games.
Cole has six career hat tricks, scoring his most recent one on December 5, 2009 against the Vancouver Canucks.
This year, he has 35 points and a minus-two rating as the Hurricanes try to make the postseason after missing the playoffs in 2010.
McDonald is approaching 600 career games and has spent his NHL career playing for the Blues and the Anaheim Ducks.
In 2005-06, he set a career high 34 goals and 85 points. The next year, he scored 78 points as the Ducks positioned themselves for a Stanley Cup run. During the playoffs, in which Anaheim won their first Cup in franchise history, he had 14 points in 21 games.
He was also named to the 2007 NHL All-Star Game to replaced injured Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg. He won the fastest skater event in the skills competition.
Despite missing significant time this year with injury, McDonald is still a solid contributor to the Blues. He has 27 points, a plus-10 rating in 33 games and is seventh on the team in scoring.
Stuart, who was recently acquired by the Thrashers in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik, is in his fourth full season in the NHL. He set a career high for points and plus/minus rating in 2008-09 by posting 17 points and a plus-20.
In Boston, he was ranked fifth in ice time on the penalty kill, averaging 2:03 per game while the Bruins were short-handed. He had five points and a plus-eight in 31 games to start this season.
His plus/minus rating ties him for second on the Thrashers. Blake Wheeler, his Boston teammate who was also acquired by the Thrashers and center Bryan Little have identical plus/minus ratings.
Moulson started his NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings and tallied just 10 points in 29 games through the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
Although he now finds himself in the struggling Islanders organization, Moulson is making a positive name for himself.
Last year, he finished fourth on the Islanders in scoring when he had 48 points in 82 games. Currently, he has 38 points in 59 games and is second on the team behind another young superstar, John Tavares.
Moulson signed a three-year extension with New York back on January 27.
Stempniak has played with the Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Coyotes. In his career, he has posted at least 30 points every season but one.
In his first full NHL season in 2006-07, he led St. Louis with 27 goals and finished the year with 52 points.
Last year, he finished fourth on the Coyotes in points, posting 48 points in 80 games with the Maple Leafs and the Coyotes.
This year, he has 30 points and a plus-eight rating through 60 games. He is fifth on the team in scoring and third in goals with 14.
Kunitz played the first part of his career with Anaheim.
In his first season in 2005-06, he set a franchise record for points by a rookie by posting 41 points. His record was broken the next year by Dustin Penner.
However, Kunitz still had something to enjoy in 2007 when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. He set a career high with 60 points and 25 goals in the regular season. He also had six points in 13 games during the Ducks' playoff run.
After coming to Pittsburgh in 2009 in a trade that sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim, Kunitz became a crucial part of the Pens' offense. He had 18 points in 23 games to finish the regular season with 53 points. In the playoffs, he had 14 points in 24 games to win his second Stanley Cup, the third in franchise history for Pittsburgh.
Despite currently being on the injured reserve, his 36 points in 52 games are fourth on the Penguins. He is also fourth with a plus-20 rating.
Adams' statistics may not be the prettiest. His career-high is 21 points and a plus-one, which he set in the 2005-06 season with Carolina.
However, Adams is a two-time Cup champion, winning in 2006 in Carolina and in 2009 in Pittsburgh. He is also a good defensive forward. Currently, he is sixth on the Penguins with 47 blocked shots and leads team forwards in that category. He is also fourth with 126 hits and is third with 3:11 of ice time on the penalty kill.
Adams currently has 10 points and a minus-five rating in 57 games.
Weight, the current captain of the New York Islanders, has not played since November 17 because he is battling a back injury.
However, it is hard to argue that he is currently one of the game's greatest active players.
Weight has played in over 1,200 NHL games and has one Stanley Cup, which he attained in 2006 with the Hurricanes. He was traded to Carolina from St. Louis that year and finished the regular season with 57 points in 70 games.
He set a career-high for points during the 1995-96 season when he was playing with Edmonton, putting up 104 points.
In the 2003 Western Conference Quarterfinals against Vancouver, he posted 13 points in seven games and led the league in points in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Blues were eliminated by the Canucks in that round.
He has been named to four NHL All-Star Games throughout his career, attending the 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2003 festivities.
In addition to his NHL accomplishments, he is also a three-time U.S. Olympian. He has played with Team USA in 1998, 2002 and 2006, earning a silver medal in the 2002 Salt Lake City tournament.
Boyle started off in the NHL with the Florida Panthers and was eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he won the 2004 Stanley Cup. He had 39 points in 78 games in the regular season and 10 points in 23 playoff games.
In 2006-2007, he set career-highs with 20 goals and 63 points. It marked one of five seasons where he has put up at least 50 points.
He joined the Sharks for the 2008-09 season and had 57 points in his first season in San Jose. He bettered himself next year and had 58 points.
Boyle also joined Team Canada for the 2010 Olympics. He won a gold medal, posting six points in seven games.
He is an alternate captain for the Sharks and currently has 36 points through 60 games. His points total leads all San Jose defensemen.
Miller has been a part of Buffalo as a full-time roster member since the 2005-06 season. He has an NHL career record of 211-122-1-38 with a .914 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.
He has played in at least 40 games a year every year and played in 76 contests in 2007-08. He went 36-27-10 that year and had a .906 save percentage and 2.64 GAA.
Miller was elected to his first NHL All-Star Game in 2007 on his way to posting his first 40-win season in the NHL. He also had a .911 save percentage and 2.73 GAA that year.
He had another 40-win campaign last season, going 41-18-8 with a .929 save percentage and 2.22 GAA. His play earned him the first Vezina Trophy of his career.
In last year's Olympics, he won a silver medal with Team USA. He went 5-0-1 with a 1.35 GAA and .946 save percentage, which earned him tournament MVP and best goaltender honors.
This year, he is 24-18-5 through 48 games. He has a .911 save percentage and 2.73 GAA.
Conner signed with the Penguins prior to the 2009-10 season and brought prior NHL experience with the Dallas Stars to the club.
He spent most of last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, posting 56 points through 59 games. He also received a call-up, where he had three points and a minus-one in eight games.
This year, he has set himself apart with his solid play and has almost definitely earned a permanent spot with the Penguins. He has 12 points and a plus-six through 41 games.
One of his best moments was a penalty shot goal against the Red Wings back in January.
Backes is a Blues alternate captain who is in his fourth full season with the team. He has scored at least 30 points every season.
In 2008-09, he set a career-high with 54 points and was tied for the team goal scoring lead with 31 goals.
He was a member of Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics and took home a silver medal. He tallied three points in six games in the tournament.
He participated in the first NHL All-Star Game of his career in January. He leads the Blues with 45 points, and his plus/minus rating of plus-19 also leads the team.
Santorelli was acquired by the Panthers in the offseason in a trade with the Nashville Predators.
He was a strong prospect, but could not convert his success with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL to success in Nashville.
He had just three points in 22 games.
So far, he is getting off to a good start with Florida. He has 30 points in 58 games and is fourth on the team in scoring.
Eaton is playing on his third NHL team, having played with the Predators and Penguins before signing with the Islanders this past offseason.
He set a career-high in points last year, tallying 16 points and had a plus-16 rating in 2003-04 to set a personal NHL best in that category. He holds the Predators' franchise record for plus/minus rating in a season.
When the Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup, Eaton had seven points and a plus-four rating.
He was given an alternate captaincy this year, but is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery. He had three points and a minus-two rating in 34 games before getting injured.
Kesler has been on the Canucks since the 2005-06 season. He started off his first full season on the team with 23 points in 82 games.
After a 2006-07 campaign which saw him post just 16 points in 48 games due to injury, Kesler has been improving ever since. He was named the team MVP in 2008-09 after posting 59 points and last year, he set a career high with 75 points.
He was on Team USA in the last Olympics and had two points in six games as the USA did the unthinkable and won the silver medal.
Kesler has finished second in the voting twice for the Selke Trophy (2009 and 2010), but lost to Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings both years.
He currently has 56 points in 60 games and is second in the NHL with 33 goals scored. He also ranks fifth with 10 power play goals and fourth with three shorthanded goals. His plus-25 rating is ranked second in the league.
He is third on the Canucks in scoring and first in goals.
Halpern has spent his career with five different teams: the Washington Capitals, the Dallas Stars, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Los Angeles Kings and now, the Canadiens.
He set a career-high for points in 2003-04 while playing in Washington, posting 46 points.
He currently has 21 points and a plus-three rating for Montreal. He is also second on the Habs in faceoff wins with a 52.7 percent success rate.
Prior to coming to Montreal, Gill was a notable member of the Pittsburgh Penguins teams that made back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, winning the Cup in 2009.
However, it was with the Boston Bruins that he had his biggest statistical successes. He posted a career-high of 22 points in 2001-02 and a personal best plus-21 rating in the 2002-03 season.
Gill just returned to the Habs lineup after recovering from an injury to play in the Heritage Classic. He has five points and a minus-eight rating through 56 games this year.
Although he is not having an outstanding season points-wise, he is second on the Habs with an average of 3:40 of ice time on the penalty kill.
Malone played with the Penguins before joining the Lightning for the 2008-09 season.
He was a 2008 Stanley Cup finalist, setting a career-high with 51 points in the regular season. He was solid in the playoffs with 16 points in 20 games.
Prior to going to the Finals with the Pens, Malone was third on the team in scoring during his 2003-04 rookie campaign with 43 points.
He represented Team USA in the 2010 Olympics and finished the tournament with five points in six games.
Malone is tied for first on the Lightning with 106 hits and is fourth with 34 points.
Peverley was playing for the Thrashers prior to being sent to the Bruins. He also played with the Predators, posting 11 points in 46 games.
He came to Atlanta in 2008-09 and had 35 points in his first season. The next season, he set a career-high with 55 points.
He had 34 points in 59 games before being traded and was one of the Thrashers' top scorers.
Peverley will make his Bruins debut on Tuesday when they play the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.
Glencross joined the NHL on a full-time basis in the 2007-08 season, splitting the campaign with the Oilers and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He came to Calgary in 2008-09, where he set a career-high with 40 points. He has posted at least 30 points a season ever since. In fact, he has already done that again this season, with 32 points and a plus-seven rating.
This year, Glencross set a franchise mark when he scored his seventh goal of the season back on November 26th. It was the 10,000th goal in Flames history.
Hendry is in his second full season in Chicago. At first glance, it looks like he is not doing much, but he is shaping up to be a part of the Blackhawks' defense corps for the future.
Last season, he had eight points, a plus-five rating in 43 games and was a part of the 2010 Stanley Cup championship team.
This year, he has just one goal and a minus-one rating in 34 games. However, he is getting significant ice time, averaging 10:31 per game.
Stastny, one of the Avs' alternate captains, is the son of NHL legend Petr Stastny.
He joined the NHL straight out of the University of Denver and had an impressive rookie year in 2006-07. He posted 78 points and set a Colorado record for points in a season by a rookie. He was nominated for the Calder Trophy that year, but lost to Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Stastny's impressive play has continued ever since. He has three 70-point seasons and although he only played in 45 games in 2008-09, he still posted a solid 36 points.
Last year, he was in the Olympics with Team USA and had three points in six games.
Stastny has 45 points this year and is tied for second on the Avalanche in scoring. He also leads Avs forwards with 19:44 of ice time per game.
Penner is the first former Maine player to win the Stanley Cup, accomplishing the feat with the 2007 Ducks squad. That year, he set a franchise record for points by a rookie with 45 and had eight points in 21 playoff games.
Last season, he set a career-high for 63 points despite the fact that the Oilers were near the bottom of the NHL standings.
He continues to set himself apart on a struggling team and has 37 points, good for third on the team in scoring.
Quick is in his second full year with the Kings. In his 2009-10 campaign, he went 39-24-7 with a .907 save percentage and 2.54 GAA. He also posted four shutouts.
This year, he is still excelling despite the fact that the Kings are fighting for their postseason lives. He is 26-15-2 with six shutouts. He has a .922 save percentage, which is ranked seventh in the NHL and a 2.12 GAA, which is ranked third. His six shutouts are third among all NHL goaltenders.
Quick was also named to the 2010 USA Olympic team, but did not get to play.
Fun fact: Quick is the brother-in-law of Islanders forward Matt Moulson, who is also mentioned in this slideshow.
Rolson is a veteran of 11 NHL seasons and is currently in his 12th.
Over that time, he has played for six different times and has been a Stanley Cup finalist with the Edmonton Oilers. In the 2006 playoffs, he went 12-5 with a .927 save percentage and 2.33 GAA.
Rolson represented the Minnesota Wild at the 2004 NHL All-Star Game. That year, he had a record of 19-18-11 with five shutouts. He posted a .933 save percentage and a 1.88 GAA.
In 2009, he set an Islanders franchise record for saves in a single game when he made 58 saves in a game against the Maple Leafs. That season, he was the oldest NHL goalie to play at least 60 games in a season, acting as the starting netminder for 63 games.
Rolson was traded to Tampa Bay by the Isles on New Year's Day. He has four shutouts so far and is the first goalie in franchise history to record a shutout in his Bolts debut. He is 15-19-2 with a .911 save percentage and 2.74 GAA.
Madden is a three-time Stanley Cup champion. He won twice with the New Jersey Devils in 2000 and 2003 and with the Blackhawks last season.
He is a consistent 20-point scorer in the league. He set a career-high for points in the 2007-08 season while playing with the Devils, scoring 43 points.
He won the 2001 Selke Trophy for best defensive forward after tallying 38 points and a plus-24 rating. He was nominated again in 2003, 2004 and 2008 but was the runner-up each time.
In the 1999-00 season, he set a Devils record for six shorthanded goals in a season.
Madden, an alternate captain for Minnesota, has 17 points and a minus-nine rating through 57 games.
Vanek has been with the Sabres since the 2005-06 campaign. He is the highest Austrian draft pick in NHL history.
He has scored at least 40 points every year and set career-highs for points (84) and plus/minus (plus-47) in the 2006-07 season.
Vanek was named to the 2009 NHL All-Star Game and finished that season with 64 points in 73 games.
He is currently leading the Sabres with 50 points.
Vanek also has four natural hat tricks in his career, which is tied for a league record.
Raymond is in his third full season with the Canucks and is coming off a career year where he had 53 points. His performance earned him the Canucks unsung hero award.
He also played in the 2009 Young Stars game at the NHL All-Star Game. In 2008-09, he improved on his 21-point rookie year total with 23 points in 72 games.
Raymond currently has 31 points and a plus-10 rating through 49 games.
Zanon is in his second year with the Wild and is proving to be one of the team's most valuable defensemen.
He is second in the NHL with 153 blocked shots and is third on Minnesota with 120 hits.
Prior to coming to the Wild, Zanon played four seasons with the Predators, posting 26 points from 2005-2009. He had 15 points in the 2008-09 season, a career high.
This season, he has three points and a plus-three rating. He is also ranked third on the Wild with 21:22 of ice time per game.
Riemsdyk is in his second season with the Flyers and made an impact in his rookie year, posting 35 points in 78 games. He was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month in November of 2009 and was fifth among rookies with 15 goals, while his point total was eighth.
Not only did he make an impact in the regular season, he also got himself recognition in the playoffs. In Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Bruins, he scored a goal to help the Flyers win the series. Philadelphia became just the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win a series.
He finished the playoffs with six points in 21 games.
This year, he is close to matching or improving his 2009-10 point total. He has 28 points and a plus-13 in 53 games.
Toews is in his fourth year with the Blackhawks and has been an integral part of the franchise's return to relevancy.
He posted 54 points in his 2007-08 rookie campaign and was a nominee for the Calder Trophy. However, he lost to teammate Patrick Kane.
Toews came back strong in the 2008-09 campaign, not allowing the loss of the trophy to get him down. He posted 69 points and was named to the 2009 NHL All-Star Game.
However, the 2009-10 season was when he truly set himself apart.
Toews got the chance to represent Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He finished with eight points in seven games as Canada won the gold medal.
His performance earned him the honor of Best Forward at the tournament.
But he was not done after the Olympics. He finished the regular season with 68 points and a plus-22 rating. Then, he had 29 points in 22 playoff games as Chicago won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. He was also named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Once he captured the Cup, he became the youngest player to enter the Triple Gold Club. This group is reserved for players who have won a World Championship gold medal, an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup.
Toews is having another solid season so far with 52 points and a plus-16 through 56 games.
St. Louis has been with the Lightning since 2000-01 and is one of the team's alternate captains.
He won the 2004 Stanley Cup with the Bolts, their first title in team history. He had 94 points in the regular season and had 24 points in 23 playoff games.
The 2003-04 season was also one of his most successful yet. He became the eighth player in league history to win the Hart Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award and the Art Ross Trophy in one season. He was also the first player to accomplish this since Wayne Gretzky.
In 2008-09, he posted 80 points to lead the Bolts in scoring.
St. Louis is a six-time NHL All-Star, representing Tampa at the 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 festivities. At this year's game, he was an alternate captain for Team Lidstrom.
He added to his trophy case in 2010 when he took home the Lady Byng Trophy, the award for the NHL player that best exemplifies sportsmanship.
He also represented Canada at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, posting three points in six games.
This season, he has 69 points, which is ranked fourth in the NHL. His 49 assists are ranked second and he is second on the team in scoring.
Rafalski has won the Cup three times in his career. He was a part of the 2000 and 2003 Devils squads that took home the title and he also won with the 2008 Red Wings.
Over his career, he has posted at least 50 points four times and he set a career high of 59 points in the 2008-09 season.
Rafalski has been elected to two NHL All-Star Games.
He represented New Jersey in the 2004 and 2007 games, scoring 36 and 55 points in those years, respectively. Although he was also named to the 2002 game, he had to sit out with an injury.
He has represented the USA for the Olympics in each of the last three tournaments. This year, he was an alternate captain and led all defensemen in scoring with eight points in six games.
This season, he has 37 points and a plus-16 through 48 games. He is fifth on Detroit in scoring and second among the team's defensemen.
In addition to playing with the Hurricanes, Corvo has also spent time with the Kings, Ottawa Senators and Capitals.
He was a part of the 2007 Senators squad that lost to the Ducks in the Stanley Cup Finals. He had nine points and a plus-four rating in 20 games in the Sens' playoff run. He also holds the Ottawa record for points in a game by a defenseman, as he once had five points in a game against Toronto.
Corvo has posted four seasons of 30 points or more and has already surpassed the mark this year with 31 points in 60 games. He is second on the team with 89 blocked shots and sees a significant amount of ice time. He is first with 2:54 of ice time on the penalty kill and is second on the team with 24:43 overall ice time per game.
Higgins tallied three consecutive 30-point seasons from 2005-2008 while playing with the Canadiens. He set a career-high in 2007-08 with 52 points.
He joined the Panthers this year after playing with the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames in 2009-10. He currently has 21 points and a plus-six through 45 games. His point total is sixth on the team, while his plus/minus rating is ranked third.