NHL: 20 Best Shattuck-St. Mary's Hockey Alumni

Al DanielCorrespondent IISeptember 9, 2011

NHL: 20 Best Shattuck-St. Mary's Hockey Alumni

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    Next week, some 80-plus student athletes at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School will vie for a position on the boys’ “prep” hockey team, the 20th installment of its kind.

    Since the decision was made in 1992 to mutate the rural Minnesota prep school’s hockey program from a conventional statewide competitor to a national travel team, SSM has become a model athletic dream factory. Boys’ hockey has blazed multiple trails, convincing girls’ hockey as well as soccer and figure skating to emulate its upgrade within the school and producing a multitude of accomplished alumni.

    Over the past 13 years, the 18-and-under prep team has lassoed seven USA Hockey national championships. Over the past 16 years, it has become commonplace to see more than one recent graduate listed on the scroll of NHL draft choices.

    In turn, the NHL Network and NHL Center Ice are always showing somewhere on campus as the staff tries to keep tabs on those they once fostered. Some particularly proud moments in recent years include watching two different alums captain a Stanley Cup champion in back-to-back seasons and seeing three of the five goals scored in the 2010 Olympic gold-medal game come off the tape of an ex-SSM Sabre.

    And now, as the program rounds out its second decade of existence, it is almost at the point where one could theoretically assemble a team made entirely of former “Shads” and compete against any established NHL squad.

    Or maybe it has already come to that point. Decide for yourself upon flipping through this depth chart of influential Shattuck hockey alumni, as selected by a former member of the SSM student media.

Starting Center: Sidney Crosby

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    He was there only briefly. But what matters is, well, he was there.

    Enrolling as a sophomore in 2002-03, Crosby made the top U18 (then U17) team and easily eclipsed the performances of peers who were a good two years older than him. If whispers of the phrase “Next One” were already rumbling back in Canada, American bystanders caught up only when Crosby and the Sabres vanquished Team Illinois for the 2003 national championship.

    In terms of roots, Crosby may be more synonymous with his native Nova Scotia and the Quebec League’s Rimouski Oceanic. And Shattuck may be more synonymous with those who studied and skated there longer, especially those who stayed through graduation.

    Nonetheless, SSM coach Tom Ward is entitled to a sense of pride whenever No. 87 captains a Stanley Cup-run or scores in overtime to deliver a Gold Medal.

Starting Left Wing: Zach Parise

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    For one night, when their NHL debuts coincided at Continental Airlines Arena, Parise had an upper hand on Crosby. Scoring a goal and an assist in a 5-1 victory, the New Jersey Devils rookie drew chants of “Parise’s better!” upon his Pittsburgh Penguins counterpart and fellow SSM alumnus.

    As one could expect, Crosby has since pole-vaulted back to the forefront. But Parise has done all right for himself, continuously fulfilling his potential as a scorer in the Devils' obsessive-defensive culture.

    Before an injury confined him to 13 games played last season (a major factor in the Devils missing the playoffs), Parise was building upon four consecutive 30-plus goal seasons.

    And because his father, former NHLer J.P. Parise, once directed the program, Zach still makes his home in Faribault and is doubtlessly the most popular hockey alum in the SSM community.

Starting Right Wing: Drew Stafford

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    Though eclipsed by Crosby his senior year, finishing a distant second with 116 points as opposed to The Kid’s 162, Stafford has progressed at a rate not worth sneezing at.

    One year removed from graduation, he was chosen 13th overall by the Buffalo Sabres, then took another two years at North Dakota before turning pro.

    Splitting his first professional season between Buffalo and Rochester, Stafford was a full-time NHLer by 2007-08 and has scored 196 points in his first 317 games. Despite missing 20 games this past season, he had his most productive year to date with 31 goals (including four hat tricks) and 52 points.

Second-Line Center: Jonathan Toews

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    Immediately before he enrolled in 2003, Toews was the No. 1 pick in the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft, though, he ultimately opted to take the college route through North Dakota.

    And five years before he captained the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, Toews was literally performing beyond his years at Shattuck. He had skipped over his junior year and, at the unripe age of 16, topped the Sabres' scoring chart en route to the 2004-05 national title.

    Ironically, that tournament was held at suburban Chicago’s Edge Ice Arena, where the Blackhawks had their practice facility at the time. Within another 15 months, he was trying on a Hawks jersey as the third overall pick in the 2006 Entry draft and signed on another 15 months thereafter.

    Up to that point, only Crosby had taken a shorter time to go from Shattuck to "the show." And it only took Toews three years to link up with Patrice Kane and turn a perennial playoff no-show into a champion.

Second-line Left Wing: Derek Stepan

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    Only Crosby and Toews have gone from Shattuck to "the show" as nimbly as the one they called “D-Step.” The Hastings, Minn. native enrolled as a junior in 2006-07, won back-to-back national titles and then proceeded to the University of Wisconsin.

    Selected in the second round of the 2008 NHL entry draft, Stepan used half of his allotted time in Madison, then signed with the New York Rangers and made the cut in 2010. He played in all 87 regular-season and playoff games, finishing fourth on the team scoring chart with 45 points.

Second-Line Right Wing: Kyle Okposo

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    The Twin Cities product enrolled as a freshman and played on the school’s top bantam team in the Year of Crosby. In the two years thereafter, Okposo teamed up with the likes of Toews to take the Prep team to back-to-back national title games, winning the gold platter in 2005.

    Amidst his junior season, Okposo committed to his hometown Gophers a good 21 months before his college debut. He has since, rather expectedly, established himself as a productive checker and scorer with the New York Islanders. Some have even suggested he replace Doug Weight as the Isles’ captain, which would mean having a Shattuck alum leading one-tenth of the NHL.

Third-line Center: Emerson Etem

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    One of the outstanding few to jump directly from the school’s top bantam team to the top midget team―skipping the traditional U16 stepping stone―Etem left after his sophomore year for the U.S. National Development Program.

    From there, he took to the Western Hockey League, where he has enjoyed two productive years with the Medicine Hat Tigers and enticed the fans of the Anaheim Ducks, who chose him in the first round of the 2010 entry draft.

Third-line Left Wing: Ryan Malone

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    The Pittsburgh native split his formative years between his hometown Hornets' travel program and Shattuck before spending one year with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers and moving on to St. Cloud State University. Upon graduation, he broke right into the pros with his hometown Penguins, with whom he spent four seasons before signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008.

    Entering this season, Malone is one point away from the 300th in his career and is also closing in on 500 games played in the NHL.

Third-Line Right Wing: Patrick Eaves

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    Like Crosby and Parise, Eaves broke in almost as soon as the NHL lockout ended. And like Stafford, it took him a year of commuting between his Ottawa Senators and their AHL farm club in Binghamton before he had a permanent roster spot.

    He is not nearly as prolific as some of Shattuck’s more distinguished alums, but that is at least partially owed to a multitude of periodic injuries he has fought off in recent years.

    When healthy, though, Eaves is a worthy regular in the lineup. And after charging up a modest 6-8-14 scoring log in 2008-09 with Carolina, he took off for Detroit and has turned his productivity back on the upswing with the Red Wings.

Fourth-line Center: Brady Murray

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    The eldest son of former Shattuck and NHL coach Andy Murray has sandwiched one year in the Los Angeles Kings' system with five in Switzerland.

    Last season, he teamed up on HC Lugano with the likes of fellow NHL prospects Chris Bourque and Josh Hennessy. In the coming year, his fourth with Lugano, he will be joined by veterans Rob Niedermayer and David Aebischer.

Fourth-Line Left Wing: Chris Porter

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    Another one of the many members of the unofficial Shattuck-North Dakota pipeline, Porter played the full length of three AHL seasons with Peoria Rivermen between 2007 and 2010, garnering six games in St. Louis along the way.

    This past year, though, Porter’s grinding began to pay off as he split the season between 36 games in the minors and 45 with the rebuilding Blues.

Fourth-Line Right Wing: Ryan Duncan

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    The winner of the 2007 Hobey Baker Award as a sophomore at North Dakota, Duncan is doing his best to compensate for his inferior size (5'6"). Since maxing out his eligibility in college, the undrafted forward has enjoyed two prolific seasons in Austria with Salzburg EC, scoring a cumulative 43 goals and 68 assists in 99 games played.

Starting Defenseman: Jack Johnson

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    Johnson’s friendship with Crosby from their year as Shattuck teammates (in both hockey and baseball) is well-documented. And together, the two set almost the highest possible bar when Johnson was chosen third overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2005 NHL entry draft, two picks after the Penguins secured Crosby.

    Although his choice not to be a one-and-done at the University of Michigan cost him a spot with the 'Canes, Johnson took little time to woo the Los Angeles Kings. He has since seen action in 282 NHL games over four seasons and garnered a Silver Medal with Team USA, opposite Parise, at the Vancouver Olympics.

Starting Defenseman: Joe Corvo

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    Entering his 14th professional season, Corvo has been an NHL mainstay since his first full year with the Los Angeles Kings in 2003-04. Between LA, Ottawa, Carolina and a momentary stop in Washington, he has seen action in 568 regular-season games as well as a run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.

    This autumn, he will join the defending champion Boston Bruins, where general manager Peter Chiarelli hopes Corvo will kick ice chips over the iffy memories of Tomas Kaberle.

Second-unit Defenseman: Peter Ratchuk

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    The very first Shattuck product chosen in an NHL Draft (25th overall to Colorado in 1996), Ratchuk broke in with the Florida Panthers on Dec. 16, 1998 and played a cumulative 32 games over three years.

    Although he has not been in NHL since then, Ratchuk has maintained a stable, lengthy career as an AHL and overseas journeyman. Spending the last four years in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the grizzled blueliner has been a fairly productive point patroller with 30 goals and 78 helpers in his last 197 games.

Second-unit Defenseman: Matt Smaby

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    The towering bruiser was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the 2003 NHL draft, mere weeks after he had completed his studies in Faribault and months before enrolling at North Dakota.

    For the next eight years, Smaby remained a part of the Lightning family, making his NHL debut in his second professional season and seeing action in 122 games over the last four years. Starting this autumn, he will vie for more ice time with the Anaheim Ducks.

Third-unit Defenseman: Taylor Chorney

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    Chorney’s log has many parallels to Smaby’s. After bolstering the Shattuck blue line to a national title as a senior in 2005, he was chosen in the second round of the NHL draft and then went off for three seasons with the University of North Dakota.

    Upon dropping out, Chorney spent the bulk of his first two seasons with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons (who were then Edmonton’s affiliate, but served as Tampa’s training ground when Smaby was there). He also saw action in 44 games with the Oilers, scraping out three assists.

    Last year, while honing his skills with Edmonton’s new farm club in Oklahoma City, Chorney garnered another 12 games with the parent club. In that span, he instantaneously upped his productivity with four points, including his first NHL goal.

Third-unit Defenseman: Jamie McBain

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    McBain left after his sophomore season and split the next five years between the U.S. National Development Program and the University of Wisconsin. The third-year pro is now coming off his first full NHL season with the Carolina Hurricanes, for whom he pitched in seven goals and 23 assists in 76 games played.

Starting Goalie: Ty Conklin

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    In more recent years, Shattuck has become notorious for blowing out nearly every opponent in the shooting gallery. An alleged side-effect to such immense success is that with only a Martin Brodeur-sized workload on game night, the goalies coming through this school are not sufficiently prepared for a higher level.

    That notwithstanding, Conklin is the first household name to have come through the SSM prep hockey program. Since leaving Faribault in 1995 after a postgraduate campaign, the journeyman has donned six different NHL uniforms and seen action in 201 games.

    Conklin has the distinction of starting each of the NHL’s first three outdoor regular-season games. He tended the net for Edmonton in the 2003 Heritage Classic, Pittsburgh in the 2009 Winter Classic and Detroit in the 2010 Winter Classic.

    Conklin also became the first SSM alum to see action in a Stanley Cup championship game when he succeeded the injured Dwayne Roloson with Edmonton in the 2006 series opener.

Backup goalie: Jordan Parise

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    The Shattuck alumni might not have as much depth in this position as they do around the rest of the rink. But Parise did help North Dakota to appearances in the 2005 and 2006 Frozen Four with the likes of Duncan, Murray, Smaby, Stafford and Toews.

    Zach Parise’s older brother most recently made headlines in last year’s training camp when he took a shot in the dark at a slot in the New York Rangers system. Outside of that, he continues to build his portfolio between the AHL, ECHL and Europe.


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