All of the National Hockey League’s teams have moved into the second half of their respective schedules. During the season to date, Waterloo hockey fans have cheered on eight Black Hawks alumni skating for eight different NHL clubs. Six of them play in the Western Conference and three of those former Hawks are on teams in the Central Division.
Ahead of 13 Thursday night games, potentially involving six alumni, here is a player-by-player update on the 2019/20 campaign:
Joe Pavelski – Dallas Stars
(Waterloo: 2002/03 – 03/04)
As 2019 waned, Pavelski appeared in his 1,000th NHL game on December 20th against the Florida Panthers. On the first day of the New Year, the veteran played in his second NHL outdoor game, helping Dallas to a 4-2 win versus the Nashville Predators. Pavelski has eight goals and 11 assists in 46 contests during his first season with the Stars. With a solid second half, the 14-year veteran has the chance to challenge another milestone: he is 20 points from 800 in his career.
Craig Smith – Nashville Predators
(Waterloo: 2006/07 – 08/09)
Following a loss to Dallas in the NHL Winter Classic, Smith rang in 2020 with a pair of two-point games, recording a goal and an assist against the L.A. Kings on January 4th and then two goals the next night versus the Anaheim Ducks. Of his ten goals this season, five have been recorded since Christmas, including his first power play goal of the winter during the game against Anaheim. Except for the lockout-shortened 2012/13 season, Smith has tallied at least 10 goals in each of his other eight NHL campaigns.
Vinnie Hinostroza – Arizona Coyotes
(Waterloo: 2010/11 – 12/13)
Hinostroza’s most productive game of the season came against his former team on December 12th. That night, he set up three first period goals to help Arizona defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. The three-point effort matched a career high. This winter, Hinostroza has four goals and 13 assists while taking the ice for all but one of Arizona’s 49 games. With five more points, Hinostroza would become the fifth former Waterloo player to record 100 NHL points.
Zach Sanford – St. Louis Blues
The defending Stanley Cup Champion Blues have 68 points and are currently the NHL’s best team. Sanford finished the playoffs last spring with a scoring flourish, and – despite being briefly sidelined by injury – he is on target to set new personal bests for goals, assists, and points in 2019/20. This season, he has four goals and eight assists, including one of each last Saturday in a win against the New York Rangers. During 2018/19, Sanford had 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists).
Brandon Montour – Buffalo Sabres
(Waterloo: 2013/14 – 14/15)
With a former Waterloo teammate on the opposing bench last Saturday, Montour scored the first goal when the Sabres hosted the Vancouver Canucks. The offensively-gifted defenseman missed all of October due to a preseason injury, so Saturday's game was just his 31st appearance of the season. Adding a couple more games since then, Montour now has three goals and nine assists. His next point will give him 86 in his career, breaking a tie with Mark Eaton as the highest-scoring alumni defenseman at the NHL level.
Brock Boeser – Vancouver Canucks
While Montour scored once for Buffalo last Saturday, Boeser notched two goals in the same game and helped Vancouver to a 6-3 win. Much of Boeser’s point production since Christmas has come in the form of assists: he had four of them in the five games immediately after the holiday. So far in 2019/20, Boeser’s 16 goals are more than any other Waterloo alumnus. However, his 27 assists in 47 games are just four shy of setting a new career-high.
Patrick Russell – Edmonton Oilers
Despite being out of the lineup on New Year’s Eve and for the first couple weeks of 2019, Russell has already quintupled the six appearances he made for Edmonton in 2018/19. The 27-year-old has skated for the Oilers 31 times this winter, recording four assists.
Mark Friedman – Philadelphia Flyers
(Waterloo: 2012/13 – 13/14)
At the tail-end of 2018/19, Friedman was called up by the Flyers to make his National Hockey League debut. He returned to the Philadelphia lineup for the first time this season on January 8th and helped the club to a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals. Friedman has remained on the ice for the three successive games, and the Flyers have gone 3-1-0 since adding him. His first NHL point (an assist) was recorded Monday during a 6-5 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins.
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