St. Paul, MN – February 9, 2018 – By making his National Hockey League debut with the New York Rangers tonight, Hermantown’s Neal Pionk became the 50th Minnesotan to play an NHL game this season. It is believed to be the first time ever that 50 Minnesotans have played in the NHL in one season. Pionk is the 10th Minnesotan to make his NHL debut this season.
Aside from the 50 player milestone, perhaps the most impressive statistic is 33 different Minnesota hockey communities are represented. No community has more than three players, and every area of the state is represented. There are 35 players native to the Twin Cities metro area, while 15 hail from Greater Minnesota.
“This amazing feat is an example of the extraordinary passion for hockey throughout the communities in Minnesota and their commitment to keeping hockey affordable and fun,” said Minnesota Hockey President Dave Margenau. “Certainly this is an amazing accomplishment for these players, but it should also be considered an accomplishment for all of their former youth and high school teammates, coaches and opponents in Minnesota that provided such great support and competition.”
With two months remaining in the NHL regular season, the number of Minnesotans is likely to climb with more callups from the American Hockey League and contract signings following the conclusion of the college hockey season.
The 50 Minnesotans that have played in the NHL this season are: Mark Alt* (St. Paul/Philadelphia), Josh Archibald* (Brainerd/Arizona), David Backes (Spring Lake Park/Boston), Nick Bjugstad (Blaine/Florida), Brock Boeser (Burnsville/Vancouver), Travis Boyd (Hopkins/Washington), Justin Braun (White Bear Lake/San Jose), Jonny Brodzinski (Blaine/Los Angeles), J.T. Brown (Rosemount/Anaheim), Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau/Winnipeg), Taylor Chorney* (Hastings/Washington), Matt Cullen (Moorhead/Minnesota), Hudson Fasching* (Apple Valley/Buffalo), Justin Faulk (South St. Paul/Carolina), Derek Forbort (Duluth/Los Angeles), Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka/Toronto), Alex Goligoski (Grand Rapids/Arizona), Jake Guentzel (Woodbury/Pittsburgh), Matt Hendricks (Blaine/Winnipeg), Justin Holl (Minnetonka/Toronto), Nick Jensen (Rogers/Detroit), Erik Johnson (Bloomington/Colorado), Justin Kloos (Lakeville/Minnesota), Nick Leddy (Eden Prairie/New York Islanders), Anders Lee (Edina/New York Islanders), Vinni Lettieri (Minnetonka/New York Rangers), Charlie Lindgren (Lakeville/Montreal), Alex Lyon (Lake of the Woods/Philadelphia), Paul Martin (Elk River/San Jose), Ryan McDonagh (St. Paul/New York Rangers), Brock Nelson (Warroad/New York Islanders), Aaron Ness (Roseau/Washington), Matt Niskanen (Virginia/Washington), Kyle Okposo (St. Paul/Buffalo), T.J. Oshie* (Warroad/Washington), Zach Parise (Bloomington/Minnesota), Neal Pionk (Hermantown/New York Rangers), Tyler Pitlick (Centennial/Dallas), Tucker Poolman (East Grand Forks/Winnipeg), Nate Prosser (Elk River/Minnesota), Kyle Rau (Eden Prairie/Minnesota), Mike Reilly* (Chaska-Chanhassen/Minnesota), Nate Schmidt (St. Cloud/Vegas), Jordan Schroeder (Prior Lake/Columbus), Brady Skjei (Lakeville/New York Rangers), Alex Stalock (South St. Paul/Minnesota), Derek Stepan (Hastings/Arizona), Dominic Toninato (Duluth/Colorado), Andy Welinski (Duluth/Anaheim), Blake Wheeler (Wayzata/Winnipeg).
*Denotes player wasn’t born in Minnesota, but played his youth/high school hockey in the state
**While born in Minnesota, Matt Tennyson and Casey Nelson are not included in this list as they were raised elsewhere