College men's hockey: Seven Bulldogs set to start NHL's 2019-20 season

Esko native Karson Kuhlman is back with the Bruins after helping the team force a Game 7 in last year's Stanley Cup Final

Parker Mackay (39) of Minnesota Duluth speaks during a press conference at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Wednesday, Oct. 3, during Frozen Four practice sessions. Clint Austin / Forum News Service
Clint Austin / Minnesota Duluth captains Parker Mackay (39) and Karson Kuhlman (20) celebrate after the Bulldogs' national championship game victory over Notre Dame at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Former Minnesota Duluth captain Karson Kuhlman closed his rookie season with the Boston Bruins playing in Games 6 and 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final after sitting out a month as a healthy scratch.

When the 2019-20 NHL season gets underway this week, the Esko native is projected to be a top-six forward for the Bruins and one of seven former Bulldogs on an NHL opening day roster. Boston opens the season Thursday on the road against the Dallas Stars.

Kuhlman played 19 games last year with the Bruins late in the season totaling four goals and four assists, including a goal and two assists in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games. His most notable postseason goal came in Game 6 to force a Game 7.

Prior to training camp, Kuhlman told the News Tribune’s Bulldog Insider Podcast he knew it would be a fight to make the Bruins opening day roster even after making an impact late in the postseason.

“There's so many, so many players ... if you look at the list of guys that have played, 1-10 games in the NHL all-time, it's pretty staggering,” Kuhlman (2014-18) said. “A lot of people make it there but never stick, and I just don't want to be one of those guys. I want to be able to go there and do what I do to help the team win and show them that I can be there for a long time.”


Three former Bulldogs are making regular season debuts with new teams after being traded.

Justin Faulk (2010-11), who played eight seasons on the Carolina Hurricanes’ blue line before being dealt last week, will make his regular season debut with the St. Blues on Wednesday against the Washington Capitals in a battle between the last two Stanley Cup champions. The game is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network from St. Louis.

Not in that game Wednesday is Matt Niskanen (2005-07). The 32-year-old defenseman from Mountain Iron was shipped over the summer to the Philadelphia Flyers after five seasons in Washington, including the 2017-18 Stanley Cup run. The Flyers don’t open the season until 1 p.m. Friday in Prague, Czech Republic against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Hermantown native Neal Pionk (2015-17) will play his first game with the Winnipeg Jets at 6 p.m. on Thursday against the team who traded him away after two seasons, the New York Rangers, at Madison Square Garden.

While speculation swirled over both Faulk and Niskanen getting traded, Pionk was caught off guard when the Rangers called and informed him of the deal with Winnipeg this summer.

“That's just the nature of the business,” Pionk told the Bulldog Insider Podcast before camp began. “That's what we all signed up for and that's what we know can potentially happen. I've told other people it's not the last time it's going to happen whether it's a trade or waiver signing or whatever.”

Teams were required to submit their final 23-man roster to the NHL by 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Former Bulldogs defenseman Carson Soucy (2013-17) is back with the Minnesota Wild after spending all of last year in the American Hockey League with the Iowa Wild. Soucy played seven games with Minnesota — three in the regular season and four in the postseason — as a rookie in 2017-18.


Former Bulldog goaltender Alex Stalock (2006-09) returns for a fourth season with the Minnesota Wild, who start at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Nashville Predators on NBC Sports Network.

Alex Iafallo (2013-17) is back once again for a third season with the Los Angeles Kings, who don’t open the season until Saturday at the Edmonton Oilers.

2018-19 Bulldogs begin in AHL

None of the 2018-19 Bulldogs who moved on are projected to be on an opening day NHL roster.

Riley Tufte, who left after his junior season, and former senior captain Parker Mackay are both in the American league with the Texas Stars. Mikey Anderson, who left UMD after his sophomore year, is also in the AHL with the Kings’ top affiliate, the Ontario Reign.

Also starting in the AHL this fall is J.T. Brown (Iowa Wild), Adam Johnson (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins), Joey Anderson (Binghamton Devils), Dominic Toninato of Duluth (Springfield Thunderhawks), Kasimir Kaskisuo (Toronto Marlies) and Hunter Miska (Colorado Eagles). All but Kaskisuo played in the NHL last year.

Andy Welinski of Duluth technically remains on the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster, but is on injured reserve. According to reports, Welinski will be sent down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms once healthy, though he’ll have to clear waivers.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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