A 100 point college hockey career is something that most forwards and a few talented and ambitious defenseman aspire to. With most seasons ranging from 35-45 games and careers maxing out at around 160 games if all goes well (playing in the right league, deep playoff runs, etc.), hitting the century mark is a pretty good indicator of a consistent if not exceptional career on campus. However, there was a time when the game was a bit more wide open, careers for the games stars lasted a bit longer, and perhaps points weren’t quite so hard to come by. Not so long ago, the 200, or even 300 point plateau’s were reached by some of the games elite.
Somewhere between Ken Dryden’s incredible run at Cornell in the late 60’s that included a 76-4-1 record, a career .939 save percentage, and a GAA well below 2.00, and the mid 90’s, college hockey saw an epic rise in offense that coincided with that of their NHL counterparts.
In the 1970’s as Orr, Esposito, and Lafleur set their eyes on records of their own, Dave Rost, Tom Ross, and Mike Zuke, were setting the standards for college hockey offensive output. In the 1980’s, Gretzky, Bossy, Coffey, and Lemieux took aim at marks that seemed at times untouchable (and some that just may prove to be), while elite young talents like Jim Dowd and Nelson Emerson attacked the college hockey record books.
In the 1990’s the game changed, both at the NHL and collegiate level. In the NHL, the “Trap” and the “Left Wing Lock” became more prevalent, and as they were proven as successful methods leading to championships, these game plans were emulated at many levels. This wasn’t to say that we had seen the end of spectacular team offenses or individual offensive performance, it just meant the focus for most teams at most levels had shifted. In ’95-’96, Mario Lemieux recorded 161 points in just 70 games. At the same time, Michigan standout and future NHL’er Brendan Morrison was on his way to a 282 point college career, the likes of which has not since been approached.
As a side note and one that will be addressed shortly, Paul Kariya enjoyed likely the most memorable season in college hockey history and probably would have made all of the aforementioned statistics in college hockey’s record book irrelevant had his talents not put him on the fast track to the NHL when he scored 100 points in his rookie campaign, capturing the Hobey Baker Award, and leading the Maine Black Bears to a National Title in 1993.
While we have continued to see many notable and prolific careers over the years, the college hockey record books clearly show an overall drop off in individual offensive output by the games elite over a career since the end of the 90's, with the 200 point plateau becoming increasingly difficult to approach and 300 becoming all but impossible. There are no shortage of reasons for that.
Like in the NHL, goaltenders have become more athletic and enjoyed larger and more protective equipment. Elite players have been given more options in their career path as they look to make their way to the National Hockey League, with many forgoing the college experience entirely in favor of Major Junior. Then there are the blue chip prospects that do decide the University setting is what will be best for their development, personally, athletically, and professionally. But even for these young men, once on campus, the allure of living their dream can be too much after a year or two of offensive success in the amateur level and the desire to take their game to the next level becomes paramount.
What does all of this mean? I have no idea. But I am pretty sure, for the time being, we can put Dave Rost's 330 point career at Army in the mid 70's up there with Dimmagio's 56 game hit streak or Wilt's 100 point night as marks that we may not see broken in our lifetime.
Below is a look at a the careers of a few notable college hockey stars in the last 15 years, where they finished in a pursuit of not 100, but 200 points, and how they have continued to evolve as players after they entered the professional circuit.
Brian Gionta (Boston College)- The Boston College star and 3rd round pick of the New Jersey Devils was a model of consistency during his four years in Chestnut Hill. Gionta enjoyed four 50 plus point seasons and a National Championship before leaving the Eagles with 238 career points. Today, Gionta is a veteran of over 600 NHL games, a Stanley Cup Champion, and currently serves as the Captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
Chris Drury (Boston University)- Before capturing the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie Of The Year and the hearts of Avs fans during the 2001 Stanley Cup run, Chris Drury was busy filling up his trophy case at Boston University during the mid 90’s. It was during his four years on Commonwealth Ave that he won a National Championship, multiple Hockey East Player Of The Year crowns, and a Hobey Baker while compiling 113 goals and 213 points. He went on to enjoy an NHL career spanning nearly 900 games and enjoyed success at home and on the international stage.
Jason Krog and Darren Haydar (University of New Hampshire)- In 1995, Jason Krog stepped foot on the UNH campus with great expectations. Four years later he left having amassed 238 career points and having been honored with the Hobey Baker. But when he left, the cupboards were far from empty for Coach Umile and his UNH staff. During Krog’s senior year, a talented freshman by the name of Darren Haydar arrived in Durham and posted the first 61 of what would be 219 career points over four years with the Wildcats. In the years that have followed, both have enjoyed stints at the NHL level and reunited to terrorize goaltenders at the AHL level.
Jeff Panzer (University of North Dakota)- The undersized center enjoyed a monstrous career for the Fighting Sioux. In 156 games, Panzer had 228 points before taking his talents to the AHL and DEL over the next 8 seasons.
Thomas Vanek and Zach Parise (University of Minnesota and University of North Dakota)- These two future NHL stars took college hockey by storm in the 2002-2003 season scoring 62 and 61 points respectively during their freshman campaigns. Both players were first round picks that summer, both returned for 50 plus point sophomore seasons and would have seemed destined to reach 200 points with ease at the collegiate level had they completed their four years of eligibility, but each opted to make the jump and have enjoyed lucrative and successful starts to their NHL career’s.
Jack Connolly (University of Minnesota Duluth)- Connolly entered his Senior season with 138 points and a National Championship to show for it. This season, he has been nothing short of dominant compiling 42 points in 28 games. At his current pace this season and with 180 points in 153 career games, Connolly has a realistic shot at becoming college hockey’s next 200 point scorer, making for an interesting subplot as the UMD Bulldogs look for their second consecutive title.