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Evan Marinofsky | NCAA.com | February 1, 2022

Ranking the best former college hockey players in the 2022 NHL All-Star Game

2022 men's hockey bracket predictions, 2 months to selections

The 2022 NHL All-Star Game is this Saturday, Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. Fourteen former DI men's college hockey players will either be at the game or made the team initially but are missing the game due to injury. 

So, naturally, there's only one thing to do: rank them. 

To rank these players, I had to take many factors into consideration. I looked at their regular stats such as goals, assists and points. Then, I dove into their advanced analytics such as goals-for percentage (the difference between a player's goals-for per 60 minutes and goals-against per 60), expected goals for per 60 and corsi for percentage (the number of shot attempts for vs. number of shot attempts against while a player is on the ice). After all of that, I evaluated how their team was doing and how important that player was to their squad's success. 

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For goalies, it was the normal stats like wins and losses, goals-against average and save percentage. On the advanced analytics side, it was all about high-danger save percentage and goals saved above average. All of the advanced stats used are from Natural Stat Trick

Before we go over the rankings I do want to note one thing: Just because a player is low on the list doesn't mean they're bad. This is literally an All-Star Game roster. These players are all really good.

Let the chaos commence. 

*All stats are as of 6:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 1. 

14. Cam Talbot, G | NHL team: Minnesota Wild | NCAA team: Alabama-Huntsville 

Cam Talbot's trip to the All-Star Game came as a bit of surprise given the caliber of great goalies in the NHL's Central Division. Still, with his 17-8-1 record, Talbot's played a big role in getting the Wild to be the No. 3 team in the Central. His 2.92 GAA and .910 save percentage have been solid and while they don't stand out like another goalie higher on this list, they've helped the Wild be a team that's allowed the seventh-fewest amount of goals (117). 

College: Talbot played three seasons for Alabama-Huntsville from 2007-10. 

13. Brady Tkachuk, F | NHL team: Ottawa Senators | NCAA team: Boston University 

Brady Tkachuk wasn't on the initial All-Star roster but was recently tapped to replace injured teammate Drake Batherson in Vegas. Tkachuk sits at 12 goals and 29 points, which is good for second on the Senators in points. He also leads his team in goals for per 60 minutes at 4.52. The Senators have struggled offensively, scoring the fourth-fewest goals this season (108). That doesn't take away from Tkachuk only being 22 years old and already in his fourth NHL season. It's safe to say he'll be getting many more All-Star nods in his career. 

College: Tkachuk played one season for Boston University in 2017-18. 

12. Clayton Keller, F | NHL team: Arizona Coyotes | NCAA team: Boston University 

While Clayton Keller's 16 goals and 35 points don't jump off the screen, both of those rank first on the Coyotes. He's been one of the only bright spots on an Arizona Coyotes team that's having a really bad year. They've scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL (94). Without Keller, it's easy to imagine the Coyotes would be the lowest-scoring team in the league by a lot. 

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College: Keller played one season for Boston University in 2016-17. 

11. Zach Werenski, D | NHL team: Columbus Blue Jackets | NCAA team: Michigan 

Ever since the Columbus Blue Jackets dealt Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks after last season, Zach Werenski has been the heartbeat for Columbus' blue line. His six goals and 25 points rank fifth on the team. While the team has struggled defensively and given up the third-most goals in the NHL (158), Werenski has been one of the players relied on most by the NHL's second-youngest team. 

College: Werenski played two seasons for Michigan from 2014-16. 

10. Kyle Connor, F | NHL team: Winnipeg Jets | NCAA team: Michigan 

This is around where the margin between players became razor-thin. Spots 5-10 could've all been slotted differently, but this is what I went with. 

Connor's 24 goals rank seventh in the NHL. His 44 points in 41 games lead the Jets. He's on pace to finish the season at over a point-per-game pace for the second time in his six-year career. While the Jets rank bottom-10 in the league in scoring, Connor has been a huge reason as to why despite that, his team is only five points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference. 

If there's one player I regret leaving off my preseason top 10 former college hockey players in the NHL right now list, it's Kyle Connor. He's been vital for Winnipeg in recent seasons and that's carried into this year. 

College: Connor played one season for Michigan in 2015-16. 

9. Dylan Larkin, F | NHL team: Detroit Red Wings | NCAA team: Michigan 

Dylan Larkin became captain of the Detroit Red Wings back on Jan. 13, 2021. In his second season as captain of the Wings, he's been terrific. His 23 goals are top-ten in the league and he leads Detroit in both lamplighters and points. He also leads the Red Wings in expected goals for per 60 at 3.66. Even though the Red Wings are nine points out of the second wild-card spot in the East, it's a team that's surprised a lot of people. Larkin is a huge part of that. 

College: Larkin played one season for Michigan in 2014-15. 

8. Troy Terry, F | NHL team: Anaheim Ducks | NCAA team: Denver 

The most improved player of this group, Troy Terry is enjoying quite the breakout season. The former Pioneer's 25 goals rank fifth in the NHL. A big reason as to why Terry has been lighting the lamp so much this year is due to his 25.8 shooting percentage, which puts him third in the NHL. His 41 points rank first on the Ducks. Along with Terry, the Ducks have also been one of the league's most surprising teams, as they currently sit in the No. 2 spot in the Pacific Division. 

College: Terry played three seasons for Denver from 2015-2018. 

7. Jake Guentzel, F | NHL team: Pittsburgh Penguins | NCAA team: Omaha 

While the Pittsburgh Penguins have dealt with injuries all over the lineup this season, Jake Guentzel has been a steady, consistent presence, posting 23 goals and 43 points in 39 games this season. His 23 goals are good for the top-10 in the NHL and he leads his team in points. Guentzel's previous season-high for points was 76 in 2018-19. He's on pace to shatter that. The Penguins rank sixth in the league in goals for with 149 and Guentzel is one of the biggest reasons why. That's helped Pittsburgh become the No. 3 team in the Metropolitan Division. 

College: Guentzel played three seasons for Omaha from 2013-16. 

6. Thatcher Demko, G | NHL team: Vancouver Canucks | NCAA team: Boston College 

While the Vancouver Canucks haven't had the best season, Thatcher Demko has been extremely underrated and vital to their rebound since making a change at head coach. He's 17-14-2 with a .918 save percentage and 2.57 GAA. After diving a bit deeper into the stats, it's easy to see how valuable he's been to the Canucks. 

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Among goalies with at least 800 minutes played, he ranks sixth in 5v5 high-danger save percentage at .862. He's also first in 5v5 goals saved above average at 15.82. In other words, he's been outstanding in situations most goalies aren't outstanding in. 

College: Demko played three seasons for Boston College from 2013-16. 

5. Chris Kreider, F | NHL team: New York Rangers | NCAA team: Boston College 

When it comes to pure goal scorers, it's hard to top Chris Kreider right now. 

He's tied for the league-lead in goals with 31. The New York Rangers are in the top half of offensive teams this season and Kreider is a massive reason why. His 44 points rank him fourth on the team. His play in his own zone has improved greatly from last season and he's been terrific on the Ranger power play. 

College: Kreider played three seasons for Boston College from 2009-12. 

4. Joe Pavelski, F | NHL team: Dallas Stars | NCAA team: Wisconsin 

Everyone's talking about Tom Brady defying his age and playing at an MVP level, but how about Joe Pavelski? Anyone? 

In all seriousness, Pavelski is having an outstanding season at age 37. His 48 points in 42 games rank him 11th in the NHL and his 19 goals place him second on the Stars. He ranks 10th in the league in expected goals for percentage at 65.24 percent. And as great as he's been offensively this season, he's been one of the league's best two-way forwards, defending his side of the ice just as well as he attacks the other. 

Prior to this season, his best was in 2013-14 when he posted 79 points in 82 games. He's on track to beat that this year. 

College: Pavelski played two seasons for Wisconsin from 2004-06. 

3. Johnny Gaudreau, F | NHL team: Calgary Flames | NCAA team: Boston College 

There were some concerns coming into this year surrounding Johnny Gaudreau due to his "down" seasons in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He's since put those concerns to rest. 

In 40 games, the speedy winger has 17 goals, 35 assists and 52 points. His 52 points rank him seventh in the NHL, while his 35 assists rank him eighth. He sports the third-best plus/minus, which comes in at a dazzling plus-29. His 76.09 goals for percentage in all situations is the best in the league. He also has the second-highest corsi for percentage in the NHL at 64.58 percent. Offensively, he's been one of the most dominant players in hockey. 

College: Gaudreau played three seasons for Boston College from 2011-14. 

2. Adam Fox, D | NHL team: New York Rangers | NCAA team: Harvard 

The top two players on this list shouldn't surprise anyone. How I ordered them will be where debate sets in. 

Adam Fox has been outstanding this season. In just his third NHL campaign, Fox's 40 assists and 47 points in 44 games rank him first among all defensemen in both categories. He's as dominant a two-way defender as there is in the NHL and he's lethal at running the Rangers power play. Calling his future bright would be an understatement. Even crazier: He's only 23 and he's a top-three defender in the NHL. The sky is the limit. 

College: Fox played three seasons for Harvard from 2016-19. 

1. Cale Makar, D | NHL team: Colorado Avalanche | NCAA team: UMass 

Speaking of the sky being the limit, there's Cale Makar. He's also a right-shot defenseman who's 23 and already a top-three defender in the NHL. 

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Makar's numbers this year are crazy. His 18 goals lead all defensemen and it's not close. He's on pace for 36 goals, which would be the most for a defenseman since Paul Coffey posted 48 in 1985-86. His 44 points rank him third among all defensemen. The way in which he drives play and puts up goals, many of them primed for highlight reels, put him at No. 1 on this list. His plus-25 rating is tied for third among all defensemen, too. To add even more of a reason for him to be No. 1, his corsi for per 60 of 72.11 in all situations ranks him No. 2 among all defensemen. 

College: Makar played two seasons for UMass from 2017-19. 

The fun part of all of this: The race between Makar and Fox is one that's slated to continue for at least the next decade. 

And the best part: It all started in college hockey. 

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