For college hockey fans, the season doesn't really end with the Frozen Four. Most spend the next few months watching their favorite former men's college hockey players transition to the NHL game.
This year was no different. Lots of players made the jump to the NHL once their team's college season came to a close. With the NHL regular season over, let's take a look at the most notable performances from recently signed former college hockey players.
Noah Cates | Current: Philadelphia Flyers | Former: Minnesota Duluth
No one had a better opening to their NHL career than Noah Cates.
With his first NHL game slated for March 29 in Minnesota against the Wild, it opened up a convenient opportunity for his Minnesota Duluth teammates to be there. So they showed up and occupied the glass on the side the Flyers warmed up on. Cates got the obligatory solo lap reserved for rookies in their first game, and the rest is history.
That set the tone for a terrific first stint with the Flyers. In 16 games, Cates amassed five goals and nine points, carving out a real role for himself on the second line. The Flyers missed the playoffs by a lot, but the positive to that was Cates (and two others we'll get to later) got full-time NHL minutes.
In Cates' case, it more than paid off.
Noah Cates takes his rookie lap in front of his @UMDMensHockey teammates. Awesome moment. pic.twitter.com/JA47Pwubis— Bruce Ciskie (@BruceCiskie) March 29, 2022
Matty Beniers | Current: Seattle Kraken | Former: Michigan
There's only one other player on this list who entered the NHL with expectations as high as Matty Beniers. So far, Beniers has had no problem hitting them.
RELIVE THE TOURNAMENT: Take a look at how Denver won the 2022 Frozen Four
Like the Flyers, the Kraken have been out of the playoff picture for quite some time, giving Beniers prime real estate on centering the second line. He's proved his two-way prowess adjusts well to the NHL game. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft has three goals and eight points in nine games. Only once has Beniers been left off the scoresheet.
Beniers is slated to be a franchise cornerstone in Seattle. These nine games showed that's a reachable goal.
First @NHL goal for Matty Beniers‼️ pic.twitter.com/PWvOKXjLk2— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 17, 2022
Marc McLaughlin | Current: Boston Bruins | Former: Boston College
Marc McLaughlin is from North Billerica, Massachusetts. He played college hockey at Boston College and after four great years with the Eagles, he signed with the Boston Bruins on March 15. But don't worry — he's still finishing his degree at BC.
FAREWELL: Jerry York announces his retirement after 28 stellar seasons
The location is a natural fit. So too was a spot in the lineup.
Through 11 games, McLaughlin had three goals. The Bruins are a postseason team, so finding a spot in the lineup wasn't so easy. But McLaughlin showed his versatility, getting reps all over the forward lines. The main place he played was on Boston's fourth trio. The best part came when he scored in his first NHL game on March 31.
Come the playoffs, he'll be battling for minutes on that fourth line.
Marc McLaughlin (@BC_MHockey) has his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.— Evan Marinofsky (@EvanMarinofsky) April 1, 2022
So cool: pic.twitter.com/Cd9lZvP5h6
Nick Blankenburg | Current: Columbus Blue Jackets | Former: Michigan
In only seven games played, Nick Blankenburg has already become a fan favorite in Columbus.
The 5-foot-8 defenseman registered a goal and two assists. Aside from that, he posted a whopping 19 hits and was a natural fit on the Blue Jackets' defensive crew.
"He's a guy who has just really impressed me in a short amount of time at a real tough position," Columbus bench boss Brad Larsen said to reporters on April 25. "We get undermanned and we talk about opportunity all the time, and for the short time he's been here, he's been very, very impressive."
Blankenburg was a walk-on at Michigan who turned that into securing a scholarship this past season and being named team captain. He's always been an underdog and that success should continue in the NHL.
Welcome to the show, Nick Blankenburg ‼️#CBJ | @BlueJacketsNHL pic.twitter.com/DBWWODBU7h— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 24, 2022
Owen Power | Current: Buffalo Sabres | Former: Michigan
That other player who entered the NHL with expectations as high as Beniers? Owen Power.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft left for Buffalo after his sophomore season at Michigan. In eight games, Power notched two goals and an assist for the Sabres. He's been a stable force on Buffalo's backend, putting up a plus-3 rating.
Owen Power's first NHL goal! 4-2 #LetsGoBuffalo #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/vvn1ASYJcj— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) April 22, 2022
Ronnie Attard | Current: Philadelphia Flyers | Former: Western Michigan
Ronnie Attard was an offensive force at Western Michigan this past season. As a junior, Attard ranked fourth among all defensemen in scoring with 36 points. That dynamic offensive game has translated well to the NHL level.
THE BRACKET: Check out the finall bracket for the 2022 tournament
In 15 games for the Flyers, Attard had two goals and two assists. He worked his way onto Philadelphia's top d-pairing with Ivan Provorov. It hasn't been total smooth sailing defensively, but the defenseman has shown that his offensive game came with him from Western Michigan to Philadelphia.
Ben Meyers | Current: Colorado Avalanche | Former: Minnesota
Ben Meyers was the hottest college free agent on the market after the Frozen Four. Ultimately, he chose the Colorado Avalanche and made quite the impact in his first game.
Early in the second period of a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes, Meyers backhanded a rebound into the net for his first career goal in his first career game.
Not bad, right?
That's the only point Meyers had in five games played. But the Avalanche are deep and one of the NHL's best teams, which means spots in the lineup weren't easy to come by. There's no doubt Meyers will be vying for a slot somewhere in Colorado's four lines next season.
Not surprised. Not one bit.— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) April 17, 2022
Ben Meyers with his first NHL goal in his first NHL game!!#Gophers x #GoAvsGo
Nathan Smith | Current: Arizona Coyotes | Former: Minnesota State
When the Frozen Four wrapped up, Nathan Smith departed Minnesota State for the Arizona Coyotes. Smith occupied the second-line center role and did it well, scoring two goals and two assists in 10 games.
The Coyotes were never battling for a playoff spot in Smith's time there, but that allowed the former Minnesota State standout to get some more opportunities, such as power play time.
Congrats to Former @MinnStMHockey Forward Nathan Smith @smithnate8 on scoring his first NHL goal with the @ArizonaCoyotes!! Slams home the puck off a Phil Kessel rebound shot #HornsUp pic.twitter.com/7f8jH5M9CD— Alex Micheletti (@AlexMicheletti) April 21, 2022
Bobby Brink | Current: Philadelphia Flyers | Former: Denver
There's a good chance that Bobby Brink will never forget April 2022.
The month began with a national championship win in Boston at the Frozen Four. Then, just a few days later, he signed with the Flyers and began his NHL career. He played in 10 games and logged four assists. He saw second-line minutes playing on the opposite wing of Cates.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY: How one conversation led to Denver winning the 2022 national championship
Kent Johnson | Current: Columbus Blue Jackets | Former: Michigan
After Michigan was eliminated from the Frozen Four, Kent Johnson departed for the Blue Jackets. As the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Johnson entered Columbus with high expectations. He registered three assists in nine games. His future is bright, and it'll be interesting to see where he slots in come the start of next season.