Patrick Moynihan is in on one of the most notable group chats in the hockey world.
Moynihan turns 21 in two weeks, so it is hardly surprising that the Devils prospect, currently in his junior season at Providence College, communicates with hockey buddies via group text. But it's who is on one of his group chats that is especially interesting.
There's Jack Hughes, Trevor Zegras (Anaheim) and Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles). Hughes was recently named the NHL's Second Star of the Week, Zegras's slick stickwork out west created perhaps the biggest social media buzz so far this season, and Turcotte just made his NHL debut.
Not bad company to keep, even if it's virtual.
"That's pretty much my best-friend group," said Moynihan, "we had the texts going back and forth (last week) when Jack got second star."
Moynihan, of course, was referring to the third-year Devil's eight-point surge when the club went 3-0-0. That three-goal, five-assist outburst included the dramatic OT winner over the Edmonton Oilers last weekend.
"It was kind of like the one he got at the beginning of the year," said Moynihan, comparing Hughes's two OT game-breakers, the first against the Chicago Blackhawks to start the season before the one against the Oilers.
Moynihan and Hughes, as well as Zegras and Turcotte, were all members of the US National Team Development Program in 2018-19. Moynihan, Zegras and Turcotte then all won World Junior gold together in the Edmonton bubble last year, while Hughes was in his second NHL season.
Moynihan is the only one of his four-way group chat still in college. He's making the most of it, enjoying a four-point game at a holiday tournament in Milwaukee.
"He's doing OK," said Friars head coach Nate Leaman, who was not in Milwaukee because he was back in Alberta with the U.S. national team before this year's World Junior was cancelled.
"He's plenty confident and he's a great kid," Leaman continued. "He's getting points again, we are trying to get him going, bring other parts of his game up to the point (that matches) when he's in front of the net.
"He (is going to need that) because not everyone is going to play the Jack Hughes and Nico (Hischier) role (in pro hockey)."
Moynihan's selection in the sixth round (158th overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft was a great value pick. Not expected to last that long on the draft board in Vancouver, getting him when the Devils did, knowing he would be headed to Providence for four seasons, was a win-win move for both the club and Moynihan.
As you would expect a friend to do, Hughes was caught on camera remarking how happy he was that the Devils also picked Moynihan that year.
Now that the calendar has flipped to 2022, the timeline has grown shorter. A cap and gown looms in the not-too-distant future, pro hockey thereafter. That is not to suggest that Moynihan has not done well so far. He scored 13 goals as a freshman, and he is the Devils organization's most recent World Junior gold medalist. Back at Providence last year, Moynihan's numbers (17GP, 6G-9A) weren't as sustained as his first year, owing largely to the dog's breakfast that the pandemic made of the Hockey East schedule. But he's well on his way to his most successful college season so far with eight goals and 10 assists in 23 games.
There may be a tendency to think that Moynihan bears some similarity to Tyce Thompson, the Devils rookie and Moynihan's Friars teammate for two years, who is currently out after having shoulder surgery. Both are late-blooming forwards, both have a chance to continue the organization's long tradition of welcoming Providence-trained players and executives into the NHL, a trend that goes all the way back to Lou Lamoriello.
Leaman understands the tendency to compare but put the brakes on it, not least because Thompson was a full year older than Moynihan is right now, with a physical and hockey maturity that Leaman and his staff are working with Moynihan to grow into.
"Tyce was ready," said Leaman, of Thompson's turning pro, "we had him playing (in all situations) and if he wasn't scoring, he was doing all the other things we needed from him, like being (effective) on the PK.
"Right now, Patrick needs to bring those areas of his game up to level that he shows when he's around the net…a more complete 200-foot type of guy."
Moynihan acknowledged the room he must grow. He's in regular contact with Devils development coach Patrick Rissmiller. This season is his first college campaign not somehow affected by pandemic restrictions and cancellations. The Friars are 15-7-1 and rank 16th nationally in the ultra-competitive Hockey East.
Moynihan is buoyed by his evolving situation and the regular vibe that has returned to the Providence campus.
"I want to be the best player I can be," he said, later adding:
"The focus is on trying to win Hockey East and (contend) for a national championship…it just feels good to be playing in full college barns again."