The list of 46 athletes that went on to play pro hockey after being guided by new Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol quickly takes you to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and St. Louis Blues star T.J. Oshie - both of whom gave high accolades to playing under Hakstol when hearing of his hiring by the Flyers.
Flyers fans also got a good look at another player on that list for the past two seasons, Chris VandeVelde.
The Minnesota native played four seasons at the University of North Dakota under Hakstol and was pleasantly surprised and excited to hear that he could be under his command once again.
“I was at the rink working out when I found out. I was happy for him and pretty excited,” said VandeVelde, who is currently training in his hometown of Moorhead, Minnesota during the off-season.
“I definitely think we grew a good relationship. Coming in as a freshman you don’t really know what to expect and he taught me a lot, and that relationship kind of grew through the four years there. I still see him since I graduated usually once or twice a summer at a wedding or charity event so the fact that he’s now in the NHL is pretty cool.”
On the flip-side of things, what does the new bench boss think of VandeVelde?
“We had a great four years at North Dakota. He’s a quality young man,” said Hakstol, who didn’t have a chance to talk to VandeVelde before the press conference announcing his hiring last week.
The 6’2”, 190-pound forward appeared in 166 games with the Sioux from 2006-2010, recording 52 goals and 65 assists for 117 points, and participated in two of Hakstol’s seven Frozen Four appearances.
He is also coming off a career-year with the Flyers. So much so that his teammates voted him as this year’s Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy recipient as the Flyers’ most improved player from the previous season.
Perhaps the biggest impact VandeVelde felt with Hakstol was the most important - learning how to be a professional.
“I would say all four years there he really pushed me and taught me to play with confidence, [he] told me I was a good player and it eventually paid off,” said VandeVelde. “He taught me how to play the right way and I think his coaching style was perfect for me. It’s kind of like the NHL coaching style so it was a perfect fit. Like I said, if I didn’t go to UND or or have him as a coach I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”
VandeVelde earned his first, steady full-time role with an NHL club this season, his fifth since turning pro. He appeared in 73 games after playing in just 46 contests over the previous four seasons combined. He recorded only four points (1g-3a) in those four years, compared to this season when he posted nine goals and 15 points, which included scoring six goals in a 10-game stretch.
“He can relate with the players and I think the fans can look forward to having a winning hockey team,” said VandeVelde of Hakstol. “He’ll push the group in the right direction and I think there’s exciting things to come for the Flyers that’s for sure.”