With the Success of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins over the last five years, the hockey fever that they have generated has spread to the local rinks that are now filled with young kids playing the game. In the late 80’s and early 90’s local rinks were filled with “Lemieux Kids” or kids that started playing the game because of the success of the Penguins and super star Mario Lemieux. Now that the Lemieux generation is reaching adulthood, the Crosby generation is filling local rinks. Between the years 2005 and 2011, 2,728 more Mite and Squirt level players began playing the game. That translates to a 61% increase for Squirts and a 159% increase for Mites.
As the Crosby generation is playing within the PAHL, the Lemieux generation is making its mark on professional, collegiate and major junior hockey. Currently, there are 28 Pittsburgh natives playing NCAA Division I hockey, including Patrick Wey and Parker Milner – members of Boston College’s National Championship team - and Stephen Johns who played with team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship this year.
Below is a list of the players from Western Pennsylvania that are playing NCAA Division I hockey:
Currently, 22 players from Western Pennsylvania play in the OHL, USHL, or NAHL. These players include Brandon Saad a member of the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL. In 36 games this season, Saad has 62 points (26 goals and 36 assists). Saad was drafted by the Chicago Black Hawks in the 2nd round in last year’s NHL draft and was a part of Team USA in this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship. Saad began the season as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Below is a list of the other players from Pittsburgh that are playing tier 1 junior hockey in the US and Major Junior in Canada.
Pittsburgh also has had many players drafted into the NHL, most notably, Ryan Malone and R.J. Umberger. Malone, who hails from Upper Saint Clair and played collegiately at St. Cloud State, was drafted by the Penguins in 1999 in the 4th Round. Umberger, from Plum, attended Ohio State and was drafted in 2001 by Vancouver in the 1st Round. Malone and Umberger played for the Pittsburgh Hornets AAA organization before college.
Below is a list of the other Pittsburgh natives chosen in the NHL Draft:
Jason Crain – 1999 Los Angeles Kings 3rd Round George Parros
– 1999 Los Angeles Kings 8th Round (Currently with Anaheim Ducks) Ryan Malone
–1999 Pittsburgh Penguins 4th Round (Currently with Tampa Bay Lightning)
Cliff Loya – 2000 Chicago Black Hawks 7th Round R.J. Umberger
– 2001 Vancouver Canucks 1st Round (Currently with Columbus Blue Jackets)
Dwight LaBrosse – 2002 Pittsburgh Penguins 9th Round
John Zeiler - 2002 Phoenix Coyotes 5th Round Nate Guenin
– 2002 New York Rangers 4th Round (currently with Syracuse, AHL) Dylan Reese
– 2003 New York Rangers 7th Round (Currently with New York Islanders)
Grant Lewis – 2004 Atlanta Thrashers 2nd Round (Currently in KHL, Russia) Matt Clackson
– 2005 Philadelphia Flyers 7th Round (Currently with Chicago, AHL)
Mike Weber - 2006 Buffalo Sabres 2nd Round (Currently with Buffalo Sabres) C.J. Sevryn
- 2007 Calgary Flames 7th Round (Currently with Utah, ECHL)Matt Bartkowsk -
2008 Florida Panthers 7th Round (Currently with Providence, AHL) Patrick Wey
- 2009 Washington Capitals 4th Round (Currently with Boston College, Hockey East) Stephen Johns
- 2010 Chicago Black Hawks 2nd Round (Currently with Notre Dame, CCHA) John Gibson
- 2011 Anaheim Ducks 2nd Round (Currently with Kitchener Rangers, OHL)J.T. Miller
- 2011 New York Rangers 1st Round (Currently with Plymouth Whalers, OHL) Brandon Saad
- 2011 Chicago Black Hawks 2nd Round (Currently with Saginaw Spirit, OHL)Vincent Trocheck
- 2011 Florida Panthers 3rd Round (Currently with Saginaw Spirit, OHL)
From Mites to the Pros, Pittsburgh hockey is thriving. More people are playing hockey in Pittsburgh and we are seeing more and more local playing elite hockey. With the success of the Penguins and local hockey in the area, Pittsburgh is truly becoming a hockey tahn.