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14 First Year Pros Make Opening Day NHL Rosters

Columbus Blue Jackets v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The 2016-2017 NHL regular season officially begins on Wednesday. After a long training camp and preseason, every NHL roster had to be winnowed down to 23 players, and be salary cap compliant, by yesterday in advance of today’s games.

On Wednesday morning, the NHL released the official opening day rosters for every NHL team. A total of 14 players that played NCAA hockey last season made the cut to land on a roster as the season begins.

In Boston, former Denver forward Danton Heinen earned his way onto the roster with an impressive preseason, where he used his excellent offensive instincts to net a few goals. Yale defenseman Rob O’Gara also made the roster on Boston’s blue line.

Minnesota’s Hudson Fasching and Minnesota State’s Casey Nelson both ended last season by playing a few games with the Buffalo Sabres, and after starting training camp on the bubble to make the roster, but ended up making it, by beating out their competition.

It was expected that Chicago would have to move more towards a youth movement given their well-documented struggles against the salary cap. That opened the door for both North Dakota’s Nick Schmaltz and Michigan’s Tyler Motte to make the Blackhawks opening day roster. Schmaltz was expected after the Blackhawks traded Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina last summer and signed Schmaltz shortly afterwards with the promise of a roster spot. Motte also cracked the roster as one of six rookies to make the Blackhawks.

Former Michigan defenseman Zach Werenski made the opening day roster for Columbus, which comes as no surprise after Werenski’s extremely impressive performance in leading Columbus’ AHL affiliate to the Calder Cup last spring.

Former Northeastern defenseman Matt Benning quietly signed with Edmonton late in the off-season after becoming a free agent, and has made the Oilers opening day roster.

No rookie outside of maybe first overall pick Auston Matthews will make a more anticipated debut this season than Harvard alum Jimmy Vesey, whose choice to spurn the Nashville Predators, then the Buffalo Sabres, to sign as a free agent was one of the summer’s biggest storylines.

The Boston College duo of forward Miles Wood and Steve Santini each ended last year by getting into a late game with the New Jersey Devils, and they’ll also start this season with the big club.

Their Boston College teammate Zach Sanford, who was a surprise departure from BC this summer, will also start the year in the NHL with the Washington Capitals.

And finally, Michigan’s Kyle Connor and Providence’s Brandon Tanev will be a part of the youth movement in Winnipeg. They’ll join second overall pick Patrik Laine and 2014 first round pick Nikolaj Ehlers to give the Jets an extremely young, but extremely talented group of left wingers.

In addition to those 14 players, a handful of players will start the year on the Injured Reserve list. Those players include: Daniel Renouf(Maine) with Detroit, Drake Caggiula(North Dakota) with Edmonton, and Teddy Blueger(Minnesota State), Thomas DiPauli(Notre Dame), and Sean Maguire(Boston University) with Pittsburgh. Also, though he was sent down to the AHL, goalie Charlie Lindgren(St. Cloud State) may be on the Canadiens bench for the first game of the year after starter Carey Price was sidelined with the flu.