Jonathan Toews may be Dave Hakstol’s shining star to graduate from the college ranks to the NHL. But he’s not the only one to make the leap.
Hakstol has been breeding NHL players at North Dakota for the last decade, including one who is now reunited with his former coach.
Chris VandeVelde emerged as a serviceable player to a dismal Flyers team in 2014-15. Before making it with the Flyers as a regular role player in the NHL, VandeVelde was one of Hakstol’s products and leaders at North Dakota.
VandeVelde claimed the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Award as the Flyers most improved player in the 2014-15 season.
Prior to the 2014-15 season, VandeVelde had played a combined 46 games in the NHL, scoring one goal and adding three assists. In 2014-15, he scored nine goals and added six assists for 15 points in 72 games, serving much more as a role forward and penalty killer than an up-and-coming offensive star.
VandeVelde is now a unrestricted free agent, but the Flyers bringing Hakstol aboard would seem to indicate an interest in keeping him around, especially for the first NHL season of his college coach.
"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," VandeVelde said in an article on the Flyers website. "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 is one of 46 players that Hakstol coached at North Dakota to play professional hockey, with 20 reaching the NHL level. Toews is the headliner. Another notable is T.J. Oshie.
Oshie is now a star with the St. Louis Blues but perhaps better known for his heroics in the shootout at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
In three seasons at North Dakota, Oshie recorded 142 points. He has 110 goals and 310 points in 443 NHL games.
Hakstol left a legacy at North Dakota that will go unmatched until the program manages to claim a national championship, pretty much the only thing left unchecked on Hakstol's list.
Very rarely do you see a coach put together a stretch of 11 straight seasons at the helm, especially if you mention Philadelphia in the same sentence.
That may be a reason to remain hopeful in Hakstol. His success at the college level is seldom seen, from regular visits to the Frozen Four to player after player making the jump to the NHL.
Now it's Hakstol's turn, like the 46 players from Toews to Oshie to VandeVelde to Matt Greene to Travis Zajac to Drew Stafford and more.
Hakstol may have seemed like a strange pick, but rest assured. He has more than enough references for the job.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.