The NHL season officially started on Tuesday night with a trio of games, and there are plenty of Gophers starting the 2013-14 season in the NHL -- 12 of them to be exact on active rosters as of the first day of the season.
Here's the full list of Gophers starting the season in the NHL:
Keith Ballard - Minnesota Wild
Erik Johnson - Colorado Avalanche
Nick Bjugstad - Florida Panthers
Blake Wheeler - Winnipeg Jets
Alex Goligoski - Dallas Stars
Thomas Vanek - Buffalo Sabres
Kyle Okposo - New York Islanders
Paul Martin - Pittsburgh Penguins
Nick Leddy - Chicago Blackhawks
Jordan Leopold - St. Louis Blues
Phil Kessel - Toronto Maple Leafs
Jordan Schroeder - Vancouver Canucks
Kessel Signs New Deal, Makes Mark in Opener
On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced former Gopher Phil Kessel signed an eight-year contact extension that will commence at the start of the 2014-15 season.
How did Kessel celebrate? By tacking on the primary assist for the first goal of the 2013-14 NHL season...that's how.
"Phil Kessel is one of the premier wingers and elite goal scorers in the National Hockey League today," said David Nonis, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "He wanted to be a Maple Leaf long term and we're very pleased that Phil will be a part of our core group of players in Toronto until the 2021-22 season."
Kessel, 25, played 48 games for the Maple Leafs in 2012-13, leading the team in goals (20), assists (32), points (52), powerplay goals (5), game-winning goals (4) and shots (161). He ranked seventh in NHL points (tie) and ninth in shots. The native of Madison, Wisconsin also played seven playoff games for Toronto, posting team-highs in goals (4), powerplay goals (tie-1) and game-winning goals (2).
Over the last two seasons, Kessel has accumulated 134 points (57 goals, 77 assists) in 130 games. Only Steve Stamkos (154), Evgeni Malkin (142) and Claude Giroux (141) have more points in that stretch. Only three players have more goals than Kessel's 89 over the last three seasons: Stamkos (134), Corey Perry (102) and Alex Ovechkin (102).
In 504 career NHL games with Boston (2006-07 to 2008-09) and Toronto (2009-10 to present), Kessel has collected 379 points (185 goals, 194 assists) with 139 penalty minutes. The 6-0, 202-pound right-winger has reached the 30-goal plateau four times, posting a career-high 37 goals in 2011-12. Kessel was originally selected by the Bruins in the first round, fifth overall, in the 2006 Entry Draft.
Vanek Named Sabres Captain
Buffalo Sabres coach Ron Rolston officially named former Gopher Thomas Vanek as one of two team captains on Tuesday. Vanek will represent the Sabres as captain for home games.
"Obviously it means a lot to be representing this great organization with Steve (Ott) and Christian (Ehrhoff)," Vanek told BuffaloSabres.com. "It's an honor, but as I've told the guys, this letter doesn't mean much if we don't do anything as a group. Again it's nice, but it's not where we want to be."
The former Gopher was drafted fifth overall by Buffalo in 2003 and ranks sixth all-time in goals for the franchise and 10th all-time in points.
"Thomas has been a big part of this organization for a long time. He knows how it ticks," Rolston said. "He wants to have a great year and he also has been really good in camp and in helping our young guys - whether it's on the bench or in the room - develop. That was very important in that decision."
Vanek and the Sabres open the season on Wednesday on the road against the Detroit Red Wings