(L-R) Jack Eichel, Pierre Turgeron, and Krissy Wendell-Pohl. Photos provided by Getty Images.
Several superb athletes have gotten their start on Little League® fields, and many have gone on to have great careers on the ice. Here are some Little League graduates who have achieved success in the world of hockey.
Chris Drury (Trumbull Little League – Trumbull, Conn.)
Mr. Drury is perhaps the most famous Little Leaguer® turned professional hockey player. He was the pitcher for the 1989 Little League Baseball® World Series champions from Trumbull, Conn. He pitched a complete game in the World Championship game, giving up five hits and driving in two runs. He would go on to play four years of NCAA Division I Ice Hockey at Boston University (BU). He won a National Championship with the BU Terriers as a freshman in 1995. As a senior in 1998, he took home the Hobey Baker Award which is presented annually to the best NCAA Div. I men’s ice hockey player. In the NHL, Mr. Drury played more than 800 games and amassed in excess of 600 points. He won the 1999 Calder trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year and in 2001 reached the pinnacle of the NHL, when he won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. To this day, Drury remains the only player to win a Little League Baseball World Series title and a Stanley Cup. In 2009, Mr. Drury was enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence, and joined the Little League International Board of Directors in 2011.
Pierre Turgeon (Rotary Little League – Rouyn, Quebec)
A participant on the Canada Region Champions at the 1982 Little League Baseball World Series, Mr. Turgeon is often referred to as one of the best players who never won a Stanley Cup. Playing more than 1200 games in the NHL, he still holds numerous records for the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him first overall in 1987. Mr. Turgeon won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is awarded each year to the player in the NHL deemed to have exhibited the best sportsmanship along with ability. Mr. Turgeon played in more than 100 playoff games, scoring 35 goals. His deepest run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs came in 2001, when as a member of the St. Louis Blues, his team lost to Mr. Drury’s Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final. Mr. Turgeon was enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence in 2007.
Stephane Matteau (Rotary Little League – Rouyn, Quebec)
A teammate of Mr. Turgeon’s on the Canada Region’s 1982 Little League Baseball World Series team, Stephane Matteau is certainly the player on this list with the most iconic NHL postseason moment. His Game 7 double-overtime game-winning goal for the New York Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final is considered by many to be the greatest goal in team history. Mr. Matteau, who was known more for his dedication and hard work than his goal scoring, scored in double overtime twice in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final, including that Game 7 goal the secured his team a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. That spring, he became the first player to play in the Little League Baseball World Series and win the Stanley Cup; a feat that he and Mr. Drury now share.
Ray Ferraro (Trail Little League – Trail, British Columbia)
Now recognized as a hockey analyst in his home country of Canada, Ray Ferraro played in the 1976 Little League Baseball World Series with the team representing Canada that year out of Trail, British Columbia. On the ice, Mr. Ferraro put together an impressive career that spanned from the 80s through the earliest part of the new millennium. He dressed in more than 1,200 games and amassed more than 800 points, including 400-plus goals. He never won the Stanley Cup, but he does have some playoff highlights. He is most well-known for the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where his New York Islanders beat the two-time defending champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. He helped set up the series clinching goal.
Krissy Wendell-Pohl (Brooklyn Park American Little League – Brooklyn Park, Minnesota)
Known chiefly for her accomplishments in international hockey, Mrs. Wendell-Pohl made history in the 1994 Little League Baseball World Series when she became the first girl to start at catcher in a Little League Baseball World Series game. She won the Minnesota Ms. Hockey award in 2000, and the 2005 Patty Kazmier Award as the best NCAA Div. I Women’s Ice Hockey Player. She was a key contributor as Team USA won medals of all three colors during her international career. In 2002, Mrs. Wendell-Pohl won an Olympic Silver Medal in Salt Lake City, Ut. She followed up in 2005 with an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship Gold Medal, the first-ever for team USA. Before retiring in 2006, she brought home an Olympic Bronze Medal from Turin, Italy, where she served as team captain. She was enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence in 2004.
Beau Bennett (North Torrance Little League – Gardena, Calif.)
Born in Gardena, Calif., Beau Bennett played three sports growing up – Little League Baseball, roller hockey, and ice hockey. Internationally, he won a Gold Medal with Team USA at the 2009 World Junior A Challenge. The forward was then drafted in the first round, 20th overall, in 2010 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played his college hockey at the University of Denver where he put up 25 points as a freshman and was named to the All-Academic Team for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) as a sophomore. Mr. Bennett was a member of the 2016 Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins team. Currently, he is a forward with the New Jersey Devils.
Jack Eichel (Chelmsford Little League – Chelmsford, Mass.)
Jack Eichel played Little League long before he was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015. Eichel spent one season with the Boston University Terriers. There he led the Terriers to the NCAA’s Frozen Four where they finished as runners-up. That same year, he became just the second freshman ever to win the Hobey Baker Award. In two seasons in the NHL, Eichel has been a finalist for the 2016 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and led the Sabres in points. Internationally, he won a Bronze Medal at the 2015 IIHF World Championships and is currently representing Team USA at the 2017 tournament.
John Gaudreau (Carney’s Point-Penns Grove-Pedricktown Little League – Carney’s Point, N.J.)
Now one of the most popular players for the Calgary Flames, John Gaudreau grew up as the catcher for his Little League Baseball team. Mr. Gaudreau would go on to play college hockey at Boston College. There he won a National Championship in 2012 and the Hobey Baker Award in 2014. Internationally, he won gold at the 2013 World Junior Championships and is currently representing Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championships. At the NHL level, Gaudreau was a 2015 Calder Trophy finalist; and a 2017 Lady Byng Trophy finalist. His young NHL career already includes three 60-point seasons and one 30-goal season.
NOTE: If you know of a Little League graduate not on this list, please e-mail the information, including name, current National Hockey League team, and the name of the city or town where they played Little League, to media@LittleLeague.org.
Source: Little League