Sporting News covered Matt Anderson's NHL debut, and also mentions fellow UMass hockey alum Mike Kostka:
Patrick Bordeleau and Mike Kostka have company.
Bordeleau's circuitous trip to the NHL--he played for five teams in 2008-09--has been an interesting side story of the early season. At 26, he's playing on the Colorado Avalanche's first line. The 27-year-old Kostka has emerged as an everyday defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs and currently is playing alongside captain Dion Phaneuf.
New Jersey Devils winger Matt Anderson has them beat.
Anderson, set to play in his first NHL game tonight, is 30--that's too old to qualify for rookie status at all. He got the callup from AHL Albany over the weekend.
"It was pretty surreal," Anderson told the Bergen Record (where there's much more of his story). "It's a phone call you always hope that you get. You think about it and you think how it would happen and I always said to myself, I'd never expect it. It would be at the least expected time."
He's in Boston, where the Devils play the Bruins on Tuesday.
After an injury-filled college career ended in 2007, Anderson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Wolves. Then came an AHL deal with Albany in 2010, a strong 2010-11 season in which he had 23 goals and 32 assists, and then a two-way NHL contract with the Devils. Now, it's 2013, and he's finally getting his chance.
Which is why it's such a pleasure to see a guy like Mike Kostka in the lineup, because he is like found money. Kostka grew up in Ajax, a Leafs fan from the jump, and was a defenceman whose feet grew to size 13 when he was still 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds in the ninth grade, which didn't help his skating. He wasn't drafted by the OHL, and he wasn't drafted by the NHL, and he went to school at UMass-Amherst, and he eventually bounced around the AHL until he was let go by Buffalo in 2010. He was one day from signing a deal in Germany.
"One of my friends, Marco Rosa, who plays in Finland now, he just happened to come over, and I was going to sign the next day, and he came over and he was chatting, and it was like, you can't go now," said Kostka, 27, the morning of the home opener. "And I was like, what do you mean? I'm going to sign tomorrow. And he said if you feel like you even have a one per cent change of playing in the NHL, you can't leave here. Europe will be there."
Three weeks later, in a striking stroke of luck, Rochester called.
"My sister was doing grad certificate at Durham College, and the second part was an internship, and she got an internship with the Nashville Predators," Kostka said. "That was a couple years before, and she had worked for the Nashville Predators, and so then I get a call, and Mike Santos, who was the assistant GM in Florida now, had just left Nashville, and was trying to start to build the Rochester team, calls, and says, I knew your sister from the office, I know you came from a good family, we've seen you play, and we'd like to offer you a contract."
He signed for the minimum, US$37,500, and kept working. He got better. Tampa let him go, Toronto signed him, he played 34 games with the Marlies during the lockout -- and managed 34 points -- and he played the first regular-season NHL game of his life Saturday night in Montreal. He played 23 minutes with Dion Phaneuf that night, and played top-pair minutes again Monday, with 27:02. He was fine, passable, and saved a goal on a second-period penalty kill, clearing it from the crease. He doesn't give up.
"The hope is what drives you and what pulls you, but at the same time you've got to keep your mindset of where you're at," Kostka said Monday. "It's tough at times, obviously, you know, you hope and you want to be there, but I've learned throughout my career that it's not going to work if your mind is somewhere else, in the future or the past."
Sounds like a true Leafs fan. He never gave up, even when it appeared hopeless. He never left, even when hockey was tough. When asked what he would have done if hockey hadn't worked out, Kostka smiled. "It was gonna work out," he said.
Leafs fans have been conditioned to be a little more fatalistic about their chances. But they never give up, either. Maybe one day, it'll all work out.
Here's a great piece on former Minuteman captain Mike Kostka from today's Globe and Mail out of Toronto. Kostka will be one of four UMass hockey alumni on NHL rosters as the season opens this afternoon.
No member of the Toronto Maple Leafs had a bigger smile on his face when the dressing room opened on Friday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.
Mike Kostka was still there, still a Leaf and, presumably given he had been lining up alongside captain Dion Phaneuf throughout much of training camp, one day away from playing in his first NHL game at age 27.
That's not something you see all that often.
Kostka, who grew up a Leafs fan 45 minutes east of the Air Canada Centre in Ajax, Ont., has bounced around the minors for years after four seasons with the UMass Minutemen in the NCAA.
He graduated in 2008 at age 22 and stepped right into the AHL, playing two seasons with the Portland Pirates before considering going over to Europe, as many players do when they sense they're beginning a long, low-paying career in the North American minor leagues in their mid-20s.
Close friend, Marco Rosa, another minor leaguer looking for a break (and now playing in Finland), convinced him otherwise.
"After my first two years in the AHL, I didn't get qualified by Buffalo and I had an opportunity in Germany and I didn't have a job here," Kostka said. "I was about to sign that night to go over to Germany, and Marco told me 'if you think you have a 1 per cent chance of making the NHL, you can't leave now.' For whatever reason, that just made sense.
This great piece of former UMass hockey captain Mike Kostka ran in the Toronto Star on Monday:
At 27, Toronto Marlies defenceman Mike Kostka might not be the "shiny new toy" as coach Dallas Eakins likes to call a hot rookie prospect.
But Eakins believes the Toronto-born Kostka is well deserving of his invite to the Maple Leafs training camp, one of six Marlies trying to make the big club this week at the MasterCard Centre.
"I don't know why (he has never made an NHL team) but if he had been in our organization, he would at least have gotten an audition," Eakins said. "He has been very, very good (with the Marlies). He's one of the top point-getters in the league from the back end. He has got ice in his veins when he has that puck. He's a good character and leader as well.
"The great thing about guys like him is it shows you that development doesn't stop at 22. For me, it has never been about a player's birthdate. Players are all prospects. Whoever can help the team is who can help the team."
While most observers raved about the play of defenceman Jake Gardiner before he was sidelined five weeks ago with a concussion, Kostka's play has been equally impressive. He initially was paired with Gardiner on the first-team power play unit with the Marlies but then played with former NHLer Paul Ranger and quarterbacked the power play.
With Gardiner still sidelined, Kostka is being given every chance to be one of the Leafs' prime puck-moving blueliners when the 48-game NHL season opens Saturday night in Montreal.
On Monday, Kostka primarily played with rookie hopeful Morgan Rielly. Both can skate and both know how to handle the puck. But it's doubtful both will make the team. Rielly can only play five games before he loses a year of junior eligibility and coach Randy Carlyle won't keep Leafs first round pick from last season unless he's one of their top-six blueliners.
When he joined the Leafs for an unofficial practice late last week, Kostka was tied with three players for fifth in AHL scoring with 34 points (six goals, 28 assists), including 15 power play assists (18 power play points) in 34 games.
With the start of the NHL season just days away, teams have been providing coverage of their training camps on their web sites. Video updates from the LA Kings and the San Jose Sharks featured former Minutemen Jonathan Quick and Justin Braun.
Jonathan Quick Speaks To The Media On Day 1 Of Training Camp:
Sharks Second-Year Players Are Expected To Raise Performance Level (Braun at 2:27 mark):
Two more former UMass hockey players are also currently at NHL training camps as Matt Irwin is with the Sharks and Mike Kostka (pictured, middle) is with Toronto.
Earlier this week, TSN featured former Minuteman Mike Kostka who is coming off a Calder Cup-winning season with the Norfolk Admirals and is now with the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization.
Mike Kostka realizes that his ambitions are not particularly unique as it pertains to the game of hockey.
"I've still never played in the NHL," said Kostka, an engaging personality born in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke and raised in not-so-distant Ajax. "It's still a dream of mine, that's still my goal."
The now 26-year-old defender was on the cusp in the Sunshine State last fall, among the final cuts at training camp for the Florida Panthers. "They were like 'Yeah you did a great job, you outplayed some of our D that we have here, but they're on one-way [contracts]'. They're like 'Go down, you'll get called up, you'll get a ton of games, don't worry about it'. And then in two months I was traded."
He eventually landed with the Norfolk Admirals, the American League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, a club whose dominance last season included not only a Calder Cup - defeating the Toronto Marlies no less - but a ridiculous 29-game winning streak.
Undrafted out of the University of Massachussetts-Amherst, Kostka might just be your prototypical late blooming defenceman. The shaggy-haired local product began his pro career with two inconsistent seasons in Portland before breaking out in full offensive force with Rochester in 2010-2011, blasting 16 goals and 55 points from the blueline. While not quite as strong statistically last season - he ranked 15th among defencemen in the regular season - Kostka wrapped up the American League post-season in superb form, totalling more points than any other defender.
While Jonathan Quick prepares to help the L.A. Kings close out the Stanley Cup Finals, another UMass alum has put his team on the brink of a championship. Mike Kostka scored the overtime game-winning goal for the Norfolk Admirals last night in Game Three of the Calder Cup Finals against the Toronto Marlies. The Admirals hold a 3-0 lead in the series which they can close out on Saturday at 3:30 PM in Toronto. Kostka would be the first Minuteman since Matt Anderson with the Chicago Wolves in 2007-08 to win the Calder Cup. All told, over the last five years, three different former Minutemen have played in the AHL's championship series with Casey Wellman leading the Houston Aeros to the Cup finals last year.
Former UMass hockey defenseman Mike Kostka has signed a one-year two-way contract with the Florida Panthers. DurhamRegion.com has the story.
Kostka led the Rochester Americans of the AHL in scoring last season with 55 points in 80 games. Kostka will be reunited with his former coach with the Portland Pirates, Kevin Dineen, who was recently named head coach of the Panthers.
Kostka recorded 53 points on 15 goals and 38 assists in his four seasons for the Mass Attack.
Former all-star defenseman and captain Mike Kostka has been making a name for himself over the last three seasons since departing UMass. After two solid years in with Portland of the AHL, this season he has been one of the top point producing blueliners for the Rochester Americans. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has a nice feature story on Kostka and his journey.
In Dick Baker's MassLive.com Hockey Blog, he recaps the Maine loss including the play of Kevin Czepiel. He also has updates on Mike Kostka with the Rochester Americans and Matt Irwin with the Worcester Sharks.
Rochester Americans PJ Fenton, Mike Kostka, and Triston Grant will
be out and about this week in the Rochester community. Fenton and
Kostka will be visiting local libraries to read and teach the
importance of education to youthful hockey fans and their parents.
Grant will be attending a youth practice to skate and run drills with
the Mite team tonight at the Webster Ice Arena (865 Publishers Parkway)
at 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Fenton will be reading at the Parma Public Library (7 West Avenue)
tonight at 6:30 p.m. to read the book, "Z is for Zamboni". Kostka will
be at the East Irondequoit Public Library (2180 East Ridge Rd)
tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.
The "Reading Power Play" allows fans to meet players and The Moose,
while also learning about hockey and the importance of reading. The
program also rewards kids for reading and selects two grand-prize
winners that will win dinner, suite tickets and the opportunity to
participate in the ceremonial puck drop prior to Rochester's home game
on Sunday, February 13th against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The second half of "Reading Power Play" enters kids into a
grand-prize drawing. Using a hat trick as a thematic vehicle, youth
participants fill out a form for every three books they read, which
then qualifies them for an entry into the grand prize drawing.
In Dick Baker's MassLive.com UMass Hockey Blog, Dick updates fans on Mike Kostka and Casey Wellman's pro careers. He also brings a bit of news from New Hampshire as senior forward Mike Sislo said on the Hockey East online chat session yesterday that the Wildcats won't have a let down this weekend against UMass.
In Dick Baker's MassLive.com UMass Hockey Blog, he has several posts on recent UMass skaters with updates on their pro careers. He also previews what will be a hot topic this weekend as the Pereira brothers face-off in Saturday's game at Boston University.