By: Dan Shulman
Hockey East is becoming a breeding ground for future National Hockey League talent. For the start of the 2015-16 season, a record 59 Hockey East alumni were named to opening day rosters across the NHL. However, multiple alumni began the year in the American Hockey League, waiting for their chance to come.
For former Boston University Terrier David Warsofsky, his long wait to play at the NHL level has finally ended.
After spending parts of six seasons now in the AHL, Warsofsky, who had only played in ten NHL games until this season, was called up by the Pittsburgh Penguins, adding another name to the lengthy list of Hockey East alumni in the NHL.
Now returning to play in his hometown for the first time as a member of the opposition, Warsofsky continues to take pride in his career.
“Obviously playing in Boston, you get to skate on the garden ice with the Bruins and BU,” said Warsofsky. “But to do it with the penguins and in a different uniform is a proud moment and I’m looking forward to it.”
It was not surprising that Warsofsky fit right in with Pittsburgh. Along with playing to a style favorable for the former BU defenseman, Warsofsky has many former teammates and Hockey East opponents in the Penguins locker room.
“Whenever you play with former teammates there’s obviously a comfort level with them in the locker room,” said Warsofsky. “It’s good to have other guys in the locker room that you’re familiar with.”
Currently at the pinnacle of his ongoing career, Warsofsky’s hockey roots date back much further. The Marshfield, Massachusetts native played his high school hockey at Cushing Academy before heading to the U.S. Under-18 Team.
When it came time for college, the choice was easy for Warsofsky.
“I think when you grow up in this area it’s either BU or BC and for me it was BU,” said Warsofsky. “Just growing up in the Boston area I wanted to play in the Beanpot.”
Warsofsky flourished in his career at BU. Over the course of his three years as a Terrier, Warsofsky scored 22 goals and recorded 46 assists. His consistency throughout his three seasons made him a dynamic defenseman.
The high point of his career came at the end of his freshman year, as Warsofsky and the Terriers won the NCAA National Championship in 2009. The defenseman played a crucial role in helping the Terriers claim the title, including an assist in the championship game.
“It was exciting,” said Warsofsky. “Anytime you win a championship, it’s a proud moment for the whole team and yourself and to contribute in some way is obviously good.”
Warsofsky used his National Championship as a foundation for his successful career at Boston University.
“[My college career] went well,” said Warsofsky. “My freshman year we accomplished everything we wanted to, and after that, every year is a good one after you win the National Championship.”
While playing at BU, Warsofsky was hit with unexpected yet exciting news. His draft rights were traded from the St. Louis Blues to his hometown team, the Boston Bruins.
“To get traded to your hometown team is exciting,” said Warsofsky. “I was still in college so I didn’t really know what to expect on the NHL level. That was a good moment for my family and myself. I was excited to get the Bruins sweater on and get involved with my team.”
But for Warsofsky, wearing the Bruins sweater was delayed. After almost five full seasons in the American Hockey League, half a decade removed from his days at BU, Warsofsky made his long-awaited NHL debut.
“You work towards making the NHL your whole life,” said Warsofsky. “When you finally do and step out onto that ice, it’s a special moment.”
However, Warsofsky never seemed to fit into the Bruins system, and only played 10 games with the team. At the end of the 2014-15 season, Warsofsky opted to become a free agent, leaving Boston on good terms.
Following a summer of negotiations, Warsofsky finally found a new home with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Growing up here and playing in the [Bruins] organization,” said Warsofsky, “I think it was just time for a change for me. I just needed a change of scenery to clear my head about some things. Change was good for me.”
Indeed it was. Warsofsky started the year in the AHL, but was quickly promoted to Pittsburgh, where he found a niche on defense and on the power play. One of his partners on the Penguins’ power play is none other than Sidney Crosby, who was quick to commend Warsofsky’s talent.
“He’s a good puck-mover and makes good decisions,” said Crosby. “I think that his ability to skate just on the breakouts and setting things up has helped us. Definitely just the way he moves the puck around on the power play in the zone, he looks comfortable there.”
In the dressing room, Warsofsky was also comfortable with some familiar faces around, including fellow former Terrier, Adam Clendening.
Clendening and Warsofsky only played together for one season at BU, but both have found a home joining forces yet again, this time in Pittsburgh.
“It’s nice to know you have guys around that went to the same school,” said Clendening.
Another former Hockey East player and rival of Warsofsky and the Terriers is Brian Dumoulin. The Biddeford, Maine native, formerly of the Boston College Eagles, played against Warsofsky in college. Now teammates, Dumoulin sees playing with guys like Warsofsky as a fun opportunity.
“It’s fun to play with the Hockey East guys,” said Dumoulin. “In the locker room, we are all similar. There’s a lot of guys just on our team that I played against in college hockey. It’s fun to play with them and it is fun to play against them.
“I think at this point in our careers your grudges are kind of over with the guys you played against in college,” added Warsofsky.
Warsofsky was not the only member of the Penguins making a homecoming on Wednesday. Newly appointed Head Coach Mike Sullivan also returned to the TD Garden for the first time as an opponent.
“I love Boston, it’s my hometown,” said Sullivan. “There’s always something a little special when you come back. There’s always emotion. I also had the privilege of coaching here. It was a great experience.”
Also a native of Marshfield, Sullivan played his college hockey at BU and served as head coach of the Boston Bruins. The former Terrier noted all the Hockey East ties present in the Pittsburgh locker room.
“[Hockey East] is a great league,” said Coach Sullivan. “They’re producing a lot of players. They’ve produced a great amount of players over the years. It just speaks to the depth of college hockey and the type of players that they’re producing.”
Warsofsky’s journey to the NHL has only just begun, as the defenseman will look to keep reaching for more success throughout the remainder of his promising career.