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Hermantown's Koepke one of 12 former Bulldogs starting season in NHL

Former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog and Hermantown Hawk Cole Koepke will make his debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. He's one of 12 Bulldogs and eight Northland natives starting the 2022-23 season in the NHL.

NHL: Preseason-Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cole Koepke (45) skates against the Nashville Predators during the second period of a preseason game on Sep 30, 2022, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Koepke, who played for Minnesota Duluth and Hermantown, will make his NHL regular season debut on Tuesday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Steve Roberts/USA TODAY Sports
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DULUTH — Hermantown native Cole Koepke is slated to make his NHL debut on Tuesday night as one of 12 former Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs who will start the 2022-23 season in the NHL.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, which used a sixth-round draft pick on the winger in 2018, take on the New York Rangers at 6:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York on ESPN.

Koepke, 24, spent all of last season with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, totaling 22 goals and 20 assists in 74 games. He helped Hermantown High School win a Class A state championship in 2016 and played three seasons for the Bulldogs from 2018-21. Koepke was part of the Bulldogs' 2018-19 squad that won the NCHC Frozen Faceoff and a second consecutive NCAA championship.

NHL: Preseason-Winnipeg Jets at Montreal Canadiens
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg (54), who played at Minnesota Duluth and Hermantown, battles Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (11) for the puck during the first period of a preseason game on Sept. 29, 2022, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports

Koepke’s former teammate at both Hermantown and UMD, defenseman Dylan Samberg, has made his first opening night NHL roster with the Winnipeg Jets, which open the season Friday against the Rangers in Winnipeg. Samberg played 15 games with the Jets in the NHL last season. He’ll be joined in Winnipeg by former two other Bulldogs who grew up in the Northland as both Neal Pionk of Hermantown and Dominic Toninato of Duluth are back with the team under new head coach Rick Bowness.

Below is the full list of former Bulldogs who will start the 2022-23 season in the NHL, plus other Northland natives starting in the NHL this year:

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Bulldogs in the NHL

Justin Faulk — St. Louis Blues
Scott Perunovich (Hibbing) — St. Louis Blues (injured)
Carson Soucy — Seattle Kraken
Karson Kuhlman (Esko) — Seattle Kraken
Alex Iafallo — Los Angeles Kings
Mikey Anderson — Los Angeles Kings
Neal Pionk (Hermantown) — Winnipeg Jets
Dominic Toninato (Duluth) — Winnipeg Jets
Dylan Samberg (Hermantown) — Winnipeg Jets
Noah Cates — Philadelphia Flyers
Cole Koepke (Hermantown) — Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Stalock — Chicago Blackhawks

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock (32), a former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog, defends the net against the Detroit Red Wings during a preseason game on Oct. 1, 2022, at the United Center in Chicago.
Jamie Sabau/USA TODAY Sports

Other Northland natives in NHL:

Derek Forbort (Duluth) — Boston Bruins
Alex Goligoski (Grand Rapids) — Minnesota Wild

Bulldog Bites

NHL: Preseason-Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers left wing Noah Cates (49), a former captain at Minnesota Duluth, and Boston Bruins defenseman Jack Ahcan (54), a former captain at St. Cloud State, battle for position during the first period of a preseason game on Sept. 24, 2022, at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Noah Cates, the former Bulldogs captain who played for the United States in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, made his first opening night NHL roster with the Philadelphia Flyers. He played 16 games at wing for the Flyers at the end of last season — scoring five goals and four assists — after the Bulldogs were eliminated from the NCAA tournament.

Due to injuries, Cates will start the season at center in Philadelphia, a position he played at UMD his entire junior season. Noah’s older brother, former Bulldogs center Jackson Cates, was one of the final Flyers sent down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

  • St. Louis Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner out of Hibbing, is out six months after fracturing his left shoulder during a preseason game on Sept. 27. It’s Perunovich’s third injury to require surgery in his three NHL seasons.

This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, after the Winnipeg Jets officially announced their opening night roster. It was originally posted at 10:04 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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