HOUGHTON, Mich. – Michigan Tech has 10 former hockey players attending 2018 NHL training camps that all started on Friday (Sept. 14). The NHL regular season begins on October 3.
Dane Birks – Pittsburgh Penguins
Birks (Merrit, British Columbia) was a sixth-round pick (164th overall) of the Penguins in the 2013 NHL Draft and signed a two-year contract with the team in March 2018. The defenseman made his AHL debut on April 15, 2018, in a 3-2 win over the Hershey Bears. Birks appeared in 117 games for the Huskies over the past three seasons (2015-18). His offensive numbers improved in each season, finishing with 30 career points on seven goals and 23 assists.
The Penguins open preseason play at the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday (Sept. 18).
Pheonix Copley – Washington Capitals
Copley (North Pole, Alaska) enters training camp as the projected backup goaltender for the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Entering his fifth professional season, Copley has played two NHL games in his career, both with the St. Louis Blues and served as the emergency goalie for the Capitals during their run to the Cup last season.
Copley posted a 15-17-6 record with two shutouts, a 2.91 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage in 41 games with the AHL's Hershey Bears in 2017-18. In 142 career AHL games with Hershey and Chicago, Copley has a 72-47-15 record with nine shutouts, a 2.53 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
Copley played two seasons for Michigan Tech from 2012-14, winning 18 games with four shutouts. He was twice named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week in 2013-14 and in 2012-13 named the WCHA Rookie of the Week twice, the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week once, and the MVP of the Great Lakes Invitational after a pair of shutouts to lift the Huskies to their first GLI title in 32 years.
The Capitals first preseason game is Sunday (Sept. 16) at Boston.
Shane Hanna – Dallas Stars
Hanna (Salmon Arm, British Columbia) signed an AHL contract with the Texas Stars in May 2017 after finishing a four-year career at Tech from 2013-17. He never missed a game while with the Huskies, finishing two games short of a Tech record in 165 appearances. Hanna was an All-WCHA selection all four years, a two-time alternate captain, and tallied 90 career points on 21 goals and 69 assists.
Hanna played 20 games for Texas in his first pro season last year, tallying three assists. He also played 41 games for the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL, scoring five goals and adding 12 assists.
Hanna and former Tech teammate Joel L'Esperance open the preseason against Mitch Reinke and the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday (Sept. 18). Stars training camp begins up in Boise, Idaho on Friday.
Tanner Kero – Vancouver Canucks
Kero (Hancock, Michigan) was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks on June 24 from the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade and begins his fourth professional season. The forward split the 2017-18 season between the Blackhawks and the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He registered three points (1G-2A-3) in eight games with Chicago and 20 points (8G-12A-20) in 36 games with Rockford. Kero has appeared in 72 career NHL games, collecting 22 points (8G-14A-22) and 130 AHL games, tallying 84 points on 40 goals and 44 assists.
While at Tech, Kero was an All-American, the 2014-15 WCHA Player of the Year, the WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, an All-WCHA First Team selection, and won the WCHA scoring title. In 153 career games in a Tech uniform, he racked up 111 points on 55 goals and 56 assists. Kero helped lead the Huskies to the best start in program history in 2014-15, the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 34 years later that season, and the first GLI Title in 32 years in 2012.
The Canucks begin training camp in Whistler, British Columbia with their first preseason games on September 18, 19, and 20 at Rogers Arena against Edmonton, Calgary, and Los Angeles.
Jujhar Khaira – Edmonton Oilers
Khaira (Surrey, British Columbia) enters his sixth professional season and has played 94 career NHL games for Edmonton. Last season, he had 21 points on 11 goals and 10 assists in 69 games with the Oilers who signed him as a free agent in August 2013.
Khaira tallied six goals and 19 assists for 25 total points in his only season with the Huskies in 2012-13. He finished tied for fourth on the team in scoring and played in all 37 games. He was named WCHA Rookie of the Week on November 20 after leading Tech to a pair of overtime wins at Bemidji State with two goals and an assist.
The Oilers open the 2018 preseason schedule on Monday (Sept. 17) at the Calgary Flames.
Joel L'Esperance – Dallas Stars
L'Esperance (Brighton, Michigan) signed a two-year, entry-level NHL contract with the Dallas Stars on July 1. He initially signed an amateur tryout agreement on March 28 with the Texas Stars of the AHL after wrapping up his senior season for the Huskies. He played nine regular-season AHL games before appearing in 22 playoff games in a run to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Playoff Final. He had six total points with a goal and three assists in the postseason.
L'Esperance played four seasons for the Huskies, appearing in 152 career games. He was an alternate captain last season and finished with 98 career points, racking up over 25 points in each of his final three seasons.
L'Esperance joins Hanna with the Stars and opens the preseason against Mitch Reinke and the Blues on Tuesday (Sept. 18). Stars training camp begins up in Boise, Idaho on Friday.
Blake Pietila – New Jersey Devils
Pietila (Brighton, Michigan) enters his fourth professional season and has appeared in 19 career NHL games. He has a goal and two assists for the NHL club that drafted him in the fifth round (129th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft. Pietila has 167 career AHL games under his belt, totaling 72 points (39 goals, 33 assists) for the Binghamton Devils and Albany Devils, serving as an alternate captain last year.
Pietila played 153 games for Michigan Tech from 2011-15 and was a two-time captain. He had 106 career points on 46 goals and 60 assists, leading Huskies to the best start in program history in 2014-15, and the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 34 years later that season.
The Devils open the preseason schedule on Monday (Sept. 17) at home against the New York Rangers.
Angus Redmond – Anaheim Ducks
Redmond (Langley, British Columbia) signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Ducks in March 2017 after his freshman season at Tech. He appeared in 38 games for the Huskies in 2016-17, starting the final 37. He ranked third in the country, and second in the WCHA, with a 1.85 goals against average. He was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team and his 22 wins set a Michigan Tech record for wins by a freshman goaltender.
Redmond appeared in 21 games between the pipes in his first pro season. After starting the 2017-18 season with the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies, he joined the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) in late February and had a .910 save percentage in three games.
The Ducks begin preseason play on Tuesday (Sept. 18) at San Jose.
Mitch Reinke – St. Louis Blues
Reinke (Stillwater, Minnesota) signed a two-year contract with the Blues on March 25, after wrapping us his sophomore season at Tech. He was named to the All-WCHA Third Team as a sophomore and to the WCHA All-Rookie Team as a freshman. Reinke played in 76 games in a Tech uniform with nine goals and 35 assists.
Reinke made his NHL debut Saturday, March 31, 2018, getting 13 minutes of ice time in a loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
The Blues travel to Dallas on Tuesday (Sept. 18) to open the preseason schedule.
Matt Roy – LA Kings
Roy (Canton, Michigan) signed a two-year contract with the LA Kings in March 2017. He was a seventh-round (194th overall) selection of the Kings at the 2015 NHL Draft and played 115 games over three seasons (2014-17) with the Huskies, recording 55 points on 12 goals and 43 assists. He was a two-time All-WCHA selection.
Roy played 49 games in his first pro season with the Ontario Reign in the AHL, scoring four goals and adding 13 assists. He appeared in eight games at the end of the 2016-17 season for the Reign, recording his first professional point with an assist on April 1, 2017.
The LA Kings play at Arizona on Tuesday (Sept. 18) to open the preseason schedule.