Wednesday, May 22, 2024 -
Print Edition

All the Jewish players taking the NHL ice

By Jacob Gurvis

NEW YORK — When it comes to Jews and sports, baseball often reigns supreme — both in terms of Jewish fan interest and the number of high-profile Jewish professional players.

From left: Adam Fox, Jack Hughes, Zach Hyman, Devon Levi and Jason Zucker. (Getty Images; Design by Mollie Suss)

But as some Jewish sports fans may recognize, the NHL has long had a large roster of Jewish players that seems to grow each year.

With the latest hockey season underway, JTA collected all the Jewish hockey players to watch this season.

Read on for their stories, in alphabetical order, plus those of the free agents and minor leaguers who could see playing time this year.

Jakob Chychrun, Ottawa Senators defenseman

Jakob Chychrun also hails from a hockey family — his father played eight seasons in the NHL and his uncle is Chicago Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson. The 25-year-old Boca Raton native is in his eighth season in the league and his first full season with the Ottawa Senators, who traded for him in March. Chychrun scored nine goals with a career-high 24 assists last season, despite missing considerable time with an injury.

The former No. 16 overall pick was born to a Jewish mother and has Ukrainian heritage. He told NHL.com that he grew up celebrating Chanukah and Christmas.

Adam Fox, New York Rangers defenseman

At just 25, Fox is already an alternate captain for the Rangers, after earning two All-Star team selections and the 2021 Norris Trophy for the league’s best defender in his first four seasons. Fox grew up in Long Island’s Jewish community, where he attended a Conservative synagogue and had a hockey-themed Bar Mitzvah.

“There are a lot Jewish residents on Long Island, so it’s cool for me to represent that community,” Fox told JTA last year. “And, you know, there’s not many Jewish athletes. So to be one of the few and have people who come from where I come from look up to me . . . I think it’s definitely pretty special.”

Cole Guttman, Chicago Blackhawks center

After a solid collegiate career with the University of Denver Pioneers, where he captained his team to the 2022 NCAA Championship, Cole Guttman is in his first full season in the NHL. The 24-year-old, whose family hails from Hungary and moved to Canada in 1951 from a German displaced persons camp, made his debut last season, appearing in 14 games for the Chicago Blackhawks. Guttman missed the majority of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery in March. Guttman told NHL.com he’s ready for a comeback season.

Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils center

At 22 years old, Jack Hughes is already one of the NHL’s best players. The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Hughes is a two-time NHL All-Star, and last season he set a Devils franchise record with 99 points. Hughes was also the runner-up for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, an award recognizing the player exhibiting the best “sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

Hughes had a Bar Mitzvah and celebrated Passover growing up with his hockey dynasty family. Hughes’ mother, Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, is Jewish and was herself an accomplished hockey player.

Luke Hughes, New Jersey Devils defenseman

Luke Hughes, the youngest Hughes brother, made his debut toward the end of last season, appearing in two regular season games with the Devils and three postseason games. Hughes, 20, was a star player at the University of Michigan, where he set several program records. He was selected fourth overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks defenseman

The eldest of the Hughes brothers, Quinn Hughes is a Canucks captain in his sixth season with the team. The 24-year-old also enjoyed a standout collegiate career at Michigan and was drafted by Vancouver with the seventh overall pick in 2018 — though he would return to Michigan for one more year. Hughes has earned at least 60 assists each of the past two seasons, and last month he was named the 15th captain in team history, making him the youngest current captain in the NHL.

Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers left winger

On the ice, Zach Hyman scored a career-best 36 goals and tallied a whopping 47 assists last season. Off the ice, he is among the more vocal Jewish athletes in all of professional sports. The Toronto native attended a Jewish high school, represented Canada in the 2013 Maccabiah Games and has said he wears No. 18 because of its symbolic meaning in Judaism. “Obviously the number has a great meaning in the Jewish heritage and culture,” he told the Intermountain Jewish News last season.

Hyman has also been involved in the Jewish community in Edmonton, where he lit a giant menorah at a local Chanukah event in 2021, and has spoken out against anti-Semitism, most recently the extreme rise in anti-Semitism following Hamas’ invasion of Israel.

Luke Kunin, San Jose Sharks center

Luke Kunin is in his second season with the San Jose Sharks, for whom he appeared in only 31 games last season before tearing his ACL. Kunin, 25, had played in all 82 games the previous year with Nashville, scoring 13 goals with nine assists. He’s a Missouri native.

Devon Levi, Buffalo Sabres goaltender

Already a star goalie for Team Canada, Devon Levi is in his first full season in the NHL. The 21-year-old is a native of the Montreal suburb Dollard-des-Ormeaux, which has a sizable Jewish population, and he attended a modern Orthodox school. Levi won the Mike Richter Award for the best goalie in NCAA men’s Division I hockey the past two years, becoming the first player to win the award multiple times. After his stellar career at Northeastern University, Levi debuted for Buffalo last season, appearing in seven games.

Jake Walman, Detroit Red Wings defenseman

Jake Walman is in his fifth season in the NHL and his third with Detroit. In 63 games for the Red Wings last year, the Toronto native tallied 18 points (nine goals and nine assists), punctuated by a game-winning goal in overtime that sealed a 5-4 comeback victory for Detroit in a game in which the team trailed 4-0. The 27-year-old is Jewish and has dual American-Canadian citizenship.

Jason Zucker, Arizona Coyotes left winger

Now in his 13th year in the league and his first in Arizona, Jason Zucker is one of the more experienced Jewish players in the NHL. The 31-year-old California native enjoyed a bounceback season last year with the Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring 27 goals with 21 assists. It was his best offensive output since the 2018-2019 season, when he also won the league’s King Clancy Memorial Trophy recognizing his humanitarian efforts for raising $1 million for a Minnesota children’s hospital. Though he never had a Bar Mitzvah, he celebrated Jewish holidays with his family, telling the Penguins website that he “would do virtual menorah lighting with my family back while I was out of town playing juniors or college.”

Other players to keep an eye on

There are a number of Jewish players currently on minor league rosters of NHL teams. Some of them already have NHL experience, and all of them have a chance to see playing time this season.

Andrew Cristall is an 18-year-old drafted by Washington in 2023. He said “It definitely means a lot” to be the lone Jewish draftee of his class.

Jason Demers is a 35-year-old Olympian with 700 career games in the NHL across 13 years and five teams.

He’s currently a free agent.

Mark Friedman is a 27-year-old defender who was traded this week from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Vancouver Canucks. Friedman has 65 games of NHL experience across five seasons.

Josh Ho-Sang is a 27-year-old Olympian with 53 games of NHL experience who is currently a free agent.

Ho-Sang is the son of a Jamaican father of Chinese and African descent and a Chilean mother of Russian-Jewish and Swedish heritage. He has said he “always celebrated the Jewish holidays like Chanukah and the High Holidays with family and friends.”

Yaniv Perets is a 23-year-old goalie playing for a team in the ECHL professional league. His contract is owned by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Chase Priskie is a 27-year-old defenseman with the Washington Capitals. Priskie made his NHL debut for his hometown Florida Panthers in 2021 and grew up in a Jewish home.

Max Sasson is a 23-year-old center also playing for the Canucks’ minor-league affiliate.

Ozzy Wiesblatt is a 21-year-old right winger playing for the San Jose Sharks’ minor-league affiliate.



Avatar photo

1 thoughts on “All the Jewish players taking the NHL ice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *