We'll start in Finland. The Florida Panthers are there to open the NHL season Friday and Saturday with games against the Chicago Blackhawks.
After the 2007-2008 season, a year that ended with practically one-legged Jason Garrison gutting it out in the last game against Denver, the Panthers plucked Garrison from college one year early.
He spent the season with the AHL's Rochester Americans. He had a pretty good year there, and even got a one-game cup of coffee with the Panthers, who brought him in for a Saturday night game in St. Louis.
This year, we hope he gets more than a one-game cup of coffee. Garrison has made the Panthers' NHL roster. He is one of eight defensemen Florida has to choose from, but he's on the team!
Florida’s roster includes three goaltenders (Tomas Vokoun, Scott Clemmensen, Alexander Salak), eight defensemen (Bryan Allen, Keith Ballard, Jason Garrison, Ville Koistinen, Dmitri Kulikov, Jordan Leopold, Bryan McCabe, Dennis Seidenberg) and 13 forwards (David Booth, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, Cory Stillman, Steven Reinprecht, Michael Frolik, Rostislav Olesz, Gregory Campbell, Radek Dvorak, Mike Duco, Shawn Matthias, Kamil Kreps, Michal Repik).
See? He's on the team!
Kulikov isn't likely to be around for long. The Panthers have nine games to decide whether to send the 2009 first-round pick back to juniors or keep him. Unless he plays lights-out for those nine games, they'll send him to juniors.
Great news for Garrison, who was a fan favorite during his time at UMD. It wasn't hard to imagine why, as he had a great attitude, worked hard on the ice, and had a big shot.
If he hangs around into late November, he can always have friendly wagers with former Gophers Jordan Leopold and Keith Ballard on the first UMD-Minnesota series, scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, a rather unexpected development has happened in Toronto. Jay Rosehill played one year as a defenseman at UMD before turning pro. He's struggled to get a shot at the NHL, but a position change and a new team have opened up a great opportunity for him.
Rosehill is one of 22 players on the season-opening roster for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He's a scrappy guy who will drop the gloves with anyone, as evidenced in the photo to your right. He actually fits in rather nicely with general manager Brian Burke's way of doing things. Burke is all about winning, but he's a big fan of doing it by out-toughing his opponents.
Yes, there will be dumb penalties and plenty of fights along the way. Remember, Burke was the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, when they led the league in fights during the regular season and won the Stanley Cup.
Rosehill might not be a 20-goal guy, but he's tough as nails. Burke will love having Rosehill on the roster.
Meanwhile, fellow former Bulldogs Matt Niskanen (Dallas) and Mason Raymond (Vancouver) start their third seasons in the NHL this weekend. Tim Stapleton will play for Chicago of the AHL, having been sent down by the Atlanta Thrashers.
A much more comprehensive update on former UMD Bulldogs playing pro hockey will be coming to this space very soon. If you have any information that can help with that project, please don't hesitate to e-mail or leave a note in the comments.