Top 15 Smartest NHL Players


It’s not a word that’s often associated with professional athletes. In an age where fans have become desensitized to the depraved off-ice/court/field antics of our sports heroes, I think it’s important to point out that they don’t all do stupid things all the time. In fact, some of them are more intelligent than both you and me. (Or is it both you and I? No, you and me. I think.)

NHL hockey players aren’t maligned in the media for their off-ice antics as often as the athletes of the other big-four sports are, although there are exceptions to this rule—I’m looking at you, Jarret Stoll. Still, hockey players are often accused of being a little slow, possibly because in interviews the players come off as dim-witted tools on a good day, or bumbling idiots on a bad one.

Today, I pay respect to the smart ones. The guys who shirked the CHL in order to hone their hockey skills at a post-secondary institution while earning a university education in the process. Most of the players appearing on this list have completed a degree at an Ivy League institution, which is pretty impressive.

In order to qualify for the list, players had to have played at least one game in the NHL last season (2014-15), or have formerly played in the NHL but are currently toiling in the AHL.

Here are the 15 smartest players currently in (or at least sort of in) the NHL.

15 15. Shawn Horcoff

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The veteran center is the only guy on our list without an Ivy League education on his resume, but he’s no slouch. The journeyman of 949 NHL games spent his college days at Michigan State University where he studied finance and mathematics. He completed his degree before beginning his pro career with the Oilers, earning a Hobey Baker Award nomination in his senior year.

14 14. Darrol Powe


The Saskatchewan native has only played one game in the NHL over the past two seasons, but the Princeton graduate has a degree in sociology he can perhaps fall back on if this whole hockey thing doesn’t work out.

13 13. Bradley Mills


Sure, Bradley Mills is a journeyman AHLer—in fact, he’s played in just 34 NHL games since turning pro in 2006-07. However, as the 32-year-old continues to fight it out for the Birmingham Senators, he has a degree in political science from Yale University to fall back on, and that must be a comfort.

12 12. Lee Stempniak

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

A common problem for athletes these days is that they run out of money only a few years after retirement. Most aren’t educated in the world of finance, and therefore don’t have the mind to properly invest their income.

11 11. Ben Scrivens

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

They don’t call him “The Professor” for nothing. Actually, he’s not an educator of the highest rank, so the nickname never really made sense. Nonetheless, Scrivens is the well-educated goaltender in the NHL, earning a degree in hotel management from Cornell, an Ivy League institution.

10 10. Biega Brothers

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Three brothers playing for the same hockey team at any points in their careers is rare; three brothers playing for the same Ivy League team at the same time is like getting attacked by a shark and struck by lightning at the same time. (Okay, I exaggerated. But still.)

9 9. Aaron Volpatti

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s surprising how many guys on this list are tough guys and agitators; you’d think a profession that consists of getting punched in the head repeatedly would be pursued by only dunces. Alas, Aaron Volpatti is the first pure agitator to make the list, coming in at number nine.

8 8. Tanner Glass

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another Ivy League graduate on our list is Tanner Glass, coming in at number seven. The Craven, Saskatchewan native was drafted in the ninth round by the Florida Panthers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and played a full four seasons at Dartmouth College. He graduated with a degree in history from the Ivy League school.

7 7. Dominic Moore

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Dominic Moore is the only of the three Moore brothers left in the NHL today. In the 1999-00 season, Moore, along with brothers Steve and Mark, became the first trio of brothers to play for the Harvard Crimson during the same season. Mark, the eldest, never played a game in the NHL, and middle brother Steve was on the receiving end of that infamous Todd Bertuzzi blindside attack.

6 6. Craig Adams

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Craig Adams was the last selection by the Hartford Whalers in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, 223rd overall, making him the last pick the franchise made before relocating to Raleigh. Since then, Adams has graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history (1999), won two Stanley Cups (2006 and 2009), and has played in almost 1,000 regular season games (951).

5 5. Ben Lovejoy

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ben “The Reverend” Lovejoy was never drafted by an NHL team. When the Montreal Canadiens offered him a contract in 2006, Lovejoy turned it down because he wanted to stay at Dartmouth in order to finish his degree in history at the Ivy League school.

4 4. Matt Moulson

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

When Matt Moulson was passed over by the Pittsburgh Penguins (the team that drafted him in 2003), and then let go by the Los Angeles Kings after toiling in their farm system for three seasons, he had one thought: “Thank God I went to school.”

3 3. Colin Greening

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There are only a handful of NHL players who can say they’ve attended an Ivy League School; there are even fewer who can say they successfully graduated from an Ivy League school. There is only one who graduated and won the Lowe’s Senior CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) national award, and his name is Colin Greening.

2 2. George Parros

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, I know George Parros announced his retirement back in December, but since he at least played this past season, I decided he deserved to be included. Parros has long been considered one of the smartest players in the NHL.

1 1. Alex Killorn

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few weeks ago, Alex Killorn of the Tampa Bay Lightning was battling it out for hockey’s Holy Grail in the Stanley Cup Final; in Game 1, he became the first Harvard graduate to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final.

As a 15-year-old, Killorn was drafted 42nd overall in the QMJHL draft by Shawinigan; however, since the Killorn family values education so highly, the decision to attend Harvard was an easy one. After four years playing for the Crimson, Killorn not only finished as one of the team’s offensive leaders, but he graduated with a degree in political science with a 3.5 GPA—a staggering accomplishment for an All-American athlete attending an Ivy League school.

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Top 15 Smartest NHL Players