After the American Hockey League’s All-Star Challenge wrapped up, college hockey was part of a fairly unique sweep. The most valuable player of the AHL’s All-Star Challenge was C.J. Smith, who played three years at UMass-Lowell. With that honor bestowed upon the former Hockey East standout, each of the all-star games for the top three professional leagues in North America had a former college hockey player selected as its MVP.

It’s a bit of an odd stat, made particularly more impressive by the fact that all three players selected by their respective leagues were not just college hockey alumni, but were playing in the NCAA ranks last season.

The trio of MVPs was highlighted by Vancouver Canucks rookie and former University of North Dakota standout Brock Boeser, who absolutely stole the show at the NHL’s All-Star Weekend in Tampa. Starting with winning the accuracy shooting challenge during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, which included Boeser’s shot cracking the glass protecting the sensors on the new high-tech targets. The former Fighting Hawks winger hit all five targets in 11.136 seconds in an impressive display of shooting.

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As the only rookie in the All-Star Game, Boeser probably thought it couldn’t get any better than that, but it somehow did. The 20-year-old notched the winning goal in the Pacific Division team’s win over the Central in the first semifinal. He then had a goal and an assist in the second game as Pacific beat the Atlantic Division team 5-2. Boeser became only the second rookie in NHL history win MVP honors in all-star game. Who was the first rookie to earn such an honor you might ask? Hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux is who. So that’s pretty good company, you might say.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that Boeser would excel in Tampa. His all-star performance not the first time he’s put on a show in Amalie Arena, of course. As an exceptional freshman, Boeser had four points in the championship game and six overall during the 2016 Frozen Four as North Dakota skated away with a national title. As noted by Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, Boeser was using the same locker stall for the All-Star Game as he did for that Frozen Four. The Tampa Bay Lightning may want to give him some extra attention defensively the next time he swings through town, and maybe assign him a different locker stall, too.

We highlighted Boeser a few weeks back, noting his incredible season to date. He still leads all rookies with 24 goals and has a good chance at challenging for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. It’s hard to believe at this time last year he was preparing for a big home series against NCHC rival St. Cloud State. They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Boeser had 43 goals and 94 points in 74 games over his two seasons with North Dakota.

Former University of Minnesota forward Taylor Cammarata got the NCAA MVP trend going as he received top honors at the ECHL All-Star Classic on Jan. 15 in Indianapolis, Ind. Cammarata, who plays for the South Carolina Stingrays, wowed spectators with five goals and two assists over the two games as part of the 3-on-3 tournament. Cammarata’s South Division All-Stars ultimately lost in a shootout in the All-Star Classic’s final game to the Mountain Division, which was backstopped by former Air Force goaltender Shane Starrett, who now plays for the Wichita Thunder.

Cammarata played all four years at Minnesota, appearing in 149 games. He finished his NCAA career with 93 points. He has 21 points in 28 games so far this season with South Carolina.

Now back to Smith, who is having a remarkable first season of professional hockey. In the AHL’s All-Star Challenge, which wrapped in Utica, N.Y., Monday, the former UMass-Lowell star had three goals and two assists over two games as his North Division squad outlasted the Pacific Division, 1-0.

Smith signed with the Buffalo Sabres organization after a tremendous three-year run with the River Hawks. Currently playing for the Rochester Americans, Smith is expected to get a call-up to the Sabres in the not too distant future. The 23-year-old winger has 38 points in 45 games for Rochester.

Just last year, Smith led UMass-Lowell to the Hockey East Tournament championship with a three-point effort against Boston College in the final. He was named MVP of that tournament as well. The River Hawks ended up falling just a goal short of reaching the Frozen Four, falling to Notre Dame 3-2 in overtime of the Northeast Regional Final.

Undrafted out of juniors, Smith caught scouts’ attention with his highly-productive play in each of his three seasons in Lowell. He really broke out as a junior with 51 points in 41 games. Over his entire NCAA career, Smith put up 125 points in 120 games played.

More Alumni in the pros notes…

AHL All-Stars long on NCAA experience

In addition to C.J. Smith, a whopping 17 former NCAA players suited up in the AHL All-Star Classic. Among them was longtime AHL standout and former Boston University forward Chris Bourque. Bourque is one of the highest-scoring American-born forwards in AHL history and in a few weeks will be representing the United States at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Johnny Gaudreau adds a new accolade

The hockey world has been a little sad about the unceremonious end to Jaromir Jagr’s career. The future Hall of Famer played in 22 games for the Calgary Flames this season, but was waived by the team and is reportedly heading back to play for his home club team in the Czech Republic. In those 22 games, Jagr scored just one goal. The primary assist on that goal came from none other than former Boston College star and Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau.

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“Johnny Hockey” will be part of some obscure hockey trivia, as likely being the last player to assist on a goal by Jagr, who ranks third in NHL history with 766 tallies. Another obscure piece of hockey trivia: Jagr had already won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before Gaudreau, currently in his fourth full NHL season, was born.

Gaudreau, by the way, is currently tied with Sidney Crosby for seventh in the NHL with 56 points.

“Johnny Hockey” will be part of some obscure hockey trivia, as likely being the last player to assist on a goal by Jagr, who ranks third in NHL history with 766 tallies. Another obscure piece of hockey trivia: Jagr had already won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before Gaudreau, currently in his fourth full NHL season, was born.

Gaudreau, by the way, is currently tied with Sidney Crosby for seventh in the NHL with 56 points.

Phil-ing the scoresheet

He somehow wasn’t invited to the NHL All-Star Game, but former University of Minnesota forward Phil Kessel just keeps producing. With an assist Tuesday night, Kessel now has 59 points. That’s third most in the NHL, trailing league leader Nikita Kucherov by five points. The 30-year-old is currently on the best scoring pace of his career. Assuming he stays healthy – he hasn’t missed a game since the 2009-10 season – Kessel could finish north of 90 points for the first time in his career.