While his Yale hockey career finished three weeks ago, left wing Kenny Agostino’s ’14 NHL career is just beginning to flourish. The New Jersey native has played six games for the Calgary Flames, averaging over 11 minutes of ice time and 17 shifts a game.
“I really just feel joy for him,” Yale hockey head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I know how much work he and his family put into him becoming an elite hockey player. We were just thrilled for him that he has this chance.”
Agostino signed with Calgary just two days after the Bulldog’s season ended, inking a two-year entry-level deal worth $900,000 back on March 17. He made his NHL debut just four days later against the Nashville Predators and scored his first goal against the Florida Panthers on April 4.
“It’s awesome to see Ken get this opportunity; he deserves it,” said former linemate and current Yale forward John Hayden ’17. “He is a role model of mine and seeing his hard work pay off is pretty special. I got the chills watching his first of many NHL goals last Friday.”
The goal came after Agostino hopped off the boards and jumped into the Panther’s zone, pouncing on a loose puck and rifling a shot into the top left corner above two-time All-Star Roberto Luongo’s shoulder in Calgary’s 2–1 victory.
While the goal was the senior’s first in the NHL, it was by no means an unlikely occurrence and reckons to be the first of many. Before his four years at Yale, Agostino lit up his high school league with a school record 261 points over three seasons en route to twice being named the New Jersey player of the year.
Once at Yale, the scoring did not stop. Agostino had a career high three goals and five points his freshman year against Holy Cross and went on to rank ninth at Yale in points (132), 10th in assists (76) and 12th in goals (56). He finished this year with 14 goals, 32 points and a +13 rating in 33 games.
“We are proud of Kenny, we are proud for Kenny and we couldn’t be happier for him,” Allain said. “We have seen tremendous growth from him over his four years and I think its just natural that he gets to continue his career in the NHL. Our hopes and expectations are that he will have a long and healthy career. I think him playing late in this season is a great way to get his feet wet before training camp next year.”
The third team all-ECAC selection has had to pick up from New Haven and move roughly 2,500 miles away to Alberta, Canada, to begin his career with the Flames. Agostino had little time to settle into his new home, however, as the Flames went on a two-week road trip that featured five games across two Canadian provinces and two American states.
“It’s been a great three and a half weeks,” Agostino said. “It’s been a lot of fun and I’m learning a lot. The transition has been getting better every game. I am learning more every game and getting more comfortable on the ice.”
On Monday night, Agostino got the chance to play in his home state of New Jersey, picking up a 1–0 win against the Devils. The Yale senior started the game and had 11:54 minutes of ice time along with a season-high 22 shifts.
The Flanders, N.J. native had two sparkling chances to score. The best came on a breakaway with under two minutes left in the second period. Agostino raced out of the zone to pick up the puck behind the last defenseman, but goaltender Cory Schneider denied the skater as he tried to go through the net minder’s legs.
“It was cool to play in front of a lot of friends and family and obviously great to pick up a win in my home state,” Agostino said. “I tried to go five-hole on the breakaway but got slashed at the last minute and didn’t get enough wood on it. It would have been nice to score but the goalie made a nice save.”
The Flames and Agostino, who are in second to last place in the Western Conference, only have three more games left before they finish the regular season in Vancouver April 13. After that, Agostino will clear out his locker and head back to New Haven to hit the books for his final exams and prepare for graduation on May 19.
“I am trying to do what I can school-wise but it’s tough with everything going on,” Agostino said. “I’m going to come back to Yale and get my degree and enjoy my last few weeks as a college student.”
The transition to NHL hockey might have come earlier for Agostino had he not decided to return to Yale after winning a national championship in 2013. Only a few days before Yale’s Frozen Four matchup with UMass Lowell, he learned that the team that drafted him — the Pittsburgh Penguins — had traded his rights to the Calgary Flames in a deal to acquire long time Flame’s captain Jarome Iginla.
The Flames, going through a rebuilding phase, were eager to get their newly acquired commodity on the ice, but Agostino decided to return to Yale for his final year and complete his degree.
Now, almost exactly one year later, Agostino’s dream to play in the NHL is finally coming true. He is the third Bulldog to skate in the NHL this season along with Chris Higgins ’05 and Mark Arcobello ’10.
Correction: April 8
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Cory Schneider. It also mistakenly stated that Yale played Minnesota St. Cloud State in the Frozen Four, when it should have stated UMass Lowell. It also incorrectly stated that Agostino had skated with Mark Arcobello ’10 at Yale during Agostino’s freshman year.