Justin Hryckowian Signs with Dallas Stars After Junior Season

After serving as Northeastern’s first junior captain since Josh Manson this past season, center Justin Hryckowian signed his much anticipated entry-level contract (ELC) with the Dallas Stars, bringing about the conclusion of his collegiate career. Hryckowian was an undrafted free agent and elected to sign an ELC with the Stars beginning in fall 2024 and play the remainder of the spring with their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.

Hryckowian joined NU in fall of 2021 amongst a promising freshman class that included NTDP forwards Jack Hughes and Ryan St. Louis. Despite a dominant USHL career where he was a leader of both the Cedar Rapids Roughriders and Sioux City Musketeers, he was projected to begin his NU career in the bottom six, with NU boasting veteran centers Jakov Novak and Ty Jackson as well as the upstart Hughes on the roster.

Hryckowian did debut on the fourth line, but did not stay there long. Before the end of October the Huskies found themselves with Hryckowian having upended the roster and playing on the top line and power play unit with Aidan McDonough, where he scored his first collegiate goal on October 26th with assists from McDonough and Jordan Harris and picked up 3 multi-point games in his first semester of collegiate hockey. Hryckowian would miss much of February with an injury, including missing the Huskies’ Beanpot title game loss after scoring in their first round victory, but returned for the playoffs to score a goal in the Hockey East Quarterfinal and an assist on the Huskies’ only goal in the NCAA tournament to end his freshman season.

Despite missing the most critical stretch of conference play, Hryckowian still did enough to be named to the 2022 Hockey East All-Rookie team, and was additionally named the team’s Rookie of the Year at their own awards ceremony. In addition to scoring 22 points in 27 games, Hryckowian led Hockey East in faceoff percentage as a freshman as well.

As a sophomore Hryckowian became a team leader behind McDonough and lifelong teammate Devon Levi, posting a career high 15 goals as well as breaking the point-per-gsme barrier for the first time with a 36 point second season. He scored his first hat trick in the fall with a dominant performance against UNH and went on to score 5 goals that weekend en route to Hockey East Player of the Week and Month honors. He ended the season leading Hockey East in faceoff wins and +/- in conference play and was named Hockey East’s Best Defensive Forward all while pacing his team on the offensive end of the ice as well. In my personal moment of the season, he was the first one to rush to celebrate with Levi after the latter made the final save to clinch Northeastern’s eighth Beanpot.

Entering his junior season, Hryckowian was named captain of the Huskies following McDonough graduation and had us speculating whether he could be the first two year captain for the Huskies in nearly two decades, before his play quickly put to an end any thoughts that he had more to prove at the collegiate level. After sustaining an early injury and missing a month of play while his team foundered in his absence, a clearly still-recovering Hryckowian returned November 10 and immediately scored two points while barely able to skate against a ranked Providence team, setting a point per game level he sustained while below 100% the remainder of the fall. The injured captain ended the 2023 portion of the season with just 3 goals but added 10 assists as the calendar turned over.

In late January, he and teammate Alex Campbell were joined on the first line by his younger brother Dylan Hryckowian and the results the remainder of the season spoke for themselves. Justin notched 10 goals and 20 assists in the final semester of his career to pace Hockey East. The Huskies went from 1 win in conference play to the middle of the pack in that stretch, and picked up a second consecutive Beanpot title as Hryckowian fed the puck to Gunnarwolfe Fontaine for the overtime winner both nights, fighting off defenders to write his name in the history books. From the first time a 5 on 5 goal was scored as Hryckowian from Hryckowian, Justin had 9 goals and 26 points in his final 15 games as a Husky, including 10 points total against top 5 opponents Maine and BU and both of Northeastern’s goals in their final game this season, and his as a Husky.

At the conclusion of his NU career, in addition to his team leading scoring marks achieved in spite of injury, Hryckowian once again led NU in +/- and was the NCAA leader in faceoff percentage, en route to his second Hockey East Best Defensive Foward award, becoming the only player in history to win that award twice. He entered January with 71 career points at NU and managed to cross the 100 point barrier before the end of the season, becoming the first Husky junior to do since Adam Gaudette and doing so despite missing multiple months to injury at NU, and alongside Campbell was the first Husky since Gaudette to score 40 points in a season, something McDonough and Tyler Madden never accomplished at NU. He was named to a Hockey East postseason team all three seasons (All-Rookie, conference second team, and conference third team.)

And despite all of those statistics and accolades and accomplishment, the truth is, not a single word up there says a single thing about Justin Hryckowian. He led the team in points, but he’s not a pure scorer. He’s not flashy on either end of the ice. He was the best defender in Hockey East, but he still played in front of the opposing net and scored on deflections; he just got back first and played in front of the other net too, despite being the third fastest player on his own line. He’s just a grinder. Everywhere you need him to be, he’s there. Everywhere the puck ends up, he’s there. Game after game, shift after shift, cycle after cycle, Justin Hryckowian was downright inescapable.

Goals are fun. Tyler Madden was fun, Kevin Roy was fun, Adam Gaudette was extremely fun. Justin Hryckowian was robotic. For my money, he is the best Northeastern Husky I have seen in the last fifteen years of watching. I know Zach Aston-Reese scored sixty points while being an NHL caliber shutdown forward, I don’t care. I know Adam Gaudette won the Hobey, I don’t care. I know Josh Manson won the Stanley Cup, I still don’t care. Justin Hryckowian is the answer to the question. Call me a prisoner of the moment. Doesn’t bother me a bit. He’s the best captain Northeastern has had since I’ve started watching and that is a list that includes many of the players already mentioned here plus others like John and Nolan Stevens, Zach Solow, and Ryan Shea. I still don’t care. I stand by it. And the only thing I stand by more is that Jack Williams may just turn out to be a better one. Funny how that works.

I don’t know if Justin Hryckowian will be an NHL center. I do know he’s already a point-per-game professional in the short amount of an AHL career he’s had between the day he signed his contract and the day I wrote this article. I don’t think he’ll ever blow a scout away, just like he didn’t blow away any of the scouts who made approximately 650 NHL draft picks between 2019 and 2021 and never put his name on a single one of them. Yet, for some reason, I can’t help but think their loss will be Dallas’ gain. What I don’t need a scout to tell me though, is that Northeastern will never be the same without the two Quebec boys who blew through Boston over the past three years, and they were special friends to watch. Devon got his flowers. Justin deserves just as many.