Islanders’ Bardreau caps off incredible NHL journey with historic first goal

Cole Bardreau was pumped after scoring his first NHL goal -- and rightfully so. (@nhlonnbcsports/Instagram)
Cole Bardreau was pumped after scoring his first NHL goal - and rightfully so. (@nhlonnbcsports/Instagram)

Cole Bardreau’s road to the NHL has been far from conventional, so it’s only fitting that his first career goal in the league was, too.

Playing in his seventh NHL game on Tuesday evening against the Ottawa Senators, the New York Islanders forward was hauled down on a breakaway in the second period and awarded a penalty shot – and he made it count.

With the tally, Bardreau not only etched his name into the league record books as one of seven players to score their first NHL goal on a penalty shot, but also bookended an incredible journey to the NHL.

While teammates are always happy to see a guy score his first goal in the league, you may have noticed that Bardreau’s teammates were flat out giddy.

Why? Bardreau’s path to the NHL is just about as improbable as any you’ll find. The 26-year-old has overcome a laundry list of severe injuries over the past seven years to arrive where he is today.

While playing at Cornell University in 2013, he crashed head-first into the boards and broke his neck. The injury almost left him paralyzed. He was confined to a neck brace for three months and sidelined for six.

Upon returning to action, he tore and then re-tore his MCL.

Then, in his senior year, he broke his foot.

Undrafted, he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2015, but the injuries continued to stockpile.

After undergoing abdominal surgery in 2016, the centreman broke his hand in a pre-season contest with the Flyers. Shortly after returning to the ice with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL, he re-broke his hand in a fight and in a stroke of awful luck, his hand ended up terribly infected.

Several surgeries followed.

The Fairport, N.Y., native signed with the Islanders in July 2019. After grinding it out for 230 games across six seasons in the AHL, the 26-year-old made his NHL debut on Oct. 19 – ironically as an injury replacement for the Islanders.

With an assist already under his belt courtesy of his fourth NHL game, Bardreau’s first goal culminates years of nearly unfathomable persistence. It would be fitting to see a photo of Bardreau smiling, with stick raised, next to that very word in the dictionary.

Scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-1 victory on home ice (literally) and cementing your name in history in the process of achieving what you’ve worked so long for? Just awesome.

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