Former Winterhawk Adin Hill Became an Unlikely Hockey Hero for the Vegas Golden Knights

The goaltender wrapped up the postseason with an 11-4 record and introduced himself to the national TV audience with a spectacularly implausible stick save.


Prior to 2023, 10 former Portland Winterhawks played for teams that won the Stanley Cup, including Mark Messier (who played all of seven games here as a teenager), Andrew Ference and, most recently, Braydon Coburn (with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020). But no Hawks alum has won the Stanley Cup quite as spectacularly as goaltender Adin Hill, or been as unlikely a candidate to do so. Hill, who played for Portland’s junior hockey team from 2014 to 2016, became the Winterhawks’ 11th player to win a National Hockey League Stanley Cup when he helped lead the Vegas Golden Knights over the Florida Panthers in the 2023 final.

Originally taken by the Arizona Coyotes in the third round of the 2015 NHL draft, the 27-year-old Canadian native started the season with tags like “journeyman” and “career backup” attached to his name, having spent more of 2016 to 2020 in the minor leagues than the NHL before going from the Coyotes to the San Jose Sharks to the Knights. But he played well for Vegas as a backup, then made the most of it—to say the least—when he started in Game 3 of the conference semifinals. Hill wrapped up the postseason with an 11-4 record and introduced himself to the national TV audience with a spectacularly implausible stick save against Panthers forward Nick Cousins in Game 1 of that series.

That looked pretty familiar to longtime Winterhawks associate coach Kyle Gustafson.

“He had so many of those,” says Gustafson, who returned to Portland last year after a season with the Vancouver Canucks. “You think the puck’s in the back of the net and then all of a sudden, he keeps it out.”

The Adin Hill who first came to Portland as an underage training camp invite in 2011 was nowhere near the 6-foot-6, 202-pound goaltender he is today.

“He was probably about 5-foot-2,” Gustafson says. “But what I remember about him is he was a rink rat—the kind of player who always stayed after practice for more work.”

Gustafson also remembers him not allowing a single goal in two consecutive Neely Cups (the team’s internal preseason tournament) and uncomplainingly standing in net (as the Hawks’ third-string goalie for a power-play drill with no defenders) getting buzzed in the head with pucks. He eventually joined the Hawks for part of the 2013-14 season; by the 2015-16 campaign, the more physically mature Hill was not only the team’s No. 1 goalie, but appeared in an astounding 65 of 72 games.

“He just had this battle component about him that he wasn’t going to give up a goal,” Gustafson says. “He battled in the rebound game at the end of practice, when there was no one watching, as much as he battled in an in-game playoff situation.”

A journeyman no more, Hill finished third in the voting for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs (behind two of his Vegas teammates). On June 30, the Knights signed him to a two-year, $9.8 million contract extension.

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