Now that the 2017-18 college hockey season is in the rearview mirror, it is decision time for players around the country, including here in the mitten, regarding their futures as a pro.
Let's take a look at the players here in the state of Michigan who have decided to ink pro contracts and continue their hockey playing careers, so far. (Note: This list is fluid, as more could be added to the list.)
FERRIS STATE BULLDOGS
The Mitch Maloney era has come to an end at Ferris State. After four years in Big Rapids, the Macomb native and Utica Eisenhower product signed a deal with the ECHL's Wichita Thunder, roughly a month ago.
— Wichita Thunder (@Wichita_Thunder) March 13, 2018
Maloney this season for Ferris led the team with 15 goals and tied for the team lead with 25 points. In 135 career games for the Bulldogs, he's logged 57 career points, helping lead FSU to a WCHA championship during his sophomore season in 2015-16.
Wichita is the ECHL affiliate for the Edmonton Oilers. Maloney, who went undrafted throughout his college career, has already seen playing time in five games for the playoff-bound Thunder.
What an incredible run it was for the Michigan Wolverines, who reached the Frozen Four for a 25th time in program history, tied for the most all-time by any program.
A large portion of their success, especially the second half of the season, was attributed to the dynamic duo of junior Cooper Marody and senior Tony Calderone. Along with senior Dexter Dancs, this “DMC” top line accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Wolverines' goals scored this season.
Both Marody and Calderone have recently inked pro deals.
Marody Signs Pro Contract with @EdmontonOilers
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) April 8, 2018
Calderone Signs Two-Way NHL Contract with Dallas Stars
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) April 9, 2018
Marody, who was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2015 prior to his freshman season at Michigan, had his draft rights traded to Edmonton just last month. The Brighton native had an explosive junior campaign, posting career-highs across the board that led to team-high 51 points a +20 rating. His 35 assists also ranked 3rd nationally.
Over 90 career college hockey games, Marody has averaged exactly one point per contest. Per the Oilers, he has signed a three-year entry-level contract (or ELC, for short).
As for Tony Calderone, the senior captain and Trenton native also finishes his collegiate career posting career-high marks in goals (25), assists (20), and +/- rating (+14). Calderone's 25 goals were the most in the Big Ten and he was the straw that stirred the drink for the Wolverines down the stretch, totaling 13 points over the team's final seven games.
Calderone's two-year ELC will slot him with the Dallas Stars' AHL affiliate Texas Stars, as they begin their playoff quest.
MICHIGAN TECH HUSKIES
Michigan Tech also used a timely late-season surge to pick up a second straight WCHA Tournament title and trip to the NCAA Tournament.
This pack of Huskies will be sending four players to the pro level, three of which are graduating seniors.
— Michigan Tech Hockey (@mtuhky) March 26, 2018
Let's start with sophomore Mitch Reinke, who is foregoing his final two years of college eligibility. The 22-year-old collected 44 points in 76 games with Tech and was a +14 during his time in Houghton. More evidence of his positive impact on the ice was the Huskies' 12-1-4 record when Reinke tallied at least one point.
Reinke earned all-conference rookie honors a season ago and while he's not a potent goal scorer — 79 of his 95 career points between juniors and college are assists — he seems to have the ability to have other intangibles that put teammates is the best position to succeed. Reinke has already appeared in one game with the St. Louis Blues after signing his ELC.
— Michigan Tech Hockey (@mtuhky) March 28, 2018
Senior Joel L'Esperance has joined the aforementioned Texas Stars on an amateur tryout deal. Another native of Brighton, L'Esperance racked up 98 points over 152 career games for Michigan Tech, including three straight seasons of 25+ points. He also finishes with a career +38 rating and is part of a senior class — along with two names we will mention shortly — that set a program record for wins with 97.
L'Esperance has already played in six games for the Stars and scored his first pro goal.
— Michigan Tech Hockey (@mtuhky) March 28, 2018
Senior defenseman Dane Birks culminates his three seasons in Houghton with a two-year ELC with the Pittsburgh Penguins' AHL affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
A former sixth-round pick by the Penguins in 2013, Birks showed considerable improvement in production over his three collegiate years, upping his point total each season and finishing with 30 career points and a +27 rating.
Birks is with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on an ATO and his two-year deal will officially begin next season.
— Michigan Tech Hockey (@mtuhky) March 30, 2018
Senior Mark Auk followed a similar trend to that of Birks, in the sense that his productivity improved with each year. The St. Claire Shores product scored nine goals and assisted on 22 this season, both career highs. The 31 points ranked 10th among all defensemen nationally. He finished with a positive +/- rating each season for the Huskies, including a +16 this year.
Auk is with the Minnesota Wild's AHL club in Iowa on an ATO and already has a goal in two games played.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN WILDCATS
Northern Michigan enjoyed their best season in nearly 20 years. The 25 wins were the most since they recorded 26 in the 2001-02 season, and they came up just short of their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009 when they fell to Michigan Tech in the WCHA Finals.
Their success this year was led by senior co-captain and Gaylord native Robbie Payne, who moves up to the pro level after a remarkable career in Marquette.
Senior Robbie Payne has signed an amateur tryout agreement with the AHL's Texas Stars for the rest of the season!
STORY: https://t.co/29OXGGY0FZ#NMUwildcats #ShareNMU pic.twitter.com/R9vwVLxiow
— NMU Athletics (@NMU_Wildcats) March 22, 2018
Boy, the Dallas Stars sure are cleaning up in the mitten here.
Payne joins the AHL on an ATO after notching 94 points in 158 career games for the Wildcats. He totaled career-highs in goals (24) and points (34) as a senior this season and was a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation's top college hockey player each year.
Payne has already played in three games for Texas, carrying a -1 rating thus far.
Also for Northern, big shout out to head coach Grant Potulny, who earned an eight-year extension with the Wildcats. Potulny, who was one of four new head coaches in the mitten, was named coach of the year in the WCHA and was also a candidate for the same honor nationally. He served as an assistant at the University of Minnesota for eight seasons prior to arriving in Marquette.
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
It was a tough go for Western Michigan to finish the season. Coinciding with the season-ending injury to leading scorer Wade Allison, the Broncos went just 2-10-1 down the stretch, squeaking into the NCHC Tournament and bowing out in the first round to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth.
It also signaled the end of a career for senior defenseman Neal Goff, who has joined the Colorado Avalanche organization on an ATO deal.
— WMU Hockey (@WMUHockey) March 16, 2018
Goff in 133 career hockey games on the blue line for Western Michigan collected 22 points, reaching career-highs in goals (3), assists (6), and points (9) this year. His +/- rating plummeted to an even 0 this year, largely correlating to the team's nosedive towards the end of the season. As a junior, Goff was a +13, helping lead the Broncos to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012 and their most wins (22) since 1995-96.
Goff has already hit the ice for both the AHL and ECHL affiliates of the Avalanche. He had one assist and was a -2 in four games with the Colorado Eagles (ECHL), and has a -2 rating in two games with San Antonio (AHL).