The University of Maine’s Gustav Nyquist, Josh Van Dyk and Mike Banwell will begin their professional hockey careers in the American Hockey League, probably within a few days, after each signed pro contracts.
Junior right wing Nyquist, a Hobey Baker Award finalist for the second straight year, signed a two-year entry level contract with the Detroit Red Wings and was en route to play for the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday against the Texas Stars in Cedar Park, Texas. He was a fourth round draft choice of the Red Wings.
Senior defensemen Van Dyk and Banwell signed Amateur Try Out contracts with Abbotsford (British Columbia) and Albany, respectively.
The Calgary Flames are Abbotsford’s parent team while the New Jersey Devils are Albany’s NHL affiliate.
Nyquist couldn’t be reached for comment but Van Dyk and Banwell said they were eager to start their pro careers.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect it this season. But I’m happy it worked out,” said Van Dyk, an All-Hockey East second-team defenseman and the runner-up to Boston College’s Brian Dumoulin for the league’s best defensive defenseman award.
“I skated with them (Friday). It’s a good team,” said Van Dyk from Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the Heat were playing former Bear captain Travis Ramsey’s Manitoba Moose on Friday night. “This is definitely the next level (up from college). I’m going to work my hardest and try to make sure I help the team. In the best case scenario, I’ll get some games in and play well and they’ll want to keep me the remainder of the season. I want to make an impact so I can hopefully solidify something for the future.”
He said his second team All-Hockey East award probably “helped me get to this point. It gave me some recognition with some teams, like Calgary. Hopefully, this will work out. It’s every kid’s dream to play pro hockey.”
Banwell was in Syracuse where his Devils were playing the Crunch.
He also participated in the morning skate and, like Van Dyk, he wasn’t in the lineup.
Each joined their new teams on Thursday night.
“It’s nice to get up here and see what pro hockey is all about,” said Banwell who feels his game may be better suited to pro hockey than college hockey.
“That’s what people were saying at the Philly (Flyers) camp last summer,” said Banwell. “I like to play physical, but not stupid, and they call a lot of penalties in college.”
Banwell said Devils officials told him they needed a “gritty defenseman.”
That is his style so he said he won’t have to make any major adjustments to his game.
“Hopefully, I can make an impact and get invited to their summer camp,” added Banwell, who noted that he is one of 10 defensemen with the Devils.
Van Dyk finished with three goals and 15 assists in 36 games and shared the team lead in plus-minus with plus-nine.
Players receive a plus-one if they are on the ice when their team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus one if the other team scores one.
He had four goals and 40 assists in 140 career games.
Banwell had three assists in 32 games this past season and concluded his career with five goals and 15 assists in 109 games.
Banwell and Van Dyk, who were often paired together, said they have to play consistently clean defensive hockey to make a positive impression.
Nyquist led the Black Bears in scoring all three years and led the country with 61 points a year ago when he was a Hobey Baker Hat Trick (final three) finalist.
He had 18 goals and 33 assists for 51 points to lead the team in scoring for the third straight year.
The dynamic assistant captain, two-time All-Hockey East first teamer and a first-team All-American finished strong with 11 goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games. He ended his career with a seven-game points streak (4 & 9).