Both Seth Ambroz and Kyle Rau have signed amateur try-out contracts with professional organizations this weekend after the Gopher's season came to an end with a 4-1 loss to UMD in the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Seth Ambroz was the first Gopher to sign a pro contract inking a deal with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.. The Falcons are the top minor league affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets who drafted Ambroz in the 5th round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Ambroz will wear # 38 for the Falcons the remainder of the season, and will be joined by former Gopher Mike Hoeffel. The Falcons have ten games remaining in their regular season, and are in a battle for the last playoff spot in the eastern conference. so hopefully Ambroz will be able to dress and make an impact in several of them down a stretch.
Rau signed with the Florida Panthers, but will report to their top minor-league team the San Antonio Rampage. Rau was drafted by Florida in the third round of the 2011 draft. The Rampage are in first place in the West Division of the Western Conference of the AHL and will be making a playoff run. It will be a good opportunity for Rau to make an impact and try to see if he can make the big club in 2015-16. He will be teamed up with former North Dakota star Rocco Grimaldi.
It is unknown whether any of the four remaining Gopher seniors, Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals), Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings), Christian Isackson (Buffalo Sabres) or Sam Warning (Undrafted) will attempt to sign a prop contract.
The bigger question will be if several Gopher players who still have eligibility decide to leave school to start pro careers. The four most likely candidates to leave would be Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets), Bradky Skeji (New York Rangers), Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Hudson Fasching (Buffalo Sabres).
In fact, John Buccigross had this on twitter Sunday morning:
I expect Minnesota's Brady Skjei, @NYRangers 1st Rnd pick in 2012 to leave school, sign, & begin pro career in AHL this week. He's ready.— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) March 29, 2015
If Skeji does sign with the Rangers, he would report to their top minor-league team in the AHL, the Hartford Wolfpack where he would join former Gopher star, Ryan Potulny.
The bigger question for Reilly and Wilcox will be whether they want to stay with the team that currently holds their rights, or whether they want to attempt to be free agents. Under the current NHL bargaining agreement, since the two players were drafted in the 2011 draft, if they decide to withdraw from school and do not sign a pro contract with the organization that holds their rights, they will become free agents on July 1st.
While it may not matter for Reilly, it could be potentially advantageous for Wilcox. Tampa Bay has a glut of good goaltending prospects in the NHL and their minor league system, and Wilcox may be able to find a team that could give him a quicker and less competition-heavy route to the NHL. However, he and his adviser will need to do some behinds the scenes snooping to see how much his season for the Gophers this year has potentially harmed the market for his services.
Of all the Gophers who have eligibility remaining, the most likely to return to Minnesota is Fasching. While Buffalo is in a complete rebuilding mode, they seem to be willing to let Fasching develop in college rather than in the AHL, but after his arguable sub-par season, the Sabres organization may chance their mind this summer.
Long-story-short, its fairly likely Skeji signs a pro contract very soon, Reilly and Wilcox may wait until mid-summer to sign, and we may not know on Fasching until near the start of the season. Either way it will be a wait and see approach for Gopher fans to see who will and will not return to the Mariucci ice next fall.