Professional Debuts For NCAA Stars

Peter Harling


By Alex Annun

After a grueling season spent trying to attain NCAA Hockey’s greatest prize plenty of guys ended up signing contracts with AHL and NHL clubs to begin their transition to the big leagues.

Top prospects like Matty Beniers, Owen Power, and Kent Johnson all signed with their parent clubs and even Michigan Captain Nick Blankenburg signed with Columbus as an undrafted free agent. Lots of movement for some of NCAA Hockey’s big names, but let’s talk about some of the debuts we haven’t already discussed and how these players fared in their first taste at the professional level.

Bobby Brink, RW – Philadelphia Flyers (10 GP: 0-4-4)

Age: 20, 5-9 163lbs

After Denver’s win over Minnesota State in the Frozen Four Finals, the Hobey Baker Finalist signed his contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and was immediately deployed in the top six on a team looking to gain some clarity going into the offseason. Averaging 15:28 TOI across his stint with the Flyers, Brink’s playing style has seemed to fit right in at the NHL level. Always being praised for his tenacity, Brink cut out a pass in the slot, shielded the puck from forecheckers, successfully offloaded the puck, and poked the puck loose for a breakaway chance that was put away on the rebound for his first career assist – all on his first NHL shift. Now, all of his shifts certainly won’t be like that but in that instant he showed the Flyers everything he brings to the ice in his game and what they can come to expect from him. His vision, awareness, and ability to open up lanes for himself are some things that the Broad Street faithful will be sure to fall in love with, if they haven’t already.

Nicholas Abruzzese, C/LW – Toronto Maple Leafs (9 GP: 1-0-1)

Age: 22, 5-9 161lbs

The Crimson Captain, Nick Abruzzese elected to forego his senior year and lace up his skates in Toronto instead. He debuted on the fourth line where he can hope to bring some offense to a team that is looking to find depth scoring heading into what is hopefully a deep playoff run. At Harvard he was a solid playmaker as he totaled 24 assists in 28 games and was even good for 9 goals on the season. He tallied his lone goal against the Boston Bruins in the final game of the season with a neat redirect in front of the net that was able to beat Jeremy Swayman. He could potentially find himself getting an opportunity on PP2 as he showcased a nice one-timer with the Harvard Crimson and might be able to fill a similar role for the Leafs going forward. Though he has only played small minutes thus far, as he has been deployed on the bottom line, Abruzzese can be nurtured with this limited role and get comfortable before making his impact felt more strongly. With the Toronto Maple Leafs being built primarily around skill and currently finding themselves rather cap strapped, Abruzzese can use his skill, size, and contract to really cement himself as an attractive option for the upcoming season if he can start showing a bit more of a consistent offensive spark on the fourth line.

Jack McBain, C – Arizona Coyotes (10 GP: 2-1-3)

Age: 22, 6-4 212lbs

After four years at Boston College and a little bit of a trade saga Jack Mc