Brown expected to debut with Tampa on Saturday

Minnesota Duluth sophomore winger J.T. Brown is expected to debut in the NHL on Saturday night with the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 6 p.m. CDT home game against Winnipeg.

A photo from the Lightning on Saturday showing Brown, with a brand new haircut, at the morning skate here.

A couple of Tampa Bay Times excerpts:

Brown, on his debut — “I just want to go out there and give some effort and get a perspective on a different game than I played in college. It’s going to be faster, a lot more physical, so there’s definitely going to be a learning curve.”

And a blog note from Friday — The agent for newly signed forward J.T. Brown said his client obtained his passport and is flying to Tampa to join the team Friday. Expect him to play Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the Jets. Obtaining the passport so Brown could travel with the team next week to Canada was the only issue that could have delayed his Lightning debut.

Jeff Stark, hockey operations director at Amsoil Arena, has a video tribute to Brown with highlights from 2011-12 right here.

Brown is listed on the Tampa Bay roster wearing No. 49. The Lightning has two press releases on Brown here and here.

A Tampa Bay Times story Saturday has Brown talking about lessons learned in his run-in with Duluth police last June here.

The Calgary Flames web site has two press releases on new defenseman Brady Lamb here and here.

The San Jose Sharks have a press release on the signing of center Travis Oleksuk here.

Minnesota Duluth tentative 2012-13 schedule

Minnesota Duluth Men’s Hockey Schedule

Tentative 2012-13 (Home games in CAPS)

Oct. 12-13 – OHIO STATE

Oct. 18-19 – at Notre Dame (Thursday-Friday)

Oct. 26-27 – WISCONSIN

Nov. 9-10 – at Nebraska-Omaha

Nov. 16-17 – at North Dakota

Nov. 23-24 – ST. CLOUD STATE

Nov. 30-Dec. 1 – at Michigan Tech

Dec. 7-8 – BEMIDJI STATE

Dec. 14-15 – at Alaska Anchorage

Dec. 28-29 – Florida College Classic, Estero, Fla.

Jan. 11-12 – MICHIGAN TECH

Jan. 18-19 – at Colorado College

Jan. 26 – USA U-18 TEAM

Feb. 1-2 – DENVER

Feb. 8-9 – MINNESOTA STATE-MANKATO

Feb. 15-16 – at Bemidji State

Feb. 22-23 – at Minnesota

March 1-2 – ALABAMA-HUNTSVILLE

March 8-9 – NEBRASKA-OMAHA

More Hobey reaction stories; Mike Lee; Justin Schultz; Connecticut to Hockey East

Here are some follow stories from Thursday’s 2012 Hobey Baker Memorial Award announcement of the three finalists, all seniors: Minnesota Duluth center Jack Connolly, Maine winger Spencer Abbott of Hamilton, Ontario, and Colgate University winger Austin Smith of Dallas.

Stories from the News Tribune here, the Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator here, the Dallas Morning News here and Bangor (Maine) Daily News here.

Also news releases from the Hobey Baker Memorial Award web site here and from the schools: UMD here, Maine here and Colgate here.

And a U.S. College Hockey Online story here.

Union College sophomore goalie Troy Grosenick didn’t get into the Hobey Hat Trick, but he is in the Frozen Four. The Schenectady (N.Y.) Daily Gazette has an update here.

St. Cloud State junior goalie Mike Lee of Roseau, Minn., has signed a three-year contract with Phoenix. The St. Cloud Times has a story here.

Wisconsin junior defenseman Justin Schultz has not yet left for the NHL but the Wisconsin State Journal says that move is likely in a story here.

Chris Peters of the United States of Hockey takes a look at Division I players who have signed professional contracts since the end of the season here.

The University of Connecticut is exploring a move from Atlantic Hockey to Hockey East and the Hartfort (Conn.) Courant has an update here.

Brady Lamb signs with Calgary

UMD senior defenseman Brady Lamb of Calgary, Alberta, has signed a one-year free-agent contract with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. He led UMD’s defensemen in scoring this season with nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points in 41 games. He had 22 goals and 45 assists for 67 points in 139 career games.

“This is a good opportunity for me and Calgary made me a great deal. You can’t get any better than playing for the hometown team,” Lamb said Thursday. “I grew up cheering for the Flames.

Lamb, 23, expects to attend Calgary’s camp this fall with the hope of making the team, otherwise he would be assigned to the team’s American Hockey League team in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He said there was an outside chance of playing this season with the Flames, who have four games remaining.

Connolly part of 2012 Hobey Hat Trick

Minnesota Duluth senior center Jack Connolly of Duluth was named Thursday among three finalists for the 2012 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which goes to the top player in Division I men’s hockey. He was joined by Maine senior left winger Spencer Abbott and Colgate University senior right winger Austin Smith.

A list of 10 finalists was cut to three Monday in voting by the Hobey Baker Award Committee.

The 32nd Hobey Baker Memorial Award will be presented April 6 in a 5 p.m. ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, carried live by the NHL Network and on hobeybakeraward.com, the Hobey Baker website.

The three finalists represent the top three scorers in Division I this season: Abbott, from Hamilton, Ontario, with 21 goals and 41 assists for 62 points in 39 games; Connolly with 29 goals and 40 assists for 60 points in 41 games; and Smith, from Dallas, with a Division I-leading 36 goals, and 21 assists for 57 points in 39 games.

And all three were voted player of the year in their respective leagues: Connolly in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Abbott in Hockey East and Smith in Eastern College Athletic Conference.

Connolly, 22,  and the Bulldogs finished their season Sunday in the NCAA Northeast Regional final in Worcester, Mass., losing 4-0 to Boston College.

“Jack had a great year and epitomizes what the Hobey Baker Award is all about: on the rink, in the classroom and in the community,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said Wednesday. “He has risen to the challenge during every step of his career.”

Connolly played in every game at UMD in four seasons, a school-record 166 straight, and finished eighth in program career scoring with 66 goals and 131 assists for 197 points. His point total this season was the highest in eight years, since right winger Junior Lessard recorded 63 in 2003-04, and the second-most in 17 years.

Lessard won the 2004 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, the most-recent of four Bulldogs, following defenseman Tom Kurvers in 1984, winger Bill Watson in 1985 and winger Chris Marinucci in 1994.

Also on the list of 10 finalists for the 2012 award were Boston College junior defenseman Brian Dumoulin, Union College sophomore goalie Troy Grosenick, Michigan senior goalie Shawn Hunwick, Air Force Academy senior defenseman Tim Kirby, Michigan State junior defenseman Torey Krug, Wisconsin junior defenseman Justin Schultz and Miami of Ohio junior forward Reilly Smith.

Already signing professional contracts since the end of the season were Abbott (Toronto), Hunwick (Columbus) and Krug (Boston), and Austin Smith and Reilly Smith, both with Dallas.

Preparing for the Frozen Four on April 5 and 7 in Tampa, Fla., are Dumoulin and Grosenick.

Of the past 10 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winners, seven have come from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Last year’s winner was senior center Andy Miele of Miami of Ohio.

More J.T. Brown from the Tampa press; Connolly expected in Hobey Hat Trick

Minnesota Duluth sophomore winger J.T. Brown signed with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. Stories from the Tampa Times here and Tampa Tribune here.

Also the Philadelphia Daily News reports that the Philadelphia Flyers, who were very interested in Brown, could not offer with the Lightning offered, a chance to play immediately in the NHL. That is on the second half of a blog posting here.

The News Tribune story is here along with a projection that senior center Jack Connolly will be named among three Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalists on Thursday afternoon here.

Elliot Olshansky of U.S. College Hockey Online predicts the Hobey Baker Hat Trick to be Connolly, Maine senior winger Spencer Abbott and Union College sophomore goalie Troy Grosenick in a post here.

And some J.T. Brown thoughts from Bruce Ciskie right here.

College Hockey, Inc.’s list of college players who have signed professional contracts is here.

J.T. Brown signs with Tampa

Minnesota Duluth sophomore winger J.T.  Brown, regarded as the top NHL free-agent prospect in Division I this season, gave up his final two years of eligibility Wednesday, signing a two-year, entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s expected to be in uniform sometime this week with the Lightning, who are at New Jersey today and home against Winnipeg on Saturday.

Brown, 21, of Burnsville, Minn., agreed to a contract worth $832,500 if playing in the NHL and $70,000 in the minor leagues, plus a $92,500 signing bonus each year. He will make about $5,000 per day the rest of the NHL regular season, which will count as the first year of his contract, but isn’t eligible for the league playoffs. The Lightning have six regular-season games remaining the next 10 days.

“It came down to having the right opportunity and the right fit with the right team,” Brown said from Chicago, where he had met with a handful of teams Wednesday. “This was not an easy decision to leave UMD, with all the success we’ve had, and all that I learned in two years from our coaching staff, and all of the great friendships I made.”

Brown, 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, led UMD in goal scoring this season with 24 and was third in total points with 47 in 39 games. He also led UMD in shots on goal, penalties and plus-minus. In two seasons, he had 40 goals and 44 assists for 84 points in 80 games.

Brown was an all-Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-team pick this season. He had two hat tricks, three goals in a win at Nebraska-Omaha and four in a win at Alaska Anchorage. He was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul as UMD won its first Division I title.

“He plays hard both ways, he’s aggressive, he has speed, moves the puck, has a scoring knack and is a clutch performer. He played his absolute best in the Frozen Four last year,” said Tampa Bay senior adviser to the general manager Tom Kurvers, a former UMD All-American defenseman, who watched the Bulldogs 14 times this season. “His competitiveness is so noticeable and he has a little evil streak, which he’s learned to control.

“He’s gotten better the last two years and his time in Duluth was well spent.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have signed J.T. He was the premier free agent in college hockey. (General manager) Steve Yzerman got a chance to watch him, and liked him, and we wanted to get J.T. on our team.”

His departure to the NHL is the fourth in two seasons by a UMD player with college eligibility remaining. A year ago the losses were sophomore defenseman Dylan Olsen (a Chicago Blackhawks first-round draft pick) leaving at mid-season, and freshman defenseman Justin Faulk (a Carolina Hurricanes second-round pick) and junior winger Mike Connolly (undrafted and signed by San Jose and now with Colorado) after the season.

The Bulldogs are 51-20-12 the past two years and were defeated by Boston College 4-0 in Sunday’s NCAA Northeast Regional title game in Worcester, Mass.

Brown, UMD’s rookie of the year last season with 37 points in 42 games, is the son of former Minnesota Vikings running back Ted Brown, who was a No. 1 NFL draft pick in 1979 and spent his entire eight-year career in Minnesota through 1986, rushing for 4,546 yards and 40 touchdowns, and making 339 pass receptions for 2,850 yards and 13 TDs. He has the fifth-most rushing TDs in team history and ranks sixth in career rushing yards.

At UMD, J.T. Brown wore No. 23, which his dad wore with the Vikings.

“J.T. is modest. He’s not the kind to brag. He’s not one to be in the spotlight,” Ted Brown, a juvenile probation officer for Ramsey County in St. Paul, told the News Tribune in 2010. “He’s heard so much about shortcomings, about not being big enough, and there were naysayers who wondered why an Afro-American would want to be playing hockey. But he didn’t bow to that, he worked harder and has improved. He’s shown he can pass the puck, he can play defense and he can score goals. He’s most happy when the team wins.”

Senior Travis Oleksuk centered Brown for much of the last two seasons and was second in scoring for the Bulldogs this season, and finished with 115 career points. Oleksuk was impressed by Brown’s ability to make things happen.

“He’s a shooter who is extremely fast on his skates,” Oleksuk said of Brown. “When he’s at his best, there aren’t a whole lot of players who can keep up.

“I like to give passes to someone who is moving, which opens the ice incredibly and puts opposing players on their heels. That’s when J.T. is at his best. He’s a shoot-first player and a scorer.”

Superior native P.K. O’Handley coached Brown for two seasons at Waterloo (Iowa) in the U.S. Hockey League and said Brown oozed with natural ability.

“Over time, he embraced his ability and began to play with an edge, with some bite,” O’Handley told the News Tribune in January. “It’s a great story. He’s been an offensive guy all of his life, and with that speed, he can fly. He looks effortless out there.”

Since 2007, 10 UMD players have left school early to sign professional contracts: left wingers Mason Raymond (with Vancouver in 2007), Rob Bordson (Anaheim in 2010) and Mike Connolly (San Jose in 2011), defensemen Matt Niskanen (Dallas in 2007), Jason Garrison (Florida in 2008), Evan Oberg (Vancouver in 2009), Dylan Olsen (Chicago in 2010) and Justin Faulk (Carolina in 2011) and goaltender Alex Stalock (San Jose in 2009).

J.T. Brown to sign today

Minnesota Duluth sophomore winger J.T. Brown of Burnsville, Minn., and agent Dean Grillo of Nisswa, Minn., of OTK Worldwide Management Group met with a handful of NHL team representatives Wednesday in Chicago.

Brown, 21, an undrafted free agent, is expected to agree to a two-year contract Wednesday and play the remainder of the NHL regular season with the signing team, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The teams in the running to land Brown are said to be Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington.

More on Rink and Run when information becomes available.

Tampa getting ready for Frozen Four; WCHA early departures; Mankato rink renovations on hold

The Frozen Four is set for Tampa, Fla., on April 5 and 7 — Union College vs. Ferris State, and Boston College vs. Minnesota. A Tampa Tribune columnist has heard of BC and Minnesota, but not so sure about the other semifinalists in a piece here.

College Hockey News takes a look at WCHA players who have already left for the professional game with eligibility remaining in an update here.

No update Wednesday, yet, on J.T. Brown’s imminent departure to the NHL.

The Mankato Free Press has an update on a Minnesota Senate bonding bill that does not include money for Mankato arena renovations here.

Oleksuk signs with San Jose; No word on JT Brown; Connolly on all-CHN team; DeKeyser staying at WMU; Reviewing the regionals at USCHO

Minnesota Duluth senior center Travis Oleksuk has signed a two-year free-agent entry level contract with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. He said he’ll finish the school year, graduate in May (majoring in management) and report to San Jose’s American Hockey League affiliate in Worcester, Mass., in the fall.

Oleksuk, 23, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, was second in UMD scoring this season with 21 goals and 32 assists for 53 points in 41 games, ranking No. 4 in points in Division I. In his career he had 45 goals and 70 assists for 115 points in 134 games.

“I think I’ve improved a lot since coming to UMD, starting with some great leaders that I learned from as a freshman (in 2008-09). I improved a little bit more and a little bit more each season,” Oleksuk said Tuesday. “I was very fortunate to have just one injury (sprained knee in 2009-10) during my time here, and could stay in the lineup and help contribute.

“It’s every kid’s dream to play professionally and now I’m one step closer. I’m extremely excited about getting this chance.”

Oleksuk finished 43rd in UMD career scoring, and had 15 career game-winning goals, tying a school record with assistant coach Derek Plante (1989-93). Oleksuk’s dad, Bill, played four seasons at UMD from 1978-82 and is 12th in career scoring with 190 points in 156 games.

Travis Oleksuk played in 115 straight games to finish his career and was named to the 2012 all-Western Collegiate Hockey Association third team.

“Travis is a great example of being able to transform yourself as a player. He didn’t play a lot as a freshman and then came back physically stronger and in better shape, and has now come a long way,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said earlier this season. “He’s among our leaders in goals, he’s a great faceoff guy, he has speed and yet doesn’t have to play at 100 mph to get things done. There is some deception to his game.”

College Hockey News named its top players pf 2011-12, on two all-star teams and an all-rookie team. See who joins Jack Connolly about the best forwards here.

Western Michigan sophomore defenseman Dan DeKeyser of Macomb, Mich., was coveted by NHL teams as an undrafted free agent, but has chosen to return to school in Kalamazoo, Mich., this fall. The Kalamazoo Gazette has an update here.

Sophomore winger J.T. Brown is in the same undrafted situation, but there’s no word Tuesday on any decision by UMD’s goal-scoring leader. However, Jon Buccigross of ESPN is reporting that Brown is considering Philadelphia, Boston and Tampa Bay.

U.S. College Hockey Online has all of its NCAA regional stories and photos in one place for fans and that is right here.