Union center Josh Jooris went to the Calgary Flames’ development camp with the expectation that he would be back with the Dutchmen for his senior season.
But Jooris impressed the Flames’ staff enough that he was offered a contract, and the 23-year-old accepted it, the NHL team announced Tuesday.
It is a two-year, two-way entry-level deal — $832,500 (NHL)/ $70,000 (AHL) per year — and a signing bonus of $92,500 in each year for a total value of $925,000.
It has been a whirlwind last few days for Jooris.
“I think it caught a lot of people off guard, including myself,” Jooris said. “Going into this summer, I wasn’t expecting anything out of this camp. Never in my dreams did I think that I would be getting this opportunity to play.
“When you go into a development camp, you want to show that you can play, and you want to show your stuff. They liked the way I played. They liked what I brought on and off the ice, and they said they were going to offer me a contract.”
Flames general manager Jay Featser is pleased to have Jooris with the organization.
“Josh is a right-shot center with size and skill,” Feaster said in a statement. “During our recent development camp, he played an aggressive, up-tempo style and displayed good grit and a high compete level. Our staff felt strongly that we should attempt to get him signed, and we are pleased to welcome him to the organization. He will play for us in Penticton [at a rookie tournament hosted by the Vancouver Canucks], and then will be given an opportunity to compete for a spot at main camp.”
Jooris, who had 29 goals and 59 assists in 117 career games, is giving up his senior year. Last season, he was the Dutchmen’s fourth-leading scorer with 12 goals and 16 assists. The 12 goals were a career high. He scored twice in Union’s 5-1 win over Boston College in the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional semifinal on March 30.
He opened his college career in grand style, getting three goals and an assist in Union’s 9-0 rout of Sacred Heart on Oct. 8, 2010.
“This past few weeks since development camp, it’s been constantly on my mind,” Jooris said. “I’ve been torn. I’ve been back and forth. I had my heart set on Union, but the opportunity was too great to pass up. Honestly, Union is my second home. Over the last three years, it’s grown close to me. It will always have a place in my heart.
“Just the people at Union I’m going to miss the most. From the coaching staff, who did everything to make me what I am today, but mainly the guys, who you come to the rink every day with the same guys. Going to class, spend all the social time after class with these guys. I developed a close relationship with them. That’s what made the decision so hard to leave now.”
Union coach Rick Bennett learned of Jooris’ decision late Monday night.
“I think shocked and stunned has been used a lot recently, especially in college hockey,” Bennett said. “In this day in the National Hockey League, [with] signings and everything that’s been going on with college hockey and their collective bargaining agreement, I’m not shocked on stunned at all that Josh has signed.”
However, the timing of Jooris’ signing didn’t please Bennett.
“I don’t think it’s the best timing in the world when you lose one of your top centers this late in the game,” Bennett said. “But he’s going to fulfill his dreams of signing a National Hockey League deal. That’s what he and his family wanted, and that’s what they got.”
With about three months until the start of the college hockey season, it will be very difficult for Bennett to find a recruit to replace Jooris.
“Our staff and I haven’t discussed it,” Bennett said. “I’ll speak with our athletic director [Jim McLaughlin], and we’ll come up with a game plan from there.”
Jooris is the second player this year — and fourth in the last three years — to leave Union early. In April, junior goalie Troy Grosenick signed with the San Jose Sharks. Center Jeremy Welsh gave up his senior season when he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes after Union lost to Ferris State in the 2012 Frozen Four semifinals. Sophomore goalie Keith Kinkaid signed with the New Jersey Devils after the 2010-11 season.
Bennett believes Jooris is going to go through a period of adjustment from the college game to the pros.
“He’s going to go through struggles in the American Hockey League,” Bennett said. “You just never know from there. Every person is different. I thought Jeremy Welsh would have at least 25 games [with Carolina] last year. It’s such a learning curve coming from college to pro. It’s something you can’t relate to these guys because they have to go through it themselves.”