UPDATE: Danny DeKeyser wrote via Twitter on Monday evening that he will stay at WMU for his junior season.
One day you’re in history class …
… the next, you’re at Boston Bruins practice snapping D-to-D passes with Zdeno Chara.
That’s reality for Torey Krug, the now former junior captain at Michigan State who signed an entry-level contract with the Bruins on Sunday. Krug will practice with Boston this week in an attempt to earn a roster spot for the team’s remaining regular season games.
Not eligible to participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he’ll return to East Lansing after the NHL regular season ends April 7 to resume classes.
Sorry, prof, can I get an extension on that assignment?
It’s one thing to sign an NHL deal after your senior season. It’s an entirely different experience for a handful of sophomores and juniors who are faced with a decision similar to Krug’s: stick with the world of timed quizzes and cafeteria food, or step into hockey heaven — even if you’re only there for a week.
Seems like a no-brainer, but there are questions. Which teams are interested? Which team provides the fastest route to a full-time NHL shift? Will my girlfriend and I stay together if I leave? What does my family think I should do?
Krug said there was a lot to consider, and he listened to many opinions. “You try to make the best decision that you can,” he said.
Ultimately, though, it came down to one thing.
“This is my dream, to play in the National Hockey League.”
That’s pretty much the long and the short of it.
Will Danny DeKeyser and Matt Tennyson follow?
With Krug now off the market, the already intense focus on the WMU defensemen ratchets up to what must be cell-phone-exploding levels.
Krug led the CCHA in scoring as a defenseman – something that’s only been done four other times college hockey – but DeKeyser is still considered the prized prospect. Though he could be a bit stronger on his skates, he suffocates opponents with his Go Go Gadget reach and ability to close gaps. And he’s strong on the boards for being just 186 pounds.
Perhaps more impressive than watching DeKeyser play this season: watching NHL executives watch him play. Toronto GM Brian Burke, Calgary’s Jay Feaster and Detroit’s Ken Holland were all in Kalamazoo on the same night in November. Holland, forever one step ahead, also brought assistant GM Jim Nill, Kris Draper, Chris Chelios and Jiri Fischer, now the team’s Director of Player Development.
Tampa GM Steve Yzerman and Dallas’ Joe Nieuwendyk have made multiple appearances on campus, and Capitals GM George McPhee flew in on a private jet to attend a practice.
All of which was a really good thing for Tennyson, because it led to the question, “Who’s number 7?”
The more scouts and GMs watched DeKeyser, the more they noticed his teammate. Tennyson skates well and is responsible defensively – and his offensive instincts are what really make GMs perk up — 11 goals and 13 assists placed him among the nation’s best scoring defensemen, and his bomb of a slap shot is NHL heavy. And ready.
Of course, now is the time head coach Andy Murray makes his pitch for them to stay. He could site the impact on their development if they left early, or sell them on the unfinished business the Broncos feel they have after back-to-back first-round losses in the NCAA Tournament.
Or Murray could get out of the way.
Tom Anastos, MSU’s head coach, said he was “elated” for Krug. Hard to imagine Murray would be elated if he lost two of his top four defensemen in one summer, but it’s also hard to fathom that a veteran NHL coach would stand in the way.
ALONG THE RAIL …
- NHL clubs are also heavily courting J.T. Brown, the dynamic sophomore forward from Minnesota-Duluth whose father is a former NFL running back. The Philadelphia Flyers are said to have a lot of interest in Brown, and GM Paul Holmgren gushed about DeKeyser.
- Brown’s teammate, senior Jack Connolly, will almost certainly sign an NHL deal. Whether it’s this week or this summer remains to be seen.
- Krug is a strong student. He’s going to be an academic All-America nominee, because he has a GPA over 3.3. And he’ll reportedly take classes this summer before he heads off to Bruins training camp in the fall.
- Apparently, such a thing is common at Michigan State: Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader is just about to finish his degree. According to an MSU official, he would have done it sooner had it not been for those long playoff runs and that Stanley Cup victory. What a pain.