The Penguins must have been feeling left out of the college signing frenzy that has been going on this week, because today, they announced a couple of their own.
First of all, they have officially signed Joe Vitale to an Amateur Try Out contract. We sort of knew that this one was on the horizon, as he has been in Wilkes Barre-Scranton for a little while now getting a feel for the team.
Vitale recently completed his senior season at Northeastern University, finishing third on the team in points (27) and second in assists (20) and penalty minutes (68). He was named Hockey East’s Best Defensive Forward.
"New England's Most Improved Player" was the Penguins seventh round (195th overall) selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He seems to fit the mold of the hard working complimentary type of forward that Ray Shero has been a fan of thus far. I am not sure how his offense will translate to the next level, but it sounds like he is a very competent third or fourth line player.
The second signing is a goaltender, which is good, based on the fact that the team doesn't have ton of depth that is close to NHL ready.
They have signed Brad Thiessen to a two year entry level contract. Thiessen played all 41 games for the Northeastern Huskies this season, finishing with a record of 25-12-4. He recorded a 2.12 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage while collecting three assists for the Huskies. His 2.09 goals-against average and .932 save percentage were a personal best during the Hockey East 2008-09 campaign.
Thiessen is a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and just the second Huskies player to ever achieve that honor.
Here is Ms. College Hockey's (Julie Robenhymer) take on him... (you can read about all three finalists for the Hobey Baker in Julie's latest blog)
Brad Thiessen – Northeastern – Jr – G
Then...#6 - Brad is without a doubt the Huskies most valuable player this season and his ability to make key saves and keep his team in the game is why Northeastern is receiving so much national attention heading into the final stretch of the season. Unfortunately, his stats (.929 save percentage and 2.25 GAA with a record of 20-8-2) aren't all that fabulous, but he does face a tremendous amount of shots on a nightly basis and provides a calming influence between the pipes that filters out to the rest of his teammates. There are some people predicting him to win the Hobey, but at this point, I don't see him making it to the final three unless he completely dominates the last three weeks of the season against BU, UMass-Lowell and BC.
Now...#3 - Still kind of surprised he made the cut considering his team didn't win any tournaments this season, faltered in the semis of the HE tournament and had a first round exit in the NCAAs. BUT, the argument can be made that without Thiessen - HE Player of the Year - Northeastern wouldn't have even been in the hunt.
Prior to Northeastern, the native of Aldergrove, British Columbia, split three seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) between the Penticton Panthers, the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Merritt Centennials from 2003 to 2006. Thiessen will join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League (AHL).
There are several more names that could be added to the Penguins roster before the college signings come to an end, but we will not know that until after the Frozen Four finishes up.
BU's Brian Strait is expected to sign his first contract with the Penguins following his season and it is worth keeping an eye on his defensive partner, Matt Gilroy, who has most team's (including the Penguins) in the league knocking on his door.