Jerry D’Amigo’s days of playing college hockey are officially over.
As Yahoo! Sports first reported on Monday, the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed the 19-year-old winger to a three-year entry level contract. The signing means the Binghamton, N.Y., native is no longer eligible to play NCAA hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he was a standout for the Engineers.
“This is an opportunity I just could not pass on and I am thankful the people in Toronto believe in me,” D’Amigo said in a news release posted on the RPI website Wednesday afternoon. “While nothing is certain where I will play next year, it is my intention to continue to work as hard as possible to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
The signing means D’Amigo will attend Leafs main camp this fall and, failing to make the NHL squad, would be reassigned to play in either the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies or in the Ontario Hockey League with the Kitchener Rangers who hold his Canadian Hockey League rights.
"It's something I have no control over," D'Amigo told the Schenectady Daily Gazette regarding where he would play. "If I go in there and play not so good, you never know what could happen. I'm going to go into the camp and work my hardest to make the [Leafs]. If the cards don't fall my way, hopefully, I'll go to the AHL. Then again, it's not my decision. It's based upon how I play and what they think is best for me."
D’Amigo was taken in the sixth round (158th overall) of the 2009 NHL draft by the Leafs and was among the standouts during their last month’s orientation camp in Toronto.
Rangers head coach and GM Steve Spott said he had yet to speak with D’Amigo, but would be keeping in close contact with the Leafs organization should they decide to send him to junior.
“Now that he’s (Toronto) property, maybe there’s a good fit between us,” said Spott on Wednesday afternoon. “I for one, selfishly speaking, think it would be a great fit, but at the end of the day it’s up to the Leafs – my opinion doesn’t matter.
“But my gut feeling in all this is that (the Leafs) aren’t going to know until they see him on the ice with their own players, so it’s going to be a waiting game.”
The Rangers are expected to be one of the top teams in the OHL this year after finishing with a 42-19-4-3 record last season, making it to the Western Conference final where they lost to the eventual OHL champion Windsor Spitfires in a thrilling seven game series. This summer Kitchener was able to lure away Atlanta Thrashers prospect Julian Melchiori from a hockey scholarship at UMass Lowell. If D’Amigo plays with Kitchener he could be reunited with fellow American Jeremy Morin, who was a teammate on the 2010 U.S. world junior squad that captured gold in Saskatchewan. D’Amigo finished tied for third with Canadian Taylor Hall in the tournament scoring with six goals and six assists in seven games. Like D’Amigo, Morin -- a draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks -- is also hoping to make the jump to the AHL after NHL camp this fall.
Spott is still thrilled to have the possibility -- regardless of how big or small -- of having a prospect with D’Amigo’s ability in his lineup.
“He’s an impact player and he’s a first-line player, “said Spott of D’Amigo.
As a freshman, he was among the top scorers with RPI and was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference rookie of the year. The six-foot, 210-pound winger scored 10 goals and added 24 assists in 35 games with the Engineers.
“We’ve been very pleased with Jerry’s progression over the past 12 months,” said Leafs GM Brian Burke in a statement. “(RPI head coach) Seth Appert and the rest of the coaching staff at R.P.I. have done a really nice job of preparing Jerry for the next stage in his development. We look forward to having him at training camp.”
Sunaya Sapurji is the Jr. Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sunayas