The San Jose Sharks made a huge free agent signing when they picked up Wisconsin netminder Joel Rumpel, but that wasn’t the only move they made on Thursday.
In an attempt to solidify their blue line a little bit sooner, the Sharks signed Cornell defenseman Joakim Ryan on a one year entry level contract. The Rumson, New Jersey native spent one season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL before heading off to Cornell, where he’s just finishing up his fourth and final year.
Ryan was drafted by the Sharks in the seventh round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but the team kept him in the NCAA for two additional seasons in an attempt to continue developing the defensive side of his game. He’s on the smaller side — generous stats put the blue liner at five foot ten — and his offensive game fits the undersized defenseman mold well enough, but he likely wouldn’t have panned out at the professional level without all four years of college development.
Not particularly known for his goal scoring ability, Ryan’s specialty is racking up points as a puck mover and playmaker. Should he stick around with San Jose after a stint with the Worcester Sharks in the AHL, he could be a point man on one of San Jose’s power play units moving forward — he’s certainly fast enough.
San Jose signed their two contracts, and the Chicago Blackhawks pulled in coveted free agent Kyle Baun — but the Winnipeg Jets made one of the most controversial moves of the day when they signed center Andrew Copp to a three year, two way entry level deal worth $958,300 AAV.
Copp was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Jets, and his decision to forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility at the University of Michigan comes as a bit of a shock. He’s got the build and playing style to become versatile on the ice, although he’s not known for being particularly offensive in his game — something that makes it odd for him to come aboard with the Jets prior to finishing up his four years at Michigan.
Standing at 6 foot 1 and over 200 lbs, Copp was actually known for his star football play in high school — which makes him a fun prospect to follow. He could develop into a power forward over time, but he’s also got a strong defensive awareness that make him useful as a two way player, as well.
It’s unsurprising that the Jets were interested in the Michigan native — they’ve certainly got a soft spot for size and strength on the team — and he could potentially pan out into a replacement for Dustin Byfuglien on the team’s offensive roster over time. The big question mark hovering next to his name now is whether he’s refined enough on the ice to shine at the NHL level — although he’s got the physical strength and endurance that many young players lack when they’re first drafted, he lacks the ‘flashy’ talent many of them show at the lower levels and that could hurt him moving into a tougher competition bracket. Fans will find out soon enough, though — unlike many of the other signings being made, Copp is reporting directly to Winnipeg rather than the AHL. The team did the same thing when they first signed Jacob Trouba, so they may follow precedent and sit Copp until the season ends — but if he gets a chance to skate out with the flurry of injuries the team keeps seeing, it should become quickly apparent where his role will be in the lineup.