On Monday, it was announced that Alex Kile of the Michigan hockey team signed a contract with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League for the 2017-18 season. The former Wolverine will also finish the remainder of this season with the Americans on an Amateur Tryout.
The news comes less than a week after Michigan’s 4-1 loss to No. 11 Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The loss officially ended Kile’s college career — an ending that he would be the first to admit was unexpected.
As one of two captains and the team’s returning leader in points, the senior forward entered the year as the new face of the Michigan hockey team. Expectations were thrust upon him to help carry the Wolverine offense — a unit that suffered drastic losses from NHL departures following the 2015-16 season.
Kile (and Michigan), though, could never quite seem to get going. He tallied just 14 points — his lowest output since his freshman year — while dealing with multiple injuries that limited his playing time.
Despite the difficulties of his senior year, there were still moments when Kile flashed signs of the player many expected him to be. Against Michigan Tech on Oct. 22, Kile recorded his first goal of the season in a stunning fashion, deking past multiple defensemen — sliding to his knees in the process — before putting one past the goaltender. Three of his seven goals on the year came against in-state rival Michigan State. And in a 5-3 win over then-No. 5 Minnesota on March 3, Kile turned in a masterful performance, recording one goal and two assists.
And while his career at Michigan is now over, Kile will get a chance to prove his senior season was just a fluke almost immediately with Rochester.
The Americans — an affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres — are getting a player who worked hard to improve his craft over his four years in Ann Arbor. As part of a large and impressive recruiting class, Kile flew under the radar as an undrafted player. He had to fight to find ice time in his first year, carving out a part-time role and appearing in 28 games, where he tallied four goals and two assists.
He had a breakout campaign the following year as a sophomore, recording 13 goals and assists each, before reaching career-highs of 16 goals and 18 assists as a junior, helping his team return to the NCAA Tournament.
Kile remained close with his classmates, even as some — like JT Compher, Tyler Motte and Michael Downing — chose to leave early for the NHL. Now, he’ll have a shot to join them at the next level.