Just two days after the Michigan hockey team’s season ended after it was bounced from the NCAA Tournament, two Wolverines signed professional contracts to play in the National Hockey League.
These contracts were expected. Early Monday, it was reported that senior forward Boo Nieves signed a contract with the New York Rangers. Later in the day, fellow senior forward Justin Selman followed suit, signing with the St. Louis Blues.
“It’s just special for us,” Selman said. “It’s a close group of three guys, and we’re kind of living the dream right now.”
The two alternate captains finish their Michigan careers as two of just three seniors in a class that once also included players such as Jacob Trouba and Andrew Copp, who left the Wolverines early for the NHL. The duo played on the same line with junior forward Alex Kile for a majority of the season.
The Rangers originally drafted Nieves with their second-round pick (59th overall) in 2012.
A Baldwinsville, N.Y., native, Nieves will immediately report to the Rangers’ top affiliate, the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack, where he will be on an amateur tryout contract before his two-year deal kicks in next season. Nieves will finish out his academic career at Michigan this summer.
“It only took only a few hours (of negotiation on Sunday), pretty hassle-free,” Nieves said. “It shows how much they believe in me.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. So far I’ve only signed a few papers. I’m definitely really excited, but I don’t think it’s going to sink in until I’m out there in Hartford.”
Nieves totaled 110 points (28 goals, 82 assists) in his Michigan career, with his best season coming this year, when he hit a double-digit goal tally (10) for the first time while donning the maize and blue.
Known as one of the faster players on the team, Nieves’ speed and big build (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) should bode well for his chances of NHL success.
“Michigan’s done a lot for me,” Nieves said. “On the ice, I’ve matured physically. In particular, I’ve gotten a lot better at faceoffs and D-zone coverage. Off the ice, it’s more just growing up as a person and learning to use my time. It’s easy to (get) distracted with school and everything else going on, but it’s really taught me to manage my time. I’m really excited to take the next step.”
An Upper Saddle River, N.J., native, Selman will begin his pro career with the Blues’ top affiliate, the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Like Nieves, Selman will also be on an amateur tryout contract before his two-year entry-level contract takes effect next season.
“Luckily there is another Michigan guy, Scooter Vaughan,” Selman said. “So hopefully, he’ll take me under his wing.”
Selman was invited to and attended a development camp with the Blues this past summer, and the St. Louis club has kept an eye on him throughout the season.
“It was a great learning experience, and I thought I had a good chance,” Selman said. “The meetings with the coaches and staff went really well.”
He was undrafted when he arrived at Michigan, but carved out a niche for himself with his strong puck handling ability and developed as one the Wolverines’ better two-way players.
He finishes his career at Michigan with 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists), and also had his best scoring output this past season with 13 goals and 17 assists.
“Just playing with the best players in the country and in the world — like Jacob Trouba a couple of years ago,” Selman said. “Day in and day out, you develop without even realizing it.”
Selman will also finish out his academic career at Michigan this summer.
“This is all really icing on the cake,” Selman said. “Ultimately, a Michigan education is really important to me and my family.”
Daily Sports Writer Justin Meyer contributed reporting.