As NCAA and Major Junior seasons wrap up, players with good seasons are usually rewarded with NHL entry level contracts of varying lengths. Over the next two weeks I'll update you on the recent signings – significant and otherwise. This week it's the Eastern Conference.
Newly signed players fit into two categories. Previously drafted players whose junior or college careers have come to an end, or undrafted players – essentially free agents who can sign with the highest bidder.
Joe Finley – Washington
Finley, a 6'7, 245-pound Zdeno Chara clone, was a first round pick (27th overall) in the 2005 NHL entry draft. Finley finished his senior year at the University of North Dakota on a sour note missing over a dozen games with an injury. Finley has a one-dimensional, defensive game which improved steadily throughout his four years in Grand Forks. He signed a two-year contract with Washington recently who immediately assigned him to Hershey of the American Hockey League.
Stefan Della Rovere – Washington
An agitator of the highest order, Della Rovere's modest 5'11, 200-pound frame didn't prevent him from racking up two 150-plus PIM seasons for Barrie of the OHL. Della Rovere, Washington's 7th pick (204th overall) in the 2008 NHL entry draft, played on Canada's 2009 gold-medal winning world junior team. Barrie's captain stepped up offensively this season, scoring 27 goals and 51 points in 57 games. Della Rovere, recently signed to a three-year, entry-level contract, has a serious chance to be a quality NHL agitator.
Olivier Fortier – Montreal
After a weak, post-draft season, Fortier returned to form in 2008-09, scoring over a point-per-game in a set-up role to earn a three-year entry level contract with Montreal. The 6'0, 185-pound centre, was Montreal's third pick (65th overall) in the 2007 NHL entry draft. Previously a pure sniper, Fortier changed gears to accommodate the Oceanic's offence and ended the season with 27 assists in 29 games. Fortier will play in Hamilton next season.
Tyler Bozak – Leafs
This year's Fabian Brunnstrom, Bozak was contacted by 26 NHL teams before he signed with the Leafs recently. Bozak scored 23 points in 19 games for the University of Denver this season. His speed and two-way game mesh well with his offensive potential, giving Bozak a serious shot at top six NHL duty. Bozak had a chance to leave school last spring, but he didn't feel he wa