UMD loses confident defenseman early to NHL
Confidence gave Chris Casto the push he needed to try professional hockey after just two years at Minnesota Duluth. The sophomore defenseman from Stillwater, Minn., signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins on Monday, forgoing his fin...
Confidence gave Chris Casto the push he needed to try professional hockey after just two years at Minnesota Duluth. The sophomore defenseman from Stillwater, Minn., signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins on Monday, forgoing his final two seasons of college eligibility.
The 21-year-old free agent has been assigned to Boston's American Hockey League team in Providence, R.I., and reports there today. He asked to have at least a couple days of practice to get acclimated, and may play as soon as Friday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., or Saturday in Hershey, Pa.
"There were a lot of factors going into this decision, but just gaining the confidence to be consistent on a regular basis was the biggest thing," Casto said Tuesday. "I gained confidence this season and feel comfortable with my choice. But it's very bittersweet -- I love Duluth, I love UMD and my teammates and coaches."
He agreed to a three-year deal which pays between $550,000 and $832,500 per season if in the NHL, and about $70,000 if in the minor leagues. He earned a signing bonus of $92,500.
Casto, a 2010 Hill-Murray High School graduate, who is 6-foot-2½ and 207 pounds, attended development camps with Boston and Chicago last July.
At UMD, he had five goals and 17 assists for 22 points in 77 career games. In 2012-13 he had three goals and six assists for nine points in 36 games. UMD's season ended March 16 in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, being swept by eventual Final Five champion Wisconsin in Madison.
Casto had a two-year plus-minus mark of plus-22 --the best of any player on the 2012-13 team -- including a plus-1 this season as the Bulldogs went 14-19-5. He was Hill-Murray's captain as a senior and was part of the school's 2008 Class AA championship team. He played for Lincoln (Neb.) in the U.S. Hockey League in 2010-11.
"Chris is 6-foot-2 and has tremendous skating ability, and moves the puck well, and that's very appealing to the NHL," said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. "We had worked with him to be more physical with his size and would've liked to have seen him stay and develop more with us, but I'm sure he'll adapt and be a good pro player."
The Bulldogs expect to have defensemen Dan Molenaar of Eden Prairie, Minn., and Carson Soucy of Irma, Alberta, as part of a 2013-14 freshman class, and may now add Willie Raskob of Hastings, Minn., who has already committed to UMD. Sandelin said it's also possible his staff may look for an additional defenseman.
Casto is the 11th player since 2007 to leave UMD with eligibility remaining, joining wingers Mason Raymond (Vancouver in 2007), Rob Bordson (Anaheim in 2010), Mike Connolly (San Jose in 2011) and J.T. Brown (Tampa Bay in 2012), defensemen Matt Niskanen (Dallas in 2007), Jason Garrison (Florida in 2008), Evan Oberg (Vancouver in 2009), Dylan Olsen (Chicago in 2010) and Justin Faulk (Carolina in 2011), and goalie Alex Stalock (San Jose in 2009).