Clarkson stars sign pro contracts

Golden Knights’ goaltender Jake Kielly follows an airborne puck during the third period of the ECAC championship game against Cornell at the Olympic Center. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

POTSDAM — In a move which was not a surprise, two of the Clarkson University men’s hockey team’s best players, forward Nico Sturm and goalie Jake Kielly, are leaving school a year early after signing contracts with National Hockey League teams Monday afternoon.

Sturm, a German native who turns 24 on May 3, signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild for the remainder of this season. He made his NHL debut Thursday night in a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins. The Wild’s final regular season game is scheduled for Saturday against Dallas.

Kielly, a 22-year-old Minnesota native, has signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, but it was not announced if he is joining Vancouver immediately or starting in the minor leagues. The Canucks’ primary affiliate in the AHL is the Utica Comets.

Sturm could only sign a deal for the rest of this season because of his age. He will be a free agent this summer.

“Jake and Nico have been fantastic members of our program the past three years,” Clarkson coach Casey Jones said in a release. “They are tremendous players, competitors and leaders. They excelled in their play and in the classroom, and were outstanding representatives of Clarkson University in the community. Although I am sorry to see them leave, I am excited for their opportunities at the professional level. We wish nothing but the best for Jake and Nico.”

Clarkson captain Nico Sturm takes in the atmosphere during his team’s post-game celebration following the Golden Knights’ 3-2 overtime victory over Cornell in the ECAC championship game Saturday, March 23 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Sturm, who is 6-foot-3, 211 pounds, was one of the 10 finalists for college hockey’s Hobey Baker Award and was named the ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Forward the last two seasons.

He scored 14 goals with 31 assists in 39 games for Clarkson, helping lead the Golden Knights to the ECAC Hockey championship in Lake Placid and a second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Sturm also excels in faceoffs, winning 57.9 percent of his draws this season.

Sturm was Clarkson’s first Hobey Baker finalists since defenseman Kent Huskins in 2001 and finishes his career with 103 points on 36 goals and 67 assists.

Kielly, who was a USHL teammate of Sturm’s with the Tri-City Storm, prior to arriving at Clarkson, has been the Golden Knights starting goalie all three of his collegiate seasons.

This year he was 26-11-2 with a .929 save percentage and a 1.91 goals-against average. He ranked second in the nation in wins and was tied for fifth nationally with five shutouts.

Kielly, who is 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, is one of the finalists for the Mike Richter Award, which goes to the top goalie in NCAA hockey. He finishes his Clarkson career with a 64-37-13 record, ranking fifth all-time in career wins at Clarkson. He led all NCAA active goalies with 16 career shutouts.

Clarkson was eliminated from the NCAA tournament after losing 3-2 in overtime to Notre Dame in the first round.