By Justin Loring, Sports Editor
With UNH’s hockey season officially wrapping up on Friday, NHL teams wasted no time in contacting its free agents. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Wild announced that it had signed senior forward UNH forward Grayson Downing to a two-year deal that will start next season, and that Downing would travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to play in the AHL on a professional tryout contract, Downing brings some much-needed depth to the Iowa Wild, who lost a number of players being called up to Minnesota from injury.
“[The organization] contacted me a few days after the season ended,” Downing said. “I spoke to the assistant general manager [Brent Flahr] and a few other people in the AHL system.”
As far as expected playing time goes, Downing is unsure when he’ll be able to start, having just arrived in Iowa, but he said he hopes to get suited up over the next few days. As far as options go, it was reported that Downing chose the Wild over a few other suitors.
“I just felt the organization was the best fit for my skills and the best place for me,” he said.
A four-year player for the Wildcats, Downing showed his scoring touch by scoring as many goals as assists (56 apiece), reaching the 100 career-point plateau on Jan. 30 with two assists against Notre Dame. Downing finished the season on an 8-game point streak, posting 12 points (7g, 5a) in that span, including two game-winning goals and six straight games reaching the back of the net.
Downing wasn’t the only Wildcat to get an offer on Wednesday, as Matt Willows was signed to an Amateur Try-Out contract with the Worcester Sharks. The ATO is typically used on college players whose season has just ended and were not drafted by a squad. The team also recently signed another college standout in Union’s Daniel Ciampini on March 18 to the same ATO contract and is now a rostered member of the team. Willows couldn’t be reached for an interview, but he is expected to be in Worcester now.
UNH alumnus Stevie Moses recently left Jokerit of the Kontinental Hockey League. After two successful seasons with the Helsinki-based team Moses exploded for a KHL single season-record 36 goals this past season. He posted 12 goals and 23 points in his first year and 22 goals and 38 points in his second season with the team. While nothing has been confirmed as of late, rumors surrounding the 25-year-old are that he’s been drawing interest from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers. Moses wasn’t drafted out of college, with scouts noting his size as a concern, standing at 5-foot-9, but in an interview with SportsNet, former teammate James van Riemsdyk said that Moses, “skates like the wind,” and “won’t get thrown around over [in the NHL].”