The Carolina Hurricanes announced Tuesday that they have come to an agreement on a two-year, entry-level contract with UNH standout Andrew Poturalski.
After a solid freshman season, during which he produced 29 points in 40 games, Poturalski exploded offensively this season. He finished second in the NCAA with 52 points in 37 games, by way of 22 goals and 30 assists, catching the eye of numerous NHL teams in the process.
The sophomore center said that he was in talks with multiple teams, including the San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks, but ultimately decided that Carolina would be the best fit for him.
“I talked to their general manager and their head coach, and they both had a lot of good things to say,” he said. “They’ve seen me play a number of times, and just fitting into their organization and where they saw me sounded good. It’s a small-market team there, and they have a lot of opportunity. They invest in their free agents and their draft picks, and they really take care of their players there, so that was definitely big for me.”
Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Hurricanes, Ron Francis, said in the team’s press release that he was “thrilled” with Poturalski’s decision, and called the forward a “smart hockey player with really good speed and skill.”
Brett Pesce, a former UNH defenseman and teammate of Poturalski, signed with the Hurricanes at the end of the last season and has since earned a full-time job with the team. Poturalski admits that Pesce was an influential factor in making his tough decision.
“Brett called me, and I talked to him a couple of times,” he said. “To hear from him too, and not just the coaches and their staff, but to hear from him, he loves it there, and he definitely said there’s opportunity, so that was definitely big.”
After spending the past two years of his life as a student-athlete at UNH, Poturalski said it was not an easy decision to leave.
“That’s what I think was the stressful part, and that was really difficult,” Poturalski said. “Obviously, to leave UNH—I was going back and forth for a long time now. One hour I’d say, ‘yeah,’ and one hour I’d say, ‘no,’ and it was really tough. Ultimately, I talked it over with family and friends and everybody, and, to me, the opportunity I had was something I couldn’t turn down.”
The Williamsville, New York native said he is grateful for his time in Durham and everyone who has helped him along the way.
“I owe everyone here, my teammates, coaches, for giving me the opportunity to be able to do this, [which] has been unbelievable, and I owe them a lot of credit,” Poturalski said.
The sharpshooting forward credits his success this season to hard work in the offseason, as well as his linemates, Dan Correale and Tyler Kelleher.
“I definitely knew coming in that there would be a ton of opportunity with the guys we lost [the previous year], and I worked hard last offseason and knew we’d have a lot of chances, a lot of opportunity, so I just tried to make the most of that,” Poturalski said. “Dan and Tyler did a great job as well, and they helped me a ton. I thought we had a great year and had great chemistry, and it was fun.”
Poturalski will report to the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, for the remainder of the season, and is expected to make his debut on Saturday, March 12. He will not appear in any NHL games this season, as it would burn a year of his contract, and that is something that he “didn’t want to do.”
“I want to earn my spot and work hard, so I think going to Charlotte and finishing out the year and getting to know their organization will be the right thing,” he said.
The 22-year-old expects his competition to get “bigger, faster and stronger” at the professional level, and he said he plans on working hard to make the most of his opportunity.
“Hopefully I’ll have a strong summer, and come back for training camp in the best shape, and have a good chance to make the [Hurricanes] in the fall,” he said.