Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Golden Bears Go Pro

It's been a not-so-well-kept secret that there is one Canadian university men's hockey team who runs their program like it's a professional team. It's no secret that Derek Ryan was a graduate of the University of Alberta, and he's worked hard to get himself onto the top line of the Calgary Flames this season after spending the last three seasons in the Carolina Hurricanes' system, and it seems that the Golden Bears will be sending a couple more players off to the pro ranks today as it was announced two more graduates were planning on jumping into pro hockey following successful careers at the Canadian school.

We'll start with the first player who has been attracting all sorts of attention for his play this season as Luke Philp is close to signing a deal with a city close to his hometown of Canmore, Alberta.
As per TSN's Bob McKenzie, Philp will sign an NHL entry-level deal with the Calgary Flames that will start next season for 2019-20 and 2020-21. For Philp, it keeps him close to home when it comes to support from friends, family, and former teammates, and the Flames are getting a forward who really rounded into becoming the best player in Canada West and, possibly, in Canada over the last two seasons. In the last two seasons with Alberta, Philp scored 32 goals and 53 assists in just 52 games, and he often was the best player on the ice every night the Golden Bears skated.

Philp will not be able to join the team immediately, however, as he's nursing an ankle injury suffered in the U SPORTS Men's Hockey Championship Final against the University of New Brunswick. Had he been available, he would have been able to travel to Stockton to join the heat via an amateur tryout contract through to the end of the season. Because he missed the cutoff for playoff rosters to be set, Philp would not have been eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs, but getting what would have been his first AHL games in would have provided a measuring stick for Philp in getting him ready for next season.

Will he be NHL-ready for opening next season? I can't say for sure. It's a big jump for players coming out of U SPORTS to get into the best league in the world. What I can say with some certainty is that Philp will put the same hard work into preparing for this new chapter as he did in becoming U SPORTS' best player. And that should excite Flames fans!

The other Golden Bear who has decided to make a leap to the pro ranks is defenceman Jason Fram. Fram has a pair of AHL games with the San Jose Barracuda and six games with the ECHL's Allen Americans under his belt already, so this new adventure should be interesting.
While the team is still unknown as of now, I have a feeling that Fram may be headed to China where he'll likely join the Kunlun Red Star. Fram, for those unaware, has Chinese roots and has quietly been campaigning for his inclusion to the Chinese national team at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Joining the very team where the majority of players are being trained would be a wise move for the Alberta blueliner.

Fram was always a danger from the point for Alberta with his skating and vision. Over the last two seasons, he's compiled 18 goals and 35 assists over 56 U SPORTS games, and was an excellent power-play quarterback as well as taking reps on the penalty kill. Fram looked comfortable in all situations, and he could very likely carve out a nice KHL career with Kunlun if he continues to play at a high level as she showed with Alberta. The Defenceman of the Year in 2019 should be a strong candidate to represent China if everything plays out like it did over the last few years in Edmonton.

It's always exciting to see players I have had the privilege watching go off and get themselves into the pro game at any level. They've made sacrifices, played hard through injuries and pain, and performed at an incredible level, so they deserve to get to take that next step as they follow their dreams. It may not be the NHL Draft, but Philp and Fram will have a chance to do something not many players will thanks to their decision to play U SPORTS hockey at the University of Alberta.

Stay in school, kids.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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