College men's hockey: Bulldogs' Joey Anderson leaving early, signs with NHL's Devils
DULUTH—Joey Anderson knows himself better than anyone, which is why when it came time to make a decision on whether to return for his junior season at Minnesota Duluth or sign with the New Jersey Devils, he knew he had to take the emotion out of it.
It was a decision that couldn't be about him and his younger brother, Mikey.
"I really tried to keep it hockey related," Joey Anderson said. "I tried not to look at anything other than hockey with this decision. I know how emotional I can get with my family, so I tried, especially talking with my parents, we tried to make sure it was a very, very hockey specific decision."
The result was Joey Anderson getting on a plane Saturday morning before the blizzard hit to sign a three-year, entry-level NHL contract on Sunday with the Devils, who drafted him in the third round, No. 73 overall, in 2016.
That contract begins right away with the 2017-18 season and runs through 2019-20. The wing will remain throughout the postseason with the Devils, who head into Monday night's Game 3 in Newark, N.J., down 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Anderson said he doubts he'll make his NHL debut in the postseason, but he will practice with the team and get a taste of what the NHL and Stanley Cup playoffs are all about.
"It was one of those things that just felt right," Anderson said of turning pro. "We looked at the pros and cons and everything. At the end of the day, I had a gut feeling about this. It's where I wanted to be. That made the decision for me."
The 19-year-old Anderson is a native of Roseville, Minn., who played two seasons at Hill-Murray High School before joining the United States National Team Development Program and then UMD. He's accomplished a lot in his two seasons with the Bulldogs, with the most notable of those feats coming in the past year while living and playing with his younger brother, Mikey, a freshman defenseman who was drafted in the fourth round last spring by the Los Angeles Kings.
Since coming to Duluth, Joey Anderson has played in two NCAA championship games—winning this year's final 2-1 over Notre Dame at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul—and two IIHF World Junior Championship tournaments, winning gold with Team USA last year and bronze this past winter as the team's captain.
He helped guide the Bulldogs to an NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship his freshman season, and this past winter during the World Juniors took part in an outdoor game with Team USA against Canada in Buffalo, N.Y.
Mikey was also part of this year's World Junior team, making the experience extra special for Joey, despite not winning gold again.
"The city, the fans, they're so great and to be able to go through it with Mikey was awesome," Joey Anderson said of his time at UMD. "We had an awesome group of guys both years. It makes it going to the rink so easy because you have guys that are great. I'm very fortunate and thankful to be able to play at Duluth and to go through what I've been able to go through."
Joey Anderson, at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, said he has the confidence and ability to make the NHL Devils — the franchise's American Hockey League affiliate is the Binghamton Devils — out of training camp next fall, especially after gaining strength and learning how to use his body to its fullest during his two seasons with the Bulldogs. That allowed him to win a lot more puck battles, he said.
Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said Anderson has grown into a consistent, 200-foot player since coming to UMD, though the coach believes Anderson has more offense to his game than he's shown.
In 75 games with the Bulldogs, Anderson compiled 23 goals and 41 assists. He posted 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) as a freshman and 27 points (11, 16) as a sophomore.
"Joey has had some great experiences, some high-level experiences. He's had two good years here," Sandelin said. "It's always tough, it's always hard to see guys go, but that's how it is. He's been very driven to continue to get better as a player. He will continue to do that, because that's his makeup."
Joey Anderson's early departure means the Bulldogs now have seven players to replace from the 2017-18 NCAA championship squad after graduating six seniors. UMD has six recruits signed to national letters of intent for next season.
Like with his search to replace assistant coach Brett Larson—now head coach at St. Cloud State—Sandelin said he'll take his time to decide if he'll sign a seventh recruit, or stick with what they have.