Four NHL defensive prospects ink contracts

By HF Staff

NHL prospect signing season is in full swing with the NCAA and CHL seasons winding down. Four defensive prospects have inked contracts in the past 24 hours with the teams that hold their rights.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed University of Wisconsin defenseman Jake Gardiner to a three-year contract. Gardiner was a draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, but the rearguard was dealt to the Leafs on February 9th in a deal that sent Francois Beauchemin to the Ducks. Gardiner had an outstanding season for the second-ranked Badgers. He scored 10 goals and added 31 assists for 41 points on the season.

Hockey’s Future has Gardiner rated as the Leafs top defensive prospect. He is ranked third overall among Leafs prospects, behind forwards Nazem Kadri and another recent trade acquisition, Joe Colborne.

The Philadelphia Flyers added a big defenseman to their prospect ranks with the signing of Oliver Lauridsen. The 6-6, 230-pound Lauridsen played the past three seasons for St. Cloud State in the WCHA. He was a seventh round pick of the Flyers in 2009. The Denmark native scored 1 goal to go with 9 assists this season. He projects to be a stay-at-home defenseman with a bit of a mean streak.

Another college defender signing a contract was Aaron Ness. Ness signed with the New York Islanders, who drafted the Roseau, Minnesota native in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft. Ness played three seasons for the University of Minnesota. In 2010-11, the 5-10, 177-pound Ness scored 2 goals and added 12 assists for 14 points in 35 games.

The Atlanta Thrashers looked to the junior ranks to sign a defensive prospect. Ben Chiarot, a defenseman playing for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL, signed a three-year deal with the Thrashers. Chiarot split his time between the Sudbury Wolves and Saginaw this season, picking up 9 goals and 25 assists for 34 points in 61 games. He added 111 penalty minutes on the season.

Hockey’s Future did not have Lauridsen, Ness and Chiarot ranked among the top 20 prospects for their respective teams.