Flyers sign University of Vermont center Patrick Sharp

By Al Alven

The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that the team has signed 20-year-old prospect Patrick Sharp to a three-year entry level contract. The 6’1″, 193-pound center was the team’s third round selection (95th overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He recently completed his second season at the University of Vermont (UVM), a campaign that saw him lead the Catamounts in scoring en route to being named team MVP.

Sharp is expected to leave UVM and make his professional debut with the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms this fall. An intelligent player whose primary strengths are his above-average speed and heady play, he is currently projected as a potential role player in the NHL. Though he was a solid collegiate point-producer, he is not viewed as a player who will put up big numbers in the pro ranks.

“Patrick Sharp has good speed and skill and we look forward to him starting his professional career in the Flyers organization this fall,” said assistant general manager Paul Holmgren in making the announcement. “We will see how he does in training camp. We think that he needs to develop and chances are that he will start next season with the Phantoms.”

In 31 games this past season, Sharp registered 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) and 50 PIMs. Over his two-season career at UVM, he totaled 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) and 86 PIMs in 65 games. Prior to joining the Catamounts, he played two seasons with his hometown Thunder Bay (Ontario) Flyers of the United States Hockey League, notching 98 points (39 goals, 59 assists) in 111 games.

The decision to leave UVM after just two years was not an easy one for Sharp. However, the chance to move into the professional ranks was an opportunity that the young forward simply could not turn down.

“This has been a very difficult decision,” he said, through a UVM press release. “Everyone associated with the hockey program here at UVM has been so supportive of me. I have spent the best two years of my life here in Burlington, Vermont.

“My goal has always been to play in the National Hockey League, and Philadelphia has given me an opportunity to play that was too hard to pass up. I have an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. I am grateful for the opportunities that the University of Vermont has given me, and I will always be a Catamount.”

Added UVM head coach Mike Gilligan: “We are all very excited for Patrick as he accepts this new challenge. We have been preparing for the possibility of him turning pro, and we are very happy for him. We wish him the best of luck, and look forward to seeing him play in the NHL in the near future.”

Should Sharp eventually make the Flyers roster, he will not be the first UVM alum to play for the team. A certain former 50-goal scorer named John LeClair suited up for the Catamounts from 1987-88 through 1990-91. Los Angeles Kings defenseman Aaron Miller and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis are the only other UVM alums currently playing in the NHL. Obviously, Sharp will be looking to follow in the footsteps of these players as he embarks on his pro career.

“It’s a proud day for me,” said Sharp, through a Flyers press release announcing the signing. “I’m extremely excited. This is something that I’ve always worked for and I’m just really, really proud to be part of an organization like Philadelphia. Throughout my hockey career, I’ve been an offensive player, but I also take a lot of pride in playing defense. I’m just going to listen to what they want from me and I’ll try to provide that for the team.”