Former Friars Ready to Go Pro
Six Players Sign Entry-Level Contracts
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
The success of the Providence College hockey programs continued over the offseason as six former Friars signed professional hockey deals. Four of these came from former men’s squad members, as Josh Wilkins, Brandon Duhaime, Kasper Björkqvist, and Jacob Bryson who secured entry-level deals with National Hockey League clubs.
Two contracts went to former women’s team players Christina Putigna and Cassidy MacPherson; both reached terms to join teams in the National Women’s Hockey League.
Wilkins will make his way down to Tennessee, joining the Nashville Predators’ program on a two-year, entry-level contract. The silky-smooth forward is coming off an absolutely dominant year for the Friars, posting the best offensive season by a PC skater in over 15 seasons. Wilkins put up 46 points last season, good enough for ninth in the entire country, on 20 goals and 26 assists. He also owned the nation’s longest point streak last season, putting together a stretch of 13 straight games.
Duhaime agreed to his two-year, entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild. The crafty forward joins a Minnesota program that selected him with the 106th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft. Duhaime had a strong final season in Friartown, tallying a career-high 34 points with 11 goals and 23 assists. As a result, he was named to the Team Hockey East All-Star Third team. He then proceeded to play a pivotal role in the Friars’ postseason run, tallying five points in PC’s three tournament games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will see Björkqvist join the organization, as he too agreed to a two-year, entry level deal. The forward finished his illustrious PC career with 36 total goals and 26 assists. Pittsburgh assistant general manager Bill Guerin had high praise when asked about the signee, saying, “Kasper was able to produce in big games throughout his college career… playing for an outstanding program in Providence allowed him to go far in the NCAA Tournament each season, so he received a lot of great experience.”
The 99th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Bryson signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres. The sure-footed defenseman amassed an astonishing 73 points over his career at PC, recording 11 goals and 62 assists. In his final year with the Friars, Bryson dished out 24 assists on his way to Second Team Hockey East All-Star honors.
His dominance on the ice also translated over to the classroom, as the defenseman was a Chi Alpha Sigma inductee, an honor given to student-athletes who maintain at least a 3.40 grade point average though their first five semesters.
Putigna will be staying in New England, as she agreed to a contract with the Boston Pride. The Pride will be picking up a prolific scorer in Putigna, the star forward accumulated a whopping 110 points in her collegiate career. As a senior assistant captain last season, Putigna registered 15 goals and 15 assists while leading the Friars to the Hockey East semi-finals.
“It’s exciting and humbling to have this opportunity to sign with the Pride,” said Putigna. “It means a lot to me to get the chance to remain in New England and pursue my hockey career.”
The final Friar to sign, MacPherson, signed her deal with the Buffalo Beauts. The forward recorded 78 points in her college career, netting 25 goals and 53 assists.
Beauts head coach Pete Perram lauded MacPherson’s skill with the puck, saying “[MacPherson] is a smooth and speedy skater with exceptional hands.”
MacPherson expressed her excitement with her signing, saying, “It has been a dream of mine to play in the NWHL, and I’m looking forward to a great season ahead in Buffalo.”