Harry Zolnierczyk ’11, men’s hockey captain and 2010-11 Ivy League Player of the Year, signed with the Philadelphia Flyers Monday, fulfilling what he said is a lifelong desire to play hockey at the professional level.
“It’s something you dream about your entire life, and now that it’s finally come true. It’s almost surreal,” Zolnierczyk said.
Zolnierczyk’s agreement is a one-year deal for the 2011-12 season. He is set to report immediately to Glens Falls, N.Y., where he will join the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, on an amateur tryout agreement. At the end of last season, former teammate Aaron Volpatti ’10 signed with the Vancouver Canucks and first reported to the Manitoba Moose, the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. This season, Volpatti has appeared in 15 National Hockey League games for Vancouver and has recorded his first career goal and assist.
For Zolnierczyk, the thought of playing NHL hockey did not become a realistic goal until recently. After two quiet seasons, Zolnierczyk exploded onto the national scene in his junior year, putting up 33 points. He led the Bears in scoring with 16 goals and 31 points in 2010-11.
“I think once some interest (from professional scouts) started, it started looking like there might actually be some real opportunities,” he said.
The Flyers were not the only team courting Zolnierczyk — NHL scouts from a number of teams attended Brown home games this season. “I think he plays a style and a game that’s going to translate well to the next level,” said Head Coach Brendan Whittet ’94 in a March 4 Herald article. “He’s an absolute effortless skater and a powerful kid in terms of his ability to get up and down the ice.”
Zolnierczyk said with the help of his advisers and his family, he ultimately determined that Philadelphia presented the best opportunity to pursue his career.
“The teams that wanted to be involved made an offer,” Zolnierczyk said. “And then we went back and forth and discussed who was offering what and considering the best opportunity that we felt was available to me with each team. Once we narrowed it down to a few teams, I think it was just a gut feeling. It just felt right. … I talked it over with my mother and my agents there, and we felt Philly just had a good feeling.”
Though he will leave school midway through his final semester, Zolnierczyk will still be able to earn his degree in economics and plans on walking with his classmates at Commencement in May.
“It won’t affect (graduating) at all,” he said. “I’m still in good academic standing, and I’m ready to graduate, so I’ll definitely be back when it’s time to walk back through those gates and join everyone else for graduation.”