GLENDALE -- The Coyotes added depth at goaltender on Saturday when they signed Hunter Miska to an entry-level contract a week after Miska ended an impressive freshman season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
"I'm stoked to be part of the Arizona Coyotes organization," Miska said. "It was tough for me to leave Duluth, but the Coyotes showed a lot of interest in me and trust in me during this process. Right after the season a number of teams came after me, and the Coyotes stood out."
Miska sees opportunity with Arizona, and hopes to turn heads at training camp like he did as a rookie goalie in the NCAA. Miska, 21, posted a 27-5-5 record with five shutouts and a 2.20 goals-against average for Duluth, which reached the NCAA title game, where it lost, 3-2, to the University of Denver.
"We had a lot of seniors this season, especially on defense, and they brought a lot of experience," Miska said. "That was huge for us as a team and obviously very nice for me being a freshman goalie. I was confident because I knew I had a good team in front of me. That really helped me be the goalie I was this year."
Miska was one of five finalists for the 2016-17 Mike Richter Award, which is given annually to the NCAA's best goalie. He was the only freshman among the finalists.
Miska got a late start as a goaltender. He played forward until the summer before he started high school in Minnesota. Knowing his high school team needed goalies, Miska switched positions and was a natural between the pipes. The rest is history.
Former Minnesota Wild netminder Josh Harding, who also started playing goalie at age 14, is Miska's idol. But the story doesn't end there. Miska's father, Todd, paints goalie masks for a living and lists Harding among his customers/friends. Others include Eddie Belfour, Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Niklas Backstrom, Jose Theodore, Alex Stalock and Scott Darling.
Miska's dad also paints his masks.
"Like my dad, I've got a pretty creative mind," Miska said. "So every year, when it's the beginning of a season and time to do a new mask, I'll design it and put my ideas down and my dad will put the artwork on the mask."
Miska hopes to have a new Coyotes-themed mask when he reports to the team's development camp this summer. It will be his second NHL development camp; he was invited to and attended Ottawa's last summer.
"That was a great experience for me because it enabled me to see what the next level is like," Miska said. "It was nice for me to see the speed of the game and the patience of the guys' shots. I thought that really helped my game this year."
The Coyotes like Miska's athleticism and are eager to watch him develop within the organization.
"I've been on a lot of winning teams the last couple years and I want to keep that going," Miska said. "I want to win a Stanley Cup someday, and hopefully I can do that with the Coyotes."