By signing entry-level contracts late last week, Coyotes prospects Chris Brown
and Mike Lee took the next big step on their road to becoming NHL players.
For Brown, signing a three-year entry-level contract was the culmination of three years of hard work at the University of Michigan.
“It’s a dream come true to sign a professional contract and join an NHL club,” said Brown, a 21-year-old forward from Flower Mound, Texas. “It was a difficult decision for me to make, to leave the University of Michigan because I love everything about Ann Arbor; the coaches, my teammates, everyone here. But I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to someday playing for the Coyotes.”
Phoenix selected Brown in the second round (36th overall) at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft after he played for the United States National Under-18 Team at the US National Team Development Program.
Brown notched 12 goals and a career-high 17 assists for a career-high 29 points in 38 games this season. Over his three-year career with the Wolverines, he notched 34 goals and 46 assists with 183 penalty minutes in 125 regular season games.
Brown also won a bronze medal with Team USA at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, NY, where he registered three points in six games.
While the decision to leave school was difficult, Brown felt the time was right to sign his first professional contract after the growth he saw in his game over the past season.
“I think physically I’m ready to do this as well as mentally,” Brown said. “I matured over the past three years, but especially in this past junior year with Michigan, taking not necessarily a leadership role, but leading by example and just maturing as a player.”
Brown is expected to soon report to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine.
Like Brown, Lee was apprehensive to leave school, but the St. Cloud State goaltender ultimately felt that signing a three-year entry-level deal was the right decision to make.
“It’s the first step to starting your pro career and that’s the goal,” said Lee, a native of Roseau, Minn. “It’s not easy to leave school a year early but I’m just happy to turn pro and elevate my game.”
Phoenix selected Lee in the third round (91st overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He went on to St. Cloud State and posted a record of 32-29-9 with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage over three seasons with the Huskies.
He also helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask., notching a 4-0 record with a 2.50 GAA and .908 save percentage in five games.
“This is really just the beginning. The real work starts now,” said Lee, who compiled a record of 8-6-2 with a 2.23 GAA and .930 save percentage in just 16 games because of a hip injury this season. “The minute you get drafted you work to get that first contract. From that point on you have to live your life like a professional athlete.”