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Lee looking forward to next step in hockey career

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

In Western Michigan's final game of the regular season, Cam Lee had a career performance.

The defenseman recorded a career-high five assists in the Broncos' 8-4 win over the Miami University RedHawks on senior night on March 7, a week before they were set to begin the quarterfinals of the NCHC playoffs.

And while that turned out to be the final game of Lee's college career, as the NCAA canceled the playoffs for all winter and spring sports, he got some good news a few days later when the Penguins announced that Lee had signed a two-year, entry-level contract that will begin with the 2020-21 season and run through the 2021-22 campaign.

"It sucked my senior year had to end like that and all, but obviously it's for a good reason. Everybody needs to be safe and do as we're told here," Lee said.

"It was a big roller coaster because obviously with it being my final year as a Bronco, it's emotional and all. But taking this next step is huge. I'm excited to get started with it."

Tweet from @Chum_Lee97: Dream come true! I am feeling so grateful to have this amazing opportunity with the Penguins organization! Thank You 🙌 https://t.co/QgC8TlWoi6

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford described the 23-year-old as a good-skating, offensive-minded defenseman that fits the current style of play in today's NHL.

Lee spent the past four seasons with Western Michigan, where he suited up for 137 games, recording 18 goals, 67 assists, 85 points and a plus-11. He ranked first among team defensemen in points in each of the last two seasons, and has eclipsed the 20-point plateau three times in four years.

"This signing adds more young depth at defense for us," Rutherford said. "We're excited to have Cam as a member of the Penguins organization."

Lee has been on the Penguins' radar for a while, as he attended the team's prospect development camp this past summer. His experience there played a big role in deciding to sign with the organization.

"I was at development camp last year with them and they're real welcoming and all that," Lee said. "It's a Class A organization. It's great to be a part of."

Lee also pointed to the organization's history of developing other college free agents like two-time Stanley Cup champion Conor Sheary and Zach Aston-Reese, who are both on the Penguins' current roster.

That history is a big reason that both Lee and Drew O'Connor, a highly sought-after free agent forward out of Dartmouth, both decided to join the Penguins.

"It's well known throughout the league that we have had success with college free agents," Penguins director of player development Scott Young said. "It's a great destination for college free agents because we've traded away so many draft picks in order to win now.

"When they really start to dive deep and look at teams and teams' depth with their prospects, we're a very attractive destination because they're going to get a chance here."

Right now, Lee is still on campus at Western Michigan, which transitioned into 'delivering instruction through distance education' on Monday.

He said he's staying in his room and trying to stay in shape for when he does get the chance to join his new team, per instructions from Penguins captain Sidney Crosby - whom Lee is acquainted with as they are both from Nova Scotia and have skated together in the summers. 

"He's the hometown hero," Lee said. "I remember the first time, I was probably in high school and he's just an awesome guy. He did reach out to me after seeing that I signed with the Penguins. He just said congratulations and just said, 'Make sure you stay in shape with all this going on.'"

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