When one door closes, another opens.
Steven Fogarty is learning that this week. Just three days after his collegiate career at Notre Dame came to an end, the 22-year-old inked his first professional contract with the New York Rangers.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind the last couple of days," Fogarty told BlueshirtsUnited.com in a phone interview on Tuesday, a day before the center was heading to Hartford to join the Wolf Pack in the American Hockey League. "With my [college] career coming to an end, then having a high like this — I'm sure tomorrow once I get to Hartford it'll start to kick in."
After four seasons with the Fighting Irish — the final two spent as team captain — Fogarty is ready for the next chapter of his hockey career to begin. The 2011 third-rounder knows a big adjustment is waiting for him in the AHL, with bigger, faster and more experienced players, but feels comfortable in his ability to tackle it head-on.
"It's definitely going to be a huge adjustment," said Fogarty, who finished his college career with 27 goals and 38 assists for 65 points, 44 of which came over the final two seasons. "I've had many friends make that jump and they said the speed surprises everyone."
Some of those friends are current Rangers prospects Brady Skjei and Adam Tambellini, among others, who Fogarty has gotten to know over the years at the Rangers' annual prospect development camp in July.
Another friend is Cristoval 'Boo' Nieves, who signed with the Rangers yesterday. In fact, the two met last week when Michigan defeated Notre Dame in the opening-round of the NCAA tournament.
"He gets the bragging rights that he ended my [college] career," Fogarty said, with a laugh.
With that aside, Fogarty said having a familiar face in Nieves will only make the adjustment that much easier.
"Any time you're in a new situation it can be uncomfortable," Fogarty said. "I think it helps to have Boo coming in. We're both going to be in the same situation. To be able to go through this process with Boo is pretty special."
Fogarty said his goal early in his college career was to improve statistically year-over-year, which he was able to accomplish. Outside of his freshman to sophomore goal total, Fogarty improved year-over-year in every offensive category during his time at Notre Dame.
He added he would have liked to contribute more offensively than he did, but that he was pleased he was able to round out his game during his stay in South Bend.
Gordie Clark, the Rangers' director of player personnel, agreed with Fogarty's assessment of growing as a player over the five years since he was drafted, which included a year in the British Columbia Hockey League.
"Steven's game has really evolved since we drafted him five years ago," Clark said in an email. "At Notre Dame, over four years he became one of the most reliable defensive players for the coach and was the Fighting Irish's captain [the past two seasons]."
Fogarty said the decision to return to Notre Dame for his senior season was the right one for him, as it allowed him to further his development before turning pro.
"I thought it wouldn't hurt," he said. "I got to grow as a player and a person. That one more year of being here in the summer and skating ... I was able to further my hockey another year.
'I'm one more year closer to being ready to be a pro."
Fogarty will report to Hartford on Wednesday on an Amateur Tryout for the remainder of the season, though he said he was unsure if he'd be playing this week.