· Related story: Sauer's 2005-06 Prospect Recap
New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has signed defenseman Michael Sauer
to a professional contract.
Sauer, 19, skated in 59 games with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) last season, registering eight goals and 23 assists for 31 points, along with 68 penalty minutes. He ranked first among team defensemen in power play goals (four) and was second among Portland blueliners with eight goals, 23 assists and 31 points.
In 12 postseason contests, Sauer led his team in power play goals (four) and ranked first among the team's defensive corps with six points (four goals, two assists). On June 8, following the season, he was invited to USA Hockey's 2006 National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, which is currently taking place (August 5-14) in Lake Placid, New York.
"I'm excited," Sauer said from Lake Placid. "Now I can just go and focus on trying to make the team and playing hockey, and not have to worry about the contract side of it all."
A native of St. Cloud, Minn., Sauer has appeared in 91 career WHL games with Portland, collecting 10 goals and 34 assists for 44 points, along with 78 penalty minutes.
The 6-3, 206-pound defenseman was the Rangers second choice, 40th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He is the younger brother of Colorado Avalanche defenseman Kurt Sauer.
Sauer said his time in Lake Placid this week will help him as he prepares for a pro career.
"It's really quick here," he said of the USA Hockey camp. "The guys aren't that big yet, but they are a lot shiftier. It's a different style of play then I am used to. In the WHL there are bigger guys and a smaller ice sheet. Here its more wide open and you have to focus more on puck control and possession. It's good. Its what I need to work on and its different then I'm used to so it's going to help me out in the long run."
Sauer will attend the Rangers' training camp next month to competed for a spot on the team's 2006-07 roster. Because he is under 20 years old, he would return to Portland should he not make the NHL roster.
"Obviously, my goal is to come in and crack the squad," Sauer said. "That's got to be my mindset. You can't go in there thinking that you have another year back in Portland. I want to go into training camp with a purpose, and that is to make the NHL."