Cal Petersen still hasn’t decided if he’ll return to Notre Dame, join the Sabres or become an NHL free agent. He’s having fun finding out, though.
The Buffalo prospect is serving as the third goaltender for the United States at the world championships. While Jimmy Howard and Connor Hellebuyck play the games, Petersen takes his share of shots during practice.
The guys firing the pucks include Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau and Dylan Larkin. Could Petersen join them as professionals next season?
“I haven’t decided that yet,” Petersen told USAHockey.com in a story published Friday. “I’m giving this opportunity as kind of a big measuring stick to see where I match up and see if I can be successful and compete at this level, so this is a huge opportunity for me to help clear up any questions I would have had about what to do for next year.”
Petersen finished a successful junior year at Notre Dame that included an appearance in the Frozen Four and his 90th straight start. Former Sabres General Manager Tim Murray wanted Petersen to join the organization and be the starter next season in Rochester.
The 22-year-old also has the option of leaving school, declining to sign with Buffalo and becoming an unrestricted free agent 30 days later. If he stays for his senior year, he’ll likely be a U.S. Olympian since the NHL says it won’t send players to the 2018 Winter Games.
“We’ve always tried to bring prospects in the No. 3 role to the team and also guys that looking ahead you feel like there’s potential for them to be more involved in national team settings,” Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, said in the article. “Ideally, it’s set up for him to learn from two guys who have played both at the NHL and at the world championships in the past, and also for us to get a chance to be around him as a player and as a kid for the three weeks of the tournament and just build that into his playing experience and start something more with USA Hockey.”
Petersen said he’s been learning quite a bit from the shooters and fellow netminders. The next game for the Americans is Saturday against Zemgus Girgensons and Latvia (6:15 a.m., NHL Network).
“They’ve really helped taking in the new guy, and everybody’s come together really fast, so that’s been fun and really cool to see,” Petersen said. “To have a chance to practice and play with guys of that talent is really cool, is a huge opportunity, and I’m just trying to soak it all in right now.
“For me, it’s just looking at how they prepare, how they play, how they practice, just trying to look at how detailed they are with their habits.”